Police protest in Haiti, firing guns into the air and blocking roads

Officers stop cars and a motorcycle on a street
Police patrol a street in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Jan. 21 after gangs stormed a part of the capital and killed several officers. Gangs have killed at least 10 police officers in the last week.
(Odelyn Joseph / Associated Press)

Angry police officers paralyzed the Haitian capital Thursday, roaring through the streets on motorcycles in protest of a slew of killings of fellow officers by gangs.

More than a hundred protesting officers in Port-au-Prince blocked roads, fired guns into the air and broke through gates at the airport and the prime minister’s house, with tensions escalating throughout the day.

Gangs have killed at least 10 officers in the last week, one is missing and another has severe bullet wounds, according to the Haitian National Police.


Video circulating on social media — probably recorded by gangs — shows the naked and bloodied bodies of six men stretched out on the dirt, guns lying on their chests. Another video shows two masked men who are smoking cigarettes from the dismembered hands and feet of the dead men.

The gang that killed them, known as Gan Grif, still has the bodies, police said.

The wave of grisly killings of police officers is the latest example of escalating violence in the Caribbean nation, which has been gripped by gang wars and political chaos since the 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moise.

One of Haiti’s nearly 200 gangs ambushed a police unit in a mansion-lined stretch of the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince.

Jan. 24, 2023

His unelected successor as head of the government, Prime Minister Ariel Henry, has asked the United Nations to lead a military intervention, but no country has been willing to send in soldiers.

The deaths enraged members of Fantom 509, an armed group of current and former police officers that has demanded better conditions for officers in sometimes violent protests.

Dozens of these men wove through the city on Thursday, many wearing hoods along with police uniforms and flak jackets and carrying rifles and automatic weapons. They seized buses to block roads and torched tires across the city, leaving smoke billowing through the streets.

Many demanded tougher crackdowns on the gangs and called for the end to Henry’s administration, which many Haitians view as illegitimate. Demonstrators broke down one of the gates outside Henry’s home and a barrier at the Port-au-Prince airport, where he planned to make an appearance later in the day.


“We need a revolution,” screamed one protester dressed in a bulletproof vest, helmet and gas mask. “We are in the streets to fight, for our brothers and sisters who are victims of the bandits. We have to take to the streets every day to get what we want.”

A video recorded by local media shows empty streets and closed businesses on a key road of Port-au-Prince through which the protesting officers passed.

In addition to the bodies displayed by the gang, a number of officers were killed last week in a gun battle with gangs in a neighborhood that was once considered relatively safe.

Since Henry took the reins of the country, 78 police officers have been killed, according to a Thursday report by Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network.

The Haitian National Police expressed condolences to the slain officers’ families and colleagues, and said that it’s “calling for peace and invites police officers to come together to bring forward an institutional response to the different criminal organizations that terrorize the Haitian people.”

The U.S. Embassy in Haiti also asked for calm in a Twitter message Thursday.

The United Nations estimates that 60% of Port-au-Prince is controlled by the gangs. On the streets of the capital, Haitians say it’s more like 100%.


This week, the U.N. special envoy for Haiti urged the U.S. and Canadian governments to lead an international armed force to help Haiti combat the gangs. Haitian police, meanwhile, are pleading for more resources.

“The movement will continue; we can’t let police get killed like this,” said one masked man in a police uniform carrying a pistol who did not want to be identified. “We can do the job if they give us ammunition.”