• Haiti’s Carnival celebration in the country’s capital of Port-au-Prince was disrupted for hours on Sunday as armed and masked, plain-clothed police officers protested their pay and poor working conditions.
  • The officers didn’t hold up placards with catchy phrases during their demonstration. Instead, they opened fire at the army. Some protesters had semi-automatic weapons, others carried machetes.
  • One soldier was killed in the clash and several police officers were injured.
  • The deadly protest brought an end to Carnival, the biggest celebration in Haiti.
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A deadly gun battle erupted in Haiti over the weekend during a protest for better pay and working conditions.

Masked plain-clothed police officers took to the streets on the first day of Haiti’s carnival celebration in Port-au-Prince, the country’s capital, and fired at the army as they tried to stop the armed protesters who timed their demonstration to the beginning of Carnival “to criticize the government’s spending priorities.”

“No money for police officers but enough money for Carnival,” protesters, officers of Haiti’s National Police, shouted, The Guardian reported. “It was the final straw.”

The gun battle, which started around noon, went on for hours outside of the country’s presidential palace, and left one soldier dead as well as at least three police officers wounded, according to the Guardian.

Later that evening, the Haitian government announced Carnival, which gathers thousands of people for the three-day event, was canceled to “avoid a bloodbath,” according to a government statement released Sunday. “Terror reigned in certain areas. Streets were obstructed and there was a war-like situation at the Champ de Mars (square), where heavy weapons fire was heard almost all day.”

Here’s how a day marked for celebration turned violent.

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At about 12 p.m., on Sunday, February 23, a gun battle broke out in Haiti’s capital Port-Au-Prince, as dozens of armed and masked men, who said they were police, protested for better work conditions.

Foto: Armed off-duty police officers protest over pay and working conditions, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020.sourceDieu Nalio Chery / AP

Sources: Time, The Guardian


Since the end of last year, Haitian police officers have been demonstrating against poor working conditions, better pay, and the ability to unionize. Matters escalated about a month ago when six officers were fired after they tried to join a union.

Foto: Main roads through the city of Port au Prince are blocked after Sunday’s clash between Haitian police and the army in Port au Prince, Haiti February 24, 2020.sourceEstailove St-Val / AFP / Getty

Sources: The New York Times, Time


In recent months, Haiti, the poorest country in the Carribean, has experienced a break out in gang wars, a spike in kidnappings, and, according to The Guardian, 3.7 million residents are in need of urgent food assistance.

Foto: A woman cries on the Haitian flag-draped coffin of a 16-year-old boy killed during a month of demonstrations aimed at ousting President Jovenel Moïse, during a joint funeral for two victims at a public plaza near the National Palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019.sourceRebecca Blackwell / AP

Sources: The Guardian, The New York Times


Haiti’s president Jovenel Moise has been unable to improve the country’s conditions, these protests weren’t directly aimed at him. But they did stem from the country’s sweeping unrest over Haiti’s weak economy.

Foto: A mural shows a child with a sign that says in Creole: “We are tired of the shaved head,” and “Justice.” The slogan is used against Haitian President Jovenel Moise, who has a shaved head.sourceDieu Nalio Chery / AP

Sources: The Guardian, Time


Things escalated on Sunday afternoon as Carnival, a “three-day raucous event,” according to Time, was due to begin. Carnival and its funding were the “final straw” for protestors.

Foto: Protesters ride their motorcycles past burning barricades as off-duty police officers protest over pay and working conditions, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020.sourceDieu Nalio Chery / AP

Sources: The Guardian, Time


As armed, plain-clothed officers, and their supporters took to the streets, they shouted, “No money for police officers but enough money for carnival.”

Foto: Armed off-duty police officers protest over police pay and working conditions, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020.sourceDieu Nalio Chery / AP

Source: The Guardian


The procession headed towards the presidential palace but was interrupted outside the army’s headquarters. The army was only recently reformed in 2017, after being disbanded in 1995, when Haiti’s dictatorship fell.

Foto: A boy gestures as a man in a Haitian National Police uniform aims a gun during a shooting in Champ de Mars, Port-au-Prince, Haiti February 23, 2020.sourceAndres Martinez Casares / Reuters

Sources: The Guardian, PBS


It’s not entirely clear, but reports said that the two factions started shooting at each other after officers fired into the sky.

Foto: Armed off-duty police officers ride motorcycles and fire their weapons in the air during a protest over pay and working conditions, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020.sourceDieu Nalio Chery / AP

Source: The Guardian


Gunfire was exchanged for hours. At one point, a drone was spotted taking photos of the battle. Officers followed the drone back to Radio Caraibes, a broadcaster, and opened fire on the building. There have been no reports of anyone being hurt there.

Foto: Armed off-duty police officers take cover during and exchange of gunfire with army soldiers, as they protest over police pay and working conditions, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020.sourceDieu Nalio Chery / AP

Source: ABC News


It wasn’t just police and soldiers that were fighting. Protesters, armed with machetes, showed their support.

Foto: Men on a motorcycle brandish machetes as off-duty police officers protest over pay and working conditions, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020.sourceDieu Nalio Chery / AP

Young people joined in, too.

Foto: A boy chants anti-army slogans as off-duty police officers protest over pay and working conditions, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020.sourceDieu Nalio Chery / AP

More officers, wielding semi-automatic weapons, joined the gun battle, which lasted until about 6 p.m.

Foto: An armed police officer runs as soldiers fire in his direction during a protest over police pay and working conditions for the national police, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020.sourceDieu Nalio Chery / AP

Sources: The Guardian, Time


At least three police officers were injured, and one soldier was killed.

Foto: An off-duty police officer has his wound taken care of during and exchange of gunfire with army soldiers during a protest over police pay and working conditions, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020.sourceDieu Nalio Chery / AP

By Sunday evening, the Haitian government announced Carnival was canceled to “avoid a bloodbath.”

Foto: A Haitian National Police officer gestures to calm down protesters during a shooting in Champ de Mars, Port-au-Prince, Haiti February 23, 2020.sourceAndres Martinez Casares / Reuters

Source: Time


The Haitian government released a statement that said the attacks were an attack against freedom and democracy, according to The New York Times.

Foto: A man in a Haitian National Police uniform aims a rifle as people take cover during a shooting in Champ de Mars, Port-au-Prince, Haiti February 23, 2020.sourceAndres Martinez Casares / Reuters

Source: The New York Times


That wasn’t how police officers saw their demonstration, though. A gunman in a black-and-white clown mask told a reporter they wanted their fired colleagues reinstated, and a pay rise for all police officers. He spoke anonymously, because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press.

Foto: Protesters take cover during a shooting at a protest called by members of the police, in Port-au-Prince, Haiti February 23, 2020.sourceAndres Martinez Casares / Reuters

Sources: Time, Business Insider


While Sunday’s deadly gunfight eventually ended, the struggle continues between police and the Haitian government to meet the officers’ demands. “Until this is done we will not sit and talk,” a protestor said. “The president has proven that he does not care about our demands.”

Foto: An angry protester holds up a machete as he asks for the fate of a policeman that was rumored to have been detained at the police station of Petion-Ville, as armed off-duty police officers protest over pay and working conditions, in Haiti, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020.sourceDieu Nalio Chery / AP

Sources: ABC News