Closed streets, diverted traffic, countless police vehicles, agents dressed in civilian clothing, and a wave of arrests. That was how the operation of the Cuban regime against the Ladies in White looked like this Wednesday, February 13th, when women from throughout all the provinces of the country set out towards their national headquarters in Havana to pay tribute to Laura Pollan– deceased leader of the group-who would have turned 65.
Despite the repressive measures, the Ladies continued onward with their plans to celebrate the date.
Since the morning hours, former political prisoner Angel Moya Acosta published a series of Twitter messages detailing what was happening with these women.
“Repressive forces are stationed on the streets leading to the headquarters of the Ladies in White on Neptune Street”, read Moya’s first tweet. The activist continued to describe the presence of numerous “police and private vehicles” ready to arrest any of the women who would try to arrive to the encounter.
At around 9 AM, there had already been 5 confirmed arrests of Ladies in White. Just minutes later, the number rose to 27. Throughout the day, many more arrests were confirmed.
Two of the detained women were Sara Marta Fonseca Quevedo and Yanelys Cabrera who set out from Boyeros (Havana) towards Neptune Street. The arrests were violent.
“I received physical blows on my head, back and arms. I am dizzy”, tweeted Fonseca Quevedo upon being released minutes later. “Police vehicle # 570 left me in a desolate area in the municipality of Lisa”, added another message, but Sara Marta assured that she would head out again towards the meeting to “carry out her her right to freedom of peaceful association and assembly”.
In that second attempt, Sara Marta and Yanelys were once again detained.
Despite all the police cordons which kept dozens of other women from arriving to the event, more than 50 Ladies in White were able to participate in the encounter in honor of Laura Pollan in their headquarters.
Once the event came to an end, the repressive measures only increased.
When a group of 29 women from the Eastern provinces set out to the bus terminal known as “La Coubre” that night to board a bus to head back home, the transportation never showed up. Hours passed and the situation remained the same, until Berta Soler and Angel Moya head out from their homes and showed up at the terminal in solidarity with the women. Also present was Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) activist Osmany Cespedes Napoles.
The total of 30 women- 13 from Santiago de Cuba, 11 from Holguin, 3 from Guantanamo and 2 from Villa Clara (as well as Berta Soler from Havana)- decided to carry out a peaceful protest at around 2 AM in front of the terminal, shouting slogans such as “We want transportation”.
(Ángel Moya published this video of the protest):
The result of the protest was the brutal arrest of the 30 women, as well as of the other activists present, Angel Moya and Osmany Cespedes. Radio/TV Marti published a detailed video-report of what happened with the activists.(In this video published by ‘Hablemos Press’, Ladies in White express their discontent regarding the lack of transportation).
The young activist Anyer Antonio Blanco, from UNPACU, informed that his mother, Lady in White Ana Celia Rodríguez, managed to establish communication with him during the moment of the arrests. Ana denounced that all the women, including herself, were being violently beat and Anyer heard screams of “Long Live Laura Pollan”.
At around 2 AM, the Ladies in White and other activists were detained and transferred to undisclosed locations and it was during night hours on Thursday and morning hours of Friday that they started to be released and/or deported. All these arbitrary actions against the Ladies in White between the 13th and 14th of February occurred because these women were paying tribute to Laura Pollan when she would have turned 65. The same regime which lead Pollan to her death can’t tolerate that her legacy be celebrated. Regardless, as Angel Moya tweeted:”Do not doubt it, the repressive operations set out through Neptune St in Havana prove the moral strength of the Ladies in White in Cuba”.
Laura Pollan Lives!