Rev. Jesse Jackson joins Dream Defenders in Tallahassee
TALLAHASSEE -- A day after civil-rights advocate Jesse Jackson suggested Florida's laws were racist and compared its governor to segregationist George Wallace, Gov. Rick Scott issued a statement calling on him to apologize.
Here's the release:
Today, Governor Rick Scott released the following statement in response to remarks from Jesse Jackson who yesterday called Florida “the Selma of our time.” Jackson has also referred to Florida as the “Apartheid State.”
Governor Rick Scott said, “Jesse Jackson owes every Floridian an apology for his reckless and divisive comments. 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 a world-class education.”
Jackson spent the night on the floor of the Capitol along with a handful of student protesters in their third week of demonstrations geared to force policymakers to repeal the state's controversial Stand Your Ground law. The Dream Defenders started their sit-in at Scott's office earlier this month after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the shooting death last year of teen Trayvon Martin in a Sanford gated community.
But Jackson on Tuesday dialed up the criticism to suggest Florida's justice and voting systems were intentionally designed to disenfranchise blacks.
"You incentivize killing people," he said to a crowd of protesters.
He also likened Scott's refusal to consider calling a special session to Wallace's refusal to allow black students to enroll at the University of Alabama in 1963, until striking a behind-the-scenes deal with President Kennedy to allow himself to be carried off the university steps by troops in full view of the national media.
"We've seen Southern governors before change their minds," Jackson said. "Wallace said we couldn't go to the University of Alabama. He had to change his mind."
The statements drew backlash from several prominent Republicans, including House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, who tweeted he was "embarrassed for him and his irresponsible statement."
Democrats have been largely supportive of the protesters, even making sure they had food delivered after business hours when Capitol police have refused to let food-delivery services into the building. But they were largely mum on Jackson's remarks.
And Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry on Wednesday also called them out for not rebuking Jackson's depiction of the state as a 1960s-era backwater.
"With Jesse Jackson having a history of making offensive remarks, like calling New York City 'Hymietown,' it's surprising to see that Democrats are not denouncing Jackson for what he said about Florida and Governor Rick Scott," Curry said in a release. "Jesse Jackson's attacks are offensive, inappropriate, divisive and ill-informed. We should be thankful to Governor Scott for his focus on uniting Florida during this time."