SARASOTA - A growing movement around the nation asks people to boycott Florida in the wake of George Zimmerman's not guilty verdict. A boycott sounds ominous, especially in a state whose biggest industry is tourism. The anger has spurred calls for action – but what kind? And to what end?
Singer Stevie Wonder made a vow at a concert this week. “I have decided today,” he told the crowd, “that until the stand your ground law is abolished in Florida I will never perform there again.”
Wonder joins at least four Facebook pages and online petitions that call for people to boycott the state – – all stemming from Saturday's verdict in Sanford. But will the anger from that, which fueled rallies across the country, focus into the kind of effort that harms florida's economy?
“People are angry, but they're not entirely sure what or who they're angry at. The jury? Florida's legislature? Florida in general?” says New College political science professor Frank Alcock. He has doubts about economic damage from the protests, but he does believe it could lead to political changes. “I do think that there will be significant political pressure that gets put on the legislature to revisit the stand your ground law,” Alcock says.
State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), who introduced the stand your ground law in the Florida legislature acknowledges that the Zimmerman case raises questions about the law. “I think we're in a political debate,” he says. “And I think there will continue to be a political debate."
But he does not sound ready to back down from the bill he championed. “Unfortunately, I think this is a distraction,” Baxley says. “And really attacking the statute is just some way of trying to bring relief to the situation, where we have an underlying problem of violence.”
We could get a test of any boycott's power later this month. The National Association of Black Journalists plans to begin its convention July 31 in Orlando. But some members posted on the event's Facebook page a promise not to show up, and asked others to join them in staying away.
“There's always talk of boycotts. there's often attempts at boycotts,” Alcock says. “The overwhelming majority of those attempts usually have no economic bite.”