This is a developing story that will be updated regularly.
An hour before the commencement of a state funeral service for former President Jovenel Moïse, more than 50 members of New York City’s Haitian community gathered in Queens for a memorial service organized by the New York Haitian Consulate.
Members of New York’s diaspora community gathered at Renaissance Event Hall in Long Island City, most of them wearing black. A portrait of Haiti’s slain president and a condolences book awaited the attendees as they descended the staircase to the banquet hall.
As 10 a.m. approached, attendees were treated to a saxophone rendition of “Amazing Grace” and Haiti’s national anthem.
“I am having bad emotions as a diplomat,” said Wisnique Panier, counselor for the Haitian Mission to the United Nations. “It is difficult for me to be in this situation. When I heard the president was assassinated, it became very hard for me and difficult to believe. I ask myself if he is really dead.”
After reading a passage from the letters of St. Paul to the Thessalonians, Brooklyn-based priest Rev. Juan Luxama spoke to the crowd, imploring them to examine their hearts and consider what they are doing to work for a better Haiti.
“We can’t destroy our own,” Luxama said, stressing the need for unity. “At the end of the day we must love each other, respect one another.”
New York Consul General Jacques Lauture said in an interview that his staff will continue to support the Moïse family and that the consulate is “still trying to process what happened.”
As consular officials, Lauture said their duty is to keep the late president’s vision, for priorities like economic development and electrification, alive. Lauture also said that the country, which has been rocked by gang violence, followed by increased political instability in the wake of Moïse’s death, should prioritize elections this year.
“We’re still hoping to have an election, because the country needs that,” said Lauture, who also called for political reconciliation. “We need to have like, a dialogue together.”
In South Florida, Haitians like Guibert St. Fort tuned into the state funeral – St. Fort himself was livestreaming the event at work. For him, the funeral drives home the shocking news of Moise’s death.
“To see the coffin, the ceremony, that’s the truth, the fact of what happened. I’m shocked,” said St. Fort, of Oakland Park, Florida.
Haitians call for justice during state funeral
Meanwhile, official funeral services at Village SOS in Madeleine, an area in the northern coastal city of Cap-Haitien commenced at 10 a.m., capping off numerous commemoration events that began Tuesday in the lead up to the state funeral service.
The somber, open-air gathering was marked by expressions of anger and frustration from attendees and some outside the premises of the private location. Some shouted “touye Leon Charles,” Creole for “kill Leon Charles,” and rushed at the police chief as he walked in for the funeral. At times throughout the morning, shouts of “bunch of criminals” or “hypocrite” in Creole also rang out.
“He’s the police chief, so he symbolizes the security of the country,” St. Fort said, as he watched from Florida. “People will ask for justice. If I was in the crowd I would be screaming his name as well.”
Shortly before noon Martine Moïse, the late president’s widow, took the podium in Cap-Haitien and criticized the systemic injustice that led to the July 7 assassination. The former first lady of Haiti was wounded in the attack and treated for her injuries in Miami.
“Our family is experiencing dark days,” said Martine Moïse.
“Jovenel has long been a victim, he knew all the vices of this rotting and unjust system that no one before him was willing to talk about,” she also said, as the crowd cheered.
As the funeral was taking place, demonstrators fired gunshots and set tires on fire nearby to prevent Moïse from being buried because authorities have yet to grant him justice, they said. Demonstrators also shouted at U.S. officials who made the trip, blaming them for Haiti’s political crisis.
The U.S. delegation to the funeral led by U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas Greenfield, and Helen La Lime, the United Nations Representative to Haiti, left the funeral around 10:00 a.m.
Police threw tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. Despite the chaotic scene outside the funeral site, Moïse was buried at Village SOS in Cap-Haitien next to his father, on a plot of land owned by his family.
Samuel Volcy contributed to this report from Cap-Haitien.