The Rev. Jesse Jackson apparently struck a nerve among some members of the Grand Old Party during a recent visit to Florida, when he spoke with the Dream Defenders, a group of young activists and professionals, at the state Capitol. While discussing efforts to repeal Florida’s “Stand your ground” laws, he used the phrase “Selma of our time,” referring to the bloody civil rights marches in Alabama in the 1960s, the Miami Herald reports.
The state’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott promptly denounced the comment and accused Jackson of insulting residents with a series of reckless and divisive remarks. He demanded an apology.
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stand your ground law aided Zimmerman’s defense, have been camping outside Scott’s office hoping that the law will be repealed.
Read more at the Miami Herald.