LGBTQ activists in Cuba held an unauthorized pride parade in Havana after the government abruptly cancelled the pre-planned Pride celebration, reported the New York Times.

Over 100 people marched the streets of Havana on Saturday (May 11), carrying rainbow flags and chanting, “Long live a diverse Cuba.” The parade was organized after the state-run National Center for Sex Education – aka CENESEX – cancelled the 12th annual conga against homophobia, the country’s equivalent of Pride.

At least three of the marchers were arrested by plainclothes police officers, while the others were ordered to disperse.

“This moment marks a before and an after for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, but also for Cuban civil society more generally,” said Maykel González Vivero, an independent journalist and LGBTQ activist. “Social media is playing its role, and civil society demonstrated it has strength and can go out onto the streets if necessary. And from now on, the government will have to take that into account.”

This march was the second event organized independently of state institutions in Cuba in a little over a month. The first was in defense of animal rights and organizers had received a permit from authorities.

CENESEX, led by Mariela Castro, denounced the impromptu parade as a “provocation” and some attendees said they’d received threats both anonymously over social media and from state security warning them not to attend.

The group said in a statement that the event was used by certain groups to undermine the government, promoted by “new tensions in the international and regional context.”

However, LGBTQ activists said it was more likely due to authorities being under pressure from anti-LGBTQ Evangelical churches.

“This isn’t a political march; this is a celebration to give the LGBT community visibility,” said activist Myrna Rosa Padrón Dickson.

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