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Zimmerman verdict spurs talk of Florida boycott, ignores other 'stand-your-ground' states

 

Black lawmakers and other groups are trying to harness outrage over the George Zimmerman verdict into a national indictment against the state of Florida, seeking to organize an Arizona-style boycott against everything from tourism to orange juice. 

But there's one striking difference. 

While Arizona had passed first-of-its kind legislation against illegal immigration when the uproar started over that state, Florida is hardly unique. At least 22 states have "stand-your-ground" laws -- which allow people to use deadly force to protect themselves often without any compulsion to retreat, and are at the center of the post-verdict controversy. 

And in the case of Zimmerman, his attorneys didn't even use the law as part of their defense. 

Some officials, like Attorney General Eric Holder, are calling for a review of all stand-your-ground laws. But those specifically backing a Florida boycott seem to be hinging their sudden distaste for the Sunshine State on the Zimmerman verdict -- which was reached by a jury of six people. 

After civil rights leader Jesse Jackson called for people to "isolate" Florida, Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio warned that the move would damage tourism and stoke more division in the country. 

"Jesse Jackson has a history of saying outrageous things, divisive things. I would hope this would be a time when our country would come together and try to unite people and not divide people by saying things that are patently false and outrageous and offensive," he told MyFoxOrlando.com

The boycott push comes following the not guilty verdict in the murder trial of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain who shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February 2012. 

The rush to wield the boycott hammer against the entire state's economy has caused hesitation among some Democrats. Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards told "Fox News Sunday" that such a move could be "devastating" to some communities in the state, though other members of the Congressional Black Caucus -- of which she is a part -- have taken up the call. 

Such boycotts can, in fact, be very costly to states. When critics of the Arizona immigration law began canceling trips and conventions there in 2010, it cost millions. 

The Center for American Progress issued a report finding that roughly $45 million in lodging revenue was lost in the four months after passage. When transportation, entertainment, retail and other business were factored in, the lost revenue added up to more than $140 million, according to the study.

Florida foes now see that kind of buying power as leverage to punish the state, a move that is prompting a social media battle between them and Florida's defenders. 

Even the tourism-themed Visit Florida Facebook page has become a forum for online sniping over the verdict and stand-your-ground laws. 

The latest post on the site -- one touting National Ice Cream Day -- almost immediately garnered the comment: "not til they fix the law that helped kill trayvon martin." 

Another commenter posted "good grief" in response: "Can't even enjoy a post about ICE CREAM and we have to read the negative comments about the SYG law." 

Those pushing for a boycott are doing what they can to make it a national movement. 

MoveOn.org has gathered thousands of signatures on a petition backing a boycott, alleging the state is "not a safe place to vacation." 

Members of California's Legislative Black Caucus also are weighing in. State Democratic Rep. Chris Holden said last week he planned to introduce a resolution calling for repeal of the stand-your-ground law -- in Florida -- while calling for a boycott in the meantime.