By Erasmo Calzadilla
It appears like they’re not guarding anything, because they start talking casually among themselves, at least until some “suspect” wanders by, which can be anyone; but if you’re young and you don’t look very conventional, you have a high probability of ending up as the toy of the police on duty.
Yesterday I again witnessed a typical and enervating scene of what I call constant low-intensity police abuse.
I left from a class at the evening city college, which is where I teach now. When going down L Street in Vedado, a law officer stopped us: a young woman, her boyfriend walking along with her, and me.
The policeman, who must have been about 6’3,” requested our IDs. While he leisurely inspected them for I don’t know what, he began asking us the same prying and disrespectful questions as always: “What are you doing here if you don’t live in this area?” “Do you have a job?”
Then, in an equally rude manner, he asked us to show him our bags and put his huge hands in them, feeling around for I don’t know what.
I’ve heard, though not because anyone has ever formally informed me, that it’s a violation to conduct such searches in the middle of the street. But since I was too tired to spend a night in jail, I gritted my teeth and took it.
However, the other guy, who I had never seen before, seemed offended that he was being treated like this in front of his girlfriend. He got all upset and began asking the policeman what reasons he had for doing all this.
The officer’s response was to push him against a wall, spread his legs with a kick, and frisk him, not only in front of his girlfriend but everyone passing by. Nonetheless, instead of shutting up, the guy exploded and sounded like he was about to scream with rage.
At that very moment another policemen arrived and the two threatened to handcuff the guy and toss him in the patrol car, which surely would have happened had it not been for his girlfriend’s opportune intercession.
She – irate and out of control – laid into them like a caged animal, screaming at them saying that they were a disgrace, that they were just harassing people, that they should have been out looking for criminals – things like that.
The police officers stood paralyzed for a second, just enough time for the guy to grab his girlfriend by the arm and escort her out of the danger zone, while she continued her half-hysterical diatribe.
Trivial, it was an incident of no importance; much worse things happen in the world. Yet the matter is that this humiliation of personal integrity is constant, wherever you go. The result is a feeling of defenseless in the face of the machinery, which I swear doesn’t generate anything good for this country, only fear among citizens.
Unlike others, I don’t believe this is an intentional procedure devised by some macabre psychologists to keep the self-esteem of people in the dirt, but the truth is – intentional or not – the result is the same.