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Tampa 5 organizer condemns repression at packed New Orleans event

By Serena Sojic-Borne

Speaking event participants pose behind Loyola SDS banner. | Fight Back! News/staff

New Orleans, LA – On Monday evening, October 23, close to 100 people gathered in a lecture hall at Loyola University of New Orleans to listen to Laura Rodriguez of the Tampa 5. The Tampa 5 are three student organizers, a community leader, and a union member facing up to ten years’ imprisonment on felony charges. The charges came after their brutalization and the arrests of four of them, while they participated in a protest against DeSantis’ attacks on education at the University of South Florida. The state later charged a fifth. Members of the Tampa 5 are touring the U.S. to raise support for their case.

“These organizers are up against trumped-up charges, simply for standing up to DeSantis’ racism and the university administration. The police came out of nowhere to attack, shove, punch and grope them in an attempt to silence dissent,” said Carson Cruse of Loyola Students for a Democratic Society.

“We’re not gonna cower, we’re not gonna hide. We’re gonna get these charges dropped because we’re a part of a national student organization waging a national defense campaign,” said Rodriguez. “This is about more than just me. DeSantis and the Republicans are attacking anti-racist education, LGBTQ people, faculty tenure, and all kinds of rights. They know that we have the power to resist them through protesting, so they’re trying to shut us up out of fear,” she added.

Participants chanted “Not guilty, not sorry!” and “Protesting is not a crime, drop the charges now!”

Many organizations sent representatives to speak at the event and endorse the Tampa 5. These included the United Teachers of New Orleans, French Truck Coffee’s Teamsters union, New Orleans for Palestine, Students United at the University of New Orleans, the Real Name Campaign, the Tulane Office of Gender and Sexual Diversity, New Orleans for Community Oversight of Police, the Democratic Socialists of America, and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

During her stay, Rodriguez also spoke in front of several classrooms, interviewed with journalists and professors, spoke at a protest against Louisiana’s far-right governor-elect Jeff Landry, and delivered presentations at Tulane and the University of New Orleans.

This tour stop raised over $8600 for the Tampa 5’s legal funds. The Loyola event ended with a surprise announcement that Starbucks Workers United, representing nearly 10,000 workers nationally, resolved to stand in solidarity with the Tampa 5.

#NewOrleansLA #PoliticalRepression #Tampa5 #StudentMovement #SDS #DeSantis