KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (WATE) – Cuban Americans gathered in the market square on Thursday to support the biggest protests seen in the island nation since the end of the Soviet Union. The Cuban government’s failure to address food and medicine shortages, repeated power cuts and cruelty to Cubans protesting the shortages prompted the Knoxville group, as well as others in the United States, to to offer encouragement.

Shortages of basic necessities have been triggered by sanctions and the loss of tourism amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Knoxville supporters have said they want the United States government to step in and help the Cuban people, who are calling for a change from the Communist government that has been in power for six decades.

“We are fighting for our freedom, for our country, there is suffering there,” said Israel Suarez, a Knoxville supporter. “And they were taken, their rights, and it’s been 60 years of communism and we are climbing to the top now for the occasion. We therefore ask for the intervention of our government to intervene and stop communism.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other officials on Thursday pressured the White House to preserve internet service from anti-government protesters in Cuba.

A second rally will be held in Knoxville on Saturday. Protesters will meet again in the market square at 5.30 p.m.

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