Tampa 5 defy attempts at censorship with day of action in San Jose
San Jose, CA – Student activist Gia Davila of the Tampa 5 visited San Jose on October 26, as part of the Justice for the Tampa 5 national speaking tour. She spoke at two events about how the Tampa 5’s struggle against systems of repression became personal when they were brutalized by the police and betrayed by the justice system.
About 30 people were in attendance at the evening event that was held at the San Jose Peace and Justice Center, and about ten people were in attendance at the afternoon event at San Jose State Universities. Attendees at both events joined Davila in chanting, “When student protests are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!” Davila then began recounting the political climate in Florida, describing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' attacks on diverse groups of the population, as well as communities’ resistance against such repression.
The Tampa 5 were protesting Florida House Bill 999 on campus at the University of South Florida when they were attacked and brutalized by police. HB 999 cut spending on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs, banned the teaching of critical theory, and gave full hiring authority to university presidents, whose appointment is controlled by the governor. The protesters marched to the university president’s office where they were almost immediately and without warning attacked by police.
Davila was charged with felony battery of a law enforcement officer, trespassing and resisting arrest. The rest of the Tampa 5 faced similar charges. “The school basically did everything that they could to vilify us,” Davila said. Members of the Tampa 5 were banned from campus, and one member who was employed at the university, Chrisley Carpio, was fired.
Biased university investigations found that the police had done no wrong. During pre-file intervention proceedings, Davila was told her charges might be dropped if she wrote a letter of apology to the same police officers who had attacked her, which Davila described as “ridiculous.” “We feel really confident in our case – we know we're innocent, you cannot arrest students just for protesting,” said Davila.
The five are now facing 5 to 10 years in prison.
Davila sees an opportunity. “We wanted to kind of bring people together and be at the forefront of the fight against DeSantis,” said Davila. “We held a really big conference. It was really successful. Through that conference, we were able to establish the committee to defend the Tampa 5, which is like a big group of a bunch of different organizations, a bunch of different like national organizations and like local chapters, all who are working to get these charges dropped to make sure, you know, we are not forced into prison for protesting.”
Davila sees the speaking tour as an act of defiance against their ongoing political repression, “The prosecutor on our case criticized us for talking to the press and basically threatened us, saying like, there's going to be even more repercussions if you continue to talk to the press.”
The events in San Jose concluded with a call to sign the petition in support of the Tampa 5, as well as to donate to the Tampa 5 legal defense fund, with community members publicly pledging anywhere from $10 to $1000. More information on how to sign the petition and how to donate can be found at https://www.defendthetampa5.org.
The Tampa 5 will go to trial on December 12. The Emergency Committee to Defend the Tampa 5 has called a national Day of Action for December 12, urging people across the country to stand in solidarity with the Tampa 5 in their fight against political repression.