Rally attendees in Valley Stream and Elmont supporting international intervention in Haiti want to stop increased gang violence that plagues the island nation.
Last month, in a speech to the United Nations, President Biden said, “Haiti cannot wait.” David Duchatellier, rally organizer for Haiti Relief Effort, used those words as a rally cry in Elmont on Oct. 21 in French, “Haiti ne peut plus attendre.” The rally advocated for immediate international intervention in Haiti.
Approximately 75 community members attended the rally, which started at the intersection of Dutch Broadway and Corona Avenue in Valley Stream and concluded at the Dutch Broadway Sports Complex in Elmont.
“We’re asking the international community for an intervention, because of the high level of violence, killings, kidnappings, gang violence and violence against women,” said Carrié Solages, county legislator.
As of October, the United Nations Human Rights Watch reported that gang violence in Haiti has resulted in more than 5,500 cases of gang violence, more than 3,100 killings and more than 1,200 kidnappings. Solages said there have been more than 1,400 acts of violence against women. The killings include 247 women and 78 children.
According to United Nations Human Rights Watch, over one-third of the population, 4.4 million people, lack access to clean water and two-thirds have limited or no sanitations service. More than one-third of Haitians live with food insecurity. Over 217,000 children suffer from malnutrition.
“It’s a complete unstable political, social and economic condition right now,” Solages said.
Children in Haiti have to wait for the streets to calm down in order to go to school, and pray that it is safe when it is time to go home. Seniors who are building or have built their retirement homes in Haiti have seen the money they sent down there to build disappear. Others have had gangs take over their homes.
“The gangs have more guns than the police in Haiti, as we speak,” Solages said.
According to PBS, as of July, gangs control about half of the country’s territory and most of the capital of Port-au-Prince. Gangs have locked children in schools where they can’t get food. All of this has caused droves of Haitians to seek asylum in the U.S.
Meanwhile, a vigilante movement called “Bwa Kale” has taken to stoning and burning suspected gang members in the streets.
Duchatellier said his group brought medical aid to a Haitian school annually, but the violence forced the visits to stop in 2019. He was also directly affected by the violence in Haiti. Gangs burned down his uncle’s house in Port-au-Prince in September.
Many people at the rally have a personal connection to Haiti — whether it’s their own history or ties to relatives who still live there.
Since Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated in July 2021, the country’s prime minister has served as an acting president. Solages said the violence and instability in Haiti could affect the United States.
According to Solages, there are a few types of intervention Haitian-Americans would like to see in the country. These include monetary tools and policies, because the United States has controlled the Bank of Haiti since the 19th century. Intervention is on the way thanks to the recent United Nations vote that sent multinational forces led by Kenya into Haiti to combat the gang violence.
Duchatellier encouraged people to write to and call their representatives, because that will get the message closer to the United States president.
“They can do something,” Duchatellier said. “We are so many Haitians over here. We would like to go and visit Haiti.”
Duchatellier hopes the rally will bring more awareness to the problems and more motivation for the United States or United Nations to intervene. Despite the bad weather for the rally, he hasn’t lost hope.
“The weather didn’t cooperate today,” Duchatellier said. “We could have had more people. But we’re going to keep trying.”
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