Funeral for Jovenel Moïse held in his hometown as protesters clash with police
Service interrupted by nearby gunfire, as well as tear gas
The funeral for slain Haitian President Jovenel Moïse was briefly interrupted Friday by nearby gunfire and tear gas as well as agitated supporters that caused U.S. and UN officials to leave before his widow spoke publicly for the first time since the attack.
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the private compound in Cap-Haïtien, on the north coast of Haiti, where Moïse's funeral was held. Meanwhile, some mourners inside shouted, "Justice for Jovenel!" and cheered when Martine Moïse, who was seriously injured in the July 7 attack at the couple's private home, rose to the podium at the end of the ceremony.
"They're watching us, waiting for us to be afraid," she said. "We don't want vengeance or violence. We're not going to be scared."
Smoke and ash from burning barricades that demonstrators set up around the compound, along with tear gas fired by police, blew through the ceremony as Martine Moïse and others spoke.
Her soft voice grew stronger through the 15-minute speech as she thanked the crowd for their support and said those responsible would not assassinate Jovenel Moïse's vision, ideas or dreams for Haiti.
"We lost a fight, but we did not lose the war," she said as she condemned the country's oligarchs and suggested that Moïse was killed in his pursuit to provide electricity, build roads and make a better life for poor people.
She later addressed his killers: "They are here looking at us. They are not even hiding."
The funeral was held amid heavy security following violent protests and fears of political volatility in the Caribbean nation.
Tensions with officials
Before the funeral began, cries of "Assassin!" filled the air at the arrival of Haiti's National Police Chief Léon Charles.
Haitians clad in sombre suits, shiny shoes and black and white formal dresses shouted and pointed fingers at the neighbouring seating platforms where Haitian officials and foreign dignitaries sat above at least a dozen men with high-powered weapons.
"You didn't take any measures to save Jovenel! You contributed to his killing!" one woman yelled.
On the grounds below, one Moïse supporter threatened Charles: "You need to leave now or we're going to get you after the funeral!"
Yves Paul Leandre, spokesperson for Haiti's Communications Ministry, told The Associated Press that the U.S. and United Nations delegations left about 10 to 15 minutes after arriving due to hostile words that Moïse supporters inside the compound hurled at everyone arriving.
Two U.S. officials confirmed there was an incident at the event and that the U.S. delegation left early. All members of the U.S. delegation were safe and accounted for and it does not appear they were targeted, according to the officials, who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
'Let all Haitians channel solidarity'
Shortly before the funeral began, Martine Moïse arrived to cries of "Justice! Justice!" as she headed straight to her husband's casket, climbing the stairs and stopping in front of it.
With her right arm in a sling, she lay her left arm on the casket draped with a large Haitian flag and then brought it to her heart as she stood there in silence. Her eyes filled with tears as her three children joined her.
Minutes later, a group of supporters grabbed a large portrait of Moïse and paraded with it as the police band began to play the national anthem over loud wails.
White T-shirts and caps emblazoned with Moïse's picture were distributed to supporters the day before what is expected to be the final ceremony to honour Moïse.
"This is something that will be engraved in our memory," said Pedro Guilloume, a Cap-Haïtien resident. "Let all Haitians channel solidarity."
Before the funeral began, a man wrapped himself in a large Haitian flag and approached the casket, crying out, "We need to fight and get justice for Jovenel!"
Next to him, a man carrying a T-shirt commemorating Moïse joined in as he yelled, "Jovenel died big! He died for me and for the rest of the country. We're not going to back down."
Once the funeral ended, protesters threw rocks at a caravan of Haitian authorities and journalists that were leaving.