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#3056: This Week in Haiti 18:2 3/29/00 (fwd)
"This Week in Haiti" is the English section of HAITI PROGRES
newsweekly. For information on other news in French and Creole,
please contact the paper at (tel) 718-434-8100, (fax)
718-434-5551 or e-mail at <email@example.com>.
Also visit our website at <www.haiti-progres.com>.
"Le journal qui offre une alternative"
* THIS WEEK IN HAITI *
March 29 - April 3, 2000
Vol. 18, No. 2
THE FUNERAL MARCH OF PATRICK DORISMOND
"Giuliani made a big mistake. You don't play with those
Haitians," said June, a middle-aged Trinidadian as she watched
the skirmishes between police and demonstrators at the corner of
Church and Rogers Aves. in Brooklyn last Saturday. "They are
strong people. The Haitian community will bring him down."
Indeed "Giuliani, Rache manyòk ou" (pull out by the roots) was
one of the principal calls during the giant and spirited
demonstrations during the wake on Mar. 24 and funeral on Mar. 25
for Patrick Dorismond, the unarmed Haitian-American who was
gunned down by New York City Police on Mar. 17 (see Haïti
Progrès, Vol. 18, No. 1, Mar. 22, 2000).
Despite the giant protests and growing criticism of his policies
from all quarters, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has hardened his
position, standing four-square behind the aggressive police
tactics and provocations during the funeral procession and
notching up his rhetoric portraying Patrick Dorismond as a
criminal. "I think we said it exactly correctly," Giuliani told
Haïti Progrès when questioned if he had any regrets about the
remarks. "I think that there is substantial reason to believe
that he was engaged in a crime... The crime is assault." (He
later said that is why he did not attend the funeral).
This incredible charge was leveled despite the account offered at
a Mar. 21 press conference by Kevin Kaiser, a fellow security
guard and friend of Dorismond, and witness to the killing of Mar.
17. "I have come to set the record straight for my friend,"
Kaiser said. "My friend Patrick's voice was silenced by a bullet
from a police officer's gun."
"First, I was standing next to Patrick when three men who
appeared to seem like derelicts approached for weed," Kaiser
continued. "They never at any time identified themselves as
police officers. After we both told them to go away, one of the
police officers, Moran, began to taunt us like this." Kaiser made
animal growling noises and jumps. "A lot of snarling, gestures,
taunting. I then saw Police Officer Vasquez throw the first punch
at my friend Patrick. The blow struck his upper body. Patrick did
nothing to cause the police officer to strike him."
Then Kaiser heard a gun go off, and the policemen attacked him,
beating him around his head, neck, and body. Then Kaiser said he
heard one of the cops say: "[Hand]cuff the shot mother-fucker,"
referring to the dying Dorismond.
Despite this moving account, Giuliani accuses Dorismond of
"assault" and illegally opens sealed court documents of
Dorismond's juvenile record in his desperate attempt to justify
the police killing.
But now, the cynicism and racism of Giuliani and his police
department have ignited the Haitian community just as it did 3
years ago after the torture of Abner Louima. Coming after dozens
of killings, tortures, and beatings, some well-known -- Baez,
Diallo, Ferguson -- but most not, of Black and Latinos in New
York City under Giuliani's administration, Haitians have made it
clear that they will not take it any more and are setting their
sights on removing Giuliani from office before the end of his
Haitian community groups in Brooklyn came together to form the
Haitian Coalition for Justice, whose goal is to "make Patrick
Dorismond the last victim of racist police terror in New York"
and toward this end has "launched a "rache manyòk" campaign to
force Mayor Giuliani's immediate removal from office."
First the Coalition called for a demonstration at the wake of
Patrick Dorismond at the Andrew Torregrossa Funeral Home on
Flatbush Avenue. When Coalition organizers arrived at the funeral
home at 5 pm, the police pretended to have no idea that a
demonstration was going to be held, even though they had been
told informally through their various Haitian officers and
formally when the Coalition had applied for a sound permit for
the action, which was not granted. The police claimed there was
no room in front of the funeral home and sent the demonstrators
to the sidewalk across the street.
