Prayers Chants of Elian in Miami
Prayers Chants of Elian in Miami
Apr. 24, 2000
MIAMI (AP) _ Chanting demonstrators mingled with camcorder-carrying spectators to glimpse the Little Havana home where Elian Gonzalez once played, many still stunned that the reason behind months of protest was gone.
``He had love here,'' said Daly Gallinal, 56, a housewife from nearby Hialeah who promised she would keep protesting until Elian is granted a political asylum hearing. ``Where is he now? Why don't they show Elian?''
By Sunday evening, hundreds had come to sing and pray, leaving red roses, carnations and other flowers woven in a chain-link fence surrounding the home. The crowd dwindled to about 70 as night fell.
Sporadic demonstrations continued early today, with protesters in cars honking horns and waving Cuban flags as they cruised city streets. Others stood on street corners. Police made several arrests when demonstrators failed to disperse.
Battalion Chief Skip Kruse of the Miami-Dade fire department said a fire that broke out behind a Miami supermarket near where protesters had gathered was apparently intentionally set. There were no injuries.
An emotional Mass was celebrated for Elian at Our Lady of Charity Catholic Church. More than 400 packed the small sanctuary while others stood outside.
The congregation cheered and wept as Father Francisco Santana spoke. Some waved Cuban flags and at one point, they sang the Cuban national anthem.
Caridad Gonzalez, Elian's great-aunt, was among a group of the boy's relatives seated on the front row. When Santana beckoned her to the front of the church, the congregation stood and cheered.
``More than ever, I feel proud to be Cuban,'' Santana said. ``We are a noble community, we are a decent community.''
Robert Vento, 45, stood outside the church during the service. Vento said his father died in 1959, while fighting against Cuban President Fidel Castro. Vento now believes Elian's saga marks the end of the Castro's power.
``He is going to bring salvation to the Cubans from communism,'' Vento said. ``He is a chosen one. He will be the beginning and the end for Castro.''
Vento also hopes the boy's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, will decide to stay in the United States.
``If he defects,'' he said, ``Castro will be unmasked.''
After watching television news reports that Elian had been ``snatched away,'' Garvin Harris used a plane ticket he won in a raffle to board a flight from his home in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
``I saw that they were pointing guns and hitting people down,'' the 29-year-old restaurant owner said Sunday, standing at the street where Elian had lived for five months. ``It's just an overwhelming experience to see what's really happening.''
``Elian are you OK?'' was scribbled in white on the back window of a car allowed to pass through the street when police briefly lifted barricades.
The streets of Little Havana were mostly calm Sunday, with shards of glass, overturned benches and a few boarded-up storefront windows marking the previous day's violence.
In the hours after 6-year-old Elian was snatched away in a pre-dawn raid by federal agents, the neighborhood rose up in spontaneous protests. Demonstrators on Saturday started hundreds of small fires, and riot police cracked down hard. More than 350 were arrested.
On Sunday, traces of the anger remained. Two young women carrying signs supporting Attorney General Janet Reno's order clashed with protesters. ``Not here! Not here!'' the protesters yelled, pulling one woman's hair as she was escorted away by security guards.
But with Elian gone, the tension of the past weeks was missing, too.
Neighborhood residents circulated copies of the photograph of an armed federal agent with his hand extended to grab a crying Elian.
Some versions replaced the faces of federal agents with those of Reno, who gave the go-ahead for the raid, and Castro. A poster-sized reproduction attached to the family's front door included this label: ``Federal Child Abuse.''