In the 1960’s in the United States, a countless number of African-American activists decided to shatter the chains of oppression which was being exercised not only in the United States but throughout the world- institutional racism and segregation. The struggle of these activists, in their majority, was completely peaceful and although they were not confronting a dictator they were confronting a system which at one point seemed immovable. African-Americans achieved their goals because they guided themselves by the principles of nonviolent struggle. They decided to use methods of civil disobedience, one of the most popular being the “sit-ins”. From Rosa Parks when she refused to not give up her seat aboard a segregated bus, to the dozens of students who sat outside their schools to demand equal opportunity, and to the hundreds of activists who risked their lives to sit wherever they desired in public restaurants which were exclusively reserved for those who were “socially” accepted at that moment.
Five decades later, in the island of Cuba dissidents of the current ruling regime have been practicing a similar style of resistance. Yesterday, Thursday May 19th of 2011, 3 Cuban female activists were beaten and detained by agents of the Cuban Political Police simply for taking part in a “sit-in” inspired on these same civil movements which surged in the US.
The three women are Donaida Perez Paseiro, Yaimara Mesa, and Yris Perez Aguilera- all of who are members of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights. The crackdown occurred while these women peacefully demanded that they be allowed to publish their opinions on air through a Placetas radio station. The activists decided to protest after the national Cuban press aired a report which assured that the dissident Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia was not assassinated but that he died of medical complications and natural causes.
Antunez reports from Placetas:
“At 10:15 in the morning of this Thursday, May 19th 2011, three members of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights- Donaida Perez Paseiro, Yaimara Mesa, and Yris Perez Aguilera- presented themselves at the municipal radio station of Placetas with a purpose of carrying out a specific demand. They were asking the directors of the radio station that, the same way the government has the right to air their point of view in regards to the death of Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, they also be allowed to do the same. As citizens, these women also have the right to ask the press to publish their version.
There, the director of the station denied their right, stating that they were there to follow orders of the Party and government, causing a strong controversy until the female activists decided to step outside and sit down outside the station. Through a “sit-in” they were demanding that their publication be aired, or if not they had to be carried out by force, which occurred just a few minutes after when the combined forces of the political and national police violently forced them. Now, Thursday night, we still do not know the whereabouts of the activists, and we believe they have been viciously beaten. A few hours ago, the husband of Yaimara and the husband of Donaida traveled to the police unit and the officers told them that the women were being held and were accused of public disorder. They also told them that the their fate lay in the hands of State Security.
We believe that, first of all, what occurred today in Placetas denotes the courage, the bravery, and the convictions of these brave peaceful dissidents who went to the station to demand their inalienable rights of freedom of press and expression. And, on the other hand, it displays the intransigence, the intolerance, and the lack of freedoms of a country whose radio operators do not serve the will of the people, but instead respond to lies and the regime. This is pure proof that for the Cuban nation there is no other option but to carry out a peaceful popular rebellion which would consist of taking to the streets to defend their rights. There is not the most minimal of possibilities that within all the spaces owned by the regime and within all organs of the regime there will be a transition. Now, our slogan is more emphatic than ever: “the streets belong to the people” and “we are all resistance”!
We must point out that this activity occurred under the protest call paying tribute to Pedro Luis Boitel and Orlando Zapata, who both live on. The Rosa Parks Movement is an active member of the Central Opposition Coalition and also of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Front”.
There are many similarities between the Cuban resistance and the civil struggle carried out by the African-Americans. Perhaps in Cuba it is not a racial struggle, although it has been proven on countless occassions that the regime still takes measures based on racism, but both confront, or have confronted, a wall of repression. Civil leaders like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and so many others taught the world that those gigantic walls, although powerful, are not infinite. African-Americans changed the world through their civic struggle. Cubans will do the same.