One day before a conference about “Engaging the Haitian Diaspora” conference was set to take place at a Queens hotel, some members of the New York were busy planning to protest in opposition.
A group called Haitian Diaspora United for Haiti (HDUH) had organized the event at the Hilton JFK and began promoting a skeletal itinerary only days before the meeting Saturday. Some people immediately suspected the Haitin government was behind or partaking in the event.
Jensen Desrosiers, a Brooklyn-based restaurateur and activist, is among those who found the tactic unacceptable.
“They’re trying to do a certain incognito event without the knowledge of the leaders of the community, without the knowledge of anybody in the community as a matter of fact, so they can go back to Haiti and say that the community is agreeing with their constitutional referendum,” Desrosiers said Friday. “We’re going to show up and make sure they know that we’re against it.”
That’s what at least 30 people did on Saturday. After gathering in Brooklyn, Desrosiers and other protesters drove to the Hilton near JFK airport to demonstrate their opposition to the referendum.
Footage from the protest showed them in the Hilton JFK parking lot, waving Haitian flags and calling for the government to take accountability for corruption and the widespread violence that has plagued Haiti in the past year.
“The Haitian people do not want the referendum,” said Daniel Ulysse, a minister and co-organizer of the protest. “The Haitian people do not want these gangsters to come here and try to force their will on the people.”
Groups involved in the counter-protest included Committee to Mobilize Against Dictatorship in Haiti, which goes by the Creole acronym KOMOKODA. The organization was active in mobilizing protests on March 30, International Day of Solidarity with Haiti.
The Haitian Powerhouse coalition, which Desrosiers helped form, and activists aligned with the Fanmi Lavalas political party were also involved in the protest, Desrosiers said..
The daylong conference agenda included a discussion on the proposed constitution’s highlights for the diaspora and information about the June 22 referendum, in which members of the diaspora can vote. Representatives from the Haitian consulate in New York were scheduled to speak, along with other government officials, according to the HDUH flier shared.
Speakers included Louis Gonzague Edner Day, the minister of Haitians Living Abroad, Faud Joseph, board president of the National Agricultural Development Bank and Domingue Orghella, consul general of the Haitian consulate in New York, per HDUH.