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Sunday Morning News

Elian Gonzalez Custody Case: Little Havana Enjoys Peaceful Easter Just One Day After Federal Agents Seize Elian

Aired April 23, 2000 - 9:01 a.m. ET

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

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: While the situation today is quiet, the raid of April 22 will be remembered in Little Havana for a very long time.

CNN's Brian Cabell recalls those frightening, chaotic moments in the predawn darkness.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 5:15 A.M., shortly after a police barricade blocking the street was taken down, three vans raced in and stopped sharply outside the Gonzalez house.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... behind the barricades.

CABELL: It took a few moments for demonstrators who had been standing vigil to realize what was happening. Agents poured out of the vehicles. Some pushed over the chain-link fence outside the Gonzalez home, and knocked on the door before breaking it down with a battering ram.

MARISLEYSIS GONZALEZ, ELIAN'S COUSIN: They told me, "Give me the boy or I'm going to shoot, I'm going to shoot. Give me the boy, give me the boy, give me the... " And they said bad words, "Give me the boy, give me the boy." And I said, "Please, don't let the boy see this. Please, I will give you the boy. Don't let him see this, he's seen enough, seen his mother's death. We don't want this. We're not going to do anything. We're not armed."

CABELL: Donato Dalrymple, one of the fishermen who had rescued Elian from the Straits of Florida in November, fled with the boy to a bedroom closet when the agents burst in.

DONATO DALRYMPLE, ELIAN'S RESCUER: And I hold his head next to my shoulder to try to protect him, and they battered the door down, and they came in with assault weapons. I don't know what kind they were, but it's as if they were taking a terrorists' hostage. And they grabbed the boy, and I said, "Please don't hurt the child, don't hurt the child."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get ready -- they got the boy, they got the boy. CABELL: Three minutes after entering the house, agents raced out with Elian wrapped in a blanket, carried by a female officer. The government says she told him in Spanish, "Don't be scared, you'll see your papa soon."

The van carrying the boy backed quickly away from the house. Two other vans tried doing the same but were pelted with debris from a crowd of about 50 people, which grew quickly as word of the raid spread.

Agents fired pepper spray several times to back protesters away from the vans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are now -- excuse me. We are now feeling the effects of the spray ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... with no provocation. We were assaulted with no provocation. You saw, you had your cameras. We did nothing. We were (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with gas.

CABELL: A few people collapsed at the scene, but no one was seriously injured.

Less than 15 minutes after Elian and federal agents had left the neighborhood, some Cuban American protesters turned their anger toward reporters, cameramen, and sound technicians.

Few Miami police patrolled the block where the raid occurred, but they did set up a perimeter a few blocks away to contain any possible violence.

Elian, meantime, was driven to a helicopter pad less than 10 miles away and flown from there to Homestead Air Reserve Base. Within an hour of his being seized, the 6-year-old boy was on board a plane headed for Andrews Air Force Base, where his father, Juan Miguel, would be waiting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABELL: And fortunately, in yesterday's raid, no one was seriously hurt. A number of us, as you heard, both demonstrators and media alike, were hit with hits of pepper spray at about 5:15, 5:20. Both I and my cameraman were both hit, and I actually had to go off the air for a couple of minutes to try to catch my breath. But there was no problem after that.

Of course, throughout the later morning and afternoon hours, there were pepper spray attacks and tear gas attacks by police trying to disperse crowds. About 275 people arrested, streets were shut down, garbage cans set on fire, tires set on fire. But most of the crowds dispersed by evening hours. And throughout most of last night, there were very few problems.

Today, as you can see, a gorgeous Easter Sunday. We're in front of a church that just held the Easter mass about an hour and a half ago. No problems so far, no problems indicated. There is a hope, fingers are being crossed, that there will be no problems here in Miami today.

The next planned protest is for Tuesday, a massive work stoppage, they are calling it. There are about 800,000 Cuban Americans in south Florida. We just talked to a former mayor of Miami. He said he expects at least 200,000 to 300,000 people not to go to work on Tuesday here in Miami.

I'm Brian Cabell, CNN, live in Miami.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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