PORT-AU-PRINCE—Police used tear gas to clear out dozens of families seeking refuge in the courtyard of the United States Embassy on Tuesday, one day after they fled relentless gang attacks in the Clercine neighborhood, according to local media and residents.
“I don’t want to leave, I want to stay here and die,” said a tearful young woman, shown in a video throwing herself on the ground when a police officer attempted to move her.
The scene, shown widely on videos and photos posted on social media, capped a weekend of nonstop attacks on areas around the capital city as gangs apparently emphatically resume pre-bwa kale levels of criminal acts. For the Haitian National Police (PNH), the incident also highlights the escalating challenges residents around the capital city face amid a resurgence of kidnappings and armed attacks in Haiti.
On social networks, the images and videos of the refugees being chased by the police have gone viral. Across numerous platforms, some internet users are shocked, others are angry and several point out that Americans have Ukrainians the “red carpet” treatment after the Russian invasion.
Local journalists describe scenes of children fainting from inhaling the tear gas and of the elderly gathering what little belongings they could before being forced to leave the American territory. PNH officers, some of whom were struggling with the effects of the gas themselves, even assisted the displaced residents.
Desperate locals began making their way to the courtyard of the U.S. Embassy — au Boulevard 15 octobre à Clercine, Port-au-Prince — over the weekend after gunfire from gangs in several neighborhoods in northern Port-au-Prince drove them to flee. One day prior on July 24, armed gangs invaded the area, leaving a trail of dead residents, looted facilities and burned homes in Tabarre, Dumornay and Truittier.
Survivors then fled. With nowhere else to turn, they sought refuge in a place they said they believed the shots would not reach. The courtyard at the entrance of the American sovereign territory then became a safe haven.
But their hopes for safety were short-lived as the Haitian police dispersed them with tear gas just 24 hours later.
“The police can’t be so cruel,” said another displaced man shown on video, vibrating with anger. “The bandits chased us out of our house and now they’re coming to throw tear gas at us.”
Weekend of tension as armed attacks rise
Across the capital and beyond, the country experienced tensions over the weekend of July 21 to 23, with armed bandits committing crimes in several areas, for three consecutive days. With guns, torches and other weapons, they created fear and chaos among the population in the localities, which remain gripped by a terror that has forced dozens of terrified residents to seek safety and refuge.
In Port-au-Prince, on July 21, radio journalist Blondine Tanis was kidnapped in front of her residence in Delmas while returning home. Radio Rénovation has suspended its broadcast since the incident in protest.
The same weekend in Croix- des-Bouquets, armed gangs attacked the Bakara Rhum factory. Over their three-day assault, two employees were killed and four others injured.
“The police can’t be so cruel. The bandits chased us out of our house and now they’re coming to throw tear gas at us.”ADVERTISEMENT
In an email to the Haitian Times, Gustavo A Cabrera Tenreiro, a company official, said the attack on his factory is a significant risk to nearby properties. The ethanol alcohol and brewed rum tankers now exposed, he said, could potentially lead to a large explosion or wildfire outbreak.
“The facility and neighboring properties are completely vulnerable as the ethanol alcohol tankers and prepared rum tankers are fully exposed, leaving the area at risk for deadly explosions or wildfires,” Cabrera wrote in the email. “Please share so that we can get some assistance from our authorities.”
On July 22, police officers Jules Lafond, 14th promotion and Jeanty Rabony, 22nd promotion, were shot and injured at Morne à Cabrit during an armed attack on a patrol of the specialized unit PoliFront, Haiti’s equivalent of border patrol. They were treated and reported to be recovering according to the Haitian National Police Union, SYNAPOHA.
In Liancourt near the commune of Saint-Marc, the fourth largest city of Haiti, armed attackers killed three people and injured several others, local radio reported. In addition, the gang known as “Baz gran Grif” set fire to businesses, including a pharmacy, the Antarctic radio station and residential houses. Residents have made an urgent plea to the police authorities and said they feel abandoned with armed groups wreaking havoc in their communities.
Between May and July 2023, a human rights organization reported 40 cases of kidnappings and at least 75 people killed in gang violence.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council voted to consider deploying a multinational force as an option to fight insecurity in Haiti. In its July 14 resolution, the Security Council agreed to help ameliorate the deteriorating security, humanitarian, political and economic crises they say requires a multinational force to address