For years, writer and event organizer Rob Rivera has been organizing a Halloween event called the Zombie Walk. People dress up like zombies, walk a bit, and then they usually have a party. The Zombie Walks are a kind of an institution as well as an international phenomenon: Even Dubai, of the Islamic UAE, has its zombie walk.
This year, the event was planned for Casco Viejo. It would start Saturday night on Plaza Herrera and then the parade would meander through the old city center. Rivera had been busy arranging permits and coordinating everything with the local police and municipal authorities.
The local authorities, notably one Mario Kennedy (heads the junta comunal), Jania Guardia (legal counsel of the Oficina del Casco Antiguo de Panamá) and Jairo Morán (corregidor de San Felipe) won't give permits for the event. What's more: The police has received orders to ARREST Rob Rivera and anyone else who walks the Zombie Walk.
The whole story can be read on Rivera's website, here.
So, why wouldn't they allow such an innocent event? Well, it appears that Mr. Kennedy's resentment against anything Halloween originates, somehow, in ways we are not privy to understand, in a profound dislike of rock & roll music, given the exchange between him, a representative of the SPI (Secret Service) and Rob Rivera:
H.R. Mario Kennedy: “Rob(erto), déjame preguntarte una cosa: ¿qué opinas del Rock?”
Rob Rivera: “¿Qué opino del Rock?”
MK: “Sí, sí. ¿Cuál es tu opinión acerca del Rock?”
RR (perplejo): “Bueno, el Rock es una vertiente musical, una expresión, con su cultura y forma de pensar y-”
MK: “El Rock es una mala influencia para todos. Es malvada.”
Rep. del S.P.I: “¿Sabes para qué usaban el Rock? Lo usaban en Viek-man.”
RR: “¿En Vietnam?”
S.P.I: “Sí, en Viek-man. En sus bombarderos, ponían bocinas afuera y cuando le hacían la pasada a los chinos… (hace muecas de metralleta, con una sonrisa en la cara)“
Obviously, Casco Viejo is being ruled by simians - which is really no surprise with a mayor whose brain is lighter than air making the appointments, but still.
Usually, politicians and authorities who are this stupid are also corrupt in our paradisaical country, and Mario Kennedy is no exception: The anti-corruption prosecutors are investigating him for "irregularities in budget management" - which is a euphemism for stealing money - reports La Prensa.
On Facebook and elsewhere on the web the idiotic posture of the Casco Viejo monkeys has already caused quite an uproar, and the Zombie Walk will probably attract a record number of participants as it becomes a free speech demonstration as well.
So, dear Bananama readers: Dress up and go! Saturday night, 9:00 PM, Plaza Herrera. Zombies versus the Talipanama!
Meanwhile, you can write them too. Voice your disagreement with the latest assault on popular culture and freedom of expression in Panama by emailing them here:
Junta Comunal de San Felipe (H.R. Mario Kennedy) firstname.lastname@example.org
Oficina del Casco Antiguo de Panamá (Jania Guardia, Asesoría Legal) email@example.com
Policía de Turismo, Casco Antiguo firstname.lastname@example.org
Corregiduría de San Felipe (Jairo Morán) – email@example.com
UPDATE: Alfonso Grimaldo did a really great write-up on Facebook, here. We're not gonna quote it all, but the "tips in case you are arrested" part is of universal value:
A DUMMY'S GUIDE TO BEING ARRESTED
You have decided to brave the waters and go to the zombie walk and I sincerely wish that the Force be with you. Have fun, be kind to others and enjoy the social life. Hopefully, you’ll be back home for Garfield reruns at four in the morning.
If, however, you are arrested, keep a few things in mind, please:
1. Be kind and courteous to the police officer conducting the arrest. They probably understand how nonsensical it is to arrest you, but they are carrying out orders. It’s not them against you, but those that issued the arrest orders against you. These men and women are out every night protecting us and do not deserve to be treated ill;
2. Though they may request that you identify yourself, you are not required, at any time, to hand over to them your personal ID (i.e. cédula). You do have to show it, but article 136, section 4, states that at no point your personal ID can be taken from you;
3. Inform someone that you know that you are being arrested, or will be arrested. This is extremely important. The faster someone can get to you and provide assistance, the better;
4. You cannot be arrested unless a written warrant for your arrest has been issued by a competent authority. Article 21 of the Constitution states that if you request this written warrant from the arresting officer, he or she must produce it and show it to you immediately;
5. Article 21 also states that no more than 24 hours can pass before you face a competent authority to decide your case. If you are detained for more than 24 hours, whoever detained you, by constitutional mandate, must be immediately removed from his or her job;
6. Article 25 protects you from incriminating yourself when speaking to the arresting officer, so be careful with what you say;
7. When arrested, do request politely and clearly that the arresting officer inform you of the reasons regarding your arrest. Article 22 of the Constitution establishes that upon being arrested, you must be informed immediately and in a way that is comprehensible to you, of the reasons why you are being detained and of your constitutional and legal rights;
8. Article 22 establishes that you are innocent until presumed guilty, and the arresting officer should treat you as such, as well as any other public officer;
9. Upon being detained, you are immediately entitled to an attorney-at-law to further assist you, according to article 22 of the Constitution.
So, have fun tomorrow!
UPDATE 2: The Zombies won! See permit from the municipality below. The Zombie Walk 2010 will start at 7:00 PM (thus not 9 as we erroneously mentioned before)at the Plaza Herrera, Casco Antiguo, Panama City.