2 Americans jailed in Haiti in pro-army march

By Trenton Daniel

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, May 19 2012 4:49 p.m. MDT

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Two Americans are among 50 people jailed during a march by hundreds of military fatigue-wearing protesters pressing for the return of Haiti's disbanded army, a police spokesman said Saturday.

Gary Desrosiers of the Haitian National Police said the Americans are being held because they were acting as if they were part of the military in a Friday demonstration in Haiti's capital that turned violent.

The Americans locked up are Zeke Petrie, 39, of Barberton, Ohio; and Steven Shaw, 57, of Massachusetts. Police say they were driving vehicles with the pro-army demonstrators in the march when they were picked up by police a few blocks from the National Palace.

Petrie wore a black T-shirt with the army's name on it and Shaw wore camouflage pants.

"I'm friends with the guys," Petrie told The Associated Press from behind bars at the Canape Vert police station. "These guys are working for the betterment of the country."

Petrie, an occasional interpreter for foreign journalists, said he hadn't been formally charged but overheard police say he would be charged with "working with terrorists."

Two other Americans, Benjamin Depp, 29, a freelance photographer from Waxhaw, North Carolina, and John Strutner, 22, a volunteer at Child Hope International from Monterey, California, along with Canadian Seanna McLeod, 38, a volunteer at a malnutrition clinic from Courtenay, British Columbia, were held overnight in the lobby of the police station after trying to bring insulin, syringes and swabs to Petrie, who says he's diabetic.

Desrosiers said he knew nothing about the three people held overnight, but each of them told the AP that government prosecutor Jean-Renel Senatus said they had to stay at the police station until they answered questions with an attorney and an interpreter about how they knew Petrie.

Senatus didn't return repeated calls to his cellular telephone on Saturday.

The ex-soldiers and their young recruits who marched Friday have been pressing President Michel Martelly to honor his campaign goal of restoring the armed forces, which was abolished in 1995 because of its abusive record.

The rally began peacefully but some people near the National Palace threw rocks amid a heavy U.N. presence, whose troops responded by firing tear gas. A few of the men in military uniforms carried handguns. That evening, police exchanged gunfire outside an old army base in the Carrefour district outside Port-au-Prince.

Four civilians were treated for gunshot wounds Friday night at two Doctors Without Borders clinics in Carrefour, said Mathieu Fortoul, a spokesman for the international health charity.

It was not immediately clear if they were shot in the gunfire surrounding the demonstration, Fortoul said.

Martelly has said he wants to revive the military but that it must be done legally. His administration has repeatedly called for the lightly armed men to drop their weapons and clear out of 10 bases they've taken over since February. But the government has taken little action to disband the group of men.

This, along with their ability to take over public facilities without any opposition, has raised suspicions that they at one point received support from the government, a claim denied by leaders of the group.

Their paramilitary-like presence has come to embarrass the United Nations peacekeeping mission and the Haitian government, which hopes to court foreign investors.

Associated Press reporter Evens Sanon contributed to this report.

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