TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is urging protesters not to block roads while showing their support for Cuba.
The governor held a press conference in Miami Thursday to urge the White House to support efforts to preserve internet service to antigovernment protesters in Cuba.
“We obviously have to stand with the people of Cuba against the communist dictatorship,” DeSantis said.
Cuba is seeing its biggest antigovernmental protests in decades with thousands demanding freedom and protesting food and vaccine shortages. Thousands of people have taken to the streets in Florida in solidarity.
Julian Rodriguez-Rodriguez and Maikel Vazquez-Pico, two men in Tampa were arrested when a protest spilled onto a Interstate 275 exit ramp in Tampa on Tuesday. The men face charges of obstructing street or sidewalks during a protests, a violation of HB 1, the state’s new anti-riot law. DeSantis signed the law in April after months of protests following the death of George Floyd. The law levies harsher penalties against demonstrators who turn violent, and creates new criminal penalties for those who organize demonstrations that get out of hand.
Rodriguez-Rodriguez and Maikel Vazquez-Pico also face charges of battery on a law enforcement officer and resisting arrest. Rodriguez-Rodriguez was said to have put an officer into a bear hug and punched an officer in the face, breaking his glasses. Both men have been released from jail and deny the accusations against them.
During Thursday’s press conference, DeSantis sought to differentiate recent protests over Cuba from those last year.
“Cuban Americans who are out demonstrating,” he said. “They’re not violent riots. They’re out there being peaceful and they’re making their voices heard, and we support them.”
But he said demonstrators should not be shutting down roads that could impede traffic and commerce.
“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. “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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.