Stevie Wonder exemplifies star power. He has voiced his displeasure in the past with state laws by boycotting a state, and he announced Sunday that Florida will not be graced with his presence on its stages anytime soon.
He said Sunday he will use “the gift that God has given me,” even though he is “just one person,” to pressure states that have adopted a controversial self-defense law.
More than 20 states have adopted some form of the “Stand Your Ground” law, which could give increased protection for people who shoot another in self-defense instead of retreating.
Florida’s law is under particular scrutiny. It states: “A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.”
The law continues: “However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if … He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”
Following Saturday’s “not guilty” verdict in the hotly contested George Zimmerman case—Zimmerman shot and killed 19-year-old Trayvon Martin, claiming self-defense—Wonder is not the only influential voice to oppose “Stand Your Ground.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, decried the laws as divisive and dangerous at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) convention held July 13–17. (See video below)
“Separate and apart from the case that has drawn the nation’s attention,” he said, referring to Zimmerman’s trial, which was held near the site of the convention in central Florida, “It’s time to question laws that senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods.”
Holder, the first African American attorney general, said that after Martin was shot he was reminded of a talk his father had with him long ago. His father told him “as a young black man, how to interact with police.”
Many believe Zimmerman, a Hispanic man, would not have shot Martin if Martin were not African American. Martin was walking through Zimmerman’s neighborhood, and as part of the neighborhood-watch, Zimmerman confronted him. A conflict ensued and Zimmerman shot.
Holder said he was motivated by Martin’s death to have that same conversation with his son, a father-son tradition he hoped would be unnecessary to continue.
Martin’s mother, Sybrina Martin, told CNN in June: “I’m not opposed to the law. I just want them to review the law. I still feel that there is something wrong if a minor, a kid, a teenager–was shot and killed and pursued by an adult. … I just think they need to look at that law and fix it.”
Martin’s Father, Tracy Martin, told CBS in April: “”You can’t be the aggressor and say that you’re standing your ground in a case such as our case. … You can’t pursue a person and then claim you are protecting yourself. We’re not trying to change the whole stand your ground laws, but we want them to make amendments.”
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted on Wednesday: “Trayvon never had the right 2 ‘stand his ground’ cause the ground was never his (or any black man’s) in the 1st place.”
CNN’s Piers Morgan tweeted: “Finally, Eric Holder says something I agree with–Stand Your Ground is a terrible law.”
Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carrol defended the law, telling CNN it is a misconception that the law allows people to “shoot first,” instead of retreating. “That’s far from the truth, because the law clearly says you have an opportunity to retreat. If you have that ability to do so, then you do so,” she said.
The law states: “A person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if … He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”
Other states that have some form of the law, and which Wonder may now avoid, include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan,Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania , Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The law’s strength and wording varies from state to state.
Wonder announced Sunday: “I decided today that until the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again. As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world.”
“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 said. “What we can do is we can let our voices be heard.”
Wonder also boycotted Arizona in 1991 when the state refused to recognize Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. Other musicians, lead by Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha, recently boycotted performances in Arizona to pressure the government to drop SB1070, a law requires police to check the immigration status of anyone arrested if there is “reasonable suspicion” he or she is not in the United States legally.
Stevie Wonder’s Announcement Sunday in Quebec City, Canada
Eric Holder’s Speech at the NAACP Convention
Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law in Full
776.012 Use of force in defense of person.—A person is justified in using force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. However, a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if:
(1) He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony; or
(2) Under those circumstances permitted pursuant to s. 776.013.
776.013 Home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.—
(1) A person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using defensive force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another if:
(a) The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
(b) The person who uses defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.
(2) The presumption set forth in subsection (1) does not apply if:
(a) The person against whom the defensive force is used has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial supervision order of no contact against that person; or
(b) The person or persons sought to be removed is a child or grandchild, or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of, the person against whom the defensive force is used; or
(c) The person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further an unlawful activity; or
(d) The person against whom the defensive force is used is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s.943.10(14), who enters or attempts to enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using force knew or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter was a law enforcement officer.
(3) A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
(4) A person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a person’s dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.
(5) As used in this section, the term:
(a) “Dwelling” means a building or conveyance of any kind, including any attached porch, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night.
(b) “Residence” means a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently or is visiting as an invited guest.
(c) “Vehicle” means a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, which is designed to transport people or property.