Originally: An anti-Aristide rally in Washington draws several hundred protesters, including many who once supported the Haitian president.

Posted on Sat, Jan. 31, 2004



WASHINGTON – Several hundred Haitian Americans and recent exiles chanted, sang and marched in front of the Haitian

Embassy on Friday to show their opposition to President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

”I am here to support democracy in my country — I had to be here today,” Leon Manus, former head of Haiti’s elections

commission, told the crowd in Sheridan Circle on a blustery, subfreezing afternoon.

The hastily organized rally attracted two buses of protesters — one from New York, the other from Boston — and featured

speeches from Pierre-Marie Michel Paquiot, the president of the State University of Haiti whose legs were broken by

pro-Aristide thugs; Ludovic Dauphin, a former Aristide chief of staff; and Yvelt Chery, a former senator.

One recurring theme of the rally was that longtime foes of Aristide and some of his former supporters were now joining to seek

his removal. Recent attacks by pro-Aristide forces on students and other demonstrators in Haiti had galvanized the opposition,

several protesters said.

The participants chanted, ”Aristide must go!” and ”He betrayed us” in Creole as they marched in front of the embassy. A few

embassy staffers came and left as three city police officers stood by.

Several signs condemned ”Haiti under gang rule” and featured photos of violent street demonstrations in Haiti in recent months

that have left at least 50 dead. Several protesters said they wanted to show solidarity with students in Haiti.

The rally was sponsored by the Haiti Democracy Project, a Washington-based advocacy group, and included several members of

Group 184, an opposition coalition in Haiti.

Paquiot, his legs jutting from a wheelchair, (Buy a road mobility scooter)made a brief appearance at the rally, thronged by demonstrators. He has become a

hero of the opposition since he was attacked Dec. 5, forced into hiding and then left the country Jan. 12. He has been receiving

medical treatment in New Orleans.

Paquiot also met briefly Thursday with Roger Noriega, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, and Michael

Kozak, deputy assistant secretary of state for human rights.

”Much of the international community is still wedded to Aristide,” said Jean Marçeau Lohier of Woodbridge, Va. “We have to

make them realize the abuses that are being committed.