The Haiti Democracy Project sent a mini-delegation to Haiti to observe the demonstration called by the Group of 184. Arriving downtown about 12:30 p.m., we walked down to the corner of Rue Magny and Avenue Christophe (Tifou; there are Texaco and Esso gas stations there) and proceeded down Rue Magny toward the Champ de Mars, one block away. Our goal was eventually to hook up with other foreign observers there. We were accompanied by our driver.
We got about halfway down the block and I called a halt, concerned by the bunching of people further down the block. We had earlier agreed to go into no situation without an escape route. More people started coming back up the street away from the Champ de Mars. Suddenly the people turned into a wall running back up the street. We walked along the side back up toward Avenue Christophe. We were jostled. We felt tear gas in the air, the people were running away from it.
We walked along Avenue Christophe seeking another access route to Champ de Mars. But the tear gas further down was stronger than on Rue Magny. We returned to the corner of Rue Magny and Avenue Christophe (Tifou) to await developments.
The bunching on the street eased and people were heading back down the street toward the Champ de Mars. We walked down and came up just short of the Champ de Mars.
I did not like the look of the bunching of people on the Champ de Mars, just ahead of us. Our driver told us, however, that some of our Haitian friends were just to the left at the Rex Theater. I did not like the fact that there would be too many people on three sides of us and a wall to our back. However, he said it was just a short distance. At that time the crowd appeared to be peaceful. On this basis, we proceeded onto the Champ de Mars along the wall. Almost immediately I noticed a pro-Aristide contingent in the crowd holding posters and chanting.
The police blocked the way any further. I decided we would return to Rue Magny. We had been on the Champ de Mars only a minute. As we proceeded back along the wall, the Aristiders approached my colleague and thrust an Aristide leaflet at her, shouting. They pulled on her cap and hair. They were not bothering any of the Haitians in the area, only us blancs. They thrust a leaflet at me, and as I took it, one of them tried to get me to spread my arms and say, “Vive Aristide.” As I continued forward, another jumped in front and spray-painted the left side of my face with a blue paint. Someone else, however, urged them to restrain from further importunities.
Nothing else happened and we proceeded off the square and up Rue Magny. I went into the Texaco and bought a can of WD-40 to wipe off the paint.