Cuban state police detained several artists and activists of the 27N Movement, including Tania Bruguera and poet Katherine Bisquet, who planned a peaceful homage to the Cuban author and journalist José Martí in front of the Ministry of Culture.
According to the independent Cuban outlet 14ymedio, approximately 20 demonstrators had congregated to read a text by Martí, an important symbol of the nation’s struggle for independence from Spain, on what would have been his 168th birthday.
Independent journalist Camila Acosta, artist Camila Lobón, Bisquet, and Bruguera were among those detained prior to the event to prevent their attendance. Bruguera and Lobón were released hours later, but Acosta and Bisquet’s whereabouts are still unknown, 14ymedio reports. Police remain stationed outside the homes of other demonstrators, including 14ymedio’s own reporter, Luz Escobar.
“They took everyone in a bus, they didn’t let me pass,” playwright Yunior García told 14ymedio. “There were police barricades on every corner.”
In a video posted on ADN Cuba’s Facebook page, Vice Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas tells demonstrators that they may access the headquarter’s courtyard, but they point out that there are armed guards surrounding the building.
“There are police and people with guns here coming to attack us and you know it,” rapper Maykel Castillo Osorbo can be heard saying in the video. “We are only artists. Why so much repression with art?” Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso, seen wearing a blue shirt in the video, walks toward the group and appears to hit journalist Mauricio Mendoza, and a scuffle ensues between the government officials and the crowd.
Police then surrounded and arrested the demonstrators, forcing them onto a bus where “more violence ensued,” according to La Hora de Cuba. The Cuban newspaper shared a video of the arrests on its Facebook page and said that its correspondent Yunier Gutiérrez had been detained. The legal nonprofit Cubalex has posted an ongoing list of the individuals detained today, urging the public to inform them of any others in the comments.
The detainments come exactly two months after hundreds of activists gathered at the Ministry of Culture to demand an end to censorship and the repression of artistic liberties, a call members of the 27N Movement echoed today. Some of the activists who were present at today’s demonstration read a declaration out loud in front of the Ministry near a bust of the Cuban poet.
“We are gathered again to cultivate and offer our white rose,” members of the movement said, referencing one of Martí’s poems. “One of peace, of dialogue, of civic friendship, of reconciliation, of forgiveness, of transparency, of goodness, of good and beauty, of poetry. A white rose for friends and those who consider themselves enemies, just like Martí proposed, because we believe in the importance of creating Cuba with everyone and for the good of everyone, from the values of our apostle and poet.”
In a video posted less than an hour ago by Bruguera addressed to Vice Minister Rojas, the artist expressed her plans to visit the Ministry this evening and have a conversation with the minister.
“I hope that you will receive me when I arrive, and that we can have a transparent dialogue like the one 27N has always sustained with you,” she said.