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Jane Castor Urges Calm As Tampa Protests Lead To Arrests

Demonstrators walk onto the southbound Palmetto Expressway to join a large group on the northbound lanes, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, in Miami. Demonstrators are protesting in solidarity with the thousands of Cubans who waged a rare weekend of protests around their island nation against the communist regime. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)
Marta Lavandier/AP
/
AP
Demonstrators walk onto the southbound Palmetto Expressway to join a large group on the northbound lanes, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, in Miami. Demonstrators are protesting in solidarity with the thousands of Cubans who waged a rare weekend of protests around their island nation against the communist regime. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said the city stands behind the people of Cuba as local demonstrators gathered for the third straight day in support of Cubans protesting the communist dictatorship there.

In a video released Tuesday, Castor said the city supports local residents who are speaking out for democracy in Cuba, but urged residents to remain calm.

"The city of Tampa stands in solidarity with the people of Cuba and salutes their courage in exercising their fundamental right to free speech," Castor said. "Cubans helped build the city of Tampa and all of us care deeply about the future of Cuba.

"We stand with our local residents supporting democracy in Cuba and urge everyone to remain peaceful and stay safe."

The video was released hours before three people were arrested Tuesday as large crowds gathered at Al Lopez Park and at the intersection of Dale Mabry Highway at Columbus Drive.

According to police, protesters ignored orders to disperse, and at one point marched onto the exit ramp on northbound I-275 at Dale Mabry.

Similar protests are taking place in Miami, where TV news footage showed demonstrators blocking a major expressway in both directions yesterday [Tuesday].

Some 30 years have passed since similar protests on the island. South Florida has the largest U.S. population of Cuban Americans.

Cuba is facing a surge of coronavirus cases and is struggling with its worst economic crisis in decades.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard has been monitoring any attempt at what it called “unsafe and illegal” boat crossings toward Cuba by those sympathetic to the island protesters.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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Carl Lisciandrello is digital news editor of WUSF Public Media.