The dissident group Ladies in White sent a message of defiance to the Cuban government on Sunday, having men join them for their weekly protest march and vowing to go on despite the death of leader Laura Pollan.
The group allowed men to march with them for the first time since forming in 2003 to honor them for their support of the group and of Pollan, who died after a brief illness on Friday at the age of 63.
More than 100 men and women, the latter dressed in white and wearing black ribbons of mourning, walked along Havana’s Fifth Avenue in silence, as the Ladies in White have done every Sunday for more than eight years.
At the end of the 25-minute march, they shouted “Laura Pollan lives” instead of their usual “Freedom.” As happens most of the time, passing Cubans took little notice of the march.
It was believed to be the first time in decades men had taken part in a public protest in Cuba, without the intervention of police and state security agents, none of whom were visibly present.
Berta Soler, Pollan’s long-time co-leader, said it was the only time men would join the women in their marches, which will go on as always.
“It’s a very difficult moment, but a moment in which we cannot weaken,” she said. “Laura Pollan is with us spiritually and will march with us today and forever.”
“Let the Cuban government see that we are strong and we are going to continue this fight for freedom of political prisoners, but also defend human rights,” she said to the women, some of whom wept softly.
Pollan led the founding of the Ladies in White to demand freedom for her husband and 74 other dissidents after they were imprisoned in a March 2003 government crackdown.
They began their weekly marches in a time when public protests were non-existent in tightly controlled Cuba and are still very rare.
The government tried to shut the marches down, but never figured out an internationally acceptable way to do it and allowed them to go on, under certain limitations.
Cuban leaders view dissidents as being in the pay of the US, their longtime enemy.
The defiant Pollan became one of Cuba’s leading opposition voices and was deeply involved in the dissident movement until she developed pulmonary illness and died at a Havana hospital, in a blow to Cuba’s small dissident community.
Her husband, Hector Maseda, and the others jailed in 2003 have been released from prison, with most going free after Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to free them in deal brokered by the Catholic Church last year.
Maseda took part in Sunday’s march, carrying a photo of Pollan in a past protest, with the words “Laura Pollan Toledo ... present.”
He said he would allow the Ladies in White to continue using the home he shared with Pollan in Havana’s Centro Habana neighborhood as their headquarters.
Henry Tong (湯偉雄) and Elaine To (杜依蘭) were preparing to spend their first wedding anniversary in separate prison cells until their acquittal for rioting during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. There were gasps and tears of relief in court on Friday last week as a judge declared prosecutors had failed to prove that the couple took part in clashes with police in July last year. The pair walked free in a ruling that has potential consequences for hundreds of other protesters facing similar charges. However, they have a long journey ahead as they try to rebuild their lives and business. “We have already been punished,”
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable