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Being A Human Shield In Haiti

by Leisa Faulkner Barnes
 Haiti Article Index

A Year After Coup, Haiti Still Racked By Violence

Marking the first anniversary of the day U.S. Marines escorted democracy and President Jean Bertrand Aristide from Haiti, the people poured out into the streets in solidarity and fear, demonstrating their hope for freedom, and a restoration of democracy. Thousands of Haitians took to the streets all over Haiti this weekend dancing and singing, clapping and chanting in overwhelming support of the movement that is growing despite the death squads that roam the streets searching out Lavalas supporters for summary executions. About six thousand filled the streets of Cap Haitian where I walked with them as a shield on Sunday.

The assassins put the word "Police" on their varied uniforms, but no one thinks of them as officers of the peace. I photographed them eyeing the crowd with their fingers ready on their U.S. supplied rifles. I photographed the tanks and armored vehicles encircling the exuberant crowd. I photographed the faces of hope that because of their mass felt safe to hold up to my camera their own images of President Aristide. Sasha Kramer and I had been asked to come meet with the UN prior to the demonstration, and to walk as human shields inches away from one of their leaders in the north who normally lives in hiding. In Cap Haitian, it all worked. We marched for hours, the Jean Charles Moise got away safely after speaking to the crowd, the police that were angry with us for photographing them, were restrained for some reason. As Moise made his escape, the worse we endured was a few bruises and cuts as we were dispersed with pepper spray. Sasha lay hid under a bed, after escaping the pepper spray by climbing over fences and wobbling roofs.

My friends in Port au Prince were not so lucky. Bill Quigley, my SOAW lawyer and advocate ran for any cover he could find, as the "police" opened fire on the crowd. He hid behind one-inch barriers as he witnessed the wanton shooting that left five dead in the streets. For the third time this week, the death squads welded their unmatched fire-power against the defenseless poor. Ten were gunned down on Thursday, five more on Friday before the demo. It is routine in the poorest sections of the Bel Air slums for roaming "officers" to open fire on the "sharma," as they call them -- street rats, young homeless and hungry boys who have no one to report their loss.

The Haitian poor turn to us, the international community, to speak for them. I came home yesterday with the dust of Haiti on my shoes and the cries of the people in my ears. We train those that become their death squads; we supply the guns; we've allowed the School of the Americas/WHINSEC to stay open.

Leisa Faulkner Barnes is a former prisoner of conscience, co-chair of Sacramento Progressive Democrats of America, mother of five, president of Campus Peace Action, and provides humanitarian work through Haiti Action Committee

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Albion Monitor March 9, 2005 (

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