WASHINGTON/PORT-AU-PRINCE - Yves Manuel in Port-au-Prince, Monica Lindor in Jacmel, Socrate Ameyes Jean Pierre in Miragoane, Charles Makenson in Jeremie, Innocente Desgranges in Petit Goave, Lucson Palmeus in Port-de-Paix and Junior Racine in St. Marc contributed to this report
WASHINGTON / PORT-AU-PRINCE - Thousands filled the streets of Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, as well as cities to the north and south again Friday to demand President Jovenel Moise resign.
"Jojo Mele! (Jojo's in trouble) Jojo Mele!" they chanted in unison to a raboday beat, waving their hands and clapping. Some held tree branches while others lifted posters up high for all to see that read: "Demisyon Jovenel" (Resign Jovenel.) They also had a message for the international community: stop propping up our corrupt government.
Opposition leaders and anti-corruption militants called for nationwide protests, saying their goal was to march to the United Nations headquarters, this time to make sure their demands are heard.
"We give Mrs. La Lime (Helen Meagher La Lime of the United States, the U.N. Secretary-General's Special Representative for Haiti) 24 hours to remove Jovenel from the country," opposition Senator Evaliere Beauplan said. "If she doesn't do it, we will be back here every day until she gives in. She must stop supporting corruption and the massacre of the people (at the hands of the police)."
Opposition politician Assad Volcy was surrounded by a crowd of protesters as he stood in front of the U.N. office.
"We came to tell Jovenel's bosses, the people who are working with him, today the people of Haiti are terminating Jovenel's term," Volcy told VOA Creole. "If the white people, the international community love him so much, (then) take him. Let him go lead the United States. Let him go lead Brazil. Let him go lead the OAS."
What sparked protests
Haiti has been plagued for months by an increase in violence, a fuel shortage, high inflation, double-digit unemployment and food insecurity.
Weekly protests have negatively impacted businesses, schools and tourism.
President Moise is blamed for being unable to turn the situation around. He has denied corruption allegations and insists he will not resign. Instead, he ordered his acting prime minister, Jean Michel Lapin, to make new Cabinet appointments, and called for a national dialogue to discuss possible solutions for the country's problems.
The opposition refused and said Moise's departure is non-negotiable.
Whistleblower and opposition Senator Saurel Jacinthe, viewed by some as a hero for outing lawmaker colleagues for accepting bribes for votes in parliament, joined the protesters in the Carrefour Aeroport neighborhood of the capital.
"The U.N., the Core Group is only waiting for one thing," he told VOA Creole. "They are consulting with different sectors to see if there is support for Jovenel. If all the sectors they consult with are against Jovenel, they will take the necessary measures."
The Core Group is comprised of the U.N. secretary-general's Special Representative for Haiti and the ambassadors of the United States, European Union, France, Canada, Brazil, Spain and the Special Representative of the OAS. Members have been meeting with Haitians from all sectors of society this week, in addition to President Moise, to hear grievances and opinions on how to help the country move forward.
Unlike last Friday's protest in Port-au-Prince, when protesters attacked and looted police stations around town with little to no resistance from law enforcement, the police and special forces teams were highly visible as they patrolled the streets, at times aggressively.
VOA Creole reporter Matiado Vilme said she was injured after a "CIMO" (Corps d'intervention et de maintien d'ordre) agent grabbed her wrist and twisted it as she said she attempted to record a video in front of the U.N. office. Local journalists came to her rescue, yelling at the agent and calling on colleagues to film the attack so everyone could see what happened, she said. Francois Frantz, a reporter for KAPZYNEWS, said he also was pushed around.
"We always say that the police is aware that the people have a constitutional right to protest," Gary Desrosiers, spokesman for the National Police Force (PNH) told VOA Creole. "The police even has a duty to accompany and protect the protesters. Providing security for both the protesters and the citizens who are not protesting is a work in progress."
When reporters pressed him about why the officers were being so aggressive toward them, he responded that he was not in charge of the strategy for the day, but that police are trained to see things that civilians don't see.
To the north and south
Meanwhile, in the town of Jacmel, to the south, protesters put up roadblocks made from tree branches, rocks and tires during the early morning hours. Roads were only accessible on foot or by motorbike.
In Petit Goave, a rara band played as protesters marched through town to the beat of their music.
In Miragoane, protesters were joined by members of the Democratic Sector opposition group as they made their way around the city.
In Port-de-Paix, a large crowd filled the streets with anti-corruption banners in hand. One man held a poster that read, "We'll keep fighting until the corn ripens to untangle ourselves from the killer Jovenel." A drum beat accentuated by a horn filled the air.
In Jeremie, also in the south, protesters took to the streets as well.
Affiliate station reporter Charles Makenson said the protest was halted after an unidentified gunman opened fire on the crowd. At least three people were wounded, he said.
To the north in St. Marc, things turned violent as well. A group of protesters armed with rocks and bottles marched to the local jail and pelted it. They were unsuccessful in breaking in. Another group of protesters threw rocks at the national bank, shattering its windows. They also burned a pile of trash to block the main road.
PNH spokesman Desrosiers told VOA Creole he was not prepared to give an estimate on damages nor how many people were injured or killed during Friday's protests.
Protesters plan to be back in the streets on Sunday.