As the evening wore on and Haitians arrived from work, the crowd
of demonstrators grew to over 1000, and around 8:30 pm, it
spilled off the sidewalk and into the street.
While most traffic stopped and began to back up to find a detour,
a B41 bus continued forward toward the crowd. But the
demonstrators refused to budge. After several tense minutes, the
bus too went into reverse, to the ecstatic cheers of the hundreds
Meanwhile, inside the funeral home, hundreds of Haitians filed
through the large carpetted halls and exhibition room, hugging
sobbing family members and casting wistful looks at the open
coffin, where Patrick was laid out in a white suit. Members of
the Haitian American Alliance (HAA), a group of ambitious
professionals posing as "community leaders," bustled about,
shaking hands, making statements to the press, and escorting and
posing with dignitaries like the Rev. Al Sharpton, New York City
Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi, and Bronx Borough President Fernando
The arriving mourners -- except VIPs -- could not enter through
the front door but had to go to the back of the funeral home
through police barricades, and soon there was a crowd of hundreds
at the back-door waiting to get in. The HAA profited from the
occasion to distribute bundles of its semi-official journal, the
English-language Haitian Times, to those milling inside and
those standing in packed lines outside, hardly a dignified move
on such a solemn and grievous occasion.
"Now that I have given my condolences to the family, I am going
out into the street to demonstrate my anger with the people," one
woman told a journalist in the funeral home. "I don't like all
the politicking [magouilles] going on in here."
Shortly after 9 am the next morning, about two hundred mourners
gathered outside the funeral home as Patrick's coffin was carried
out. Odile Nelson, a nurse who is a family friend and helped
raise Patrick, broke into the Haitian national anthem and others
joined in. Then the procession, followed by a line of cars,
started up Flatbush Avenue toward Holy Cross church, where the
funeral was to be held, three miles away.
The march grew in size and volume as it moved up Flatbush Avenue,
into the more Haitian and Caribbean part of Brooklyn, picking up
people waiting on every street corner. By the time it reached the
junction of Flatbush and Nostrand Aves., it was about 3,000
strong, with about 40 cars in tow. Feeder marches of groups came
southward down Flatbush to join in.
"Giuliani must go!", "No Justice! No Peace!", "Se ra! Se ta!",
"Rache manyòk Giuliani" were among the slogans filling the air
and on twirling signs. The crowd also carried two symbolic
coffins: a black one, covered with pictures of Patrick Dorismond
and other police murder victims; and a white one reading
"Haitians say Giuliani MUST GO!" Rev. Sharpton and the Rev.
Herbert Daughtry helped carry a banner reading "Justice for
Patrick." The spirited chants were accompanied by the blare of
horns from cars following behind.
At the corner of Flatbush and Rogers Aves., the police attempted
to divert the cars up Rogers. The drivers refused, and after a
brief standoff, the cars continued with the march.
Over 1000 policemen were deployed, which added to growing tension
as the march snowballed. "Push the cops away - push them far away
from the Haitian people," André Dorismond, Patrick's father, told
his cousin Jude Joseph, 40, who was walking alongside the car
carrying the Dorismond family, according to New York Post
columnist Douglas Montero. "Push them away. Every time I see the
police, I get upset."
"The cops are coming to provoke the people, and we keep telling
them to move away as soon as possible," Joseph said, according to
The situation escalated even more when the crowds reached the
corner of Flatbush and Church Aves., where it had reached a size
of close to 10,000. Here the march had to make a hard right, and
the police had erected barricades to channel the marchers down
one side of Church Ave. and the hearse down the other.
But the thousands of incredulous demonstrators would have none of
it and swept the barricades, and the cops manning them, out of
the way. Most of the cops saw the no-nonsense mood of the crowd
and skipped away from the barricades as they were pushed back.
The march then peacefully but militantly continued down the two
blocks of Church Ave. to Holy Cross Church, with politicians
clinging to the back of the hearse.
