The hometown of Haitian President Jovenel Moise received his body on Friday for a private funeral amid heavy security following violent protests and fears of political volatility in the Caribbean nation.
White T-shirts and caps emblazoned with his picture were distributed to supporters the day before what is expected to be the final ceremony to honour Mr Moise, who was shot several times on July 7 during an attack at his private home that seriously injured his wife, Martine.
“This is something that will be engraved in our memory,” said Pedro Guilloume, a Cap-Haitien resident who hoped to attend the funeral. “Let all Haitians channel solidarity.”
Mr Moise’s body arrived shortly after dawn at his family’s seaside property where the funeral is being held.
Six officials carried the brown casket up a stage where they saluted it and stood before it in silence for several minutes before draping a large red and blue Haitian flag over it.
As the ceremony began, hundreds of protesters clashed with police outside the private residence.
Shots erupted and tear gas and black smoke wafted into the ceremony. Protesters’ cries carried over religious leaders speaking at the funeral.
At the end of the funeral, Martine Moise spoke publicly for the first time since the attack, her soft voice growing stronger through the 15-minute speech.
“They’re watching us, waiting for us to be afraid,” she said. “We don’t want vengeance or violence. We’re not going to be scared.”
Before the funeral began, a man wrapped himself in a large Haitian flag and approached the casket, crying out, “We need to fight and get justice for Jovenel!”
Next to him, a man carrying a T-shirt commemorating Mr Moise joined in as he yelled, “Jovenel died big! He died for me and for the rest of the country… We’re not going to back down.”
The funeral comes days after a new prime minister supported by key international diplomats was installed in Haiti — a move that appeared aimed at averting a leadership struggle following Mr Moise’s assassination.
On Thursday, violent demonstrations hit neighbourhoods in Cap-Haitien as groups of men fired shots into the air and blocked some roads with blazing tyres.
One heavily guarded police convoy carrying unknown officials drove through one flaming barricade, with a vehicle nearly flipping over.
A priest who presided over a Mass on Thursday morning at Cap-Haitian’s cathedral to honour Mr Moise warned there was too much bloodshed in Haiti as he asked people to find peace, noting that the poorest communities are affected.
On Thursday evening, Martine Moise and her three children appeared at a small religious ceremony at a hotel in Cap-Haitien where newly appointed Prime Minister Ariel Henry and other government officials offered their condolences.
“They took his life, but they can’t take his memories,” said a priest who presided over the ceremony. “They can’t take his brain. They can’t take his ideas. We are Jovenel Moise.”
Authorities have said that at least 26 suspects have been arrested so far, including 18 former Colombian soldiers.