After the rally, we witnessed a near-street riot involving the exiting McCain crowd and two Cuban-American Obama supporters. Tony Garcia, 63, and Raul Sorando, 31, were suddenly surrounded by an angry mob. There is a moment in a crowd when something goes from mere yelling to a feeling of danger, and that's what we witnessed. As photographers and police raced to the scene, the crowd elevated from stable to fast-moving scrum, and the two men were surrounded on all sides as we raced to the circle.
The event maybe lasted a minute, two at the most, before police competently managed to hustle the two away from the scene and out of the danger zone. Only FiveThirtyEight tracked the two men down for comment, a quarter mile down the street.
"People were screaming 'Terrorist!' 'Communist!' 'Socialist!'" Sorando said when we caught up with him. "I had a guy tell me he was gonna kill me."
Asked what had precipitated the event, "We were just chanting 'Obama!' and holding our signs. That was it. And the crowd suddenly got crazy."
Garcia told us that the man who originally had warned the two it was his property when they had first tried to attend the rally with Obama T-shirts was one of the agitators. Coming up just before the scene started getting out of hand, the man whispered in Garcia's ear, "I'm gonna beat you up the next time I see you." Garcia described him for us: "a big stocky man wearing a tweed jacket." He used hand motions to emphasize this was a large guy. We went back to look for the gentleman twenty minutes after the incident but didn't find him.
Even within my own family I've been called a Communist, a traitor, a disgrace to my heritage, a liberal motherfucker, and many others. Okay, those are mostly just this one uncle I have when he gets drunk, but still. Usually "naive" is the term used in polite company.
If the election, Florida in particular, goes the way it seems now that it probably will, the Cuban community in SoFla will be in for what could be a painful reckoning. We have to deal with the influx of non-Cuban Hispanics in Florida which will mean suddenly losing the status of Most Favored Demographic--brown people who hate Democrats. The fading of the Castros within the next few years. The loss of any or all of the Cuban Mafia in Congress (not to mention the possible upcoming rejection of Mel Martinez in 2010.) The rise of a newer, less politically monolithic generation, as exemplified by Joe Garcia, and generational clash that may only begin to materialize this Tuesday. The questioning of priorities of single-issue anti-communist voters in the face of wars and the economy pretty much exploding and God knows what else.
Cubans need to get their act together. If Quinn's story and my hunches are even the slightest indication, we're in for some nasty stuff, the likes of which we're not quite used to.