Thou dost protest too much

This week the Damos de Blanco (Ladies in white) descended on the streets of Cuba. They are a group of  Cuban women relatives of men who were arrested in a major crack down by Fidel’s authorities in March 2003. Many of the men arrested then for opposing  Castro’s government, are still in jail. One high profile individual, Orlando  Zapata Tamayo, died last month, following a long hunger strike. His mother was amongst the women on the march.  

These women are eager to secure the safe release of their loved ones, and to draw attention to their plight through peaceful demonstration. They are renowned for their white clothing; traditionally signifying peace, and placidity.  

Yet, the protests were met with extreme aggression from the police. Beatings and intimidation were reported when the protests were forcibly broken up. Several women were detained.  

What a contrast then, to the reception that protestors get here in the UK, generally at least. This coming Monday, an Amnesty group is set to smash the world record for the number of protests in one day. The attempt will take place in London and start at 9am at the Tate Modern. One of the focus of the protests is Amnesty’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign, ironically.  

I hope that the Ladies in White feel a sense of solidarity from their fellow protestors around the world. It is so easy to take for granted the freedoms we enjoy here. The Charing Cross Police, have been informed of the 25 protests  planned for Monday, and are working with the organisers to ensure the safety of all participants. There could not be a more profound contrast.

Yet the Damos de Blanco, remain defiant. They have been subject to intimidation and repression before and continue to gather and protest. They recognise it as a legitimate right. This belief in the right to protest and the power of protest is echoed around the World by Amnesty supporters, and Monday is a perfect example of the ever more dramatic lengths people will go to, in order to ensure their voice is heard. 

The Cuban journalist Pablo Pacheco Avila was one of those men arrested in March 2003 during the severe crackdown on the dissident movement in Cuba. You can take action on his behalf here, and demonstrate your allegiance with the ladies in white, and in waiting.

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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