(The video above is from a protest Sunday evening in Tampa)
(AP/WFLA) – Thousands of Cubans marched on Havana’s Malecon promenade and elsewhere on the island Sunday to protest food shortages and high prices amid the coronavirus crisis, in one of the biggest anti-government demonstrations in memory.
Many young people took part in the afternoon protest in the capital, which disrupted traffic until police moved in after several hours and broke up the march when a few protesters threw rocks.
Police initially trailed behind as protesters chanted “Freedom,” “Enough” and “Unite.” One motorcyclist pulled out a U.S. flag, but it was snatched from him by others.
“We are fed up with the queues, the shortage. That’s why I’m here,” one middle-aged protester told The Associated Press. He declined to identify himself for fear of being arrested later.
Cuba is going through its worst economic crisis in decades, along with a resurgence of coronavirus cases.
The demonstration grew to a few thousand in the vicinity of Galeano Avenue and the marchers pressed on despite a few charges by police officers and tear gas barrages. People standing on many balconies along the central artery in the Centro Habana neighborhood applauded the protesters passing by. Others joined in the march.
Although many people tried to take out their cellphones and broadcast the protest live, Cuban authorities shut down internet service throughout the afternoon.
About 2 1/2 hours into the march, some protesters pulled up cobblestones and threw them at police, at which point officers began arresting people and the marchers dispersed.
A group of government supporters also arrived in the area shouting slogans in favor of the late President Fidel Castro and the revolution. Some of them assaulted a cameraman and an AP photographer.
Tampa Bay reaction
Residents in Tampa showed out Sunday evening in support of those in Cuba.
8 On Your Side’s Olivia Steen followed a group of protesters, who started off on Dale Mabry Highway and made their way to Al Lopez Park, as they stood in solidarity with those on the island fighting for freedom.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio took to Twitter Sunday evening to address the uprise in residents in Cuba.
He asked that President Joe Biden “call on members of the Cuban military to not fire on their own people.”
The senator continued by saying, “The incompetent communist party of #Cuba cannot feed or protect the people from the virus.”
Governor Ron DeSantis also spoke out via Twitter on the issue Sunday, saying “The Cuban dictatorship has repressed the people of Cuba for decades & is now trying to silence those who have the courage to speak out against its disastrous policies.”