Additional felony charges mean we must strengthen resistance
Tampa, FL – Florida state prosecutor Justin Diaz it trying to put the Tampa 5 in prison. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) members, arrested at a campus protest against the racist agenda of Governor Ron DeSantis, each face a trumped-up felony charge, alleging “battery on a police officer,” carrying five years of jail time. When the activists rejected a plea deal requiring them to apologize for doing the right thing, the prosecutor added on more felony charges. This means that three of the activists are facing more than ten years behind bars. In addition, the activists face ten misdemeanor charges.
The five facing charges are Chrisley Carpio, Laura Rodriguez, Gia Davila, Lauren Pineiro and Jeanie Kida. They have done nothing wrong. They are heroes who are standing up to injustice.
The large number of charges and the reactionary political climate in Florida means that this repression needs to be taken seriously. The enemy is increasing the level of the attacks on our movement.
Progressive and fair-minded people need to push back. The state wants to intimidate other people away from protesting injustice and make an example of the Tampa 5. Freedom Road Socialist Organization urges everyone around the country to follow new developments in the Tampa 5’s case closely and take action when calls are put forward. The situation has sharpened.
On March 6, 2023, a student demonstration was brutalized by campus police at the University of South Florida (USF). The activists were defending diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs on campus from recent attacks by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Four of the student activists were arrested and booked. Later the police arrested a fifth woman and charged her in the same manner as the other four.
Some of those arrested lost their jobs, including campus worker and AFSCME union member Chrisley Carpio, who was fired by USF despite maintaining a spotless record during her seven-year career. Others experienced threats of expulsion and talk of not being allowed to graduate, despite video evidence that clearly shows the police as the aggressors.
The Tampa 5 deserve our support because, while they were defending diversity on campus, the police launched an unprovoked attack on them with no warning and which was clearly captured on video. Later, the university released a report comparing the original student protest to an active shooter situation on campus, falsely claiming that procedures for an active shooter situation had to be used in response to the student demonstration.
The state initially charged members of the Tampa 5 with four felony charges and a number of misdemeanor charges. After legal maneuvers, press conferences, community rallies and call-in days involving activists around the country, the enemy put forward an offer to drop the charges – if the Tampa 5 wrote apology letters to the police officers who attacked and groped them. This was considered unacceptable and rejected by the heroic young women who suffered the unprovoked attack for simply exercising their freedom of speech.
This is the point at which the state’s attitude towards the Tampa 5 became crystal clear – the state doesn’t just want to intimidate activists; they are looking to put them in prison.
After the activists’ rejection of the ridiculous plea offer to write apology letters, the state charged members of the Tampa 5 with additional felonies. Rather than doing the right thing and dropping the charges, which is not uncommon in other cases of protesters unjustly arrested by the police, the state has doubled down.
A conference on the Tampa 5 situation is being planned for this summer. The main focus of the Florida conference will be mobilizing progressive forces statewide to engage in the defense campaign.
Our right to protest and speak out needs to be defended – in Florida and everywhere that our democratic rights are under attack.
Freedom Road Socialist Organization urges everyone to watch for further developments and to join in calls to action around the Tampa 5. It is going to take each and every one of us participating in the defense campaign to ensure that the Tampa 5 beat these bogus charges.
Drop the Charges Now!
Justice for the Tampa 5!