Denver, CO – On October 27, Laura Rodriguez of the Tampa 5 continued her speaking tour with a stop in Denver, Colorado. The purpose of the tour is to combat political repression in the form of the felony charges that would put her and her fellow Tampa 5 organizers in prison for five to ten years.
These felony charges come against the Tampa 5 after they were shoved to the ground, brutalized, groped and arrested by police officers during their protest against Governor Ron DeSantis’ attacks on diversity and equity programs at the University of South Florida.
Rodriguez addressed a crowd of 50 community members, union organizers and student organizers.
The event consisted of two panels. The first panel highlighted different organizers and their own perspectives when it comes to the different barriers they have faced in education and organizing. The panel featured Jacob Marshall of SDS; Miah Ntepp, Denver NAACP vice president and leader at MSU’s Black Student Alliance; and Candi CdeBaca, a tireless advocate for Denver communities and former city councilperson.
Kat Draken, a shop steward for Teamsters Local 455 in Denver and former student organizer in Tallahassee, Florida talked about her experiences when her fellow organizers were arrested for protesting a few years before, “You have to be persistent and annoying, you have to keep holding events and keep up the pressure, if they figure out that they can just wait you out and let the momentum die, that’s what they are going to do.”
The second panel featured organizers who have themselves faced political repression or whose work surrounds political repression in some way. Shaine Carroll-Frey from the Freedom Road Socialist Organization spoke on the repression the organization experienced in 2010 when prominent leaders of the FRSO were raided by the FBI in a coordinated attack aimed at destroying the organization. Other speakers included Ryan Stitzel, a community organizer with Denver Aurora Community Action Committee, who organizes against police terror in the Denver Metro area, and Eliza Lucero, a community organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation in Denver, as well as a labor organizer with the Colorado Education Association. Lucero was a leading local organizer of the mass demonstrations against the overturning of Roe v. Wade and in the 2020 uprisings was one of the local leaders targeted by the Aurora Police Department and charged with multiple bogus felonies.
During the keynote speech, Rodriguez stated, “When they asked us to apologize to the police who had beat us up, to apologize to the people who brutalized our friends right in front of our faces and we said, ‘No thank you.’ And then we were charged with additional felonies. So now I face ten years in prison for standing up for what I know is right.”
This event comes at a time when organizers around the country are facing arrests and other forms of suppression surrounding the mass support for Palestine. Just a couple days before, Ron DeSantis’ administration took steps to ban the pro-Palestine group Students for Justice in Palestine from campuses in Florida. This fact was brought up continuously throughout the second panel because of the connection between the political repression the Tampa 5 is facing and the political repression against pro-Palestinian organizers.
The high energy event ended with chants and a sing-along banjo rendition of Free the Tampa 5 by SDS member Jake Newman. Many different organizations attended and participated in the event, including Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Students for Democratic Society, Party for Liberation and Socialism, Boulder Young Democratic Socialists of America, and the Denver-Aurora Community Action Committee.
#DenverCO #PoliticalRepression #Tampa5 #SDS