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Tampa students rally against political repression and Gov. DeSantis’ anti-protest bill

By Eithne Silva

Tampa students protest against repression.

Tampa, FL – On November 17, Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held a “Students Against Political Repression” protest in front of the Sam M. Gibbons Federal Courthouse in downtown Tampa. They rallied students and members of the community against political repression at the university, state and national level.

A topic covered in many speeches was Governor Ron DeSantis’ proposed bill titled “Combatting Violence, Disorder and Looting and Law Enforcement Protection Act.” With the provisions in this bill, any protest can be labeled ‘disorderly’ and felony charges can be leveled against the participants. Additionally, the bill removes liability for drivers who hit protesters with their car. This was a common tactic used by white supremacists against Black Lives Matter protesters over the summer, including multiple incidents in the Tampa Bay area.

Zachary Rashas, member of Tampa Bay SDS, said in a speech about the proposed bill, “People have the right to speak out when they feel they are being wronged, and this specific brand of mass incarceration would only serve to silence dissenters and give more power to the police.”

The event was part of a national day of action in honor of International Students’ Day. The students emphasized the importance of showing solidarity with those who are punished for protesting injustice, such as the Tallahassee 19 and the 646-plus people arrested in Minneapolis on November 4.

Tampa Bay SDS is also facing political repression from its own university, the University of South Florida (USF), by being suspended and having members threatened with arrest for protesting on campus.

Simon Rowe of Tampa Bay SDS stated, “I'm glad that SDS is speaking out about its political repression. USF threatening student activists with arrest for protesting the university’s recent budget cuts is no different from DeSantis threatening protest organizers with felony charges. It's about silencing and intimidating progressive movements, and we cannot afford to give up.”

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