Tampa 5 defense tour kicks off in Minneapolis
Minneapolis, MN – “All of us were brutalized. I saw my friends kicked, punched, pushed into walls, put in chokeholds,” said Lauren Pineiro to a 100-person crowd that nearly filled the University of Minnesota lecture hall. “The chief of police even groped a student.”
Pineiro was referring to her March 6 arrest at the University of South Florida (USF) in Tampa Bay, where her Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) chapter protested against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s reactionary policies while demanding that USF increase Black enrollment and defend its diversity programs. In all, five protesters face trumped-up felony charges for their participation in the action: students Pineiro, Gia Davila, and Jeanie Kida; university worker Chrisley Carpio; and local activist Laura Rodriguez.
The Minneapolis event, held on September 21, was the first stop for Pineiro and Carpio on a multi-week tour across the U.S. to build support for the Tampa 5’s legal defense. Along with code of conduct charges for the students and several misdemeanors, the five are all charged with battery of a law enforcement official – including two counts each for Carprio, Rodriguez and Kida – felony offenses which carry up to ten years in prison.
The five activists reject the charges, maintaining that police brutally attacked them without warning as they attempted to leave the premises. Trial proceedings begin on December 12, for which the five are building a robust legal defense.
“They wanted us to take responsibility for what happened that day, in exchange for possibly dropping the charges, and all five of us said ‘hell no’” she said to thunderous applause.
The speakers discussed the importance of building a nationwide solidarity movement around their defense. “Every single win in our case has been because of the people standing behind us, like you all in this room,” said Pineiro. “Every step of the way it has been you standing by us and that is exactly how we’re going to win and get these charges dropped.”
In June, the Tampa 5 hosted a large defense conference, with support from groups like SDS, Black Lives Matter Grassroots Florida, Hillsborough NAACP, West Central Florida Labor Council, the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, the American Civil Liberties Union, and others.
“We tried to unite lawyers, labor unions, progressives, student activists, organizations bringing people from across the state of Florida, even SDSers from across the country, to say no to Governor Ron DeSantis,” explained Carpio. “We wanted to make it clear that we’re going to hit harder than USF, that we’re going to hit harder than the state attorney could even expect.”
Carpio, 31, faces the additional repression of being fired from her AFSCME Local 3342 union job at USF over the incident. She explained the importance of their case from a labor movement perspective, saying, “They fired me thinking no one’s going to enforce the contract that still exists, because they knew that DeSantis was pushing through an anti-union bill, SB 256, that would decertify public sector unions across Florida.”
“They wanted to act like it was a foregone conclusion that my union wouldn’t matter, that campus workers, people working the offices, people cleaning the hallways, wouldn’t matter. And we can’t let them get away with that,” Carpio continued. The Tampa 5 continue to demand Carpio’s employment be reinstated.
Minneapolis activist Jess Sundin also spoke, recalling her experience as one of the Antiwar 23, who in 2010 faced FBI raids on their homes and allegations of “material support for terrorism” for their international solidarity work around Palestine and Colombia. “Anyone who is political organizing has the potential to be a target for political repression,” Sundin said.
Despite refusing to testify after being subpoenaed to a grand jury, and thanks to a large-scale nationwide push for their defense led by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, none of the Antiwar 23 were ever charged.
The speakers from Florida connected the Black Lives Matter movement to their fight against DeSantis’s push to impose a whitewashed U.S. history curriculum. “They say that teaching these things is indoctrination, but this white supremacist version of history is the true indoctrination,” Pineiro said.
Carpio added, “We learned the lesson that people in Minneapolis taught us, which is that protest is the way out against these killer cops, and that’s how you get justice done.”
Tampa 5 national tour dates will continue through October and November. More information and calls for action can be found at defendthetampa5.org.
In Minneapolis, University of Minnesota SDS activists also urged the local community to protest the Trump-appointed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s university-sponsored appearance on Monday, October 16, with protesters gathering at Northrop Plaza at 3 p.m.