Protesters say US is taking over Haiti

January 25, 2010 5:46:20 PM PST
At about 5 p.m. Monday evening a protest got underway in downtown San Francisco over the U.S. military's aid in Haiti. The group believes that the U.S. forces are occupying the country rather than just helping. Of course, many strongly disagree.

A few dozen protesters gathered on the corners of Market and Powell streets during rush hour, but they did not disrupt traffic in any way.

The group calling itself the Haiti Action Committee is asking for continued U.S. aid to Haiti, while strongly criticizing the help that is there now. Organizers say the U.S. is advancing a massive military operation in Haiti. They call it a U.S. Military takeover.

ABC7 decided to check on some of their claims.

They say the U.S. military is preventing food, water and medicine from getting to the Haitian people. Reports on the ground say that is false. While distribution has been slow, more than 15,000 U.S. troops are headed to Haiti. Those already there have been seen delivering supplies and helping in the recovery.

Monday, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced a fundraising program to send money to Haiti. At the same time, he praised U.S. relief efforts there.

"The president and State Department deserve a lot of credit; they've really stepped up to the plate," said Newsom.

The group also claims the Pentagon dispatched reconnaissance drones without supplies. That is true, but there is a twist. The Air Force sent a reconnaissance drone to Haiti, but the purpose was to assess damage.

San Francisco State professor and Haiti expert Abdiel Onate says it was necessary.

"Initially any intervention of any form you need to have information," said Onate.

The Haiti Action Committee also says U.S. forces refused to allow aid planes from France and other countries to land at the airport. That is partially true. French aid workers say eight flights have been diverted at the Port-au-Prince airport. However, the air traffic control tower was destroyed in the quake and U.S. military have been overwhelmed by traffic. Now, valued tarmac space is divided equally among international government flights, aid groups, and the U.S. military.

"I wouldn't espouse a conspiracy theory to control Haiti because there is not much investment in Haiti," said Onate.

The professor also said that part of the problem is that the U.S. has a perception problem around the world. While many people view the military as actually trying to take over, in reality the troops are there trying to help.

The protest organizers said that the protest is not just taking place in San Francisco, but it is taking place all around the world. Similar protests are going on in Johannesburg, parts of Canada and elsewhere in the U.S. like Miami.