[Translation of an article from Haïti Liberté for October 13. See original article here.]
by Yves Pierre-Louis
On Friday, October 7, during a demonstration by a coalition of social organizations, a professor of mathematics and physics, Jean Philibert Louis, was killed by a police woman identified as badge number UD-0210, who was traveling in a Mazda vehicle registered as 1-450, assigned to the Unité Départementale de Maintien d’Order (UDMO – Departmental Unit for the Maintenance of Order). This criminal act occurred in front of the Ministère de l’Éducation Nationale et la Formation Professionnelle (MENFP – National Ministry of Education and Professional Development), in the center of the capital, as the crowd of demonstrators was approaching to voice their demands.
The UDMO agent fired teargas grenades to disperse the crowd, which resulted in injuries to two persons. Thirty-five-year-old Jean Philibert Louis was seriously injured with a bullet in the head. Taken to the Hôpital de l’Université d’État d’Haïti (HUEH – Hospital of the State University of Haiti), he died several hours later, on Saturday morning. Another slightly injured man named Jean Pierre Edouard, who was not one of the demonstrators, was also struck in the head. He was at the ministry to claim a certificate of completion of studies. In shock, he stated, “I did not participate in the demonstration. I was wounded in the head by the police.”
The information secretary of the Union Nationale des Normalistes Haïtiens (UNNOH – National Union of Haitian College Teachers), Jean Willy Belle-Fleur, promptly condemned the UDMO agents’ criminal actions in the face of peaceful demonstrators who were approaching the ministry to make their grievances known. He also deplored the negligence of the doctors at the HUEH, who did not perform a surgical intervention in time to prevent the death of their colleague.
The peaceful protest in which Professor Jean Philibert Louis tragically lost his life was held to demand education for all children. According to Professor Josué Mérilien, general secretary of the UNNOH, the demonstrators also demanded the payment of overdue wages to the professors, the posting of the law on school fees voted into law by the parliament, the readmission of the internally displaced to public school facilities and the clearing away of rubble from pulbic schools resulting from the January 12 earthquake. The teachers used the occasion to demand the systematic reorganization of the insurance program for professors.
In fact, a set of fair and reasonable demands cost the life of one of thieir own, which did not dampen the spirit of the professors, according to Josué Mérilien. They said they were ready to continue the mobilization launched in the framework of a campaign to raise consciousness and to plead for education for all Haitian children.
It was from that prespective that members of the coalition of labor organizations of professors and students organized a press conference on Monday, October 11, not only to condemn the killing of professor Philibert but also to announce the continuation of the mobilization. They announced that a complaint has already been lodged in the tribunal of the first instance of Port-au-Prince against the accused police woman.
In a news article published after the assault, the teachers’ coalition expressed its indignation: “The demonstration proceeded without incident from the location of the École Normale Supériure (ENS) to Mgr. Guilloux Street. Upon arriving at Dr. Audain Street, specifically at the location of the Ministère de l’Education Nationale, the situation degenerated. A police woman with badge number UD 0210 then fired at the crowd and Jean Philibert Louise was struck in the head by a bullet.”
The national minister of education, Joël Desrosier Jean-Pierre reacted with some details: “Concerning the demands of the teachers afiliated with the other branch of the UNNOH, concerning childrens’ universal access to school, the MENFP recalls that the state has already taken a set of measures following the national strategy of education for all, notably through the Éducation pour Tous (EPT – Education for All) project, with the goal of bringing all children into the schools.”
During the press conference, José Mérilien declared, “We have stated that a criminal police officer, a woman, fired her weapon aimed at the professor’s head.”