Cuban-Canadians gathered at Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square in condemnation of the communist Cuban dictatorship, and to demand freedom for the country which has been wracked by protests in recent days.
Protestors stressed that unrest in Cuba is not about the embargo or COVID-19.
"Cuban people need freedom. We don't want more dictatorship in our country, because we live in misery. The government is using us," said Dario Fresco, who has lived in Canada for 20 years.
"Right now there are more than 500 political prisoners in Cuba. Why? Just because they don't have the right to express themselves in the street, so we are here for them."
Mario Travieso Florez, who has lived in Canada since he was 5 years old, said "I've lived a very comfortable life, a privileged life. I have freedom of speech, I have freedom of assembly. We can organize protests peacefully without being harassed, and I want Canadians to understand and to appreciate that."
The event got off to a heated start when who supported Cuba's communist dictatorship approached the group. Police escorted the man away as the protestors chanted "No more dictatorship!"
The group then marched towards the US consulate where a pro-communism event organized in part by the Communist Party of Canada was occurring. Police prevented the two opposing protests from clashing.
At the pro-communism event, flags promoting socialism and signs calling to "defend Cuba's right to be" could be seen, and there were calls to "end the blockade now."
"They're saying that the people of Cuba are demanding the embargo to end, and that is not the truth. The people of Cuba want for the regime to be over," said Aime Despaigne. "They have stolen our dignity for way too long."
"These people are Canadians. They don't know nothing about Cuba, they just know about the beaches," Dario Fresco said of the pro-communism group. "They don't know the reality of Cuba."
Protestors on the pro-Cuban freedom side highlighted the irony of people gathering in support of communism when the only reason they can is because in Canada, they are free to do so. "You can't be a communist here! You haven't seen it. You haven't lived through it," one protestor said.
"We know you guys don't work!" someone called out.
"We do not get any money from nobody!" another said, saying they were there for the "Cuban people who have nothing."
As both events wrapped up and protestors began to disperse, one of protestors gave a shoutout to Toronto police, after which the crowd applauded the officers. "We would like to have police like you in Cuba, but unfortunately what we have is those motherfu—."