At the church, Patrick's casket was hoisted from the hearse
covered with a Haitian and a U.S. flag. The crowd immediately
tore off the U.S. flag, tore it into pieces, and burned it.
Minutes later, word raced through the crowd by means of the
teledyol that riot police, reported to have been waiting in
Prospect Park, were on their way to the demonstration. But drums
continued to play and the crowd continued its boisterous protest.
The clamor was barely audible inside the somber orange-hued
church, which was only half filled with press, dignitaries, and
family and friends. In the front row, Sharpton sat next to the
coffin, then Patrick's father, mother, Marie Rose, and sister,
Marie Andrée. Also in the church were the parents of Amadou
Diallo, community leader Sony Carson, president of the Board of
Education Bill Thompson, Manhattan Borough President Virginia
Fields, Assemblyman Ruben Diaz, Rev. Daughtry, Mr. Ferrer and Mr.
"If Patrick had a message for young people, he would say,
'Because you are young and black, avoid being on street corners
too long, because you will be considered a drug dealer, and you
will be killed. Spare your life,'" Msgr. Rollin Darbouze said in
his homily. "We have no right to kill and no one should have a
licence to kill," to which there was sustained applause.
A truly moving moment came when Patrick's mother gently kissed
her son's casket good-bye three times. As she walked back to her
seat, she fainted. A group of family and friends then lifted her
up and carried her out of the church.
After the service, which lasted almost two hours, the thousands
of demonstrators were dismayed to see that the casket was being
taken out of the back of the church and loaded into a limousine
on Veronica Place, which was blocked off behind barricades and
several rows of police.
"They took the body and left with it [out the back door] which is
a way to trample on our cultural practices," said Ricot Dupuy of
Radio Soleil in a long broadcast criticizing how the HAA and its
collaborators had organized the funeral. "Because generally we
have the right to be by the casket, to carry it and accompany it.
Thus it was a violation of our culture, of our civic rights."
Family members and dignitaries piled into limousines, with
members of the "organizing committee" clinging to them like
The hearse and limousines traveled just a short distance away to
the cemetery off Tilden Ave., not Cypress Hills in Queens, as the
police and organizers had informed the press. Some Haitians
followed the cars to the cemetery on foot.
But the vast majority of demonstrating funeral goers remained
penned behind police barricades. "That street out there is a
powder keg," said Neville Edwards, one of the purple-jacketed
marshals provided by Local 1199, the health workers union. Long
after the hearse and limousines had left, the police held the
line which increasingly provoked the crowd, which surged against
the barricades. Shop keepers pulled down their metal grills.
Police officers, some with video cameras, lined the roof tops.
Police helicopters thumped overhead.
"What are the cops doing here?" cried one man behind the church
fence to no-one in particular. "This was a funeral for a man they
killed. Now the funeral is over. What do they want now?"
At around 2 pm, the police charged charged into the crowd, with
clubs flailing. Almost simultaneously, bottles started to fly.
The crowd pulled back like water on a beach. The cops threw up
barricades at Rogers and just beyond the church towards Bedford.
The cops were separated from the demonstrators by a street strewn
with paper and glass.
As each bottle sailed in, a cry went up from the police and the
demonstrators, as if they were all watching fireworks. One
officer began to try to catch the bottles with a plastic tray for
milk containers. A bottle smashed as he tried to catch it,
spraying him with glass. The same thing occurred to a few other
cops who tried to hit the incoming bottles with their billy
Almost immediately, the regular cops fell back and the riot
troops, with helmets, shields, and pepper spray, were marched out
of Veronica Place where they had been drilling, which was another
For the next two hours, dozens of skirmishes occurred as police
put up barricades, then took them down, charged and retreated,
and arrested people blindly and arbitrarily, spraying them with
pepper spray. Chief of Police Joseph Dunne arrived and took over
around 3 p.m. He marched his helmeted troops down streets 15
abreast, shields in front, for no apparent purpose other than to
intimidate the people standing on the sidewalks, who shot them
looks dark with reproach. "Don't tell us to move. This where we
live. You get out," one older woman yelled.
