September 14, 2011
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Protesters calling for the withdrawal of U.N. peacekeepers from Haiti clashed with police Wednesday outside the earthquake-damaged Haitian National Palace.
The protesters hurled rocks at Haitian police in riot gear and the officers responded by firing volleys of tear gas canisters toward the crowd of several hundred demonstrators. As the crowd dispersed, many protesters fled into the Champ de Mars, the park that became a huge encampment of tents and shanties following the January 2010 earthquake.
There did not appear to be any injuries among protesters, who said they wanted to see a withdrawal of the U.N. troops who have helped keep order in Haiti since 2004, when political violence engulfed the country.
Protesters also said they were angry over the alleged sexual assault of an 18-year-old Haitian man by U.N. peacekeepers from Uruguay in the southwestern town of Port-Salut in July.
“We are doing a peaceful march and asking for MINUSTAH to leave the country,” said protester Christo Junior Cadeta, referring to the U.N. force by its French acronym.
The U.N. has 12,000 U.N. military and police personnel in Haiti but no peacekeepers were in sight as the protesters clashed with the Haitian police.
Haitian President Michel Martelly is expected to ask for a renewal of the U.N. mission’s mandate, which expires next month.
The peacekeeping force has been a fixture in Haiti following a violent rebellion that ousted former President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004. The force in Haiti has been a target of complaints for years, but the criticism has increased in recent weeks after a cellphone video surfaced showing several U.N. soldiers abusing the young Haitian man.