Tampa, FL - On Sept. 11, members of various student and community groups gathered at the University of South Florida (USF) to commemorate the millions of victims affected by the conflicts sparked by the U.S. after the attacks on this day eleven years ago. The gathering was organized by Tampa Against the War on Terror and was supported by the campus chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. It came before a counter-protest in downtown Tampa, against a hate group that was seeking to ban the Council on America-Islamic Relations from speaking in Hillsborough County Public Schools.
The event started with the distribution of signs and artwork which depicted the gruesome realities and toll of the War on Terror. This was followed by a march around the USF Student Center, where people chanted, “No justice, no peace, no war in the Middle East,” and “Drop tuition, not bombs.”
The protesters ended their march inside the Student Center, where Tefa Galvis, an organizer with Tampa Against the War on Terror, invited everyone present to get involved to end the wars, while a banner that stated the figures on the lives and resources lost in the past eleven years was dropped from the third floor. Galvis went on to add that the rising cost of tuition was directly related to the amount of money spent on these wars.
A representative from the University attempted to stop the protest. Despite this, Matt Hastings, an organizer with SDS, gave a speech blasting the racist interventions in the Middle East, particularly the recent U.S. involvement in Syria, declaring, “No drone strikes, and no tuition hikes!”
The crowd then swiftly organized a caravan to join the counter-protest downtown, where the Education Coalition, consisting of Tea Partiers from across the state, was holding a press conference outside of a Hillsborough County School Board meeting to denounce the Council on America-Islamic Relations (CAIR) as a ‘jihadist’ organization and to attempt to get CAIR banned from speaking at local schools. The counter-protest quickly broke the lines of the press conference with chants such as, “No hate, no fear,” to make sure that the anti-Islamic message made by the group was not welcomed in the city of Tampa.