Three television vans with their masts fully extended covered the
action, like oil rigs in a roiling sea.
Meanwhile, politicians like Assemblyman N. Nick Perry and Norman
Siegel, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union,
acted as intermediaries between the cops in the people, urging
the people to disperse. But people were arrested even when they
were trying to get out of the way, loaded into waiting paddy
wagons, and driven, not to the 67th precinct only a few blocks
away, but to the 72nd Precinct, far across Brooklyn in Sunset
"They were sweeping people off their stoops, and people tried to
hide in the doorways," said Edwin Mathieu, a graduate of NYU now
studying for his Masters at City College, who was arrested. "They
said get off the streets and onto the sidewalk, so I was on the
sidewalk. Then they made a lunging action towards the crowd. I
guess I was in the front of the crowd because I didn't want to
run, and I didn't want to have my back turned. I did not want
anybody beating me, or somebody saying I am running so they shoot
me. I was basically afraid for my life. So I was moving slowly,
stating I am not on the street. I am not doing anything, I am on
the sidewalk. I was not throwing any bottles, and they don't have
any pictures of me throwing any bottles. I had my hands stretched
out, like in those pictures of Jesus. I guess, because I was
talking, one of the chiefs in the white shirts said 'get him.'"
Also arrested was an 80-year-old Jamaican man, Albert Williams,
who was standing in the doorway of 802 Rogers, a building he
owns. He was home resting and had nothing on but some plastic
sandals, as the police hauled him away. Police also arrested his
daughter Maureen. Two days later, she still had deep purple
bruises on her arm where she had been held.
Shortly after 4 p.m., finally the police retreated down Veronica
Place and opened Church and Rogers Aves. to traffic. Normalcy
quickly returned to the neighborhood, aside from groups still
speaking to reporters and legal observers.
"This is exactly what they should have done hours ago," exclaimed
Mimi Rosenberg, a legal observer. "It was the police presence
which was creating the problem."
The official tally after the skirmishes were 28 people arrested,
23 cops hurt, and 5 civilians. The figures were difficult to
confirm because the police took over Kings County Hospital and
hospital administrators refused to give any information. All
information, a reporter was told, had to come from the police or
the Mayor's office.
Most of those arrested were held overnight at Brooklyn Central
Booking. Cells designed for 25 people were filled with 60,
according to several detainees. The next morning, most were
arraigned on charges ranging from disorderly conduct to inciting
Meanwhile, the Haitian Coalition for Justice was planning a mass
meeting at the St. Francis Church on Nostrand Ave. at 5 p.m. the
next day, Sunday. But late Saturday night, the parish priest
called organizers to say that the room was being denied. When
organizers insisted, they were told that the orders to close the
meeting came from the Archdiocese of the Catholic Church, which
had received "certain phone calls." Surely the Mayor's office at
On the afternoon of the mass meeting, pairs of policemen were
posted on almost every corner in the neighborhood of St. Francis,
instilling fear in people coming to the meeting. Two plainclothes
Haitian officers stood on a corner in front of the church telling
people the meeting was cancelled.
But the meeting was not cancelled. On Sunday, organizers managed
to secure the Bethany Baptist Church in the Bedford Stuyvesant
neighborhood of Brooklyn, where another meeting against police
brutality by the Amadou Diallo Coalition had occurred just days
before. Coalition organizers ferried dozens of people to the
other church. Eventually they had a crowd of almost 200 people,
which is likely a fraction of what would have turned out to St.
At the community meeting, the Haitian Coalition for Justice
called for a march on April 20, the 10 year anniversary of the
historic 1990 march against the FDA that first shook the Brooklyn
Bridge. Numerous other intiatives are also being launched such as
a march by the People's Justice 2000 from Union Square to City
Hall on April 5 and a march by Sharpton across the Brooklyn
Bridge on April 7.
