Going Around with the Flag Can Get You Arrested in Cuba
Strolling with the flag: that was the “infraction” committed by independent artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara this past weekend, for which he ended up at a police station.
“I was arrested for the mere act of walking along the Havana’s Malecón (seafront) enjoying the carnival, ” Otero Alcantara wrote on his Facebook site. He has frequently been arrested for his artistic initiatives, critical of the Government.
“National security [officer]? I’m not sure. He was an officer with senior a position who could not understand a young, everyday Cuban walking around with his flag,” he said.
He added that when he arrived at “an improvised station”, two blocks from the place, “nobody even knew what the crime was.”
“A lieutenant colonel asked if I had been shouting. And the lieutenant who brought me in the police car said: ‘he was calm, just walking with his flag’, leaving everyone speechless,'” he said.
“They released me in 30 minutes,” Otero Alcantara explained. “This shows how traumatized the Cuban mind is, fearful of a young man walking around with the flag, in a totally natural way,” he said.
In recent days Cubans from on and off the Island have participated in #LaBanderaEsDeTodos (TheFlagIsEveryone’s) campaign, launched by the Movimiento San Isidro.
The campaign opposes the justification of repressive actions based on the use of national symbols, and arose right after the arrest of Otero Alcantara and other members of the movement for engaging in a performance with the flag.
Since then, numerous Cubans have shared images on their social media pages in which they appear with the symbol.
In July the National Assembly of Popular Power passed a new law to “protect national symbols”, including new restrictions on the use of the Cuban flag.