HIALEAH, FLA. (WSVN) - Supporters of the recent protests in Cuba have walked onto a part of the Palmetto Expressway in Hialeah for the second consecutive day, temporarily stopping traffic from flowing.
Traffic cameras on the southbound lanes of the expressway showed a large group of demonstrators on the highway at around 10:45 p.m., Wednesday. All southbound lanes were shut down, but they reopened about a half hour later.
Cameras captured demonstrators standing in the rain while holding signs and chanting. The protesters walked up the West 49th Street on-ramp, lined up across the expressway and began to set off fireworks on the highway.
Some drivers traveling on the northbound lanes, which remained open during the incident, could be heard sounding their horns in support.
Also, some drivers who were forced to stop due to the protesters walking onto the highway joined in on the demonstration.
On Tuesday, demonstrators blocked the northbound and southbound lanes of the expressway in Southwest Miami-Dade for 10 hours.
Those who walked onto the expressway began to walk down the West 49th Street on-ramp and were off the expressway at around 11:15 p.m.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a new anti-riot law that makes it a felony to block some roadways and gives immunity to people who drive through protesters blocking a road.
The governor’s own spokesperson even reportedly acknowledged protesters were breaking the law, according to the Miami Herald.
“Every citizen is entitled to not only have a valid law, but that it be applied equally,” said 7News’ legal expert Howard Finkelstein.
The Florida Highway Patrol has not answered 7News’ repeated questions as to why they allowed the Tuesday protest to continue for so many hours. Neither did Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez or his department’s Public Information Officer.
“Here we saw people marching, we saw people blocking the interstates, the roadways, we saw cars obstructed, but we did not see a very, very aggressive police response, and the only difference in those people were the race of the people,” said Rawsi Williams with the Miami-Dade NAACP Executive Committee.
In the summer of 2020, Black Lives Matter demonstrators created similar scenes which prompted Florida’s Combatting Public Disorder Act.
“We watched it play out, going against what House Bill One says where you cannot obstruct public roadways, you cannot obstruct public highways,” said Miami-Dade NAACP President Daniella Pierre.
The Miami-Dade NAACP is now calling for the repeal of the law. Others are asking for even enforcement.
Retha Boone-Fye with the Miami-Dade Black Affairs Advisory Board released a statement reading, “We believe that local residents of all backgrounds have the right to peacefully protest in making in their voices heard. We also expect that law enforcement’s response will be equally applied to any protesters or protests in the future.”
Finkelstein believes police could be creating a legal precedent with inaction.
“In the future, if protesters of a different race or a different ethnicity are treated differently, you will hear arguments that this is a violation of equal protection and it’s selective enforcement,” said Finkelstein.
At a roundtable discussion on Tuesday, DeSantis said the protests that took place this week were fundamentally different than the protests that took place last summer in the wake of George Floyd’s killing.
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