In short there is a growing consensus that among people
throughout the city of New York that Giuliani must be immediately
pushed out of office, through mass protests resulting in his
impeachment or eviction. The tremendous mobilization, solidarity,
and militancy of the Haitian community in the wake of the
Dorismond shooting has made it a real possibility that there can
be a "rache manyòk" of Giuliani, which would mortally wound him
politically and end his aspirations to be a New York State
Senator or even higher office. Already, according to a Mar. 26
New York Post poll, he trails his Democratic Party opponent
Hillary Clinton 42.3% to 45%.
Meanwhile a Daily News poll the same day shows that 72% of New
Yorkers feel that the cops use of deadly force is out of control
and 47% feel that Police Commissioner Howard Safir should resign.
The Village Voice and Public Advocate Mark Green, and several
legal associations have also called for the resignation. Safir,
however, is just the hand-maiden of Giuliani. If he goes, Rudy
will not be far behind. Stay tuned.
THE HIJACKING OF A FUNERAL
Who is responsible for the confrontations which occurred last
Saturday in front of Holy Cross Church in Brooklyn after the
funeral services for Patrick Dorismond?
Obviously the police had a hand in what happened, through their
aggressive tactics, their provocations, their racist attitudes,
and their entirely inappropriate massive deployment at a funeral
of one of their victims. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani also, of course,
bears responsibility for creating a fascist atmosphere in the
city and for his continued demonization of Patrick Dorismond.
But those most responsible for the violent confrontations are the
Haitian "organizers" of the funeral themselves, who through their
sectarianism, corruption, and ambition managed to create the
perfect conditions for a confrontation with the police.
This small clique, headed by an organization called the Haitian
American Alliance (HAA), seeks to present itself at every open
microphone and rolling camera as "the representatives of the
Haitian community." Its spiritual leader is Dr. Jean-Claude
Compas, a close friend of a Macoute putschist paper like Haïti
Observateur, who won his infamy in the community when he declared
an end to demonstrations over Abner Louima's torture after the
Aug. 27, 1997 protest across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Community organizations were horrified in 1997 when Compas and
the HAA sat down with Giuliani to "negotiate" in the name of the
Haitian community. Once again, this same sector, representing an
upwardly-mobile assimilationist current in the community, has
tried to take direction of the community's response to the latest
murder by Giuliani's NYPD, and the result is the explosion we saw
A Little History
As news of the Dorismond killing spread on Mar. 17, Haitian
community groups and activists rolled into action. Calls were
exchanged among the various community groups functioning in
Dorismond's neighborhood of East Flatbush, and an emergency
meeting was called at the Sant Enfòmasyon Lè Ayisyen (SELA), an
information and community center affiliated with the New York
community's longest standing radio program.
At that meeting, it was decided to hold an open community meeting
on Sunday, Mar. 19 at St. Francis Church on Nostrand Avenue.
Close to 200 people turned out to that event, where there was
lively debate about demands and actions that the community could
The following night the Haitian Coalition for Justice (HCJ) was
formed, encompassing groups like SELA, Haitian Women for Haitian
Refugees, Konbit Vigilance, Fanmi Lavalas, Rasanbleman Ayisyen
pou Defans Dwa Imigran (RADDI), Haïti Progrès, Haiti Support
Network (HSN), Komite Chàlo Jaklen, and numerous independent
Meanwhile, the HAA was selectively assembling its own alliance,
calling groups like the National Coalition for Haitian Rights
(NCHR), the Haitian Centers Council (HCC), the Haitian Americans
United for Progress (HAUP), and a few alumni of the long-defunct
organization Haitian Enforcement Against Racism (HEAR).
The HAA alliance, while smaller and less representative of the
community, had one distinct advantage. They had put the Dorismond
family in their debt. Dr. Compas and the HAA had "generously"
volunteered to pay for the funeral of Patrick Dorismond, a
tremendous relief for the Dorismond family. However, Dr. Compas
and the HAA had their price.
That price became clear during the Sunday afternoon Moment Creole
radio program in a interview with Dr. Compas, André Dorismond
(Patrick's father), and HAA member Serge Demorcy. During the
broadcast, the funeral was announced for the following Saturday.
André Dorismond called for a "Lavalas to descend" to accompany
his son to the grave. As if he had been stuck by a pin, Dr.
