Chicago, IL – On Tuesday, September 26, a coalition of unions, students and community organizations kicked off the Chicago leg of the Justice for the Tampa 5 Tour. These five activists are facing serious prison time in Florida for the crime of standing up to the DeSantis agenda. On March 6, a group of students at Tampa’s University of South Florida walked into an administrative building to defend diversity, equity and inclusion. They wanted to meet with the university president but were instead attacked by 15 campus cops. The state attorney is now charging the five with multiple felonies, and they face up to 10 years in prison.
In the hall of the Chicago Teachers Union, approximately 60 supporters gathered to demand the trumped-up and politically motivated charges be dropped. Christly Carpio and Lauren Pineiro of the Tampa 5 spoke at the event. The two drew on the lessons of past battles against political repression to wage a powerful defense campaign not only to defend themselves but to defend the people’s movements, the right to protest, and the right to education.
In her speech, Carpio made clear the importance of the Tampa 5. “The most important thing we can do is keep organizing,” she said. “It’s the five of us on trial, but it’s the whole movement being tested right now. Down with DeSantis!”
Other speakers included Erin Boyle of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), President Elijah Edwards of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2858, Husam Marajda of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, Councilor for the 3rd police district Anthony Bryant, Diana Balataan of Anakbayan Chicago, and Frank Chapman of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR).
In his speech, Chapman said, “Every branch and every affiliate of NAARPR will take this case up. When we’re done, everybody in the U.S. and a good part of the world will know who the Tampa 5 is and why they must have justice,” making it clear that the National Alliance will continue to stand with the Tampa 5 in the struggle against the political repression they are experiencing as a result of their struggle against Ron DeSantis and racist, anti-Black and anti-education legislation.
Carpio and Pineiro stayed busy for the 48 hours they were in Chicago. They were interviewed for podcasts by two veterans of the original SDS, Bill Ayers and Michael James; appeared in the classrooms of UIC professors David Stovall, Nadine Naber, and Andy Clarno, and held a rally with 40 UIC students and staff.
The Justice for the Tampa 5 Tour now moves to Grand Rapids, Michigan and will continue through the end of October. To support the Tampa 5, go to http://defendthetampa5.org.