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Peace & Justice Report: Tampa Five interview

Written by on Thursday, December 7, 2023

Court drops charges against USF protesters.

By Tom Walker

Original Air Date: Dec. 6, 2023

Host: The Peace & Justice Report on WSLR this morning featured two of the Tampa Five. The four University of South Florida students and one staffer were arrested and charged during a protest in March on the Tampa USF campus against the Florida governor’s higher education policies and what they perceive as a lack of resistance by their university’s administration. They are facing court dates this month, and six to 11 years in prison if found guilty. We have the latest about their fate.

Johannes Werner: Host Tom Walker first introduced his guests.

Tom Walker: And with us today are two of those five – Chrisley Carpio and Lauren Pineiro. Lauren recently graduated from the University of South Florida with a sociology major. Chrisley is a former USF employee who was fired for participation in that protest. She was an admissions evaluator and financial aid assistant before that, and all five and both of these people with us today are members of the Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society.

JW: He then asked what the latest from the courts was for the Tampa Five.

Chrisley Carpio: So as of yesterday – because yesterday was our final pre-trial court appearance – we got the charges dropped. So, great victory. Yep, yep. All we have to do now is be in a misdemeanor intervention program that after a year will dismiss our charges, as long as we each do 24 hours of community service that meets … certain conditions. Unless we’re taking classes, working or going for medical purposes, we can’t come to USF. We have to report to the court monthly, and can get arrested again for same or similar. But yeah, you know, if we meet those conditions, we will have the charges dropped, and we did not plead guilty to anything. We didn’t even do a no-contest plea. The lawyers got up and the state … is closing this case with a misdemeanor intervention program. USF has actually released a statement saying we took responsibility. That’s not true. We were never guilty. We were never sorry. We didn’t .. plead anything except innocent the whole time. We got the charges dropped.

JW: Lauren Pineiro recounted what happened, from her perspective.

Lauren Pineiro: Yeah, so on March 6, earlier this year, Students for a Democratic Society held a protest at the University of South Florida, where we marched to our president’s office to try to get a meeting with her. We were protesting against House Bill 999, which is a bill that later passed as SB 266. It bans funding for diversity programs, ethnic studies, women’s and gender studies, for cultural groups and even student activist groups, and also attacks tenure for professors. So it’s this huge overhaul of academic freedom as a part of the larger attacks that we’ve been seeing across the state on education from Ron DeSantis. So we held a protest that day because we thought that was wrong. We think that students have a right to learn about their own history, that we should have diversity programs on campus, especially with USF the black enrollment is incredibly low. So we thought that that should be increased, and we marched to the president’s office — well, the building with offices, so we weren’t actually in the office. We were in the lobby, and we were in there for two to five minutes maybe, when about 15 USF police officers entered the building. The chief of police grabbed a student without warning, just grabbed her mid-sentence and from there all of the police officers joined in attacking students. So we were brutalized simply because we were protesting, simply because of our politics. We were not a physical threat that day, and they ended up arresting four people that day. So Chrisley Carpio was arrested, as well as Gia Davila, Jeanie Kida and Laura Rodriguez. And they were charged with a felony for battery on a law enforcement officer as well as two misdemeanors — one for resisting arrest without violence, and another for disrupting campus activity. So I wasn’t originally arrested, but about a month later, I was sitting in class. It was actually a women’s and gender studies class, which I kind of find ironic since DeSantis wants to get rid of that, but I’m sitting in class when I received notice from the school that I was also being charged with the exact same charges as the rest of the other defendants.

JW: For the full interview, go to wslr.org, click on archive and look for the Dec. 6 Peace and Justice Report.


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