Danse Petro: Fly the Flag

These days he liked to refer to himself as the Lord of Port-au-Prince, a title he had decided to bestow upon himself in his search for a proper name. Even though Vader controlled Delmas and a hefty part of Port-au-Prince from Carrefour Pean to the beginning of Petion-Ville, The Lord had most of the town under his control, including the vital port zone where ships brought in food, gasoline and most importantly left with the drugs and the few items still being manufactured in factories around the industrial park. Rising from being a small gang leader in Martissant, The Lord had carved his territory by fighting and eliminating all the major gang leaders in the second and third sections of Port-au-Prince ruthlessly. From his base in Marissant, he had unleashed his soldiers, mostly young fellows, some as young as 15 years old, shooting and firing heavy caliber weapons to take control of most of the area at first. Later, Lord had sent his troops into Turgeau and Petion-Ville, taking over those neighborhoods by unleashing heavy fire power. Everyone remembered how Place St Pierre became a battleground in the fight for Petion-Ville. Lord’s troops occupied the Lycée near the Church St Pierre. From there, they unleashed a wall of heavy caliber fire power, killing over a hundred people, fighters and those who happened to be there to their misfortune. From that day, Lord became the main force in the West, especially in Port-au-Prince and all the way to Grand Goave. After a brief but fierce fight against Vader that cost each of them well over a hundred fighters they made peace, with Lord allowing Vader to use the port to send and receive merchandise.

Lord did not need to ride with an ostentatious retinue of bodyguards like Vader. He had soldiers dressed as police officers with uniform patrolling, and keeping order in town, so he drove his Polaris with a couple of motorcycles with two men each riding shotgun. He kept a maniacal cleanliness around his territory with water trucks washing the streets every morning. As opposed to the rest of the country, schools were in session in Lord’s territory, and every weekday morning children walked to their respective schools in relative peace. In the beginning it was hard to explain to the small gang leaders who made up his troops that they had to stop shooting and harassing the population, but with money coming their way and the threat of getting shot if you did not comply, almost all the gang leaders under his command had agreed to the rules and things ran smoothly from then on. Of course with a lucrative business in Marijuana and prostitution at the border with the Dominican Republic bringing in U.S. dollars, Lord was able to keep everyone happy. These days he was thinking about expanding South since Vader stood to the North, and beyond you encountered Ogre and his Bakas. So only by going South could Lord acquire more territory.

On May 18, Flag Day Haitians everywhere rose the flag high and celebrated their heritage, especially in Miami and South Florida, but in Haiti there was little to celebrate and few flags were seen flying with pride. Most people stayed home confined by either fear of Covid 19 or by the lack of money to spend. The cost of living and prices of staple items have risen sharply and the majority of the population barely had enough to eat and buy water.

The day started on a somber note with the assassination of Gana Joseph, a well known militant from Cite Soleil who was killed the night before in Pernier, a suburb of Petion-Ville, as he returned from a meeting. His death brought activities in the Cite to a standstill as people mourned in silence. Gana was a strong supporter of self pride and development who participated in most mobilization activities, often leading demonstrations in Delmas and Champ de Mars. He also was a strong advocate of education who often helped younger school children with their tasks. Gana also never carried a weapon, believing that guns were for the weak. He used his voice and his presence as his weapons. I first heard of him when then Senator Antonio Cheramy, aka Don Kato, said he had to get Gana at the gate of the Parliament to escort him in during the famous day when the militants from the ghettos invaded the parliament to stop the ratification of the Prime Minister two years ago. On that day Gana was stopped at the gate by police officers one of whom pointed his gun at the Senator and threatened to shoot him. Back then it was already a sign that something wrong was happening inside the police force. Gana’s death is part of a wicked plan to silence the population and keep militants in fear at a time when they are really needed.

On flag day, President Jovenel Moise did not go to Arcahaie, the place where the flag was born, to address the nation, as it is usually done, he stayed in the national palace while speaking to the people on the radio. Few people bothered to listen because as usual the President said the same thing he has been saying for the past three years. According to those who took the time to listen, it could have been a recorded replay of what he said on the First of May. The President even had the gall to talk about the lack of electricity and blame the past legislature, which had failed to vote on the assistance from Taiwan, for the lack of power. He continued to blame a group of powerful people who control the “system” as the cause of all his failures and he vowed after three years to finally take them head on. Of course, he did not name who those people were and how he planned to tackle them save for a vague threat at the end of his speech. The only thing he said that was new was the instructions he gave the Electoral Council to send him a law to hold elections. Never mind that there is no parliament to vote the law, the President wants to hold elections for a new parliament and territorial collectives, mayors and locally elected representatives. This will surely bring a lot of turmoil to the country, but Mr. Moise feels confident that he can repress dissent and hold his election with support from the police force and the international community. So people are being exposed to Covid 19 by being made to line up with no protection to get the electoral id card, which has become a sesame people think to receive help from the government.

Early in the morning on Flag Day the police were out in full force in key points of the metropolitan area, their mission to ensure that people were not gathering to demonstrate anywhere. At Carrefour Resistance in Delmas, armored vehicles were parked early with police ready to stop any demonstration. Through the day, Delmas became a battleground, as militants battled police to demonstrate their rejection of the regime. As militants burned tires and tried to gather, police officers fired tear gas and dispersed them. The militants tried to regroup, but police used the armored vehicles to hound them with more tear gas and arrests. Josue Merilien, the well known teacher and union leader was thrown to the ground, brutalized and his arrest was only prevented because militants accompanying him refused to allow the police to take him. Later, still covered with blood Mr. Merilien went to the police station in Delmas 33 to demand the release of militants who had been taken away. Champs de Mars was occupied by police units who chased militants away, and prevented them from congregating to demonstrate. The day was a running fight between police and militants who tried to gather and show their rejection of this government.

This is a very worrisome context where the HNP is taking a turn toward turning the country Into a police state with tacit encouragement from President Jovenel Moise and his cabinet. A sorrowful sight happened at the police station in Delmas when police officers made their prisoners kneel down when they arrived at the station. This is reminiscent of the days of the Tonton Macoutes who used to brutalize the population. There are reports of police officers beating young men arrested after demonstrations in the police stations. In the cells people are packed in like sardines in the various police stations with no mask to protect them from Covid 19. Police officers themselves are at risk in such promiscuous environment, but they continue to arrest people non stop. The police is the main support allowing President Jovenel Moise to remain in power, so because of that he has been allowing the police to ignore human rights and terrorize the population. As good as the police is in repressing the population’s right to demonstrate it is strangely poor at ensuring people function in security as gangs rule parts of the territory with no fear of police. All the population is afraid of the future because of the gangs. You are not safe anywhere, but instead of focusing on fighting the gangs the police is gung ho on repressing militants and putting them behind bars. All this while in Gran Ravine and Ti Bwa gangs operate freely and dare the police to come get them.

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