American soldiers, intent on maintaining order during pro-democracy marches Friday, took over state television and radio and tried to break up looting at a grocery store believed owned by one of Haiti's coup leaders.
The Americans met no resistance during the pre-dawn takeovers to silence the anti-American mouthpieces of the Haitian military coup leaders. They were unable to disperse about 2,000 Haitians looting the Cash & Carry store.U.S. troops arrived at the looting site in several Humvees and worked their way to the doors, spraying either tear gas or mace and shouting "Get back now!" in English.
But the crowd continued to clamor for food, while on the roof people doled out more rice, sugar and condensed milk. After a time, the soldiers pulled back and returned to the store, which was believed owned by Port-au-Prince police chief Michel Francois, businessmen and looters said.
The looting was a rowdy start to a day expected to bring huge crowds of Haitians into the street for pro-democracy rallies on the third anniversary of the overthrow of President Jean-Bertrand Aris-tide.
Aristide has appealed for peaceful demonstrations, and U.S. officials were hoping to avoid a repeat of the carnage and chaos at the Port-au-Prince seaport on Thursday.
A grenade was thrown at a crowd of several thousand who had just witnessed the return of freely elected Mayor Evans Paul to City Hall.
Seven people were killed and at least 86 wounded, said U.S. Army Col. Barry Willey. Willey said two of the seven died overnight aboard a U.S. hospital ship docked at the port. Another was run over by a U.S. Army Humvee at the scene. It was not known whether he was still alive when that happened.
The radio stations had accused the Americans of killing people in the grenade explosion Thursday.
On Friday hundreds of Haitians cheered on the Americans at both state TV and state radio headquarters. Television employees were told to leave and not to come to work, and switchboards were flooded with callers offering praise, said 1st Lt. Clinton Trussell, 30, of North Conway, N.H., who led the 28-member American unit that took over state TV.
"They're saying, `Good. Finally the Haitian people will get the truth,' " Trussell told The Associated Press. The Haitians outside the TV installation, shadowed by two white satellite dishes, were shouting: "Power to the people."
American troops were posted along main downtown streets for Friday's events, which began with a morning Mass attended by thousands at the cathedral.
U.S. Ambassador William Swing characterized the tension and violence of the past few days as "a national experience that Haiti has to get through."
Recent demonstrations, he said, "totally change the political equation and the balance of forces and people began to understand that people can do things in a peaceful, disciplined way and express their view."
Swing said Washington was worried that infiltrators would get mixed up with pro-democracy marchers, hoping to provoke violence. Pro-Aristide marchers share the same concern.
American helicopters flew low over the city and U.S. soldiers briefly surrounded the home of Gen. Philippe Biamby, the army chief of staff and considered the most recalcitrant of Haiti's coup leaders. The troops left the house later in the morning.
Biamby and Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras have vowed to remain in Haiti after stepping down. But the third coup leader, police chief Francois, has reportedly requested exile in the neighboring Dominican Republic.
Though U.S. troops will be present, U.S. Embassy spokesman Stan Schrager said Haitian police would have primary responsibility for controlling the hundreds of thousands Haitians expected to turn out for the march.
"We would like them to be as unprovocative as possible," Schra-ger said of the police, blamed by many Haitians for much of the killing and other violence that has plagued Haiti since Aristide's 1991 ouster.