MIAMI -- Police in riot gear fired tear gas into a crowd of protesters that swarmed the streets of Little Havana on Saturday, halting traffic and setting bonfires in the roads after the government's pre-dawn seizure of Elian Gonzalez.
''Clinton, coward, Miami is on fire!'' protesters chanted after setting fire to a pile of tires, rubbage and plastic trash cans at an intersection about five blocks from the house where Elian was taken by government agents.
Police retreated for a short time after protesters poured into the street. The officers quickly returned wearing gas masks and firing several canisters of tear gas into the streets.
''This is terrible,'' said Cristina Valdes, 67, who was among dozens of people banging on a parked van to vent their anger. ''I'm ashamed to be an American. Clinton is a coward, coward, coward.''
Firetrucks streamed into the intersection to put out the flames as 100 police officers with plastic shields formed a line crossing the street. Several protesters covered their faces with T-shirts to try to avoid the gas.
''We are the owners of the streets in Miami until Elian comes home,'' said protester Santiago Portal, 68.
Miami police said the unrest appeared to be contained within Little Havana, a working-class neighborhood that stretches for about a mile west of downtown Miami.
There were no immediate reports of serious injuries or major damage.
Crowds of protesters started growing and spreading in the hours after agents stormed the home of Elian's great-uncle at 5 a.m.
Some threw rocks and shouted in anger. Others waved signs and flags -- Cuban and upside-down American ones. One man stalked through the crowd with a baby doll pinned to a cross, fake blood streaming from its hands.
The protesters denounced the government for snatching the 6-year-old from his relatives' house the day before Easter.
''This is like crucifying the Messiah all over again. This is a slap in the face to the Cuban-American community and the Christian community,'' said Ralph Anrrich, a social worker helping the family at the house, where more than 500 people had massed by midmorning.
One demonstrator, Duvyl Celebron, held up an Associated Press photograph showing a helmeted federal agent armed with an automatic rifle confronting a man holding Elian in Lazaro Gonzalez's bedroom.
''Look at this photograph! Look at it well!'' demonstrator Ofelia Munoz yelled at police.
Some protesters marched onto Route 836, a main highway, slowing traffic. Others threw rocks, one smashing the rear window of a police car. Still others stood around in small groups and talked quietly.
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