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Protesters Arrested After Cuba Cancels Conga Against Homophobia

Protesters Arrested After Cuba Cancels Conga Against Homophobia

The communist nation last week canceled the march amid growing regional tensions and months after nixing a marriage equality effort. 

Cuba arrested protesters who marched in the streets days after the cancellation of an annual LGBTQ rights demonstration.

More than 100 marched in Havana Saturday anyway but were met with a strong police response, according to BBC News. Individuals hit the streets the day a Conga Against Homophobia and Transphobia was originally to take place.

But the National Centre for Sex Education last week called off the event, citing "new tensions in the international and regional context."

Plainclothes police stopped protesters on Havana's Paseo del Prado. At least three people were detained by police, according to multiple outlets.

The contentious end to the weekend protest marks a year of significant setbacks for LGBTQ rights in Cuba.

Efforts to enshrine marriage equality in the nation's constitution were nixed ahead of a national vote, despite support from leaders like Mariela Castro.

The cancellation of the Conga, an event in its 12th year, came amid growing regional tensions regarding Cuba's support of Venezuela.

While many LGBTQ activists greeted news of the Conga's cancellation with disbelief, a strong response to protestors this week comes as no surprise.

Last week, Cuba turned American journalist Michael K. Lavers away when he flew to the island after the Conga cancellation. He had visited the island seven times to write for the the Washington Blade about conditions for LGBTQ people there.

Several journalists who ended up covering the march may also have been arrested, South Florida news outlet WPLG reports.

The government ultimately deemed the Saturday march a provocation, according to The New York Times.

Political protests have been unusual in communist Cuba, though the fact protesters hit the streets despite the cancellation of the government-sponsored march came shortly after another independent protest for animal rights.

Local activists and journalists say new technology has brought a shift in political discourse on the island.

"This moment marks a before and an after for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, but also for Cuban civil society more generally," LGBTQ activist and journalist Maykel Gonzalez Vivero told the Times.

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