Mourners cry out for justice at memorial for slain Haitian President Jovenel Moïse

A priest told mourners at a memorial service Thursday for slain Haitian President Jovenel Moïse that too much blood is being shed in Haiti as authorities warned of more violence ahead of his funeral.

The Rev. Jean-Gilles Sem spoke to dozens of people wearing white T-shirts emblazoned with Moïse’s picture.

“The killings and kidnappings should stop,” he said, noting that poor communities are the most affected. “We’re tired.”

The mass at the cathedral in the northern coastal city of Cap-Haitien was about half-full as officials warned other events planned for later in the day could be cancelled amid concerns about violence.

‘We want justice’

Moïse supporters kept interrupting the mass as they cried out and accused Haiti’s elite of killing the president.

A man yells for justice during a memorial service for Moïse inside a Cap-Haitien church Thursday. (Matias Delacroix/The Associated Press)

A man who identified himself as John Jovie stood outside the church with a group of men and threatened more violence if wealthy members of the elite from the capital of Port-au-Prince showed up for the ceremonies.

“We ask them not to come to the funeral,” he said. “If they come, we will cut their heads off. We will bring our guns out of hiding. We want justice for Moïse.”

The mayor of Cap-Haitien arrived at the cathedral with heavy security as men with high-powered weapons stood watch during the entire mass.

After the mass, some people signed a blue condolences book that the mayor’s office had set up near the cathedral as well-wishers stood before a portrait of Moïse and rows of candles with flames flickering in the hot wind.

A private security officer escorts Cap-Haitien Mayor Yvrose Pierre to Moïse’s wake at Notre Dame Cathedral in Cap-Haitien on Thursday. (Ricardo Arduengo/Reuters)

“My President. Go in peace. God sees everything. Fight for change,” wrote Louis Judlin, a 36-year-old electrician and father of two who said he is unemployed and struggles to find food for his children.

“Life is truly hard for every Haitian. To eat, to go to school, to have health, transportation,” Judlin said. “There’s misery.”

Prior violence

The mass was held a day after violence erupted in Quartier-Morin, located between Cap-Haitien and Moïse’s hometown.

Associated Press journalists saw the body of a man whom witnesses said was killed during the protests, organized by armed men who blocked roads with large rocks and burning tires.

Moïse, seen in the portrait above, was killed in his home on July 7. The late president’s wife was wounded in the same attack, but survived. (Matias Delacroix/The Associated Press)

“That’s the only way we have to demand justice,” Aurelien Stanley, a Moïse supporter, said of the violence. “If we don’t get justice for Jovenel, we will do whatever it takes to stop the funeral from happening.”

Overnight, local media reported the burning of a nearby bridge that connected two communities.

Cap-Haitien, however, remained peaceful as of late Thursday morning as people gathered for the ceremonies.

‘Connected with the masses’

Among them was 40-year-old Luckner Joseph.

“He’s my president,” Joseph said of Moïse. “He was connected with the masses. He was always asking for everyone to sit down together, and the big guys didn’t want to sit down with the poor people.”

Before the mass began, several people stood at the entrance and shouted, “Justice for Moïse! Justice for Moïse!”

Inside, dozens of people wore T-shirts that read: “The fight for the ones that are weaker is continuing. Safe journey, President Jovenel Moïse.”

Private funeral for president

A private funeral for Moïse was planned for Friday as authorities continue to investigate the July 7 attack at the president’s home, in which he was shot several times. His wife was also seriously wounded. 

A police officer patrols the street in the Bicentenaire neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, on Tuesday. Haiti is under a heightened security presence after Moïse’s assassination. (Matias Delacroix/The Associated Press)

Haiti’s police chief, Leon Charles, said 26 suspects have been arrested so far, including three police officers and 18 former Colombian soldiers.

Another seven high-ranking police officials have been detained but not formally arrested as authorities probe why no one in the president’s security detail was injured that night.

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