“I Feared for All Our Lives”

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Last week, I wrote about Ansel Herz, the American journalist at the other end of a UN peacekeeper’s gun in this amazing photo shot in Haiti. Today, I’d like to share his account, as he emailed it to me, of what went down at that moment. In addition to there being no good reason for the MINUSTAH soldier threatening to shoot an unarmed photographer, that wasn’t the end of the peacekeepers’ mistreatment of journalists or Haitian citizens at a Port-au-Prince protest last week:

One of the MINUSTAH fired a warning shot in the air and people panicked, ran away, yelling “Film! Film them!” The one in the photo pointed his loaded gun, finger on the trigger, at a lot of people, sweeping his arm in a big motion. Then the Haitians started chanting, “They’re shooting on us, they’re shooting on us.”

I feared for all our lives in those moments, but was intensely aware of the need to document what was happening. As it unfolded my mind went straight to the man killed by troops at Father Gerard Jean-Juste‘s funeral in 2009. In that instance, UN troops leveled their weapons at unarmed people—and fired. MINUSTAH denied it later, even though a Haitian TV crew had grainy footage of the whole incident.

Later on last Friday, a MINUSTAH truck nervously forced its way through the crowd and a bunch of journalists were pushed into a ditch. Sebastian Walker from Al Jazeera English was one of them, ending up with a little bloody scratch on his head. At another point, one of the MINUSTAH base security guys covered my camera with his hand as I filmed him in the street. I was shoved several times by them too.

Makes you wonder how ordinary Haitians are treated, day in and day out, in places where there are no cameras.

I never saw the protesters be anything other than peaceful, until, long after MINUSTAH had upped the tension by pulling their guns out, someone chucked a single bottle at them from across the street. I’m told the UN is carrying out an internal investigation into their actions, as always.

You should know too that MINUSTAH troops have been accused of murdering a young boy in Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second largest city, in August. 

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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