A few years ago, when my parents and other family members were angered by the actions of a new priest at the church co-founded by my grandparents, they met with the archdiocese of Houston to register their complaint.
They got a polite reception from the number two official. Yet it wasn’t until my mom said they were planning to place fliers on each car in the church parking lot asking the congregation to stop giving their tithes and offerings that he finally sat up and said, “We’ll look into your grievances.”
Whether it’s the Catholic Church or anywhere else in America, money talks.
That’s why when the Rev. Jamal Bryant of Baltimore spoke at the March 10 rally on the Florida state capitol grounds and called for people of conscience to mobilize economically to help defeat the law, it was seized upon by the larger public as a real means of fighting Florida lawmakers.
Ever since the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, Floridians and others have shone a light on the controversial law, which was first signed into law in Florida and has now spread to 23 other states.
Second Amendment lovers defend it, saying its necessary for Americans to defend themselves at all times when their life is perceived to be in imminent danger. Yet civil right activists say that when the lives of black kids like Martin and Jordan Davis are taken, the law must be changed.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, along with the Republican-controlled legislature, has resisted all overtures to changing the law, including a variety of protests.
So maybe it’s time to hit the Gunshine state in the pocketbook.
On Monday, Bryant called on two of the state’s major employers, Tropicana orange juice and Disney, to stand up against the “stand your ground” laws or be targeted. In his speech before nearly 2,000 people at the march, he said that he faxed a letter to officials at both corporations to meet with “stand your ground” law opponents by April 4 to discuss the issue. Not only is that one month after the Florida Legislature would be in session for this 90-day term, but also the anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
If Tropicana and Disney do not choose to sit down and discuss joining forces to repeal the “stand your ground” law, an economic mobilization plan would go into effect that may include asking folks nationwide to not use Tropicana or come to Disney World, as well as call on organizations to not hold their conventions in Florida.
It’s clear that Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature doesn’t want to do anything to change the law. They contend that it is not racially biased and has contributed to lowering the crime rate in the state. But when district attorneys and law enforcement officials say the law is confusing and hampers their jobs, something must be done.
Our history is replete with aggrieved people standing up to unjust laws. In 1955, Montgomery, Ala., was hit with a bus protest by the city’s 50,000 African-Americans to end segregated busing. That was achieved 381 days later when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional.
There are countless other examples, including two weeks ago when Gov. Jan Brewer announced she was vetoing a bill critics called anti-gay. The religious freedom bill passed by the legislature would have let businesses invoke their religious conviction as a reason to not service gay and lesbian patrons. With the possibility of losing the Super Bowl, Big Business stood up to the GOP-led legislature and told Brewer to end the madness.
Lawmakers can say one thing to constituents. Yet when Big Business begins to speak, they listen. Corporations have campaign contributions, hire thousands of people in the state and pay millions in taxes. If hotels, restaurants and other companies begin to see massive financial losses due to an economic boycott, that affects the bottom line. And when the bottom line of Big Business is hurt, they don’t play around.
We’ll see what happens with officials from Tropicana and Disney World. What they must understand is that it’s not wise to ignore this call. People of conscience are sick and tired of being sick and tired about the “stand your ground” law.
Florida is ground zero in the fight against the “stand your ground” law. The state’s business interests, namely tourism, really don’t want to see this escalate. But if they don’t stand up against the law, they may be faced with empty hotels, amusement parks and restaurants.
Your move, Florida.
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Roland S. Martin is senior political analyst for TV One and author of the book “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as Originally Reported by Roland S. Martin.”