On Sunday, 9 July, supporters from over seventy countries across the globe joined marches in their own communities to speak out against the ongoing violence in Haiti and to unite around a solitary mission to help the country work towards peace. Gangs have a longstanding presence in Haiti but gang-related violence has increased significantly following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021. While the country still remains without a president, many Haitians continue to suffer the repercussions of the many natural disasters and disease outbreaks the country has faced in recent years. In the midst of this instability, violent gangs have taken control over various areas of Haiti, pushing the country into further political, economic, and social turmoil. As of three months ago, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated around eighty percent of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area was under gang control. As violence continues to escalate, residents have begun taking matters into their own hands by retaliating violence upon suspected gang members.
The ‘Relief for Haiti’ marches that took place across the U.S. and in various other countries on 9 July stemmed from an effort initiated by Gregory Toussaint, a pastor in North Miami. Toussaint organised a march in his own neighbourhood after receiving overwhelming support on his petition for the U.S. Congress to pass the Haiti Criminal Collusion Transparency Act. The legislation calls for financial sanctions against those supporting Haitian gangs, encouraging transparency around the connections to gang activities in Haiti. Toussaint hoped the Miami march, and the various communities who followed along in suit, would raise awareness of the worsening situation in Haiti and ultimately push for Congress to pass the bill.
In the words of Toussaint, ‘the goal of “Relief for Haiti” is to mobilise compassionate individuals in the United States and overseas to advocate for legislation that can bring relief to the Haitian people, both in their homeland and abroad.’ Kaila Dorcin, a participant in the Miami ‘Relief for Haiti’ march, stressed the urgency of this cause, telling reporters her family in Haiti ‘are scared of even leaving their house because the gang violence is so extreme.’ Dorcin hoped the march would spark change, stating, ‘I think something needs to change…I’m really tired of having to see my people go through things like this.’
Following a discussion about the crisis with the Jamaican Prime Minister, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres believes the situation in Haiti begs for ‘a much stronger commitment by the international community.’ While Haitians need the care of humanitarian aid organisations, perhaps most of all they need the unified support of people across the globe to transform their country into a safe place once again. The July 9th marches can be seen as a hopeful start to Haitian and non-Haitian supporters alike gathering around this initiative and standing against the ongoing violence in Haiti in an accessible and peaceful way. Xamayla Rose, who was drawn to the issue through her intersecting work in immigration justice, joined the ‘Relief for Haiti’ march in her local neighbourhood of Brooklyn, telling reporters, ‘I really felt like deep down in my heart if all I can do is march with my friends and to raise awareness—especially as a non-Haitian person—just to show everybody…It’s OK to talk about all of the things that are going wrong and to even have a sense of accountability and responsibility as a non-Haitian person for helping to resolve and bring awareness to the issue.’
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