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Miami says no to Martelly event after Haitian activists protest


By Mitzy Lynn Hyacinthe

This is a developing story.

5/20, 9:30 p.m. Update: The office of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez  has responded positively to the demand of some Haitian organizations and activists to keep former Haitian president Michel Martelly from participating in local Flag Day celebrations.  The office suspended for security reasons a May 21 event in which Martelly was scheduled to perform.   

“We are quite satisfied with that decision,” Roger Biamby, one of the petitioners representing David International Foundation, said. “However we are still waiting for Martelly to be declared persona non grata”

The mayor’s office has delegated Chistine King, Commissioner of District Five, of which Little Haiti is a part, to follow up on the demand sent on a May 13 letter.

The City hall and the Miami Police Department have shown great cooperation on this matter,” Biamby said. He acknowledges it will be delicate to get an answer to the part of the letter that mentions persona non grata.

“In fact it could take on a legal aspect, a citizen of a country cannot be declared persona non grata, one must be sure that Martelly is not an American citizen,” Biamby said.

Original story published 5/18

NEW JERSEY — Several community organizations and activists have asked Miami Mayor Francis Suarez to keep former Haitian president Michel Martelly from participating in local Flag Day celebrations. 

In a letter dated May 13, six signatories demanded that Martelly be declared persona non grata in Miami. They said Martelly is allegedly “responsible for violent crimes” committed in Haiti and has ties to gangs there.

“Of course, we look forward to the support of the mayor, to understand that Haitian people can no longer live with the unacceptable,’ said Tony Jeanthenor, chairman of Veye Yo, a Little Haiti-based organization that is among the six signatories. 

Haitian Heritage Month is celebrated in the United States around May 18, Haitian Flag Day, with music, dance, food, artistic performances and other fanfare. In Miami, the Little Haiti Cultural Center is hosting several events from May 18 to 21. Joined by phone the Cultural Center said they are not the organizer of all activities planned around the flag day.

The picture of the former president, known best by his stage persona “Sweet Micky” appeared on a promotional poster for a May 21 event at the center, along with his children’s group and artists Bedjine and Kadilak.

“Some of us were surprised to see Martelly being part of the program in the poster,” Rose Blaise, who sells handbags at the event, said. “This is too much. With everything that’s going on, he has the audacity to perform in the name of the country.”

Others involved in the festivities echoed the sentiment. 

“It is great to be able to blend the arts, but not just with anybody,” Simone Audant, representing Kay Atizan said. “I am mortified.”

Recently, Montreal, New York and the Dominican Republic declared Martelly persona non grata, which means a person who is unacceptable or unwelcome in a country for things they have said or done. 

In Miami, among the petitioners hoping to add the city to the list of destinations rejecting Martelly, are business owners Arsene Omega and Tony Wadson, Dr. Larry Pierre of the Center for Haitian Studies, Veye Yo and longtime community activist Farah Juste. 

Miami’s police chief and other city officials were copied on the letter to Suarez.

Suarez’s City Hall office confirmed receiving the letter.

The petitioners have scheduled a demonstration on the afternoon of May 21 in front of the Little Haiti Cultural Center. 

Demonstration organizers said Miami Police Department have already contacted them and confirmed their cooperation.

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