By Peter D'Oench

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in downtown Miami Sunday hoping their cries for freedom will reach the Cuban people, who are planning on taking to the streets of the island nation on Monday to launch protests against the government.

The demonstrators chanted slogans such as “down with the dictatorship” or “Freedom, freedom,” in rejection of the Cuban regime that has ruled the island for 62 years.

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Earlier in the day, dozens of vehicles gathered at Tamiami Park to participate in a caravan to downtown Miami’s Freedom Tower.

At around 2:30 p.m. CBS4 cameras showed about 100 demonstrators gathered in downtown Miami, chanting for a free Cuba, while holding signs and flags.

Well-known Cuban activist Rosa María Payá tweeted:

“We are going to #LaHabana to civically fight with our people this #15NCuba until freedom. #SOSCuba”

An emotional demonstrator, Barbara Diaz, was near tears when she told CBS4, “What brought me here was the love for freedom, the love for my country and the injustices committed in the last 62 years.”

“I love the USA. This is my second home, but for me, Cuba is my birthplace. The people who are there deserve to be doing better. They deserve freedom and justice and freedom of expression. I have family there and many do not have anything to eat. They have no medicine and no aspirin.”

Click here to see photos from Sunday’s demonstrations

Her husband Ismael Diaz said, “Many Cuban-Americans left the country in the 1960s to escape the revolution. We came here to this country but one day we had hoped we could go back to a free Cuba. We are here to show support for the folks who are fighting hard in Cuba. They are our brothers and sisters who are still spilling their blood to get their freedom back. To prompt change, it will take work internally in the Cuban government.”

Watch: Large rally held in downtown Miami


 

The caravan was organized by the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance.

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Organizer Orlando Gutierrez spoke with CBS4’s Peter D’Oench on Sunday morning.

Here is what he had to say about today’s activities:

“We’re gonna assemble here and have a rally. There are members of parliament from different European countries coming to address the people gathered here, and then we’re going to go down 8 Street all the way east, then to Biscayne Boulevard.”

“And we’re going to station at the Freedom Tower at noon.”

“All eyes on Cuba, the entire world must be looking at that regime. We’re trying to prevent a bloodbath in Cuba. Arrests have already begun. There’s numerous people being arrested being kidnapped by the regime. We want to send a very clear message to those thugs in power in Havana that the world is watching what they do, and that they will be consequences for their violations of human rights.”

“We’ve seen very clear commitments by the United States by the European Union to add additional sanctions to the regime. The regime has very few financial sources left mostly European banks. So sanctions there will be very effective. The important thing is to support the Cuban people. We’ve seen within the past few hours that the Catholic Church has become very vocal calling for the regime not to repress.”

The 56-year-old Gutierrez is an author and a community leader who came to this country from Cuba at the age of 7. He says he has been demonstrating since the age of 15 for better conditions and more human rights in Cuba.

Rallies are reportedly planned on the island again this weekend, with the main one taking place on Monday.

Over the summer, protests in Cuba made history with videos of Cubans flooding the streets chanting ‘libertad’ or freedom.

The cries for freedom were answered by arrests on the island nation.

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Sunday’s demonstrations are set to end at Versailles Restaurant on Calle 8 in the afternoon.

Peter D'Oench