The Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) are a group in Cuba of the wives and other relatives of jailed dissidents. They have been protesting the imprisonments of their husbands by going to Mass each Sunday dressed in white and silently walking through the streets. The white color of the dresses is used as a symbol of peace. In 2005 they were awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.Cuban dissidents say cops again beat women
For the fourth week, security forces in Santiago halt Ladies in White
By Juan O. Tamayo
Augusts 18, 2911
Cuban dissidents complained that security forces blocked about 20 supporters of the Ladies in White from reaching a church service Sunday in the eastern city of Santiago, including nine women who were beaten and humiliated.
The incidents marked the fourth weekend in a row that authorities have used physical force and even violence to break up the women’s attempt to establish their right to protest in eastern Cuba, just as the Women in White do after Sunday mass in Havana to demand the release of all political prisoners on the island.
“Let’s see who tires first. Those who fight for democracy or those who receive a salary,” José Daniel Ferrer García, a recently freed political prisoner, said by phone from his home in Palmarito del Cauto, about 15 miles from Santiago.
Ferrer said his wife, Belkis Cantillo, was in the group of nine women most seriously pummeled when the truck that was carrying them to mass at the Santiago cathedral was stopped by a large group of police and women prison guards at El Cristo, a traffic checkpoint seven miles from the city.
“I was grabbed by six very large women who threw me off the truck. Two others were waiting for me below. They put me on the patrol car, and inside two male officers started to hit me and pull my hair,” Cantillo told Radio Martí.
When the patrol car carrying Cantillo broke down on the way to Palmarito, she refused to transfer to another car and was again hit by a policeman who also flashed his penis as a way to humiliate the women, Ferrer and Cantillo added.
Police also detained another seven Ladies in White supporters before they could get to the cathedral, including three who tried to sneak out of their homes around 2 a.m. in hopes of evading the security forces, Ferrer reported. One of the women fainted when confronted with a police guard dog.
Only three women managed to attend the 9 a.m. mass, officiated by Santiago Archbishop Dionisio Garcia. They told him that the archbishop had condemned the violence against the women in his homily, Ferrer noted.
The women intercepted at El Cristo were driven back to their hometowns in Palmarito, Palma Soriano, Guantanamo and Holguin, Ferrer told El Nuevo Herald, although some were dropped off at local police stations and only then sent home.
Afterwards, eight government opponents were slightly injured as police and crowds of government supporters harassed three homes of dissidents near Santiago, where the women and others had gathered, to prevent them from staging protests on their streets.
Ten had gathered in a home in the fruit-growing town of El Caney, 41 in Palma Soriano and 18 in Palmarito, Ferrer added.
After several hours, police officials offered to allow the dissidents to leave the homes if they would promise to return to their own homes. The dissidents refused, and the security forces eventually tired and left, Ferrer reported.
Police violence against the dissidents appears to have increased since April, when Cuban ruler Raúl Castro declared at a Communist Party congress that Cubans “will never deny the peoples’ right to defend the revolution.”