The following reporters contributed to this report: Matiado Vilme, Yves Manuel, Dieuline Gedeus in Port-au-Prince, Jaudelet Junior Saint Vil in Fort Liberte, Innocente Desgranges in Petit Goave, Socrate Ameyes Jean Pierre, James Dorvil, Alexandre Joram in Miragoane, Junior Racine in St. Marc, Hernst Eliscar in Les Cayes
WASHINGTON, PORT-au-PRINCE, GONAIVES, FORT LIBERTE, PETIT GOAVE, MIRAGOANE, ST. MARC, LES CAYES - Haiti's latest protests began with explosions when hundreds of Cite Soleil residents, a slum notorious for gang activity, drug dealing and kidnapping, attacked the local UDMO security force headquarters.
They looted, carrying out furniture and other materials, then set fire to the building and police cars, prompting the explosions.
#Haiti Protest started with a bang, literally, early this morning when Cite Soleil protesters attacked, looted and set fire to the UDMO security forces headquarters. This was the scene. Video by @VOAKreyol Yves Manuel pic.twitter.com/9d20pbL5F3— Sandra Lemaire (@SandraDVOA) September 27, 2019
A protester who spoke to VOA Creole Friday said their actions were in response to what they said were injustices by police and poor governance, which has made their lives miserable.
"When you see the people in the street with nothing but their arms and legs, and the UDMO sees that and shoots and kills three people in Cite Soleil, we have to tell the residents to rise up and root out this government because Jovenel Moise has done nothing for us except kill us," he said.
Elsewhere in Port-au-Prince, protesters blocked roads with stones, branches and flaming tires. Businesses and schools were shuttered as thousands marched up Delmas, a main road linking the downtown area to affluent suburbs.
But protesters looted businesses such as an electronics store and Banj, a multiuse complex that houses a tech company owned by hipster and tech guru Marc Alain Boucicault. He sent out an SOS on Twitter as protesters crashed through the steel gates and entered the complex, ransacking it and setting fires.
Protesters broke into, looted and set fire to @banjHT a multi-use complex which is the brainchild of Haitian tech guru @marcalainb #Haiti Marc Alain sent out an SOS 🆘 tweet as this was happening. pic.twitter.com/CiUdzRJTZH— Sandra Lemaire (@SandraDVOA) September 27, 2019
A protester VOA Creole spoke to on the Delmas road said he was in the streets for the first time today because he's starving.
"I've had to rely on neighbors three days in a row to be able to eat a little something," he said. "The president has to go, he is the cause of our suffering."
Opposition Senator Ricard Pierre joined the protesters on their march uptown.
"Today is the final battle in the war to get rid of Jovenel," he told VOA Creole.
As protesters made their way up to Petionville, police fired teargas in an attempt to stop them. They were unsuccessful. The massive crowd reached the suburb and set fire to a private home next to Sogebank, a financial institution, and then looted a Chinese-owned business and a pharmacy.
In Gonaives to the north, protesters hit the streets wielding machetes. Reporters who witnessed the angry crowd marching through town ran for cover.
In Fort Liberte, protesters set up burning barricades and placed a casket in the middle of the road to block National Highway 6, which links northern towns to the capital. Hundreds filled the streets, a reporter estimated.
"We're in the streets today to demand the president resign and to let everyone know the Northeast has had enough," a young man in his 20s told VOA Creole. "The government is no good and we're suffering so we decided to block the road to see if the situation will get better."
In Petit Goave to the south, protesters set fire to the local office of the national electric company EDH, and to the courthouse. Video recorded by VOA Creole showed smoke billowing from inside as the building along with the burned court files inside.
In Miragoane, protesters marched to a raboday beat as they chanted "lock them up" and "lock up Jojo (President Moise) as they made their way around town.
Three men in their 20s were shot and wounded by police during the demonstration, VOA Creole reporters said.
In St. Marc, also in the south, thousands filled the streets to protest against the president, a reporter estimated.
"We don't have schools, there's no infrastructure, we don't have hospitals, we don't have anything," a protester wearing a Haitian flag bandana on his head and a Haitian flag wrapped around his torso told VOA Creole. "Why are we living like this? We want to be rid of this system (government). We can't deal. We're tired of it. The youth are over it."
And in Les Cayes, angry protesters fired on a police post in an attempt to take over the police station. The gate and building were damaged, but local UDMO security forces were able to intervene and arrested some of the perpetrators.
President Jovenel Moise has not commented on the protests.
A U.S. Embassy security alert on Twitter warned American citizens living in Haiti not to venture out into the streets.
The opposition groups who called for the nationwide protest say they will not stop until the president responds to their demand to step down.
As night fell, residents were bracing for what the morning might bring.