The raid began before activists could take to the streets of Cuba.
For weeks, activists in Cuba had been calling for a “citizens’ march for change” on Monday to demand more freedom from the communist-led government, a consequence of the massive, historic protests that rocked the country in July.
But there was a much larger police presence than normal on the streets of the capital Havana. Many of the activists who planned the march had their homes surrounded by police and security officers to prevent them from going outside.
Even so, some activist leaders took to social media Monday to send a message to the government.
One of the protest organizers, Saily González, called on supporters to clap in a Facebook video, telling them: “This is the applause for the Cuban people, who will start again today to claim their rights and for the liberation of over 600 people to urge political prisoners and urge an end to the violence. “
Earlier, when González left her home to hang up white sheets that she said were “for Cuba’s freedom,” a pro-government mob yelled at her, calling her a “dog” and other derogatory terms.
The protests’ leading figure, 39-year-old actor and playwright Yunior García, tried to march alone on Sunday but was prevented from leaving his home. On Monday, he had not yet made public statements to the media. Authorities and government supporters surrounded his building on Sunday as he was communicating with journalists and others by holding a white rose by his window and putting up a sign saying “My house is blocked” until government supporters on the roof did one large Cuban flag tp cover dropped its window.
Videos were circulating on social media on Monday showing some deviant acts that led to confrontations with people close to the government in different parts of the island.
In a videoA small group of young Cubans in white sang “We want liberty” while they danced outside a house in Santa Clara. It went on a confrontation with government supporters trying to remove a “Liberty” sign from the house. It is unclear whether there were any arrests.
Cuban actor Edel Pérez told NBC News on Sunday that if the police allowed him to leave his house, he would demonstrate on Monday over “the problems on the island” and he would do so “in solidarity with the Cuban people”.
Nobody really expected mass protests like the historic demonstrations that swept the island on July 11th. The protests on Monday were planned, giving authorities enough time to prepare for arrests or simply prevent known activists from leaving their homes. Guillermo Fariñas, an internationally known dissident, had been arrested days earlier.
Yet protests like this one in Cuba are not tolerated and rarely seen. Young generations of Cubans who had little to do with the 1959 revolution are increasingly feeling encouraged.
“Real life is at stake”
Recent activism in Cuba has generated supporters in the United States and internationally. On Sunday there was a caravan and rally in Miami, and on Monday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, held a press conference in Miami’s famous Freedom Tower and announced a $ 25 million budget to preserve the building, which was a reception center for thousands of Cuban refugees in the 1960s and early 1970s.
Miami-Dade County’s Mayoress Daniella Levine Cava tweeted a video of her wearing a white shirt with a white rose in front of the White House.
Congressmen from Florida, home of the largest Cuban constituency in America, tweeted several times about the events in Cuba while expressing their support for protesters. “Real life is at stake,” tweeted MP Maria Elvira Salazár, R-Fla.
“America stands by the side of the Cuban people and their peaceful demands for freedom, democracy and an end to the repressive regime that arbitrarily detains its citizens,” said MP Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.
The archipelago coordinators said solidarity marches have been organized in more than 120 cities around the world, including marches on the famous Avenue of the Americas in New York City.
The Cuban government made it clear for weeks that the protests would not take place. It turned down a permit application for the march weeks ago, and officials, including President Miguel Díaz-Canel, have accused the US of orchestrating the protests to “destabilize” the country.
After the summer protests, García organized a Facebook group called Archipelago, which called for protests such as putting white clothes on, hanging white sheets in front of their houses or beating pots.
Tensions escalate the same day the island reopened to tourism, following strict Covid lockdowns that at one point kept borders closed for eight consecutive months. The decimation of the tourism industry, coupled with heightened US sanctions, has devastated the economy, creating chronic shortages and long lines for basic grocery purchases.