Gonzalez Decision Sparks Downtown Miami Protests

July 7, 2008 - 7:02 PM

(CNSNews.com) - Traffic was paralyzed in many parts of Miami and Dade County, Florida, Thursday as hundreds of Cuban exiles took to the streets in protest of an Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) decision to allow 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez to return to his father in Cuba.

Police reports say demonstrators marched slowly with traffic on many Miami streets and occasionally staged sit-ins at major intersections. Other small groups demonstrated in the "Little Havana" part of the city and south of the Miami International Airport.

Drivers of school buses and public transportation buses had to reroute themselves around the disruptions. Local authorities had no reports of property damage.

About 50 demonstrators were arrested, including Cuban exile activist leader Ramon Saul Sanchez. Most were charged with failure to obey unlawful assembly ordinances, according to the Miami police.

Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) said he was lifting tolls on some Miami area roads during the evening rush hour in order to ease any congestion triggered by the protests.

Meanwhile, five men in Miami staged a hunger strike near the federal building. One of them, Dagoberto Avilez, a former Cuban political prisoner, pledged to drink only water and refuse food until Elian is allowed to remain in the United States.

"I'm here to defend the U.S. Constitution, the law of this country which President Bill Clinton has violated by his decision to deport Elian Gonzalez. The boy is an angel from God. He may be the liberty of Cuba," Avilez said.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) ruled Wednesday that young Elian, who arrived in Miami on Thanksgiving Day after being rescued from a shipwreck in which his mother drowned, must rejoin his father in Cuba.

Attorney General Janet Reno said in Washington Thursday that she had no apparent basis for reversing that decision.