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The BBC's Chiaka Nwosu
"Not everyone in Miami supports the Cuban Americans"
 real 28k

Saturday, 29 April, 2000, 21:18 GMT 22:18 UK
Elian protests split Miami
Mothers against Repression demonstrate in Miami
Thousands marched through Little Havana
Tens of thousands of Cuban exiles and non-Hispanic residents have been taking part in rival Miami street demonstrations following last week's seizure of the six-year-old shipwreck survivor, Elian Gonzalez.

Tension between the communities has arisen since the boy was returned to his father, with many non-Hispanics saying Elian's Miami relatives were wrong not to hand him over sooner.

The boy's great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez, who looked after Elian for nearly five months after his rescue from the Atlantic Ocean, has appealed to supporters for a peaceful demonstration.

Tensions persist between police and protestors after the city's police chief was effectively forced out of office by Miami's Cuban-born mayor Joe Carollo.

We cannot allow this tragedy to destroy our community

Lazaro Gonzales
The chief, Bill O'Brian, retired after complaints that he knew about the government raid to seize Elian and failed to inform the mayor.

"Elian is gone for now and my heart is broken," said Lazaro Gonzalez, in a statement read by a family spokesman.

"But South Florida must stay united. We cannot allow this tragedy to destroy our community.

Elian guards
Arms guards watch outside Elian's Maryland residence
"We must continue to fight for Elian's rights to live in freedom in America."

The child at the centre of the demonstration is living with his father, stepmother and half-brother in Maryland.

He must remain in the United States until a federal appeals court rules on the Miami relatives' bid for him to have an asylum hearing.

Rival protest

Meanwhile, several thousand non-Cubans have staged a noisy protest in South Miami in support of the attorney general, Janet Reno, who ordered the raid on Lazaro Gonzalez' house.

The non-Hispanic Americans, waving a sea of stars and stripes along the main US highway south, sent a message that Miami does not only have a Cuban exile voice.

You have to follow the laws of the land

Pro-Reno protestor Tom Ferro
Vietnam veteran Tom Ferro expressed a commonly held view that all Americans, including those originally from Cuba, must respect the law.

He said: "When the top cop in the nation says this is what you got to do or this is what's going to happen.

"You know, you have to obey the law, you have to follow the laws of the land; that's what keeps us free. That's why we are free."

Other demonstrators carried slogans saying: "Reno for president," and: "How can you understand the laws if you don't speak English."

This was the first time there has been such a large demonstration against the prevailing impression that Miami was hostile to Janet Reno and Bill Clinton.

While many people said they were tired of Cuban domination of Miami, they said this was not an anti-Cuban protest and some called for the city to calm down and start healing its wounds.

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28 Apr 00 | Americas
In pictures: Elian and dad
28 Apr 00 | Americas
Police chief quits over Elian row
27 Apr 00 | Americas
Legal blow for Elian's relatives
27 Apr 00 | Americas
What would await Elian in Cuba?
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