The Ladies in White (Las Damas de Blanco) are again top of mind with Cuban diaspora bloggers. As one of the oldest and most respected opposition entities on the island, their peaceful protests – and regular arrests by state security forces – continue to attract attention. The most recent confrontation happened this past weekend as members of the group attempted to carry out two protests in Havana.
Pedazos de la Isla, which chronicled the events in photographs, noted that:
Despite the government repression, more than 40 Ladies in White carried out their accustomed march to the Santa Rita Church in Havana this Sunday, June 17th, to celebrate Father’s Day. When the mass concluded, these women decided to catch their oppressors off guard and marched for the second time in one day, this time from Infanta street to Neptune Street.
The blog also posted two other entries about state action against members of the Ladies in White. The first detailed how Caridad Caballero Batista, her husband and son were searched and detained:
After visiting some relatives…they were intercepted by the political police upon arriving to the province of Holguin. According to Caballero, the police agent who intercepted the vehicle her family was traveling on…told the driver to hand him his documentation.
However, the activist explains that ‘more than for the purpose of asking to see the driver’s documents, this action was intentionally aimed at searching my husband Esteban and the bag he was carrying, which was full of clothes’. The agent ordered Esteban to get off the vehicle in order to search him, to which the dissident replied that he was not going to allow, considering that he ‘is not a delinquent’. Caballero says that ‘the agents were infuriated and told Esteban that he was committing a crime’.
The response of the agents was to shove Esteban Sandez into a vehicle of the Operational Guard to take him to the Police Unit, where he’d be searched and detained. Upon seeing this, Caridad Caballero and her son Eric Sandez got off the car and began to protest against the arbitrariness, assuring the agents that if they were going to take Esteban, then they’d have to them too.
In a matter of minutes, the three activists were taken to a police unit located on the outskirts of Holguin.
After a number of hours, the family was released, but upon arriving to their home in the city of Holguin they noticed that the political police had already set up the accustomed weekend operation in order to impede them from arriving to Sunday Mass.
The second post told of the arrest of an elderly member of the group:
This Father’s Day, Ladies in White throughout all of Cuba mobilized with the purpose of carrying out peaceful activities to celebrate the date. As a consequence, the regime’s police forces responded with a repressive operation which began days prior, resulting in the arrests of countless of these women throughout all of the island’s provinces. Among those arrested was 75 year-old Blanca Hernández Moya, who suffered physical attacks at the hands of police agents…
The elderly woman…was on her way from her home in Central Havana to the headquarters of the Ladies in White- the home of the fallen leader of the group, Laura Pollan, located on Neptuno Street- when she was violently intercepted by state police.
‘They attacked me’, said Moya, ‘they shoved me into a vehicle, and a female agent twisted my arm and hit me’.
After some minutes, the vehicle which the Lady in White was in parked and she was kicked out, being left abandoned by a dam near the desolate area known as Penalver, on the outskirts of Cotorro.
Capitol Hill Cubans also took notice of the weekend's arrests.