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Prominent black leaders split on Trayvon verdict, calls for Florida boycott
A member of the Congressional Black Caucus moved Sunday to dampen calls for an economic boycott of Florida in reaction to the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, saying the effort could wind up hurting black communities.
“I think that many of us understand that sometimes when we call for those kind of economic boycotts, the impact on some of our communities can be really tremendous, and so I want to examine that first,” Rep. Donna F. Edwards, Maryland Democrat, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
She gave the warning a day after civil rights groups held rallies nationwide in support of Trayvon Martin while calling for a Florida boycott and the repeal of “stand-your-ground” laws, which allow people to use lethal force to defend themselves outside their homes.
In an interview last week with CNN, the Rev. Jesse Jackson called Florida an “apartheid state” and said he would consider launching an economic boycott if the Justice Department does not file federal charges against Mr. Zimmerman, who shot 17-year-old Trayvon during a scuffle last year in Sanford, Fla.
Singer Stevie Wonder announced last week that he would refuse to perform in Florida or any other state with a stand-your-ground law.
At the same time, she challenged calls by Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon and columnist, for Americans to “tone down the rhetoric and recognize that we the people are not each other’s enemies.”
“But Dr. Carson, really to be clear, there are deep systemic problems that really impact African-Americans in the system that have to be addressed, and I think the president spoke to some of those. And so we can’t ignore that,” Ms. Edwards said.
President Obama compared himself in remarks Friday to the slain Florida teenager, saying “Trayvon Martin could’ve been me 35 years ago” and that the outcome of the case “might have been different” if the victim had been white.
The president earned praise from Trayvon’s parents and many others, but black talk show host Tavis Smiley on Sunday dismissed Mr. Obama’s remarks as “weak as pre-sweetened Kool-Aid.”
“This is not Libya. This is America. On this issue, you cannot lead from behind. What’s lacking in this moment is moral leadership,” the PBS commentator said in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The Justice Department is investigating the case for possible civil-rights violations. The department has come under criticism after documents released by Judicial Watch showed that the federal agency’s Community Relations Service helped organize rallies against Mr. Zimmerman.
On CNN’s “State of the Union,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tangled with Rep. Bobby L. Rush, Illinois Democrat, after he said the Zimmerman trial reminded him of a lynch mob. Mr. Rush famously put on a hoodie last year on the House floor in support of Trayvon.
“You have a congressman who represents the most violent city in America, you have a congressman who represents the city in which 500 people were killed last year, 74 percent of them African-Americans,” said Mr. Gingrich. “You have a congressman whose own district is bleeding who puts on a hoodie as a symbolic act, but he doesn’t do anything about the gangs in his own district.”
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About the Author
Valerie Richardson covers politics and the West from Denver. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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