Compas interrupted him and underlined that the march would be
done "in order and discipline" and would be "dignified," all
qualities he apparently feels are absent from the notion of
Lavalas. The procession would be to mourn, Compas said, not to
protest. He also made clear that HAA would be running the show.
The Haitian Coalition for Justice, however, had precisely a
protest march in mind. And not just a regular protest, calling
for "JUSTICE" and "REFORM OF THE POLICE," and all the usual
demands which have been made one hundred times before and never
This time, the HCJ felt, there could be no more business-as-
usual. This time, Giuliani had to "rache manyòk li," get out
immediately. Impeachment. Eviction. Out now. It was a
mobilization the Haitian community could do, and there is a
sympathy for such a campaign throughout the city. Indeed, several
other coalitions, like the "City-Wide Coalition to Stop
Giuliani," are already in place and working towards that end.
Even though members of the HAA alliance had been at the Mar. 19
community meeting, they held a separate meeting at St. Jerome
Church on Newkirk Ave. on Monday, Mar. 20 while the HCJ was being
formalized a few blocks away at SELA. To the HCJ, it became clear
that the HAA alliance had its own agenda, just as they did in
1997, and were not interested in sitting down with the larger
The next morning, Tuesday, Mar. 21, members of the HCJ went to
the 67th and 69th precincts in Brooklyn to procure sound permits
for the demonstrations it planned at the wake and the funeral on
the upcoming weekend.
Apparently, the permit requests threw alarm into the HAA ranks.
The Coalition received a few calls from people associated with
the HAA who said that things were becoming "complicated." Why?
Because now the police were becoming aware that the HAA alliance
members were not the sole "representatives of the Haitian
community" and that there was another larger coalition looking to
hold a protest. Detective Serge Pierre-Louis, who works at One
Police Plaza, called to Haïti Progrès, urging for there to be a
unity between the two groups lest the march "become a mess."
Like manna from heaven, Jean Vernet of the NCHR called Kim Ives
at Haïti Progrès on the evening of Mar. 21 to propose that the
two groups sit down together immediately and go to the
authorities in unity. Ives communicated the offer to the HCJ
meeting which was underway at SELA. The meeting voted to accept
the offer to talk. Ives called Vernet, and Vernet promised to
call back early the next morning.
Meanwhile, HCJ member Ray Laforest was meeting with André
Dorismond, explaining that there were two different groups
involved in organizing around the funeral. The Dorismonds,
weighed down by grief and a constant stream of demands upon them,
said that they only wanted unity and for the HCJ coalition to
work with the HAA alliance. A call was made from the Dorismond
home to Serge Demorcy, who agreed that the HAA and HCJ should
work together. Demorcy and Laforest agreed to talk the next
Everything seemed to be working out. Everybody seemed in the mood
for unity. But the next morning, the scenario completely changed.
Looming over everything was a 12:30 pm meeting with a police
commissioner and the Brooklyn chief at One Police Plaza. For
there to be unity in the eyes of the police, it was essential
that the two groups go together before the police high-command.
But in a phone conversation that morning, Demorcy told Laforest
that the meeting would probably not take place in Manhattan, but
later in Brooklyn. When Laforest called the HAA office he was
told by Tatianna Wah, the HAA president, that he should not come
to the meeting with the police because only technical matters
would be discussed.
When Laforest and other members of the HCJ reflected on the
messages they were receiving, they began to understand that all
the talks of unity the night before were just a diversion to
lower their vigilance. The HAA alliance intended to meet alone
with the police brass, to present themselves as the
"representatives of the Haitian community," and to come away with
sole control of all the permits for Friday and Saturday.
This is exactly what took place. Despite Laforest's last minute
attempts to get to the meeting, the HAA, NCHR, and others managed
to keep the HCJ out of the meeting. After that meeting, the HAA
never felt any need to call for "unity talks" again.
The police told the HCJ that they now would recognize only one
group, the HAA. They denied the HCJ's requests for sound permits.
