Students for a Democratic Society demands justice for the Tampa 4! Drop the charges!

Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).

On March 6, Students for a Democratic Society at the University of South Florida held a protest near their University President’s office to demand that their university take a stand against House Bill 999, which is the latest in Governor DeSantis’ attacks against Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs, and to demand that the USF Administration take immediate action to Increase Black Enrollment and restore the Diversity department at their College of Arts and Sciences. In response, the University of South Florida Police Department attacked protesters, utilizing chokeholds and other cruel methods, brutalizing and arresting 4 protesters, including members of USF SDS, without even making clear what they were being charged with and where they would be taken. One protestor who was complying with officers was dragged to the ground and kicked in the head.

After the police held our members all day in the county jail, a mass call-in campaign successfully led to their release. But the fight to defend the Tampa 4 is not over. After releasing the Tampa 4, the police announced a series of completely bogus charges, including felony counts. This is nothing less than a blatant attack on the right to protest, and an attempt to criminalize protesters fighting back against DeSantis’ reactionary attacks in the face of University Administration’s compliance with those attacks.

Chrisley Carpio – a member of Students for a Democratic Society, and one of the Tampa 4 who was brutalized and arrested by USFPD – had this to say: “What happened was a nightmare. Students and workers fighting to oppose House Bill 999 and increase Black Enrollment at USF, were put in chokeholds, and groped and beat for daring to say something. Governor DeSantis and President Rhea Law are bear responsibly for this. We won’t leave campus; we won’t stop protesting. USF and the county need to drop the charges on the Tampa 4; they need to condemn DeSantis’ attacks on diversity; and Rhea Law needs to step down as president. We won’t back down until DeSantis’ racist attacks and USF’s cowardly compliance come to an end.”

As these attacks on diversity programs on campuses continue to expand across Florida and the rest of the country, and as DeSantis bans AP African American Studies and any discussion of racism from K-12 schools, we continue to demand the protection and expansion of multicultural studies and DEI programs, the increasing of Black enrollment – as our Tampa chapter has raised – and the teaching of Black history in all schools. We demand that Florida universities refuse to comply with DeSantis’ attacks on DEI.

Students for a Democratic Society condemns this blatant display of brutality by USF PD at this action. Protesting is and will remain – as long as we continue to fight for it – a right.

In the face of this police brutality and repression, we will not back down from the fight to defend our fellow student organizers and to protect diversity programs and cultural studies on our campuses across the country. On March 7th we called an emergency day of action to drop the charges against the Tampa 4, and SDS chapters and students and youth organizations across the country have already responded and taken to the streets, and we will not give in until every last charge against the Tampa 4 is dismissed. When the right to protest is under attack; when our members and student organizers are under attack, we have no choice but to fight back. An injury to one is an injury to all!

Justice for the Tampa 4!

Drop the Charges!

Defending Diversity is Not a Crime!

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