Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson says he won't back down from controversial comments he made following the George Zimmerman verdict after he was asked to apologize by Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
Jackson on Tuesday called Florida “the Selma of our time.” The remark follows Jackson saying Florida was an “Apartheid State,” after a jury earlier this month found Zimmerman not guilty on all charges in the shooting death of black teenager Trayvon Martin.
“Jesse Jackson owes every Floridian an apology for his reckless and divisive comments,” the Republican governor said in a statement. “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.”
Jackson, in an interview with The Associated Press, on Wednesday defended his remarks. He cited the state's voter laws and incarceration rates of blacks versus the general population as examples of "apartheid like conditions."
The Selma remark refers to 1965 marches in Selma, Ala., over black voting rights and other civil rights issues in which marchers were injured by police. The term Apartheid State refers to the racial segregation in South Africa and elsewhere that the United Nations in the 1970s declared a crime against humanity.
Zimmerman, a Hispanic, fatally shot Martin, who was unarmed, when they became involved in a physical altercation while Zimmerman was on volunteer neighborhood watch duty in Sanford, Fla., in the early evening hours of Feb. 26, 2012.
Jackson, who is black and was a 1984 Democratic presidential candidate, made the comments while at the state capitol in Tallahassee.
He was visiting a group known as the Dream Defenders, protesting to get state lawmakers to overturn Florida’s Stand Your Ground self-defense law. Zimmerman’s lawyer did not use the law as part of their defense case.
“Floridians are a strong, resilient people,” Scott also said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report