By Austin Carter

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Hundreds gathered Wednesday afternoon in Little Havana for a rally calling for freedom in Cuba.

Images from Chopper 4 showed hundreds in front of a platform where local politicians and other personalities took to the stage to talk about their cause.

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The people in the crowd carried flags and signs and were chanting for freedom on the island.

They defied afternoon rains to be there in support of a free Cuba.

A concert was also scheduled after the rally. Cuban artist Willy Chirino was expected to perform.

Watch: Jessica Vallejo’s report from Little Havana

 

The rally was held next to the Versailles Restaurant on SW 8th Street.

Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo was in attendance, saying that what’s happening in Cuba is personal.

“I’m a Cuban-born American, they’re screaming for liberty and this country is the greatest country on earth and it’s time for Cuba, it’s time for the people and the world to come together. They are murdering people on the streets of Cuba in their homes and it’s time for them to speak out,” says Acevedo.

Acevedo warned demonstrators to not go onto highways again.

“I’m telling people don’t go on my freeways. I don’t know what happened yesterday but in Miami, we’re not going to tolerate people on the freeway as it’s dangerous and puts our people at risk and we need protest to be responsible and in a safe manner,” says Acevedo.

Alexis Perez, who was at the rally has family in Cuba and is concerned.

“I’m wearing my Cuban flag around me, and this is my country but this country opened the doors for me and said you’re welcome here and I want that same freedom back in Cuba,” says Perez. “The fact that we can do that here bring our family here it goes a long way for this country to give us that support.”

Streets between SW 32 Avenue to SW 37 Avenue on 8th Street were closed beginning at 2:30 p.m. Side streets between SW 7 Street to SW 9 Street also closed to traffic.

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The rally is taking place just one day after a large group of South Florida demonstrators blocked a stretch of the Palmetto Expressway in support of rare protests in communist Cuba.

On Tuesday, demonstrators blocked parts of the Palmetto Expressway in support of Cubans who began protesting the island’s poor economic conditions last weekend. The Cuban protestors took to the streets to lash out at the communist government and protest food shortages and high prices amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Dozens of demonstrators began their rally at Coral Way and SW 82nd Avenue and then marched their way onto State Road 826, blocking traffic in both directions.

“Viva Cuba! Cuba Libre! (Long Live A Free Cuba)” demonstrators chanted.

Police blocked the entrance ramps to north and southbound traffic on the Palmetto Expressway.

“We are fighting for freedom. It is very difficult. American people need to join with the Cuban,” said one protester.

FHP began moving in at around 9:15 p.m. to disperse the crowd. It took about 25 minutes and everyone left peacefully.

While some people thought the demonstration was alright because it was for a good cause, others didn’t agree – saying it added nothing to the cause for Cuba.

Raul Masvidal, a prominent Cuban exile, left the Communist country in 1960. He feared Tuesday’s actions on the Palmetto Expressway could backfire.

“It is backfiring and rightfully so. We don’t have a right to block the streets. I don’t think that we can inconvenience the other 70 percent who have nothing to do with this,” he said.

At the Cuban Memorial in Tropical Park, a rally was held Tuesday evening to demand freedom for the people of Cuba. It was organized by the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance.

FIU student Olga Rodriguez said she had to come out and do something and could not sit idle as protesters in Cuba demonstrated in a way never seen before.

“The fact that they are in the streets risking their lives or imprisonment for liberty,” Rodriguez said. “It’s just scary. It’s a very scary thought. But it just shows that they are tired. We need this war of oppression and inhumanity to end.”

The assembly in the park was a show of solidarity with what has been happening since Sunday. Some are calling on the U.S. government to intervene.

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Some 30 years have passed since similar protests on the island. South Florida has the largest U.S. population of Cuban Americans.