MIAMI — Anti-Castro groups gathered in a Little Havana park to protest President Barack Obama's plan to normalize relations with Cuba on Saturday, and an opposition leader from the island was expected to open the demonstration.
About 100 people had showed up just before the scheduled start time — mostly older Cuban-Americans, many carrying Cuban flags or wearing T-shirts with the flag displayed. Others waved U.S. flags, and some had both. Police officers watched in the background.
Activist Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, known as Antunez, was scheduled to join the crowd. He is one of several high-profile Cuban dissidents recently allowed to travel after the country scrapped its requirement to obtain an exit permit in 2013.
Several protesters expressed disappointment that since the announcement this week of renewed U.S.-Cuba ties, protests haven't been very big.
"The mentality is, 'Hey, we're going to be able to buy Cuban cigars and rum.' Well, it's not a happy thing for us," said Armando Merino, 68, who was born in Cuba and came to the U.S. at age 14. "I'm here because for the Cuban people, my family in Cuba, they are not able to protest."
Irene Oria, 71, was ready to protest with her husband, Giordano, 77. Of Obama's announcement on thawing relations, she said, "It's not the time to do it this way."
"With the Castros? No, I'm sorry," Oria said, adding that the conditions that fueled her decision to leave Cuba at age 24 still exist.
Miami is no stranger to protests from the Cuban community. Of the estimated 2 million Cubans living in the United States, the majority resides in South Florida and many remain closely attuned to developments on the island.
Thousands took to the streets after federal agents seized Elian Gonzalez in a prolonged international custody dispute and returned him to Cuba in 2000. The protesters set bonfires in the road and stopped traffic. Police responded in riot gear with tear gas and made more than 350 arrests.
Hundreds paraded through the streets of Little Havana when Fidel Castro ceded power to his brother Raul in 2006.
And in 2010, Cuban-born singer Gloria Estefan led tens of thousands in support of the Ladies in White, a group of Cuban mothers and wives of 75 dissidents arrested in the 2003 government crackdown there.
But protests and parades have become smaller and more sporadic.
"I think there are a lot of people sitting on the sidelines, tired," said Andy Gomez, a Cuba expert and retired University of Miami professor.
Associated Press writer Rachel La Corte contributed to this report.