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University of South Florida students and faculty rally against building on nature preserve

By staff |
May 11, 2021
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SDS protest to stop sale of USF nature preserve.
SDS protest to stop sale of USF nature preserve. (Fight Back! News/staff)

Tampa, FL - On May 7, 80 students and community members gathered at the entrance of the University of South Florida (USF) Forest Preserve to demand that USF protect the preserve instead of selling it for development. The protest was hosted by Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and Save USF Forest Preserve.

On April 1, USF put out a Request for Information to receive business inquiries for developments on the Preserve, the USF Golf Course, and the Riverfront Park. Speakers at the event addressed the importance of the Preserve due to its environmental impact, but also because of its educational purposes.

The Preserve is also a home to several indigenous cultural sites. Members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and Florida Indigenous Rights and Environmental Equality (FIREE) spoke about the importance of preserving the land.

SDS spoke about their campaign to defund the university police. Last fall, USF announced $36.7 million in budget cuts that would mainly affect education and student services. The campus police department’s current budget is over $7 million.

Ben Braver, member of Tampa Bay SDS, stated, “USFPD is an inefficient, incompetent, discriminatory office that needs to be defunded. All they do is arrest protesters. Shield far-right extremists like Kaitlin Bennet, who come to this school seeking to provoke outrage, from the very students they should be protecting.”

Despite the school year being over, SDS plans to continue their campaign to defund the campus police into the summer. They also plan to continue to fight back against USF administration's attempts at cutting down and developing the Forest Preserve.

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