Tampa 5 solidarity: ‘Protesting is not a crime’

SLL photos: Melinda Butterfield

New Yorkers answered the call from Students for a Democratic Society for a national day of action for the Tampa 5 on July 12. They gathered during the evening rush hour outside New York City Hall with banners, signs and chants to demand: “Protesting is not a crime, justice for the Tampa 5!”

Last March 6, five students and campus workers at the University of Southern Florida in Tampa Bay – Chrisley Carpio, Gia Davila, Lauren Pineiro, Laura Rodriguez, and Jeanie K – were brutally attacked by campus police during a peaceful protest against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s attacks on diversity, equality, inclusion (DEI) and multicultural programs. The five women were arrested on trumped-up felony charges, with three of them facing up to 10 years in prison.

A June 21 update from the Tampa 5 reports: “The state attorney had offered one plea deal to potentially drop the charges in exchange for us admitting guilt for attacking police and writing letters of apologies to the cops. We refused to tell such a lie and sell out the movement, and we now face a deepened legal attack as a result. 

“It is clear that the prosecutors want to make an example of us and quell social movements by throwing us into prison. We will need all the support we can get to keep our freedom and see justice.”

Speakers at the New York rally included Sharif Hall and Michela Martinazzi of New York Community Action Project, Nina Macapinlac of Bayan USA, Raphael Agosto-Miranda of New York Boricua Resistance, Melinda Butterfield of Women in Struggle and Socialist Unity Party, Tony Murphy of Workers World Party, and Jessica Lee of Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

“In Ron DeSantis’s Florida, trans people like me can’t use public restrooms without facing arrest or receive life-saving gender affirming health care,” said Melinda Butterfield. “The Tampa 5 fought for me and all trans people, for immigrants, for students and educators who want ethnic studies, for all of us. And we must fight for them.”

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