Florida's already-controversial Stand Your Ground law garnered a new critic Tuesday: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Speaking at the NAACP’s annual convention in Orlando, Holder said the time had come “to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods.”
“By allowing and perhaps encouraging violent situations to escalate in public, such laws undermine public safety,” Holder said.
Miami lawyer David Weinstein, a former state and federal prosecutor, called the speech “appropriate” in light of concerns civil rights organizations have raised about the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
To date, more than one million people have signed an NAACP petition urging the U.S. Department of Justice to file federal civil-rights violation charges against George Zimmerman, who fatally shot Trayvon in 2012. Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder or manslaughter on Saturday.
“The Justice Department has a high burden of proof to meet before they can file any federal charges,” Weinstein said. “His shifting of the focus from an investigation into possible civil rights-hate crime charges to an analysis of self-defense laws was the appropriate response. This approach will keep people’s expectations in check and not create false hope.”
Elsewhere in the country, thousands of consumers took to social media Tuesday to propose a boycott of Florida until Stand Your Ground is repealed.
At least two online petitions on MoveOn.org demanding the law be reformed or repealed have tallied about 7,200 signatures. A separate Boycott Florida page on Facebook has more than 1,300 “likes.”
R&B legend Stevie Wonder announced during his Quebec City performance on Sunday that he will not perform in Florida until the Stand Your Ground law is repealed.
“The truth is that — for those of you who’ve lost in the battle for justice, wherever that fits in any part of the world — we can’t bring them back,” he was quoted as saying in the Hollywood Reporter. “What we can do is we can let our voices be heard. And we can vote in our various countries throughout the world for change and equality for everybody. That’s what I know we can do.”
Miami Herald staff writers Jay Weaver and Audra D.S. Burch contributed reporting.