Trial date set as supporters rally for Tampa 5
Tampa, FL – On the morning of Wednesday, August 9, supporters gathered outside the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse in downtown Tampa to stand in solidarity with the Tampa 5, who were attending their third pretrial hearing.
The Tampa 5 are protesters, students and workers, who were arrested while demonstrating at the University of South Florida against attacks on diversity in higher education. The Tampa 5 face a combined count of eight felony charges. Among the supporters at the courthouse were trade unionists, students and local politicians from across Florida.
“We still maintain our innocence and that we did nothing wrong,” said Gia Davila of the Tampa 5. “We are confident that the charges will be dropped because all of the security camera footage absolves us.”
Florida State Representative Anna Eskamani came from Orlando to show support. Eskamani had to quickly return to Orlando due to the sudden news that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had suspended Orange and Osceola County State Attorney Monique Worrell, the only Black woman state attorney in Florida. Previously, DeSantis had removed Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren and replaced him with Suzy Lopez, his unelected reactionary ally who is now pursuing charges against the Tampa 5.
Local Hillsborough County Democratic politicians also joined the protest in support of the Tampa 5, including president of the Hillsborough County Democratic Black Caucus, Angela Birdsong, and Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp.
Lee Bryant of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association voiced support saying, “You have the right to protest. You have the right to make your voices heard. Diversity, equity, and inclusion matters – so speak out, and make your voices strong.” About the state of public education in Florida in the wake of DeSantis’ attacks, Bryant said, “We need to teach accurate history.” He also added, “We need an open and inclusive United States. We need to embrace our gay students, our trans students.”
During their last court date, which was declared a National Day of Action by the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and National Students for a Democratic Society, there were solidarity protests in almost 20 cities across the U.S. When asked about how they felt seeing the widespread support, Chrisley Carpio of the Tampa 5 said, “It feels awesome! We know that so many people support us because DeSantis’ agenda is unpopular. And he’s not just a Florida problem, he’s a national problem since he’s running for president.”
At their hearing, prosecutor Justin Diaz suggested that the Tampa 5 stop talking to the press about the case. “We’re not going to do that. We’re going to keep spreading the word about our case, including going on a national speaking tour starting in September,” said Laura Rodriguez of the Tampa 5.
The next pretrial hearing for the Tampa 5 will be December 5. The first trial date, which consists of jury selection, will be December 12. The Emergency Committee to Defend the Tampa 5 will be mobilizing to show support at both court dates, and encourages progressive minded people to join the action or host a solidarity action. To stay updated with the case of the Tampa 5, sign the petition at peoplespetitions.org/tampa5 and follow the Emergency Committee to Defend the Tampa 5 on Instagram instagram.com/justiceforthetampa5