TALLAHASSEE -- It didn’t take long for Florida’s Republican leaders to lash out following comments made Tuesday by the Rev. Jesse Jackson during his visit with the Dream Defenders protest group at the Capitol.
Gov. Rick Scott asked that Jackson apologize for calling Florida the “Selma of our time” and “the Apartheid State.”
“Jesse Jackson owes every Floridian an apology for his reckless and divisive comments,” Scott said in a statement Wednesday. “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. Floridians are a strong, resilient people. We are fortunate to live in a great state where all Floridians enjoy opportunities to get a great job and world-class education.”
Jackson, like the Dream Defenders, wants Florida to revisit the “stand your ground” law that was passed in 2005. Scott has said he supports the law and won’t call a special session to address it.
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Jackson said Florida’s post-Trayvon Martin environment is “toxic.”
“ 'Stand your ground’ laws must end,” Jackson told reporters. “The manipulation of African-Americans here is disgraceful.”
“We’ve seen Southern governors before change their minds,” Jackson said Tuesday. “Wallace said we couldn’t go to the University of Alabama. He had to change his mind.”
Wallace is a reference to former Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who in 1963 famously stood in the door of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama to block the entry of two black students. In the late 1970s, he apologized to black leaders for his stance on segregation. In his final term as governor in 1983-1987, Wallace made a record number of black appointments.
Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford reacted strongly as well. He objected to Jackson’s comparison of Scott to Wallace. On Tuesday night, Weatherford tweeted: Rev. Jackson’s latest comments about @FLGovScott went too far. I am embarrassed for him and his irresponsible statement.
It was retweeted 15 times, including once by Lenny Curry, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
Jackson, meanwhile, was gone by early Wednesday to catch a flight. He slept on the floor of the Capitol on Tuesday night as part of the Dream Defenders’ sit-in.
“He was telling different stories and correlating what’s going on right now in the movement that we’re creating with movements and moments that he’s been part of,” said the Dream Defenders’ Steve Parjett. “He’s committed to continuing to help us and continuing to provide support.”