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Miami Relatives Board Plane for Washington

Aired April 22, 2000 - 2:00 p.m. ET


GENE RANDALL, CNN ANCHOR: More pictures tell the story: a Cuban father and his son just hours ago.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Elian Gonzalez and his father, Juan Migel, will reportedly spend the next few days at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C.

RANDALL: And back in Little Havana, in Miami, a volatile situation on the streets.

WOODRUFF: We welcome CNN International viewers to our continuing coverage of this breaking story.

I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.

RANDALL: And I'm Gene Randall.

Elian Gonzalez and his father Juan Miguel are together again at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington. The reunion came after immigration agents launched a pre-dawn raid to forcibly remove the 6-year-old Cuban boy from the Miami home of his great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez. The action, ordered by Attorney General Janet Reno, came nearly five months after the boy was rescued from the waters off Florida, where his mother drowned.

The first still photos of Juan Miguel's reunion with his son have been released. The father's attorney, Gregory Craig, says the event took place at an airport terminal at Andrews Air Force Base. He described the scene as one of relief and big smiles. He said Elian appeared totally at ease, that he was affectionate, that he hugged and played with his 6-month-old half-brother. Craig said there was also a touching moment as the INS agents who brought the boy to Andrews said goodbye.

Some of the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez boarded a plane for Washington about a half hour ago. Great-uncle Lazaro and cousin Marisleysis Gonzalez are among those traveling today. So far we are told no arrangements have been made to meet with Elian, Juan Miguel Gonzalez or members of the administration -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Elian Gonzalez and his father plan to spend the next few days at Andrews Air Force Base. That is where we find CNN's Patty Davis. PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Judy, a reunion taking place here at this hour between 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez and his father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

Now as you can see from these aerial pictures taken earlier this morning, the U.S. government plane carrying Elian arriving here about five hours ago. Elian was met by his Cuban father, who's been here in the United States for over two weeks, waiting for his son to be returned to him from custody of his Miami relatives.

Now U.S. marshals took these pictures of the reunion between father and son released a short time ago. Both obviously very happy to see one another after nearly five months apart. Juan Miguel Gonzalez's new wife and their baby also greeting Elian.

Greg Craig, the lawyer for Elian's father, did not witness the first moment of the father and son reunion but saw them soon afterward. No sign, he said in a telephone interview with CNN, that Elian had suffered any trauma from the events of this morning.


GREGORY CRAIG, ATTORNEY FOR JUAN MIGUEL GONZALEZ: I saw absolutely no evidence of that kind of trauma or that kind of fear or that kind of uncertainty or, you know, being scared of where he was or who he was with. He was totally at ease. He was laughing with his little brother, Janni (ph), he was hugging his father. I saw no evidence that this person had gone through a traumatic experience.

Now I don't doubt that for those of us watching this it looked shocking and scary. I have a feeling that it happened very, very quickly in the reality of the moment. But I would -- I would hope and I would think that the early evidence is that Elian's in good shape. He's a strong boy, and that connection between his father and him is so powerful and so strong, the magnitude of what has been done to him over the last five months comes through even more powerfully, that when you see the two of them together you realize that by keeping them apart something terrible was done.


DAVIS: About a dozen protesters here outside of Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland protesting the Clinton administration's seizure of Elian this morning. But it is very ordinarily, no police needed here to keep these protesters out in the streets. You can see behind me normal traffic here around Andrews Air Force Base, considerably less commotion here at Andrews Air Force Base than there is in Miami.

Now we're being kept far away from where that reunion is taking place inside Andrews Air Force Base. It's heavily guarded. This is where the president's airplane is kept, Air Force One, Air Force Two, the vice president's plane -- very secure, heavily patrolled by the Air Force, although this is now a Department of Justice operation, No onlookers, no press, no protesters allowed inside -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Patty Davis reporting from just outside Andrews Air Force Base -- Gene.

RANDALL: Miami's Little Havana is reacting with anger to what happened this morning.

Mark Potter has been there for many hours today, and he reports on the rising tensions -- Mark.

MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Gene, the tensions continue here. We just had an incident a couple moments ago where the police that you can see behind me moved forward once again, throwing tear gas, clearing the streets of protesters. This is Flagler Street near 27th Avenue, an intersection -- well, there's some more tear gas right now. Police trying to clear this area out. And we're trying to stay clear of it. The trick is to stay upwind.

The police are very serious about keeping this area clear of protesters, and this has been sort of a see-saw battle. Sometimes the protesters move in as the police move out, and then the police come back in with force, throwing the tear gas that you're seeing right now and retaking the area. They've done than a number of times, and once again they are -- they are confronting the protesters who are angrily responding here to the actions of the federal government in the Elian Gonzalez case. This is a very passionate issue and it has spilled out into the streets. It continues today.

We have seen a number of fires that been set of trash dumpsters, tires, things like that. There have been a number of arrests -- I spoke with one of our cameraman, Fred Doller (ph) who said that he personally had witnessed 15 arrests -- Here's one right now. You're seeing it on camera, two more people being arrested by the Miami Police Department. I would suspect that dozens of people have been arrested. I don't have an official number, but we've seen a lot of people arrested in the streets, sometimes in connection with incidents where they didn't move fast enough. There was a -- there was some rock throwing incidents. Somebody broke a window at a gas station, that man arrested in connection with that.

So this situation is not -- it's more under control than it was earlier, as the police have really come in in force. But it's not fully under control, as situations continue to pop up -- Gene.

