Austin, TX – Laura Rodriguez of the Tampa 5 came to the University of Texas at Austin on Tuesday, October 24, to speak about political repression, defending diversity programs and ethnic studies in schools, and the call to drop the charges on the Tampa 5.
The Tampa 5 are five women organizers who were brutalized by police and face up to ten years in prison on bogus charges for protesting Governor Ron DeSantis’ racist attacks on diversity programs and ethnic studies at the University of South Florida.
Rodriguez made her first stop on the UT campus at a college class called Policing Latinidad. After talking about what Ron DeSantis has done to attack student rights, immigrant rights and women’s rights, she said, “We have to remember that these ethnic studies programs, the rights of students to learn about their own histories – these programs we are fighting for were only won through mass protests like the East LA walkouts, and other movements of students and young people rising up and demanding things like Chicano and Latino Studies, or Africana Studies.”
Rodriguez then made an appearance to speak on two radio shows on the radio station KVRX, one highlighting women artists, the other highlighting Palestinian artists.
During the main event at UT Austin’s student center, Rodriguez spoke to a group of students, faculty and labor union organizers about the national campaign to drop the charges on the Tampa 5.
In a rousing and passionate speech, she said: “The struggle of the Tampa 5 is so much larger than just us five individuals in Tampa. Recently, we have seen abortion rights protesters and activists demanding justice for Palestine arrested and given the exact same charges that we were. This repression is scary – being attacked by the police, hearing my friends and fellow students screaming as the police threw and pinned us to the ground is not something I had ever seen at a student protest before. But the fact is that we continue to organize and fight back, and we will not stop. They are trying to scare us off from organizing, but we know that we did nothing wrong, and with the strength of peoples’ movements behind us, we will get these charges dropped.”
As Rodriguez concluded her speech, the audience chanted, “From Tampa Bay to Palestine, protesting is not a crime!” and “Dare to struggle, Dare to win!”
The event raised nearly $1000 in Tampa 5 defense funds, and everyone attending signed on to a resolution in support of the Tampa 5.