By Confesor Verdecia Ellcok
HAVANA TIMES – Thanks to the swift and overwhelming intervention by neighbors on 10 de Octubre Street in Mayari, street seller Sergio Morales, better known on the street as “pancakes” (as they call the sweet-bread, the only thing he sells), was released, without charges.
According to witnesses, a policeman called out to him to buy some pancakes but the street seller pretended not to hear him. Then, the policeman figured that it was likely he didn’t have a license and ran after the bike, grabbing the box of product to try and stop him. In this attempt, the law enforcement officer lost his balance and fell to the ground. But, the box also broke and all of the pancakes scattered out onto the street.
The scared street seller continued on to the end of the road, while the policeman called for backup, bothered by his fall. It seems that patrol car no. 485 was in the neighborhood and it arrived on the scene in no time. According to testimonies, “they charged at the young man and beat him up like he was a criminal,” but he didn’t resist. He was immediately transferred to the Police Station.
“The officer entered the alleyway at full speed, where kids were playing, and he just missed us”; “it was like a movie, they really exaggerate, if only they did the same to criminals, not the poor people who are trying to get by as best they can”; “now they can’t say that the young man did something to the police, they were the ones who beat him up,” were some of the comments neighbors made about the episode.
I got there a few minutes later, and people were still out on the street, upset by the injustice and police brutality. So much so they they lost their fear of being filmed for a moment and agreed to have their reports filmed. Somebody suggested they go down to the police station to support the young pancake seller and that’s exactly what they did. “Before he’s charged with a made-up crime,” they said.
According to sources close to the victim, who were afraid to disclose their identity, “the police wanted to charge him with an attack on authority because of the policeman’s fall. But, everything changed when they saw people crowded out in front of the police station, asking for them not to abuse the young man because he was a victim of the police.” They stopped treating him badly and began to resolve the matter by the book.
Plus, it was discovered that at least two MININT “informants” in the neighborhood, the kind people call “snitches”, called the police to warn them about the general sentiment out on the street. They also told them that recorded statements had been given.
In reality, the street seller didn’t have a license, that’s why he pretended not to hear the policeman when he was called. As a peaceful gesture, in an attempt to calm people down after this act of police brutality, it was decided that he only be given a 30 peso public disorder fine and not the 2000 peso fine for carrying out an unauthorized commercial activity, which would have prevented him from applying for a license for a long time, in keeping with the new Self-Employment Law.
Recently, Mayari’s police force have a record of practising extreme and excessive violence against the people. There have been several cases in the last few months alone. For example, a young man called Maikel, from the Emergencia neighborhood, was brutally beaten by four policemen because he was traveling in a small cart after 6 PM, which is the curfew for these kinds of animal-drawn vehicles in Mayari. It turns out he was a Party member and the son of a People’s Power Council’s president.
Another two teenagers were also mercilessly beaten by the police, generating great popular indignation. However, the pancake seller’s case proved that if the population reacts and loses its fear of standing up to the authorities, the latter are obliged to respect the people.
At least this young man was spared being charged with an “attack against an authority” which he didn’t commit. Although, you can’t bring uniformed attackers to justice, for many reasons, and repressors walk scot-free once again.