USF Tampa students will rally at state attorney's office to demand charges against protesters be dropped

The state attorney protest will be held March 15 at 1 p.m.

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click to enlarge Protesters demand that charges against their peers be dropped during a press conference last week. - USF Students for a Democratic Society
USF Students for a Democratic Society
Protesters demand that charges against their peers be dropped during a press conference last week.
Tomorrow, University of South Florida Students fighting against charges placed on four women during a demonstration at the campus will take their protest to the state attorney’s office.

Three students and one faculty member were arrested on March 6 during a rally to protect diversity, after USF Police Chief Chris Daniel initiated contact with one of the women by grabbing her arm and yanking her. Daniel didn't announce that she was under arrest.

After that, the scene became chaotic as other students rushed in to help her. Several more students were arrested inside and outside the Patel Center, where the protest was held.

Now, USF Students For a Democratic Society will host a rally on Wednesday, March 15 at 1 p.m. at 419 Pierce St. in downtown Tampa to call on Hillsborough State Attorney Suzy Lopez to drop the charges. Each protester was hit with felony battery on a law enforcement officer and multiple misdemeanors.
Lopez was handpicked by Governor Ron DeSantis after he removed elected State Attorney Andrew Warren, in part because he stood against the governor's attempts to criminalize abortion.

A representative from Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office 13th Judicial Circuit (SAO 13) told CL that the state attorney has not yet filed any charges. The charges against the protesters are for now just booking charges from USFPD, and SAO 13 has 170 days to gather and consider all of the evidence and decide if prosecutors want to move forward with official charges.

Students and advocates say that SAO 13 shouldn't move forward with them, considering the circumstances surrounding the event.

On the day that the arrests occurred, the police issued a statement which insinuated that the protesters had initiated the conflict and that officers were struck with a water bottle and a video camera. However, nowhere in police reports obtained by Creative Loafing Tampa Bay was it mentioned that officers were struck with objects.

Asked about the discrepancy between the arrest reports and its statement, USFPD said it was no longer responding to questions and referred CL to SAO13.

Last week, President Rhea Law defended USFPD’s actions in a statement, saying that what took place at the protest “is not what anyone wants to see on our campuses.”

Rhea said that those arrested failed to comply when asked to leave the building by police and “actively resisted” officers and put their hands on police. She said that the university will “review the actions of all involved.”

Meanwhile, students are calling for Chief Daniel to be fired, alleging that the video shows that he escalated the situation and potentially violated several student’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Video from the incident shows several students being slammed to the ground and shoved by police—even students who weren’t arrested.
Today, one of those arrested told CL that Law’s defense of USFPD’s actions is “cowardly.”

“There are so many videos of protesters being essentially beaten up on Law’s campus by police,” Gia Davila, who has also been suspended from the school just ahead of graduation, said. “But at the end of the day, students are behind us, faculty is behind us. And I think that it is only becoming more apparent that her statement is just becoming more and more incorrect.”

About the protest being held tomorrow, Davila said they’re bringing their demonstration to the SAO 13 office because there needs to be more attention to the matter.

“All of the charges are baseless,” Davila said. “And it’s well within her [Lopez’] power to not move forward with the charges.”

About The Author

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia has written for The Nation, Investigative Reporters & Editors Journal, the USA Today Network and various other news outlets. When he's not writing, Justin likes to make music, read, play basketball and spend time with loved ones. 

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