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Washington DC groups demand “Justice for the Tampa 5!”

By Iain McNeely

Protest at the White House in support of the Tampa 5

Washington, DC – On July 13, over 30 people gathered at the gates of the White House and joined at least 13 other cities in demanding, “Justice for the Tampa 5!” The Tampa 5 are five women from Tampa, Florida who were brutally arrested while staging a campus protest at the University of South Florida (USF).

The Tampa 5 are Chrisley Carpio, Gia Davila, Laura Rodriguez, Jeanie Kida and Lauren Pineiro, students and workers shoved, beaten and arrested by University of South Florida police at a March 6 campus protest.

At their second court hearing, the Tampa 5 case was continued to August 9. Before entering the hearing, the Tampa 5 held a rally and spoke to the press about the case and the repression they experienced at the hands of the USF police.

On March 6, the Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) Chapter held a rally and protest against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ attacks on education. They marched to the administrative building that houses the president’s office to demand USF President Rhea Law denounce Governor DeSantis’ regressive law on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in higher education. USF police attacked the protesters within minutes of being in the building, and four protesters were arrested and charged with several misdemeanors and felony battery on a law enforcement officer.

After a month of targeted protesting to demand the state’s attorney drop the charges against the four women, the prosecutor offered a deal to the protesters. Their office would drop the charges if the protesters admitted guilt and apologized to the police officers who punched, pushed, kicked and groped them. The four women refused, and subsequently the state’s attorney doubled their felony charges and filed charges to arrest a fifth protester in connection with the March 6 action.

“Florida is ground zero, what goes on there is the blueprint for the reactionary agenda right-wing conservatives like DeSantis want to enact on a national scale. We’ve already seen their game with abortion bans and the overturning of Roe v. Wade,” said KB, the co-chair of the DC Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (DCAARPR).

Speaking on behalf of Anakbayan Montgomery County, Gabby Rivera said, “The Tampa 5 have demonstrated courage and bravery; their calls to defend DEI initiatives in higher education are just and necessary amidst the increase of erasure and repression under Ron DeSantis, who has shown his true colors as an enemy of the people.”

Speakers from Anakbayan and the Palestinian Youth Movement connected the repression faced by the Tampa 5 to the repression faced by their own movements, drawing parallels to the Philippines' National Democratic Movement and the movement to free Palestine.

“Progressive movements are no stranger to repression,” Sue Udry, executive director for the DC-based Defending Rights and Dissent (DRaD), said. “The National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression is very familiar with this; it faced repression by the FBI as part of their COINTELPRO program. Even today we see the government crackdown on our movements, as with their raids on the Freedom Road Socialist Organization just ten years ago.”

Jon Abraham, the speaker for the Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), stressed, “This is just the beginning of the far-right assault on our diversity in education programs and those who seek to defend them. If these activists get arrested for protesting right-wingers like Ron DeSantis, what kind of message do you think that sends to other states also looking to crush dissent?”

In total, eleven organizations came out to the White House to stand against political repression. Speakers at the rally included representatives from the FRSO, the DCAARPR, Pan-African Community Action, the Palestinian Youth Movement, Anakbayan Montgomery County, Defending Rights and Dissent, the DC Young Communist League, and the Claudia Jones School for Political Education.

#WashingtonDC #PeoplesStruggles #PoliticalRepression #Tampa5