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Washington, New York See Protests in Wake of Elian Gonzalez Action

Aired April 22, 2000 - 4:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: And continuing our Elian Gonzalez coverage, President Clinton is praising Attorney General Janet Reno for the way that today's predawn raid in Miami was carried out, and we get more on this from CNN's Kelly Wallace, who is at the White House -- Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brian, this case has really been politically charged right from the beginning, when Elian was found floating in an inner tube off the Florida coast in November. And it appears the case is still very much politically charged, because already Republican members of Congress are coming out criticizing the administration and Attorney General Janet Reno about this morning's raid.

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said, quote, "The use of this type of force clearly was not justified. Negotiations were ongoing." He continued, "My first thought was that this could only happen in Castro's Cuba."

Now, White House press secretary Joe Lockhart told reporters that the administration is disappointed with the GOP and accuses the Republicans of making this a political issue. Lockhart said that from the beginning, President Clinton did whatever he could to avoid politicizing this case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE LOCKHART, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This isn't about politics, and politics should be kept out of this. This is about who speaks for a young boy, and whether a young boy should be with his father. I think what's happened today is, a young boy has been reunited with his father, and I think the time, as the president said, should be to give them space to -- so that they can be a family again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Now, President Clinton came out this morning and fully backed Attorney General Reno's decision to take this action and reunite the boy with his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez. Also, senior administration officials tell us that there has been no contact between the boy's Miami relatives, who just arrived in Washington a short time ago, and the White House about any possible meeting between the relatives and the president, or the relatives and any White House officials.

When we asked Joe Lockhart if the president would meet with them or planned to meet with them, Joe said really no. He -- the president believes that this is a legal matter and that any developments and any meetings should take place through the Justice Department and the INS -- Brian.

NELSON: Kelly, as you know, we've been following the demonstrations in Miami all day long. But I understand there have been some demonstrations as well outside the White House. Can you tell us about them?

WALLACE: Absolutely. It's been relatively quiet, but there have been a group of protesters, I would say about 20 or so, marching just right outside the White House gates across from Lafayette Park, right outside the White House. They are holding posters. Some of those posters say, "Keep Elian free, don't make Elian state property," and "Dictatorship is not a lifestyle."

But again, it's been very quiet. They've just been walking holding up those signs, apparently trying to get that message to the people inside the White House -- Brian.

NELSON: Kelly Wallace, thanks -- Daryn.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Now to New York City, where protesters today marched outside the Cuban Mission to the United Nations, demonstrating their anger about today's seizure of Elian Gonzalez by INS agents. Police say at least one person was arrested.

Meanwhile, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani criticized the Miami raid. These are his words now, quote, "There is something wrong with men dressed like storm troopers breaking into the house." The mayor went on to say, "I can't believe something like this could happen in America. Elian's mom tried to flee oppression, and now our troops are helping to get the kid back to Castro." Those are the words of New York Mayor Giuliani.

NELSON: After all he's been through, many wonder what lies ahead for Elian Gonzalez psychologically speaking. And when we come back, we will ask one expert.

And a bit later, we'll go back to Miami for an update on the situation down there.

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