The Results of a Bluff
In short, the HAA alliance wanted to avoid at all costs
associating in any way with the groups in the HCJ. They did not
want to share the microphone with groups denouncing the systemic
nature of police brutality, calling for Giuliani to "rache manyòk
li," maybe even denouncing the U.S. as a thinly-veiled
dictatorship where racism, war, and violence are
institutionalized and expressed through the police force in many
The HAA's allergy to such messages can be deduced from listening
to the timid response which Vladimir Rodney, the HAA vice
president, gave to Giuliani's vicious sliming of Patrick
Dorismond as a criminal.
"We are sons and daughters of seekers of freedom, of people who
had the vision to seek freedom on America's shore, and the
courage to take an uncertain journey to pursue happiness here,"
Rodney theatrically pronounced at a press conference at the
church of Pastor Samuel Nicholas in Brooklyn on Mar. 20. "We are
Haitian Americans. We work hard to support our families, to send
our children through school. Through our hard work, we make our
contribution to the great pot of American bounty...We as Haitian
Americans have a tremendous respect for the law. We work with the
police officers in our neighborhoods, and together we have worked
to rid our streets and our parks of crimes. We are not, as a
community, anti-police. We know well the faces of the officers
who patrol our neighborhoods, who ride through our subways, and
who put their lives on the line to make sure that we can pursue
our American dream without fear."
Is this a denunciation of the police state established by
Giuliani in oppressed communities in New York? Is this the kind
of language that expresses the people's anger and frustration as
their youth are being gunned down, rounded up, and brutalized?
It sounds more like an apology to Giuliani, telling him how "law
abiding" Haitians are. It sounds like an advertizement for the
"American dream." Maybe Rodney, a lawyer, is living the American
dream, but most Haitians aren't. Abner Louima and the other
people at the Rendezvous Night Club did not "know well the faces"
of Volpe and his crew.
"Why do we have all these policemen from out of Brooklyn coming
here, agitating our black people?" a Trinidadian woman yelled
during the skirmishes on Flatbush last Saturday. "Where we come
from, a policeman should know every single body in the
neighborhood. We know everybody in the police station by name,
where we come from. Why can't it be so here? We are not
accustomed to this." That sure is a different picture than that
given by Rodney. He seems to be out of touch.
Also quite contrary to Rodney's pronouncements, NYPD cops are
making sure that Haitians pursue the "American dream" in New York
The HAA alliance was intent in blocking a truly militant message
from being broadcast to the world on Saturday, March 25. They
wanted, in Compas's words, "order and discipline" i.e. silence
This is why there was no sound system or podium at the funeral.
The HAA took the sound permit, not to use it (they knew very well
they would be hissed at by the people), but to prevent the HCJ
from using it.
The result was what we witnessed. A "Lavalas" of Haitians and
other New Yorkers of all races and nationalities who are outraged
and fed up with police brutality and Giuliani spilled out onto
Flatbush Avenue, as all knew it would. But there was no
microphone to express their anger and frustration. There was no
leadership for the vast crowd. As a result, tempers flared,
bottles flew, and 28 were arrested and countless others
terrorized and roughed up by the police.
Meanwhile the members of HAA alliance were enclosed in their
cocoon in the church, sidling up to politicians, squeezing in
front of cameras, and pretending to be the "representatives of
the Haitian community." And the church was half-empty. Who was
the HAA member manning the door, helping to choose who could
enter? Georges Boursiquot, a Giuliani-appointee to the NYC
agency, Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). He is the
closest thing Giuliani has to an official Haitian representative
in the community. Wasn't he, at the very least, a little out of
place as the doorman at the funeral of one of Giuliani's victims?
In truth, before Saturday the HAA was largely unknown in the
community, but now, they are largely reviled. Haitian community
radios in Brooklyn this week have been crackling non-stop with
denunciations and reproach for the "Alliance" and its
Furthermore, while they shun the HCJ, the HAA alliance was happy
to integrate an unrepentant putschist like Arioste Denis of the
United Haitian Association (UHA) as a pallbearer of the casket
out of the church.
