Rioting in Haiti

It happened on my birthday (Feb 18, 2011). We were just wrapping up a lecture when all of a sudden we heard a bunch of Haitians clamouring outside.  Curious, some of us stepped out to see what was happening. When we realized it was a manifestation (protest), I quickly grabbed my camera with a Canon 70-200 USM II 2.8 lens and shot this video. It later aired on Grassroots news.

For most of the video shooting, I was hiding in a bush or behind some carnage sniping with my long range lens. When one of the Haitians discovered I was filming, he ran over and started yelling at me in Creole. Now we were told Haitians would not think about harming a foreign aid worker but this guy was clearly upset that I was filming. So I tried to diffuse the situation by laughing and making a joke, “Hey, I’m Jacky Chan (all asians are lovingly called Jackie Chan by Haitians) I’m not making movie for CNN, BBC, or CTV. I’m Canadian. This don’t happen at home and I want to show my family” I threw in a strong “hahaha” at the end. It worked! The Haitian became my bodyguard and I started walking toward where the action was happening…

20 minutes later, the mob started to become more aggressive and my bodyguard was sensing the mob really didn’t want me there. Just then our Haitian translator friend came out of nowhere, grabbed my arm and said, “time to go, they’re getting angry”.

What’s interesting about this story is that 4 months prior to this event, I was debating wether or not to invest in the 70-200 lens. I offered up a quick prayer and asked for wisdom. Immediately, I saw myself hiding near a tree shooting a riot with the lens and feeling completely safe. This was before we knew we were going to Haiti. And it’s also interesting that our team had left Port-Au-Prince days before the presidential election to avoid getting caught in a manifestation, which means total lockdown. So for the manifestation to come to the remote town of Jacmel was kind of cool.

Obviously not cool for the kid that got shot but it happened and I was there to capture it.

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