cuba protests

‘Communism Needs to Die': Thousands Join Latest South Florida Protest Amid Crisis in Cuba

More protests are scheduled Friday to take place in both the city of Miramar and in front of the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami

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South Florida is not taking a break from the fight for freedom for Cuba -- protests and demonstrations are taking place Friday by members of the Cuban American community hoping for change in their homeland.

More protests were scheduled at Miramar City Hall, at Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana and in front of the Freedom Tower in downtown Miami.

As thousands marched through Hialeah Thursday evening, officers attempted to keep the protesters from entering the nearby Palmetto Expressway while allowing the large group to have their voices heard on another night of continuous protests.

“Communism needs to die. Needs to die,” said Maria Fernandez, who came straight from work to attend the latest event. “I’ve cried nights knowing my family is over there struggling and they’re hungry. They don’t have water or food, they wait hours to get a piece of meat and sometimes they can’t even get it.”

The group called on the United States to intervene, saying it should do what the country does with others facing humanitarian crises.

“My family has been stuck in the country for years. We’ve been trying to get them out, but they don’t want to let us out,” Fernandez said. “They don’t want to let us out. I’m just tired of it at this point.”

Another day of protests -- a group of protesters are out near Versailles restaurant, ready to march once again for Cuba's freedom. NBC 6's Jamie Guirola reports

Gov. Ron DeSantis is telling demonstrators who are protesting in support of the Cuban people to stop blocking traffic on the state's roadways.

"We can't have that, it's dangerous for you to be shutting down a thoroughfare, you're also putting other people in jeopardy," DeSantis said at a news conference in Miami Thursday. "You don't know if an emergency vehicle needs to get somewhere. And then obviously it's just disrespectful to make people stand in traffic."

Protesters blocked the Palmetto Expressway near Hialeah for about 30 minutes Wednesday night, news outlets reported. On Tuesday, they blocked the same highway for hours during the rainy rush hour.

During a roundtable about Cuba in Miami on Tuesday, DeSantis said the demonstrations in South Florida, and other parts of the state, were “fundamentally different than what we saw last summer.”

On Thursday, DeSantis also made a distinction with the Wednesday demonstration outside Cafe Versailles in Miami.

"The Cuban Americans who were out demonstrating at Versailles, they're not violent, those aren't riots, they're out there being peaceful and they're making their voice heard and we support them and their ability to do that, but it can't be where you shut down commerce or you shut down the ability to use these arteries," DeSantis said. "It's very important that people are able to get [around], especially in a place like Miami, where the traffic can be really bad. You never know, someone may need to get to a hospital or something like that."

DeSantis' comments came after two Florida men were arrested during a protest and were facing charges related to the state's new anti-riot law.

Julian Rodriguez-Rodriguez, 30, Maikel Vazquez-Pico, 39, were among those arrested Tuesday night as a group of protesters attempted to take over an exit ramp at Interstate 275 and Dale Mabry Highway, which is a major thoroughfare in Tampa.

Both were arrested on charges that include battery on a law enforcement officer, resisting law enforcement and taking part in an unlawful assembly that blocked streets or sidewalks, records show.

DeSantis signed into Florida law a measure earlier this year that boosts penalties against demonstrators who turn violent and creates new criminal penalties for those who organize demonstrations that get out of hand. Provisions of the law also make it a felony to block some roadways and provides an affirmative defense in a civil action for drivers who feared for their safety and hit protesters with their cars.

The bill was introduced after last summer’s protests for racial justice during which some Black Lives Matter protesters were met by police with tear gas and arrests when they took to the streets for days at a time.

DeSantis said Thursday that protesters blocking roadways was illegal before the bill's passage, and applauded authorities for clearing the Cuba protesters off the roadways.

"Understand, that's been illegal in Florida way before HB 1, it's not something that we're gonna tolerate," DeSantis said. "The law enforcement did the right thing to clear it, and that's just something that we can't have. There's nothing wrong with doing peaceful demonstrations, and HB 1 had nothing to do with peaceful."

The Black Lives Matter Global Network's statement about Cuba missed the mark, many Cuban Americans and more say. NBC 6's Kim Wynne reports

A post from the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation on Instagram weighing in on the crisis was condemned by some as saying it missed the mark.

The post -- which is getting lots of backlash from Cubans -- states in part: "Black Lives Matter condemns the U.S. federal government’s inhumane treatment of Cubans and urges it to immediately lift the economic embargo."

It later states: "The U.S. government has only instigated suffering for the country’s 11 million people, of which 4 million are Black and Brown."

Keka Araujo, who is Black and Cuban and works as an editor for Black Enterprise, says the post misses the mark.

“You’re saying in this statement that Cuban people are suffering because of an embargo or a sanction from the U.S. and Israel and that is the smallest part of the truth,” she said.

NBC 6 spoke with a leader from the Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward about the statement.

She says her group is not officially affiliated with the national BLM organization and thinks the post misses the point.

“I think it missed the mark of seeking the full perspective of everything that’s happening in Cuba,” said Jasmen Rogers with BLM Alliance of Broward.

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