Reno Returns to Miami Amid Protests

By Bob Melvin | July 7, 2008 | 8:08 PM EDT

( - Hundreds of Cuban-American protestors met Attorney General Janet Reno as she returned to Miami on Thursday night. The exiled Cuban community is still enraged over the early-morning, surprise seizure of 6-year-old boat refugee Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives over Easter weekend. Reno authorized that armed raid.

Demonstrators, estimated at more than 600 by wire service reporters on the scene, took part in a protest rally at the Sheraton Bal Harbour Beach Resort where Reno was a keynote speaker at a dinner ceremony honoring Florida's first 150 female lawyers. Reno is a former Miami prosecutor.

Reno supporters, meanwhile, also rallied at the resort location by waving American flags and yelling in unison: "We love Reno, yes we do."

Protestors, however, said they wanted Reno to explain to Cuban-Americans why the federal government took the action it did in seizing Elian and returning him to his father, Juan Miguel.

At her weekly news conference on Thursday, Reno said she had no plans to meet with members of Miami's Cuban community during her trip to her home state. Reno added that she preferred to wait until tensions over the Gonzalez case subside and that, as yet, she has not been invited to meet with any of the community's representatives.

"I want to do it (meet with Miami's Cuban-American community leaders) in a reasonable, thoughtful way that respects feelings and tensions and gives people time to talk out issues," Reno said.

Reno had told Florida Bar officials that she would cancel her speaking engagement if they felt her presence would detract from the ceremony, but Bar spokeswoman Francine Walker said there was never any question that Reno would speak. Walker said Reno is the first woman to serve as US Attorney General and is Florida's most famous female lawyer. "She is a pioneer," Walker said.

Ironically, Reno, who passed the bar exam in 1963, was not part of the honored group of Florida state female lawyers Thursday night. The last of the first 150 women joined the Florida Bar in 1943. Only 13 are still living.

The Cuban American Bar Association withdrew its support of the event to protest the armed federal raid to seize Elian and the Clinton Administration's position that his father should be allowed to take him back to Cuba.

Elian has been living at the Wye Plantation, a spacious retreat on Maryland's eastern shore, with his father since the seizure on April 22nd.

A federal appellate court will soon decide if Elian Gonzalez is eligible for a political asylum hearing.