Florida Governor outraged at Rev. Jesse Jackson for speaking up about racism in the state
By Barry Burch, Jr.
Reverend Jesse Jackson has been known to speak his mind, and recently his train of thought has warranted the attention of Florida Governor, Rick Scott. Jackson compared the state’s handling of the Trayvon Martin case to the civil rights horrors of the 1960s in Selma, Alabama. Scott is demanding an apology for the association.
In his remarks at a protest, Jackson said the environment in Florida was “toxic.” He made the connection between former Alabama Governor George Wallace and Scott because both of the men “changed their mind” about their positions on civil rights. As Governor, Wallace stood in the way of the door at the University of Alabama to block two Black students from entering. Jackson said of Florida, “this is the Selma of our time.
Scott responded by adamantly condemning Jackson’s comments as “reckless” and “divisive.” He also said Jackson should apologize to the residents. “It is unfortunate that he would come to Florida to insult Floridians and divide our state at a time when we are striving for unity and healing,” Scott said. Jackson also labeled Florida an “apartheid state.”
Jackson spent the night with protesters at the Capital and defended his remarks in an interview with The Associated Press, going over a list of conditions in the state that he said made it “apartheid-like.”
He drew attention to the state’s voting laws, statistics on juvenile criminals and the alarming disparities in Florida’s prison population. Black people make up more than 40 percent of Florida’s prison population, while only 17-percent overall.
“In the gaps between Blacks and whites, one sees apartheid-like conditions,” Jackson said.
“If he comes back to work I will talk to him face to face,” Jackson said of the governor. “I’m interested in a resolution, not a fight.” Jackson said he would like to work with Scott to change policies like the “Stand Your Ground” law that he believes “incentivizes” violence.
Although Zimmerman alleged self-defense in the shooting of 17-year-old unarmed Miami teenager during a fight, “Stand Your Ground” language was still used to direct the jury. Some Martin supporters say Zimmerman profiled and followed Martin because he was Black and Zimmerman identifies himself as Hispanic.
Jackson also cited the case of Marissa Alexander to illustrate how the law has been applied unequally. Alexander, who is from Jacksonville, fired a bullet at a wall trying to scare away her husband, who she felt was threatening her. The judge would not allow her to use “Stand Your Ground,” and she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The protest taking place in Florida and attended by Jesse Jackson was put together by Dream Defenders, a new organization that started on July 16. The group is trying to urge 32 legislators to ask for a special session. Under Florida law, if 32 legislators make that demand, then the Department of State must poll the Legislature. If three-fifths of lawmakers agree, then a special session must be called.
Right now Republican leaders in the Florida Legislature remain opposed to a special session.