Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday accused Rev. Jesse Jackson of insulting Floridians with a series of reckless and divisive statements about the state and its “stand your ground” self-defense law.
While visiting the state Capitol Tuesday, Jackson talked about efforts to repeal the law and used the phrase “Selma of our time” — a reference to civil rights marches in Alabama that helped prompt change in the 1960s.
In a July 18 exchange on CNN, Jackson talked about an economic boycott to “isolate Florida as a kind of apartheid state given this whole stand your ground laws.”
Scott denounced both comments and demanded an apology, saying the longtime civil rights leader’s words “insult Floridians and divide our state at a time when we are striving for unity and healing.”
Other top Republicans also picked up on the comments, including House Speaker Will Weatherford and newly elected Rep. Mike Hill, the only African-American GOP lawmaker in Tallahassee. Hill called Jackson’s words a “disgrace.”
But Jackson, 71, said he would not apologize. “These guys are looking for a diversion from the horrendous laws that are separating people,” he said. “I will not respond in kind.”
The back-and-forth Wednesday, which spiraled on social media, further underscores the tension that remains in the state since George Zimmerman was acquitted of the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. A group of demonstrators, who believe the stand your ground law aided Zimmerman’s defense, have been camping outside Scott’s office hoping that the law will be repealed.
Jackson briefly joined that group, the Dream Defenders, to help their cause. That much is clear.
But his comments Tuesday about the civil rights era — and their meaning — are more difficult to decipher. While Jackson mentioned Selma, he did it in an indirect way.
He spoke about how his organization, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and others were going to recruit adults, ministers and students to come to Tallahassee and support the Dream Defenders. In Jackson’s telling, the cause was not limited to Florida or stand your ground laws, but to a myriad of issues that also…