NEW YORK CITY (PIX11) – Protesters and cops in riot gear flooded the streets of midtown during Fidel Castro’s visit to the United Nations October 1979.
Castro spoke to the General Assembly about the creation of a new international monetary system that would help developing nations. He also blasted Egypt over the Camp David peace treaty and slammed American plans to increase security in the Caribbean.
Midtown traffic was at a standstill as protesters marched on Lexington Avenue and crossed 40th Street in an attempt to get to the Cuban Mission, where Castro discreetly entered through a back garage.
A block and a half away from their destination, they were greeted by barricades and cops equipped with riot gear.
The protest quickly turned violent after a crude homemade bomb was tossed from the demonstrators. The explosive never went off and the bomb squad was able to dismantle it, stopping any potential damage.
A pro-Castro man was attacked by several protesters, but he was soon whisked away by police. In a separate incident, a man wearing a beret, an olive green jacket, and a scarf wrapped around his neck and face was accused of being a pro-Communist Castro impersonator.
A group of protesters quickly lunged at the man who was eventually able to find safety behind a group of riot police. But violence escalated as protesters tried to get past the cops. Police released the accused pro-Communist, who turned out to be an American from Jersey City who claimed no political affiliations.
But not all of the demonstrations were anti-Castro. A group called the “Committed to Welcome Castro to the U.N.” held their own protest less than a block away from the United Nations after previous crowds thinned out.
The fairly well-behaved crowd waved Cuban flags, listened to speeches about the leader, and chanted “Cuba yes! Blockade no!”
The pro-Castro crowd was made up of socialist groups. Several of the protesters were not Cuban either.
“It’s a big difference today. There’s no prostitution there,” a man said about the country’s improvement over the years.
“I just was there about a month ago,” another man said. “And I see what they’re doing for the Cuban people. I see they have more facilities for poor people, more hospitals, more schools, more university.”