Numerous Ladies in White defied police operations and marched throughout Cuba this Easter Sunday, March 31st, to mark the religious date and also to celebrate the 10th anniversary in which they were founded as a movement composed by the mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, aunts and other relatives of the political prisoners rounded up and jailed during the Black Spring. Various arrests of these women were reported at the hands of the political police this Sunday as well.
Laura Labrada, daughter of the fallen leader and founder of the group, Laura Pollan, kicked off the march in the capital, Havana, carrying a photo of her mother. A total of 54 women were present in this march. They were also able to assist Easter Mass at the Santa Rita Church according to former political prisoner of conscience Angel Moya Acosta on his Twitter account (@jangelmoya). Moya added that more than 35 male dissidents accompanied the women.
Sayli Navarro, a young member of the group and daughter of former political prisoner Felix Navarro, tweeted (@SayliNavarro) that a total of 20 Ladies in White marched and assisted Mass in the province of Matanzas.
Meanwhile, in the Eastern region of the country, the political police arrested a total of 24 women between Saturday and Sunday, according to Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU). Among the detainees was his 15 year old daughter, Martha Beatriz Ferrer Cantillo.
“In the case of Martha Beatriz, she was detained twice“, explained Ferrer, “she was first detained when she head out from Palmarito de Cauto alongside 3 other Ladies in White to the El Cobre Shrine during morning hours. She was forcefully returned to her home in Palmarito de Cauto and decided to once again head out to the Shrine. She was detained again“.
The majority of the other detainees were from Santiago de Cuba, Mella and Contramaestre.
Regardless, a total of 43 Ladies in White marched to Mass in the Cobre National Shrine according to the dissident leader, “despite all the repressive actions against them“.
The Ladies in White have proven to be one of the most active and successful pro-freedom movements on the island during the past 10 years. The majority of their members were not public activists when their relatives were arbitrarily arrested and sentenced to years in prison in 2003. However, these women took to the streets just days after to demand the release of their loved ones. From that moment on, the police unleashed a repressive wave against them, consisting of beatings, arrests, and in the majority of the cases, the expulsion of their work centers.
The group has been internationally awarded and acknowledged and they have also been able to practice a significant amount of pressure against the regime, up to the point where their relatives have had to be freed as well as many other political prisoners. Throughout the years, women throughout the country who are not related to any political prisoner but who support and compose the internal opposition began to march alongside the Ladies in White. They became known as “The Ladies of Support“. Eventually, the leaders of the group declared them all Ladies in White.
Laura Pollan, founder and leader of the movement, was taken to her untimely death by the Cuban regime, according to relatives and fellow members of the internal resistance. Yet, Berta Soler has successfully assumed the role of leader of the group, which has only grown and strengthened in recent times.
“The Ladies in White have become very active throughout the entire week“, highlighted Jose Daniel Ferrer, explaining that not only do these women march on Sundays, but also carry out social activities for impoverished citizens and underage children.
State violence has not been able to impede these women from gaining public space and the respect of everyday citizens throughout the country.