Grand Rapids, MI – On Thursday, September 28, the IASTE Local 26 West Michigan Stagehands Union hosted a speaking event featuring two Tampa 5 protestors in a show of solidarity. The speakers, Lauren Pineiro and Chrisley Carpio, are in the midst of a countrywide tour, spreading the word about their struggle against political repression by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ administration. IATSE Local 26 hosted the event to help mobilize labor activists to rally support for dropping the charges against the Tampa 5.
The Tampa 5 is a moniker for five protesters who, on March 6, were brutalized by University of South Florida (USF) campus police and then falsely arrested in retaliation of their protest. The students, workers, and community members were dissenting DeSantis’ “attack from every front” on higher education, including diversity programs, ethnic studies, and women’s and gender studies. Specifically, they were demonstrating against HB 999/SB 266, which would ban funding for these programs and studies at Florida colleges.
Since the March 6 arrests, state authorities and USF President Rhea Law have ramped up the repression against the Tampa 5 in an effort to silence their continued resistance to DeSantis’ bigoted attacks. The protesters recognize the administration’s attempt to thwart dissent. “We were not a violent threat, but a political one,” said Pineiro, who was not arrested until a month following the incident.
The speaking tour seeks to gain nationwide support for the Tampa 5, but it also aims to bring attention to the concerning trend of state repression of protesters. DeSantis is currently running for the Republican ticket for the U.S. presidency and could likely institute his racist, anti-worker policies nationally. Even if he is unsuccessful, arresting protesters for exercising a first amendment right sets a precedent for other states.
Thursday’s event bridged the struggle of workers and students. Members from IATSE Local 26 and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s UAW spoke at the event to inform attendees of actions on the picket line and beyond. Recently, the IATSE Local 26 executive board signed a resolution in solidarity with the Tampa 5, calling for “the Hillsborough County 13th Judicial District Attorney Susan Lopez and Prosecutor Justin Diaz drop the charges, including multiple felony charges, against the Tampa 5.”
Pineiro and Carprio will continue their speaking tour through October 28. Supporters can take action by donating to The Emergency Committee to Defend the Tampa 5, signing their petition, passing a resolution through their organization, and attending local protests on December 12.