The nation appeared to be stunned Saturday night by the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. But as many condemned the state of racial politics in America, many more were looking to one state in particular: Florida, whose controversial Stand Your Ground law provided the basis for Zimmerman’s defense.
Twitter and Tumblr immediately exploded in a backlash against the state:
Want to kill someone without legal ramification? Move to #Florida.— Jeremy Greenway (@jeremygreenway) July 14, 2013
“A system can’t fail those it was never built to protect,” said Tumblr user thegoddamazon. Most of the reactions to the news didn’t bother specifying that they meant Zimmerman’s acquittal: Within minutes of the news, “Florida” was trending worldwide on Twitter.
While many were quick to blame racism, it seemed that many more were quick to blame Florida’s broken justice system more generally. References to the 2011 acquittal of Casey Anthony in the death of her daughter, which also occurred in Florida, abounded as well. “First Casey Anthony” was a worldwide trend, and many saw both cases as emblematic of Florida’s broken justice system.
In the state of #Florida u can Kill your own baby and be found Not Guilty. In the state of Florida u can kill other people's babies & walk.— 36 Ounces In A Kilo™ (@DONETHUGIN_CIAO) July 14, 2013
Others pointed out that while Florida’s Stand Your Ground law worked to protect Zimmerman, it also recently convicted a black mother accused of firing warning shots in her own home to 20 years in prison.
“Woman in the same state fires warning shots, which hit and kill nobody, against her abusive husband who was allegedly beating her, claims self defense under Stand Your Ground Law: gets 20 years in jail,” fumed casualradical on Tumblr.
On multiple social networks, a short Looney Tunes clip made the rounds, in which Bugs Bunny apparently spoke for much of the Internet:
“Why we still got Florida?” commenter thisguyisnotcool asked on the video’s YouTube page. And plenty of Florida residents seemed to echo the sentiment. “Hello, my name is Kori,” wrote sexualbruno on Tumblr, “And I live in the state that let a man who shot an unarmed kid go free.”
The satirical Florida Man Twitter account, which typically documents Florida-related headlines with little embellishment, put its own twist on the news:
Florida Man Not Guilty Of Killing Unarmed Teen Who Beat Him In Fight | http://t.co/1h35W3xHht— Florida Man (@_FloridaMan) July 14, 2013
And many Twitter users sardonically pointed out that Florida’s justice system might be a good fallback for other celebrity defendants, like football pro-turned-suspect Aaron Hernandez:
"So you're saying if I played for the Dolphins I could have gotten away with it?" -Aaron Hernandez #Florida— YourFavWhiteGuy (@YourFavWhiteGuy) July 14, 2013
Still, while most people seemed too horrified to make jokes—
—others were celebrating the verdict:
All over Florida, residents were reportedly celebrating the verdict with fireworks.
So we are in Florida and people at the pool started popping fireworks after they read the verdict #wtf— Aleigha Jones (@lalalaleigha) July 14, 2013
I just heard fireworks outside my apartment here in Tampa. I'm disgusted. RT @rob_sheridan: At least you’re consistent, Florida.— Alex Schelldorf (@alexschelldorf) July 14, 2013
The irony wasn’t lost on Twitter users:
# popping fireworks in the hood u get time killin a young dude in Florida no time— # SKATEBOARD DUDE (@Lowkey_wood) July 14, 2013
And while residents in other states around the nation celebrated as well, all eyes were on Florida tonight—and on what many believe to be a flawed state justice system that can only get better from here.
Photo via fleshmanpix/Flickr