New Orleans, LA – On Thursday, March 9, over a dozen students at the University of New Orleans rallied at the school administrative building. They demanded that the Florida State Attorney drop all charges against four University of South Florida students who were brutalized and then arrested earlier in the week.
Students United, an affiliate of Students for a Democratic Society, organized the protest in response to a national call to support the Tampa 4. UNO students also pressed their demand for increased Black enrollment. Organizers demanded that UNO take action to support a growth in Black enrollment up from 23% to represent the people of New Orleans, a 58% Black city.
Students United showed strong support for the other members of the SDS facing charges in Florida, with signs declaring “Protest is not a crime.” Students United member Mathieu Ricciardo demanded that the “unjust charges be dropped, and the students be returned to normal status at their college.” They went on to point out that the DeSantis governorship in Florida is a “new frontline of organized reactionary politics” with “attacks on abortion rights, trans rights, voter rights and DEI programs.”
An organizer from the YDSA Loyola agreed that the attacks on the people need to be met with resistance, saying, “It’s time for us to stand up and fight back now before it reaches us.”
Referencing the fact that this was the first protest called without the administration’s involvement on campus in over a decade, Ricciardo called for solidarity with students around the country, saying, “This is the burgeoning of a new grassroots student movement in New Orleans.”
This new student movement in New Orleans has elected to fight back by struggling to increase the Black enrollment on their campus to adequately match the make-up of the city. “There is no sensible reason why the student body doesn’t represent the New Orleans area, in terms of demographics”, said Raven Ford, from Students United. Calling for measures to increase Black enrollment, such as adding an African-American and Diaspora Studies major, Ford added, “We are the New Orleans community and the student body should reflect the New Orleans community,” and “the curriculum should highlight all history, not just whitewashed propaganda.”
A petition offered to those that passed by the speakout garnered over 60 signatures. Many students volunteered to speak out on the mic against the injustice of low Black enrollment. After 45 minutes of speeches and chants, the UNOPD came to shut down the students’ sound speaker, but rally persisted in making their voices heard by shouting and chanting.
Readers can support the Tampa 4 by calling Florida State Attorney Susan Lopez at (813) 272-5400 to demand that all charges be dropped and can support Students United’s petition at https://linktr.ee/studentsuniteduno.