Police Brutality and Voodoo Justice

Rudy, Race, and Religion in the Wake of Louima and Dorismond

If Louima indeed has satanic powers with which to punish his enemies, why, some supporters argue, did he depend on a mostly white jury to give him justice? Wouldn't he have asked the evil spirits for the ultimate sacrifice? But that in no way resembles the man New York Times reporter David Barstow found one Sunday sitting "perfectly still, his face a mask of calm," in the third pew of Croisade Evangelique de Pecheurs D'Hommes, the East Flatbush Pentecostal church pastored by his uncle, the Reverend Philius Nicolas II. "And yet, again and again church members spoke of Mr. Louima in the kind of reverent tones reserved for those whose lives seem touched by divine intervention," Barstow wrote. "To them, he is 'a gift from God,' or 'anointed by God,' or 'one of God's special ones.' "

Some people have exploited the ignorance surrounding the voodoo religion for political reasons. One of them had close ties to Rudy Giuliani's 1993 mayoral campaign. In October of that year, this reporter learned that Dr. Guirlaine St. Fleur, a graduate medical student, who is Haitian, was the strategist behind a quietly run campaign to recruit Haitian immigrants to come out publicly in support of Giuliani. (I wrote about St. Fleur in "Black Magic Woman: How an Operative From Haitians for Giuliani Made a Devil Out of Me," in the October 19, 1993, Voice.) It sounded like a sick joke. Giuliani is to the Lavalas—followers of then exiled Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide—what Czar Nicholas II was to Jews. To this day, the Lavalas hold Giuliani, a former associate attorney gerneral in the Reagan administration, responsible for the detention program in which some 2200 Haitian "boat people" were imprisoned under inhumane conditions in a detention center near the Everglades swamp.

I discovered that "Haitians for Giuliani" operated out of then Giuliani-backed comptroller candidate Herman Badillo's downtown Manhattan campaign headquarters, and I eventually tracked St. Fleur to a Brooklyn apartment. In a phone conversation, she disclosed that she had trained at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, where she had studied forensic medicine, and claimed that made the Lavalas "paranoid" about her. In fact, some said she was a member of the Tonton Macoutes, Haiti's dreaded secret police under the Duvalier regimes. St. Fleur insisted such fears about her were unfounded and invited the reporter to Badillo's campaign headquarters to learn more about her work on behalf of poor Haitian immigrants.

The meeting ended suddenly after a Badillo staffer questioned how the reporter had gained access to the office. St. Fleur denied talking to me and arranging the meeting. The next day, she left this message on my voice mail: "Mr. Noel, this is Dr. St. Fleur speaking. I do not know you. Now, I see by your last name you seem to be Haitian. . . . I do not know who sent you to speak to me, and I'm not going to take this lightly. I'm extremely upset, but I'll tell you one thing, and I'm gonna spell it out for you, in Creole. B-A-F-F-I-M M-A-M-Y-A-N. You will have to answer to Baffim Mamyan. You don't know what I mean, you will know. . . . This is the last person in your life you are going to . . . treat like this, abuse like this, verbally, socially. . . . Baffim Mamyan will have to answer with you. And I'm not joking. I'm from Haiti. I was born in Gonaive, and Gonaive people NEVER, NEVER play with people. I'm scientific; you may laugh as much as you want. But spiritually, you and I, we have a rendezvous. Never forget that in your life."

Marie Dorismond, who says she was "born on a Libra star," calls on Saint Patrick, not Baffim Mamyan, for justice. "And I will always pray," she vows, "as long as my son's justice is not done!"

Additional reporting by Amanda Ward and Associated Press

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