RANDALL: Mark, do you have any handle on the numbers of peoples involved -- number of people, rather, involved? Are we talking about hundreds or thousands on the streets?

POTTER: At this location at any given time, I would say that it's hundreds. And right now it's considerably less than that. This is much quieter than it was earlier today. If there are -- if you were to count in the thousands, it would be all the small little skirmishes that have blown up in this general area. But I would not that it's thousands at any one given location.

The fire department has been in here a number of times to try to put the dumpster fires, the tire fires. In fact, we saw one incident where a fire crew tried to come in here at one of the times when the police had backed off, and the crowd turned on that fire vehicle, jumped on top of the vehicle, and the vehicle had to sort of speed out in reverse to get away from the crowd.

You're looking at the officers who had moved forward. They have now come back to the intersection. And this is really ground zero. This is Miami's Little Havana. This is the hub of all the activity. There have been a number of small skirmishes that have blown up, incidents, I would say, that have blown up, essentially nonviolent. We have had, as I said, some rock throwing, some pushing and shoving, some skirmishes at the time of arrest, but this has been, as far as we can see, a largely nonviolent event. The worst thing that we have had to put up with, of course, is all the tear gas. That's been pretty brutal and that has been used frequently this morning on the crowds -- Gene.

RANDALL: Mark Potter in Miami.

We will stay in that Florida city and go to CNN's Susan Candiotti. She is outside the home where Elian Gonzalez spent five months -- Susan.


The crowds here have thinned considerably over the past few hours, and the mood here has been one that remains very angry. As Mark indicated, just as those protesters are saying over where he is, people hear are also -- also sense a bit of betrayal on the part of the government. They say that the last thing they wanted was for this boy to be forcibly removed from this home, but that's exactly what happened. And they have been expressing their dismay with the government by waving flags, by some tying up the American flag with -- in knots with black garbage bags and the like.

And here you see a Miami police lieutenant who was pushed and shoved. He says that someone tried to pull the begun out of his holster, as well. However, he was not injured. And as far as we know, there have been no injuries here.

The police officials say they will continue to allow crowds to stay here because in their opinion they're are not causing any trouble right now, they're simply venting their frustrations.

Now sometime earlier, within the last hour or so, the Miami relatives of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez arrived at Miami International Airport after leaving the house here, and their intention, according to family spokesperson, is to fly to Washington, D.C., in an attempt to try to get an audience to try to see Elian Gonzalez, to make sure in their minds that he is all right. We don't know if they'll be successful. However, the attorney for Juan Miguel Gonzalez has said that he doesn't think this family is in a position to make demands, and that in his opinion father and son should have some time together before he will entertain that request.

Now in the meantime, the crowd here has also been reacting to the photographs that we have seen, one taken by Juan Miguel Gonzalez, one by a member of the U.S. marshal service and provided to us by Gregory Craig's office, who represents Juan Miguel Gonzalez, photographs of the child smiling with his half-brother and smiling with his father and stepmother.

I'd like to talk to one of the people here who I was discussing with this earlier.

What did you make of the smiles of the face of that little boy, especially after what he had gone through here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think Elian's smile is genuine because I know that he was taught well by his mother and by the Gonzalez family. He has no malice in his heart. So his smile is genuine. However, the fright that he showed this morning was also genuine.

CANDIOTTI: Do you think that he will be able to recover from this? It certainly seems from those photographs he appears to be very happy now that he is with his father again, who he has spoken with on the telephone, of course.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you have to understand that the stage that we are seeing was prepared by the ultimate spinmaster, Fidel Castro.

CANDIOTTI: Are you saying that the child's joy is not genuine?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His face is genuine. His joy is genuine. Is the trauma there? Absolutely.

CANDIOTTI: Thank you very much for your opinion.

And so the crowds here remain outside the house where Elian Gonzalez spent about, gosh, close to five months now. And now the relatives are heading up to Washington, D.C., in an attempt to see him.

Gene, back to you.

RANDALL: Susan, we will talk to you later. Thanks very much -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: An Associated Press still photographer who slipped into the Gonzalez home in Little Havana after Immigration and Naturalization Service agents broke down the door, the photographer captured key moments of the action. This is the closet where Elian was found in the arms of one of the fishermen who rescued him last Thanksgiving Day.

In this picture, one of the armed INS agents hold his weapon as the boy is brought out of the closet.

In this photo, Elian's -- this is a scene of the female INS agent carrying Elian, wrapped in blanket, out of the house and to the waiting van.

Now we want share with you the Justice Department rundown of today's raid to remove Elian and tell you how it all unfolded.

Efforts to mediate the custody battle went into the earlier morning hours of Saturday. It was about 4:30 a.m. Eastern, about half an hour before the raid, when U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno decided to act. She did inform President Clinton of her decision.

And shortly after 5:00 a.m. Eastern, 130-some federal agents arrived at the Miami home of Lazaro Gonzalez the great-uncle of Elian. They broke down the door when their knocks went unanswered. Eight agents entered the home with their guns drawn. Elian was found in a closet in the arms, as we said, of one of the fishermen who had rescued him last November.

A female INS agent, and this is according to what Attorney General Janet Reno said a little later -- this is her description of what happened -- the female agent says to Elian in Spanish words to the this effect, I know that you are scared. This must be frightening, but this will be over very soon and you will feel much better. I'm going to take you to Poppy. "Poppy" is what young Elian calls his father.

Elian is then carried in a waiting minivan for his trip to the airport. The whole matter was over in just a matter of three minutes -- Gene.

RANDALL: And we will have more in just a moment.

Stay with us.



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