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New Orleans activists demand charges against Tampa 5 be dropped

By staff

New Orleans, LA – On July 12, a dozen activists representing several organizations gathered on the steps of New Orleans City Hall to demand justice for the Tampa 5. That day, the five University of South Florida activists – Laura Rodriguez, Gia Davila, Lauren Pineiro, Jeanie Kida and Chrisley Carpio – faced trumped up felony charges in a Tampa court. Protesters demanded the charges unjustly leveled by District Attorney Susan Lopez against the five be dropped.

The Tampa 5 are members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). In March, they were among many students protesting attacks by Florida Governor DeSantis on college diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) programs. Four were brutalized and arrested by campus police without warning. A fifth was charged after the event. Publically available video evidence shows the charges against them to be completely false.

The protesters connected the struggle of the Tampa 5 to their own struggles in New Orleans to defend against right-wing attacks on education, LGBTQ rights and racist political repression.

“We were called on by Students for a Democratic Society all across the nation to do a day of solidarity for the Tampa 5, so we are standing in solidarity with them here,” said Carson Cruse of Young Democratic Socialists of America at University of Loyola, an SDS affiliate.

“While claiming to represent the American people’s values, the Florida Republicans can’t even uphold the most basic freedom of expression and assembly. But students like the SDS in Tampa and the courageous Tampa 5 had the support of the people when they stood against DeSantis’ racist, sexist, homophobic and bigoted policies,” said Raven Ford from the YDSA.

Quest Riggs of the Real Name Campaign pointed out that the charges against the Tampa 5 are part of a “string of nationwide right-wing attacks against LGBTQ and oppressed people generally” by a “far right, neo-fascist movement that is trying to attack all remaining institutions of democracy that we’ve fought for since the 60s. Everywhere our rights are under attack and Ron Desantis has put his face at the front of that. We have to say, ‘We will stand up and fight back!’ Repression is just an invitation for further struggle!”

Toni Mar from New Orleans for Community Oversight of Police (NOCOP) pointed out, “Policing is the number one issue when it comes to repressing the movement for Black liberation and for democracy” across the whole nation. “We need a say over how our police, police us, and in how accountability goes when it’s done,” they added. The crowd responded with chanting, “Protesting is not a crime!”

Finally, Toni Jones of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO) spoke on how this attack by Desantis-appointed prosecutors is an attempt to criminalize the movements represented by the participating organizations and demanded “a clear and concrete outcome: Drop the charges now!”

The action was hosted by SDS affiliates Students United at University of New Orleans and YDSA Loyola, Real Name Campaign, and the FRSO. The Tampa 5’s next appearance in court is August 9.

#NewOrleansLA #PeoplesStruggles #PoliticalRepression #Tampa5