On the third anniversary of Jean-Bertrand Aristide's landslide election to the presidency, 16 U.S. peace activists were arrested in front of the White House as part of a coordinated series of events in 12 cities in the United States and in Haiti. The December 16 events included a prayer vigil at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince, the launching of a three-day fast in St. Louis, and a vigil in Durham, North Carolina, seeking to expose Sen. Jesse Helms' ties to the Haitian military.
Activists say the December 16 events marked a watershed in the Haiti solidarity movement. "Actions in Albuquerque and Santa Fe were the first activities on Haiti ever in New Mexico," Laura Flynn of the Washington Office on Haiti told Sojourners. "A lot of Central America" activists were involved for the first time on Haiti in the demonstration at the White House, Flynn said, which she saw as a hopeful sign that the movement is growing.
While peace efforts on behalf of Haiti have been somewhat scattered up to this time, increased activity is planned for the coming months. On January 1, as part of the Campaign to Keep Haiti Alive, several U.S. citizens began an extended fast as an expression of support for the return of democracy to Haiti. The campaign is also calling for a commitment of 4,000 people - one for every Haitian murdered by the military since the coup - to fast one day a month until democratic rule returns.
Other actions are planned around the February 7 anniversary of Aristide's inauguration, including the second Haiti Solidarity Week February 6-13. For more information on Haiti organizing, contact the Washington Office on Haiti, 110 Maryland Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; phone (202) 543-7095.