1,000 Join Anti-Duvalier Protest in Haiti Port City

Share via
Times Staff Writer

Following a rough wooden casket held aloft by two young men, a procession of anti-government demonstrators Sunday chanted and danced down St. Marc’s main street to a lively calypso drumbeat.

Hand lettering on the casket said “Jean-Claude, your place is in here.” When the casket-bearers broke into a spirited jig, the crowd of about 1,000 whooped and cheered. The procession was part of a weeklong wave of protest demonstrations against the authoritarian government of President Jean-Claude Duvalier.

At least 20 people have been killed around Haiti during eight days of riots and other disturbances that have produced the most serious threat to the stability of the government of this impoverished Caribbean country since Duvalier became president in 1971.


(The news agencies United Press International and Reuters, citing reports from hospitals and doctors, reported that as many as 50 people were killed in the rioting Friday in Port-au-Prince, the capital. There was no official confirmation of the reports.)

State of Siege

Duvalier imposed an official state of siege Friday amid widespread but false rumors that he had fled the country. The demonstrations have continued.

Authorities declared a curfew from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday in the northern coastal city of Cap Haitien, apparently to keep people from congregating at churches. Cap Haitien, where eight people have been killed, is the nation’s second-largest city.

The government also issued an order prohibiting foreign journalists from traveling to the provinces without official permission. Two American television crews were detained for five hours after they tried to drive out of Port-au-Prince.

A nurse at the St. Nicolas Hospital in St. Marc said five people have died here since Thursday. Two of the dead, killed by a mob, were a couple who worked for the government, American missionaries said. The others were reportedly shot by members of the National Security Volunteers, a government militia known to the public as the Tontons Macoutes, or bogeymen.

Mobs in St. Marc, a shabby port city of 25,000 about 60 miles north of Port-au-Prince, have burned the houses of some government officials and sacked warehouses, carrying away food, medicine and building materials.


At 1 p.m. Sunday in the city’s Catholic cathedral, young men pealed church bells to call people out for another demonstration. A few minutes after the procession began, the number of demonstrators had grown to about 1,000. They chanted anti-Duvalier slogans, and many carried handmade protest placards.

Two demonstrators carried American flags, “so people won’t confuse us with communism,” a young man said.

As in many of the past week’s demonstrations, there were also placards that said “Long Live the Army.”

When two soldiers rode through the crowd on a motor scooter, demonstrators cheered.

“They want the military to take over so they can get rid of Duvalier,” said Dave McCrum, an American missionary who was watching the procession.

Earlier, outside the city’s yellow military barracks, an army lieutenant lounged with several soldiers under a large shade tree. The lieutenant said the army has not used force against demonstrators here.

According to the lieutenant, the shootings in St. Marc have been the result of trouble between the demonstrators and the militia.


The militia was created as a repressive force by Duvalier’s father and predecessor in power, Francois (Papa Doc) Duvalier. One of its original missions was to keep the army from challenging Duvalier’s power.

A foreign analyst in Port-au-Prince said much of the militia has apparently been overwhelmed by the scale of the past week’s protests around the Haitian provinces and, in many cases, has not acted against demonstrators out of fear.

Both the militia and the army, however, have been firm in smothering disturbances in the capital, where protest demonstrations could most directly threaten government stability.