MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Chanting "we are not afraid," thousands of Cubans took to the streets Sunday to demand the end of the communist dictatorship.
The COVID crisis has only exacerbated the unrest on the island nation, which is why protesters also called for food and vaccines.
Local leaders took to social media in support of the demonstrations.
"We stand united with the Cuban people on the island and across our community at this historic moment in the struggle for freedom, dignity, and basic human rights," wrote Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava on Twitter. "May their courageous actions bring about real change and move us closer to the dream of a free Cuba."
"We've never seen anything like this before," Rep. María Elvira Salazar wrote on Twitter. "The Cuban people are determined to be free."
Her fellow Republican, Marco Rubio, also took to Twitter, writing "Frustration with the dictatorships incompetence, greed and repression is mounting rapidly."
Rubio then shared video on Twitter of "Communist repression squads" getting into a truck, presumably heading toward the demonstrations to break them up.
In a statement, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart called for U.S. to rise up in support of the island nation.
"Now more than ever, the United States and the international community must support the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom. The humanitarian crisis Cuba faces right now is yet another symptom of the incompetence and absolute cruelty of the Cuban tyranny," he said. "We know what freedom means for the Cuban people, and now, while the regime uses savage violence against the people peacefully demonstrating in the streets, the world has the obligation to stand with the brave Cuban people."
As a result of the unrest, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and members of the city commission gathered Sunday evening for a press conference to discuss the latest developments out of Cuba.
The 5 p.m. presser was live streamed on all of the city's social media channels.
At the same time the Miami City Commission held its presser, the Democracy Movement gathered for a demonstration outside of Versailles.
"The Movement also invites the exile community to be present and show their support to the Cuban people that at this time are demanding their civil rights and are expressing their discontent with the oppressive Castro Diaz Canel regime," the group said in a statement.
It was an emotional day for Andrew Suarez, who fled the communist country just years ago.
"It is magical. I am actually more emotional by the fact that I am seeing this happen in Cuba. That is something very difficult. We can do this we live in freedom. We live in a system that allows us to express ourselves," he said at the Versailles gathering.
WEB EXTRA: Hundreds Gather Outside Miami's Versailles Restaurant In Support Of Cuba
Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo announced the department shut down SW 8 Street for east- and westbound traffic between SW 32nd Avenue and SW 37 Avenue as a result of the demonstration.
Stay with CBSMiami.com for updates on this developing story.
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