Sonia Mart\u00ednez, 45, speaks during a February 22, 2020 protest outside Aqua Lounge in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Amaris Castillo\/Latino Rebels) TAMPA \u2013 They came dressed in black. Shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday, Dominicans began trickling into the parking lot of Aqua Lounge, a popular nightclub. Word spread quickly of a planned protest to decry the decision by Santo Domingo\u2019s Central Electoral Board (Junta Central Electoral in Spanish) to cancel elections on February 16. Officials reported the issue as a system glitch, but citizens were overwhelmingly convinced that this was corruption and fraud. The gathering of more than 100 Dominicans in Tampa on Saturday joined thousands of their compatriots in other parts of the U.S. and the world to let their voices be heard. Some brought signs in Spanish that called for the end to impunity in their native Dominican Republic. Other signs had messages of hope for the future of the Caribbean country. https:\/\/twitter.com\/AmarisCastillo\/status\/1231357211538055168 David Aquino, one of the main organizers, pulled out his phone and began recording. \u201cThis is a message from all the Dominicans in the Tampa Bay area who feel outraged and tired of the government over there that has stolen everything,\u201d he said in Spanish, his voice booming. David Aquino, 53, leads a chant speaks during a February 22, 2020 protest outside Aqua Lounge in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Amaris Castillo\/Latino Rebels) Aquino, a 53-year-old warehouse worker, paced in the parking lot while leading the thickening crowd into chants. \u201c\u00a1Por corrupto! \u201d Aquino yelled. \u201c\u00a1Se van! \u201d cried the crowd. \u201c\u00a1Por ladrones! \u201d another man added. \u201c\u00a1Se van!\u201d the crowd replied. https:\/\/twitter.com\/AmarisCastillo\/status\/1231383243347369986 A microphone was later brought out and Aquino gave other protestors an opportunity to air their grievances over the canceled elections and ensuing scandal. A few spoke out from behind large Dominican flags that rippled further in the wind. \u201cWe wanted to come and represent because our homeland is in danger,\u201d said Arcenia Reynoso, 54, of Tampa. \u201cOur democracy could be at risk because this is the first time in history that a voting event has been canceled. Our elections are what have distinguished that we have a democracy, even if it is limited.\u201d William Ortiz, 78, doesn\u2019t go out much these days, according to his daughter, Yira Ortiz Vizcaino. But here the retired businessman was standing with other protestors. \u201cWe\u2019ve never seen anything like this. Una vagabunder\u00eda ,\u201d Ortiz said disapprovingly in Spanish. \u201cThe only ones who know what happened is the junta. The government.\u201d William Ortiz, 78,\u00a0 stands with a protest sign on February 22, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Amaris Castillo\/Latino Rebels) Luisana Nova, 32, of Tampa, was among the most outspoken at Saturday\u2019s protest. Many in the crowd nodded in agreement as she spoke about their love for la patria, their homeland. At Nova\u2019s side was her 8-year-old son, Luis Arturo Rojas. Mother and son held three large posters. A neon pink one written in Spanish read: \u201cDominicanos en Tampa unidos por la democracia .\u201d \u201cI think it\u2019s very unfair that they want to take away the right for us to choose our leaders. It\u2019s assumed that in a democracy we should have the right to choose who will lead the nation, and it\u2019s not perpetual. They can\u2019t perpetuate their power,\u201d a frustrated Nova said in Spanish. \u201cIf they take away our right to vote and set up traps every time there\u2019s an election, then there\u2019s no democracy. There are no rights.\u201d A crowd gathers on February 22, 2020 in Tampa, Florida, to support citizens in the Dominican Republic who have been protesting for days after elections were canceled in the country. (Photo by Amaris Castillo\/Latino Rebels) Nova peered down at her son. Luis\u2019 sign stated he was defending the future of his little cousins in the Dominican Republic. \u201cThis is why we\u2019re out here fighting. The government has to realize that the people are the ones with the power,\u201d Nova said. \u201cWe choose them so that they lift us, not so they can serve themselves from us.\u201d *** Amaris Castillo is a Florida-based journalist. She is the creator of Bodega Stories and tweets from @AmarisCastillo.