PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, July 28, 2015 (AMG) — As a troupe of dancers dramatically re-enacted Haiti’s occupation by foreign troops, megaphones blared anti-imperialist chants, and the crowds sang about UN soldiers defecating in the water and spreading cholera, all accompanied by a giant papier-mâché float of an occupying soldier.
It was a surreal way to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the US’ invasion and occupation of Haiti.
The march began under the blazing early afternoon sun in the Champ-de-mars area in downtown Port-au-Prince. As the march wound its way around the city center, its ranks swelled, and at the Faculté d’Ethnologie of the state university, the demonstrators were joined by a troupe of about a dozen actors and dancers. The troupe led chants and occasionally stopped the march to perform interpretations of Haiti’s history, from the arrival of the first African slaves onward.
The placards and chants left little doubt that the American Occupation of 1915-1934 is, for many Haitians, historically and politically linked to the current occupation by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (known by its French acronym MINUSTAH). One banner called for reparations for the victims of the cholera outbreak spawned by MINUSTAH.
In one of the troop’s performances several dates were read aloud: the arrival of Napoleon’s troops to suppress the Haitian Revolution, the arrival of the American occupying forces, and the arrival of MINUSTAH troops.
After the dots were connected, the group chanted one of the common refrains of the march: “With or without boots, the Occupation is still here!”
The crowd was energetic, but mostly peaceful, except for an early incident when a UN police vehicle approached the crowd and a rock was thrown at it. At several points, the marchers broke into a run, with demonstrators and performers yelling “Liberty!”