"Our people are going to be calm now," said Ramon Saul Sanchez, head of the Cuban-American group Democracy Movement, which is organizing a human chain and a circling of trucks to keep Elian from federal agents. "There is not immediate danger of him being taken away. But we are still on alert."
Olga Scott, 50, plans to be here to the end, whenever that turns out to be. She drove to Miami from Houston earlier in the week, unable to stay away any longer, she said. At 13, she was sent by herself from Cuba to live with an aunt in New Mexico, not to be reunited with other members of her family for years.
"Fidel is an expert at breaking up families," Scott said bitterly.
"It is a miracle this little boy survived in the ocean by himself for two days," she said, beginning to weep. "He fought to survive. He earned his freedom."
Despite the pain of her own childhood separation from her family, Scott said Elian's father should do what is best for Elian and let him stay even if that means they have to live apart.
"Love means sacrificing what you love the most," she said.
Juan Miguel Gonzalez's arrival would present the protesters with a dilemma. Keeping Elian from faceless federal agents is one thing; preventing a father from seeing his long-lost son seems cruel.
Asked what he would do if Elian's father tried to knock on Lazaro Gonzalez's door, Saul Sanchez thought for a moment before responding: "We will respect that. If [the Lazaro Gonzalez] family abides by that, we'll respect that."
On the street outside the white stucco house of Elian's great-uncle, protesters kept up on the details of the case via radios and gossip. The din was constant as the mostly Cuban-American crowd shared tidbits of information and their own opinions. Entrepreneurs did a steady business, selling sodas and water from coolers to the overheated crowd.
When Elian emerged in the late afternoon to wave to the crowd, Miami Mayor Joe Carollo left the tent city set up by reporters and photographers across from the house to say hello to the boy and his relatives. Elian stayed for a bit of a greeting, but soon scampered away to run around the fenced-yard.
The arrival of Carollo, who as a 6-year-old left his family in Cuba as one of the 14,000 children airlifted to the United States in Operation Pedro Pan during the 1960s, drew cheers from the protesters, some of whom began chanting, "Carollo para presidente!"
One of the chanters, Ileana Alonso, 46, made her thoughts clear on that other man who would be president, Gore, who suddenly broke ranks from the Clinton administration yesterday and called for Elian to be given permanent resident status.
"Politicians will say anything, especially Al Gore. He wants the Cuban vote, but he won't get it even if Elian stays," said Alonso, a mother of two who lives in a nearby suburb. "Clinton and Al Gore have betrayed the Cuban exiles. We don't trust them. We don't believe anything they say."
Sun staff writer Lyle Denniston contributed to this article.