Haitians Around the World Call for Action to Stop Gang Violence


Thousands of supporters flooded the streets Sunday in nearly 70 countries to call on the international community to help curb the gang violence that has gripped Haiti and is plunging it further into social and political turmoil.

Abigail Calixte, a Miami resident, said she has relatives living in Haiti who are “afraid to go out” because of the violence. Calixte, 18, said the country has changed drastically since she last visited when she was 10, when she remembered that she had a feeling of «union.»

“I’m tired of seeing everything that’s going on,” said Calixte, who lives in the Little Haiti neighborhood. «Like, this is not the country I know.»

Gangs have had a decades-long presence in Haiti, but after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021, gang violence increased as the island nation’s government crumbled; the country has yet to elect a new president. And Haiti’s last remaining elected lawmakers, 10 senators, left office in January after their terms expired and have yet to be replaced, according to the Brookings Institution. The think tank also said in a February report that Haitian political leaders and the Haitian National Police have ties to the gangs and cannot control them.

And even two years after Moïse’s death, “The fact that there is no government in power means they could just multiply and get stronger,” said Gregory Toussaint, pastor of Tabernacle of Glory church in Miami. And now, the gangs control approximately 80% of the capital, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Pastor Gregory Toussaint speaking to a crowd of supporters with a megaphone during the Relief for Haiti march in Miami, Florida.
Pastor Gregory Toussaint speaking to a crowd of supporters with a megaphone during the Relief for Haiti march in Miami, Florida.Courtesy Tabernacle of Glory

Haitian gangs have kidnapped, assaulted and murdered residents over the years, and the UN has reported more than 500 gang related deaths in Haiti in the first three months of the year only. At least 160,000 Haitians have been displaced by gangs since 2021. And around 60% of Haitians live below the poverty line and have limited access to basic services. according to UNICEF.

The main goals of the demonstrations, Toussaint said, were to urge Congress to pass legislation to help dismantle Haitian gangs by exposing the «bad actors» who work with them politically and economically, and to encourage the Biden administration. to continue his humanitarian parole. program. The marches also motivated Haitians to take action and promote unity between those living in Haiti and Haitians throughout the diaspora.

A protester during a Relief for Haiti rally in Miami
A protester during a Relief for Haiti rally in Miami on July 9.Carl Juste/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Kaila Dorcin, another Miami protester, said her relatives in Haiti «were almost kidnapped» and «they are afraid to even leave their house because the gang violence is so extreme.» Dorcin said she joined the march because it was historic and would help bring about change.

“I think something has to change,” said Dorcin, 20. «I’m really tired of just having to watch my people go through stuff like that.»

The move to help Haiti also drew support from non-Haitian sympathizers. Xamayla Rose, who attended the Relief for Haiti march in Brooklyn, is Jamaican. She said that she grew up in a community with many black immigrants in downtown Brooklyn and has witnessed the marginalization of Haitians through her work in immigration justice.

«I really felt that in the bottom of my heart, if all I can do is march with my friends and raise awareness, especially as a non-Haitian person, just to show everyone that it’s okay to support him.» Rose, 43, said. “It is okay to talk about all the things that are going wrong and even have a sense of responsibility as a non-Haitian person to help solve and raise awareness about the problem.”

Supporters during the “Relief for Haiti” march in Miami, Florida.
Supporters during the “Relief for Haiti” march in Miami, Florida.Courtesy Tabernacle of Glory

Toussaint said Haiti needs a long-term plan to help stabilize the country, citing the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s, which claimed more than 500,000 lives, as an example. When the genocide ended in 1994, Toussaint said that, by the year 2000, Rwandan leaders had developed a Vision of 20 years of reconstruction of his country, which has undergone an economic transformation. Toussaint said that this is a plan that Haiti should also follow.

“We should have a 25-year plan,” Toussaint said. “What do we want Haiti to look like in 2050? We should work on that plan right now and get it rolling in 2025.”

Several international leaders and entities have called for more action to support Haiti, including Volker Turk of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who in February called the situation in Haiti a «living nightmare.”

Toussaint is also pushing for Congress to pass the Haiti Criminal Collusion Transparency Act, which would require the State Department to issue an annual report on links between «criminal gangs and political and economic elites in Haiti.» the bill says. Through your organization, shekinah.fmToussaint has created a petition to rally support for the bill, which now has more than 126,000 signatures.

Xamayla Rose marching with supporters in Brooklyn, NY
Xamayla Rose marching with supporters in Brooklyn, NY Courtesy Xamayla Rose

Toussaint also said he wants the Biden administration to keep the humanitarian parole program, which allows the US government to grant advance travel authorization for Haitians, along with other groups, including Cubans, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans. More Haitians have been allowed to seek asylum in the US after President Biden took office, according to an internal planning document obtained by NBC News in July 2022.

Despite the uphill challenges, Toussaint said he has «high hopes» for Haiti’s future, which he said boils down to «taking responsibility» and «coming together.» «As a believer, I have hope in God and I believe there is always hope,» Toussaint said.

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