What is the Emergency Committee to Defend the Tampa 5?
Founded during the Emergency Conference to Defend the Tampa 5 on June 24, 2023, the Emergency Committee to Defend the Tampa 5 is a national defense committee of political and community organizations uniting together to bring justice for the Tampa 5 – five women protesters facing 5 to 10 years in prison for protesting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ racist attacks on education.
What happened to the Tampa 5?
On March 6, 2023, Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held a protest to fight back against DeSantis’s anti-diversity bill HB 999/SB 266 at the University of South Florida. Protesters were met with violence from the cops including being punched, kicked, and groped. Gia Davila, Laura Rodriguez, Chrisley Carpio, and Jeanie Kida were arrested, and held in the back of hot cop cars, as the police deliberated over what they could possibly charge them with. They were originally charged with 1 felony and 2-3 misdemeanors each, with a bail of around $3,000 per person. 30 days after the initial arrest Lauren Pineiro was notified via email from the University that academic and criminal charges were being filed against her, as well. A warrant was put out for her arrest, and she too had to pay a near $3,000 bail when turning herself into jail.
Some of those arrested lost their jobs, including campus worker and AFSCME union member Chrisley Carpio, who was fired by USF despite maintaining a spotless record during her seven-year career. Others experienced threats of expulsion and talk of not being allowed to graduate, despite video evidence that clearly shows the police as the aggressors. Later, the university released a report comparing the original student protest to an active shooter situation on campus, falsely claiming that procedures for an active shooter situation had to be used in response to the student demonstration.
After the community organized and the Tampa 5 spoke out against these false charges, they were given an unconfirmed pretrial intervention, but only if the Tampa 5 wrote apology letters to the police officers who attacked and groped them and if the police accepted it. This was considered unacceptable and rejected by the heroic young women who suffered the unprovoked attack for simply exercising their freedom of speech. In response, the state doubled the felony counts on three of the five who are now facing up to 10 years in prison for using their First Amendment right to protest.
Who are the Tampa 5?
The Tampa 5 are made up of five activists from the Tampa area facing up to ten years in prison on false charges brought upon by the police for protesting at the University of South Florida (USF) against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ attacks on diversity programs, ethnic studies, and women’s and gender studies in higher education. Gia Davila, Jeanie Kida, Chrisley Carpio, Laura Rodriguez, and Lauren Pineiro are the students, workers, and community activists who were unjustly brutalized and arrested.
Gia Davila (she/her) is a Chicano student organizer who recently graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with a degree in Studio Art with a concentration in painting. Gia has been a member of Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) since 2020 and has been active in the fight to increase Black enrollment and protect diversity programs at USF. On March 6th, she led an SDS protest in response to HB 999/SB 266 – a bill that bans funding for diversity programs, ethnic studies, and women’s and gender studies at Florida colleges – and was one of the four activists brutalized and arrested at the event. Since then she has been actively organizing within Tampa Bay SDS in order to get the charges on her and the others dropped.
Chrisley Carpio (she/her) is a Filipina immigrant and longtime member and supporter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). She was born in Cebu City, Philippines, moved to Miami, Florida, at the age of three and grew up in South Florida. As an undergraduate, she studied history. At the time of the March 6th protest, Chrisley was an admissions evaluator at the University of South Florida (USF) and a member of AFSCME Local 3342. For many years, she has attended SDS protests, marches, and rallies, saying no to tuition increases, budget cuts, layoffs, and cuts to ethnic studies, among other issues. In 2012, she and other protesters shut down the Sanford Police Department to demand justice for Trayvon Martin, and in 2020, she played an active role in organizing protests calling for justice for George Floyd. As a result of her arrest on March 6th, USF fired her in violation of her union contract. She is currently pursuing a grievance for wrongful termination through her union and continuing to fight to get the charges dropped. For fun, she likes to read, knit, bake, and play with her cat, Merlin.
Laura Rodriguez (she/her) is a the daughter of Puerto Rican immigrant and Colombian immigrant, a community activist, USF graduate, and member of the Tampa Bay Community Action Committee (TBCAC), a local chapter of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (NAARPR). She grew up with in Jacksonville with her mother, grandparents and 2 of her sisters. She is one of the first of her family to attend and graduate from a university. She graduated from the University of South Florida in the summer of 2022 with a bachelors in science for environmental biology and was an active member of SDS in her last 2 years. She attended the March 6th protest on her day off of work to stand in solidarity with SDS against attacks on higher education, Black history, and diversity programs. Despite facing police brutality herself, Laura is fighting against her bogus felony charges to protect other social movements from the repression she has faced in DeSantis’ Florida.
Lauren Pineiro (she/her) is a student activist with Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and a recent graduate from the University of South Florida (USF) where she majored in Sociology with a minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. Since joining SDS in Fall 2021, she has been organizing to increase Black enrollment on campus and, most recently, to save and expand diversity in higher education in response to HB 999/SB 266 – a bill that bans funding for diversity programs, ethnic studies, and women’s and gender studies. Although Lauren was not originally arrested on March 6th, she was charged a month after for continuing to stand up against DeSantis’ racist and transphobic attacks and has refused to back down even after being charged.