Four members of Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) were arrested at the Patel Center for Global Solutions on Monday during a protest, according to USF Police Public Information representative Michael Lavelle.
Laura Rodriguez, a 23-year-old USF alum, Gia Davila, a 21-year-old student, Jeanie Kida, a 26-year-old student and Chrisley Carpio, a 31-year-old USF employee were all charged with assault or battery of law enforcement, resisting an officer without violence to his or her person and penalty for disruption to an educational institution, according to Lavelle. Davila was also charged for trespassing, Lavelle said.
The four members arrested were all released on bail on Monday, according to records from the Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office.
Those involved were advocating for USF to protect students from Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent plans to defund diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at public universities, according to senior and SDS member Lauren Pineiro.
SDS members entered the building at around 1:30 p.m. and began protesting at a loud volume, Lavelle said. When SDS members refused to leave after university employees asked them to go outside, USFPD got involved, according to Lavelle.
Members didn’t exit the building when officers asked the protestors to leave, according to Lavelle.
From there, Lavelle said some SDS members initiated physical altercations by pushing officers and shoving one to the ground. Lavelle said the officer pushed to the ground suffered minor injuries.
After a back and forth between USFPD and SDS where the students insisted on a meeting with President Rhea Law, the first physical contact came when an officer grabbed a female student, junior and SDS member Yuki Shao, who filmed the altercation, said. That’s when fellow protestors joined in to protect the student, according to Shao.
Lavelle said officers were also hit by a video camera, a water bottle and an unidentified liquid.
Shao said that the camera did not belong to a student.
“If you look in the video, the only person that had a video camera was one of the officers,” Shao said.
“One of the girls had a Starbucks cup that was in her hand and in the video, you can see an officer that starts choking her. Obviously something would spill because she had a bottle in her hand and you’re throwing her around.”
Some SDS members said officers “brutalized” them, according to SDS’ Instagram page.
Pineiro said some officers scratched students and slammed their heads to the ground to subdue them.
“They immediately grabbed [a member of SDS]. So I ran over to try to get them to stop and they basically threw us to the ground, they were pounding on my head,” Pineiro said. “They were scratching my arms, basically doing whatever they can to restrain us, but in a very aggressive, violent way.”
Pineiro said the officers’ treatment of the students was “uncalled for” and shouldn’t be the way USFPD handles situations.
“This is unacceptable. There was no reason for them to give us as much brutality just for what they were saying was trespassing,” Pineiro said. “But they didn’t give us a chance to even comply with them.”
A Tuesday statement from SDS also alleged that officers did not read the arrested students their rights and “inappropriately handled” and “groped” them.
This story has been updated.