Whispers: I Get Paid to Burn Tires and Protest in Haiti

This post was originally written in: Kreyòl

I used to be a technician at TELECO, but today I am a technician of the streets. This is what the country has to offer someone like me, and I embrace it so that I can live.

Participating in protests is my job. I lost my job in 2005 after the Haitian government privatized TELECO (the national telephone company.) Since then, I have not been able to find a job. In poor neighborhoods all over Haiti, we are tired of politicians treating us like we are imbeciles. That is why I decided that unless I am getting paid, I will not join anyone’s political movement. I will not steal, I will not kill anyone, but anything outside of that, I am willing to do, mainly barricading the streets and burning tires. As long as there is something in it for me, I am there.

As a former TELECO employee, I voted for René Preval hoping he could help the laid off employees get the money the government owed them, but that never happened. Now Michel Martelly’s term is about to end, and nothing has been given to us. I am a victim. Sometimes, I go days without food. These are the conditions the majority of young people in the ghetto in Haiti are living in. The political and social realities of my countries condemn us to a life void of progress. Inside the ghettos, people use us as tools for their political agendas, and because of my economic situation, I participate in protests for money. Any Haitian you ask knows what I’m talking about: not every movement that takes to the streets in Haiti is comprised of volunteers, many of them are made up of paid participants.

Times like these, during this election season, are times where a lot of money can be made. All of the candidates want to organize marches and rallies to prove that they have a lot of people backing them. During election seasons, I know without a doubt that I will finally get my hands on some money. I wish there could be multiple elections every year, that would be great for me because it would be great for business.

Many of the people who need our services never step foot in the ghetto, but they have their contacts to assemble people like me and the other soldiers. In the area where I live, everyone knows who is who, there are the higher ups that connect the soldiers to the political parties, political leaders and businessmen that contact them. Even though all of this information is common knowledge in the ghetto, I cannot name the names of anyone i work with specifically, because that would go against certain principles. There is a lot of danger in this line of work, and I have to be careful.


The process of burning tires isn’t rocket science, but you have to know what you’re doing. Not everyone can do it, otherwise, people would not spend money hiring people to do it. The process is fairly simple: pour gas or anything else that can burn quickly on the tire, light a match, and start the fire. You cannot burn a tire by yourself, you need a few people to make sure it happens quickly and that you do not get caught. Two soldiers carry the tire, two other ones pour the gas, another lights the match. People who own tire repairing services are victims during these tire burning movements. It’s unfortunate, but they are an easy way to find tires to burn. Burning tires is very dangerous, and I have scars on my body to prove it.

As for barricading the streets, it is very easy. There are many blocks in Port-au-Prince that have old burned down cars, old broken down cars, or fallen trees. We keep these equipments in strategic areas so they can be available to us when we need them. Port-au-Prince is a small city, it does not take much to block it, as long as you block key areas like Lalue or Champs de Mars, the city is paralyzed. It does not take much effort, all that is necessary is to know the strategic areas and to take action.  

I am not proud of what I do, but I have no opportunities outside of participating in movements for people who need me. Protesting for other people’s agendas, barricading the streets and burning tires aren’t good things, but I have to survive. I have a wife and children to take care of. We young people did not choose this life. It’s the way they suffocate us that gives us no choice, it is the system that is against us. I used to be a technician at TELECO, but today I am a technician of the streets. This is what the country has to offer someone like me, and I embrace it so that I can live.

Photo credit: Etant Dupain
  1. I understand your position. If you should ever think about expanding your opportunities perhaps you might consider something under the tire so that it does not burn a hole in the road. Ice cream was just ice cream until someone invented the cone. Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope that Haiti will someday find a way to provide her children with more opportunity, opportunities her children can be proud of.

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