MIAMI (CBSMiami) — People protesting about conditions in Cuba are being warned not to block streets, roadways, and highways.
They could be given a $15 traffic citation if they obstruct traffic and under the state’s new anti-riot law, they even could be charged with a 3rd-degree felony and arrested if the protests turn violent or if there is disorderly conduct resulting in injuries or property damage.READ MORE: Fort Lauderdale Shaken Baby Case From 1984 Leads To Murder Charge.
The warning comes after dozens of protestors stormed the Palmetto Expressway around 1 pm on Tuesday and traffic was shut down for more than eight hours at Coral Way, leading to a massive traffic jam.
The Florida Highway Patrol did not disperse the crowd until around 9:15 p.m. and that took about 25 minutes. Everyone left peacefully. One protestor who was injured was taken away by ambulance.
No protestors were cited or arrested.
At the Versailles restaurant in nearby Little Havana, some people said they understood why others took to the highway and shared some of their sentiments.
Standing in life for coffee at the restaurant, Luis Rumbaut said, “I understand that people might be upset but it’s for the right cause.”
It’s a cause that prominent Cuban exile and activist Raul Masvidal has been fighting for since leaving Cuba in 1960. Masvidal is one of the three founding members of CANF, the Cuban American National Foundation.
Masvidal told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that he does not favor blocking highways and roads.READ MORE: COVID-19 Testing Sites In South Florida
He said, “It is stupid. We shouldn’t do that. Cubans shouldn’t do that. It’s inconveniencing our neighbors, our own neighbors in Miami. I don’t think it’s fair for us to do that and take over the streets. It doesn’t do anything to add to the cause of Cuba.”
Masvidal worried that form of protest would backfire with so many people stuck in traffic for such a long period of time.
“It is backfiring,” he said. “It is backfiring and rightfully so. We don’t have the right to block streets when Cubans make up 30 percent of the population of Miami-Dade County. I don’t think we can inconvenience the other 70 percent who have nothing to do with this.”
Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo who was born in Cuba says he favors the right to protest but he is against this form of protest.
“I am not happy about what is going on on the Palmetto,” he said. “I would tell your viewers do not block the freeways near Miami because I am kind and I am all about the first amendment but there are a lot of unintended consequences blocking the freeways. People who block them are in danger. We just can’t do that type of stuff.”
As far as why it took so long to clear the Palmetto Expressway on Tuesday night, FHP says they were waiting for statewide resources to arrive so they could do it safely and peacefully.
“FHP is committed to safety” and says, “People blocking highways endanger themselves, the public and first responders.”MORE NEWS: COVID-19 Vaccination Sites In South Florida
Protestors on Tuesday night also blocked the southbound lanes of I-95 near Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach, between 5 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. before they were dispersed.