In fact, that was one of the HAA's cruelest tricks on the people:
slipping the casket out the back of the church, rather than out
of the front where the crowd was waiting. The HAA alliance had
the police erect a barricade on Veronica Place to keep the people
back, away from the casket, the VIPs, the limousines, and
Then they lied to the press (and the people), saying that Patrick
was to be buried in Cypress Hills Cemetery, many miles away in
Queens. In truth, the body was going only a few blocks away to
the cemetery on Tilden Avenue. When some of the demonstrators
followed the casket there on foot, it was the same putschist
Arioste Denis who summoned the police to have them removed as
The HAA vision is so elitist that members like Tatianna Wah and
Georges Boursiquot even opposed the presence of drums in the
march, just as they opposed drums in the Louima protests three
In summation, the HAA alliance has no real links with the Haitian
grassroots communities in New York. Their goal seems to be to
dress up in suits and hobnob with U.S. bigshots, in the hope that
it will someday advance their career or help them climb the
ladder of Rodney's "American dream."
Many HAA members also hunger for political office, and thus the
HAA is ingratiating itself to the Democratic Party machine in New
York. The ruling class in the U.S. has devised a very simple
system of channeling popular anger into choosing between two
choices: Republican or Democrat. When you are sick of one, you
pick the other. But both parties, it is universally known,
represent the same small circle of U.S. billionaires. No matter
how fiery the oratory of a Democratic candidate, when they get
into office, nothing changes. They make some minor reforms at
best. They are never able to "change the system" from within.
Some in the HAA alliance have said they want to see Giuliani's
removal, but only through elections. When asked at their Mar. 20
press conference if they agreed with the Haitian community's call
to "rache manyòk" Giuliani, their spokesman replied: "We are not
calling for his impeachment. However, it's clear that the mayor
has lost a lot of credibility with our community. He has not
shown that he is looking out for our best interest. That's
something we are definitely going to keep in mind at the relevant
juncture." In other words, he's not that bad. We'll try to vote
him out later.
The HCJ does not subscribe to this view. First, it is a moot
point. Giuliani is running for the Senate and may not be going to
run for another term as mayor.
But more importantly, the HCJ feels that it is time to shake up
the system, and not just allow it to channel the people once
again into a mere vote for Candidate X or Candidate Y. The HCJ
wants to hurt Giuliani so that he cannot go on to make laws.
Impeaching Giuliani, using mass demonstrations to make Giuliani's
masters pluck him from office, just as they did Nixon, is a
possibility, if the Haitian community leads the way with its
massive mobilizations. That is why the HCJ is now planning a
march across the Brooklyn Bridge on Lower Manhattan on April 20.
As we go to press, we received a press release from the NCHR,
something of the junior partner in the HAA alliance. NCHR
executive director Johnny McCalla said: "We acknowledge that on
the whole the police was restrained in the face of such a tense
situation. We have much praise for the officers who accompanied
the mourners from the funeral home to the church. In particular,
we thank the Haitian-American police officers who volunteered for
the detail. They are in a unique position to play a key role as
intermediaries between the NYPD and the Haitian community."
This assessment may as well have been written by Mayor Giuliani's
press secretary. That is why it will not be surprising if there
is a meeting between the HAA alliance (or elements of it like the
NCHR) with Mayor Giuliani this week to "negotiate" differences,
as recent press reports have rumored.
A good response comes from lawyer Michael Warren, who is
representing arrested WBAI journalist Errol Maitland and a few
other victims of the Mar. 25 roundup, at a press conference held
at the radio station on Mar. 28. "What we have here is, in
effect, a criminal enterprise. I don't want to hear anything
about good police officers. We have a systematic criminal
enterprise where the policy is to intimidate, harrass, and
physically assault people of color in this city. And it all flows
from City Hall."
By sitting down with Giuliani, groups like the HAA and the NCHR
are ultimately defending of this criminal enterprise. There is
only one solution: "Fòk Giuliani rache manyòk li."
All articles copyrighted Haiti Progres, Inc. REPRINTS ENCOURAGED.
Please credit Haiti Progres.