Cuban New Yorkers are showing solidarity for those struggling to free their homeland from six decades of tyranny.
As protests calling for an end to dictatorship in Cuba turn increasingly more violent and deadly, those in New York City with ties to the island are attempting to take a stand in support of their fellow Cubans.
On Wednesday afternoon, a band of demonstrators waved flags and chanted in Time Square, below the blazing lights of the tourist hub. Drawing the attention of pedestrians and passing traffic, the group attempted to garner as much awareness for the plight in Cuba. With a strong show of support, marchers looked to take their cause to the United Nations itself.
Bertha Leal, who grew up in Cuba, organized the march over social media after watching the news of protests in her country. She said she felt both enraged and helpless.
“They are dragging teenagers and children out of their homes,” Leal told amNewYork Metro. “They have been under dictatorship for 60 plus years, it is time they have some freedom.”
Having been born on the island, Leal explained that she is extremely invested in the country’s wellbeing. Feeling dejected after watching the violence from afar, she explained that she needed to help in the only way she knew how.
“I felt helpless, completely helpless. This is the best I can do is come out here and make some noise,” Leal said.
With flags fluttering from their backs and signs thrusting into the air, the protesters briefly blocked traffic outside of the United Nations as they called for the freedom of the Cuban people and the end of President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s reign. Diaz-Canel was chosen to lead Cuba by Raul Castro, brother of the late Cuban dictator Fidel.
Protesters shared that over a hundred people have been arrested in Cuba, many of whom have been thrown into the back of vans.
While the Cuban government has not released any information on the protesters arrested or injured, activists in New York City are calling for the United States to provide aid.
Diaz-Canel announced on Sunday that their lack in tourism, exports, and more is due to the United States’ restrictive trade sanctions, causing the country to fall into a devastating economic crisis. Many of these sanctions were put in place during the Trump administration.
Demonstrators feel that Cuba has always lacked access to food and medicine with many of its citizens living in poverty, and since the COVID-19 pandemic the economic crisis has worsened under Diaz-Canel regime.