While many celebrities have taken to Twitter to express bristling rage over last weekend’s acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin, Stevie Wonder is doing something about it.
While performing in Quebec City on Sunday, the seventies soul superstar told the crowd that he will not perform in Florida until the state reverses its controversial “stand your ground” law.
The stand your ground law bestows individuals the legal right to use deadly force if they feel threatened with bodily harm or death. Nearly two-dozen U.S. states have some version of the contentious statute, and Wonder says he will heretofore not be performing in any of them until the law is repealed.
“I decided today that until the stand your ground law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again,” Wonder told his Canadian audience. “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 laws have come under heavy criticism before, during and after the Zimmerman-Martin trial, even though Zimmerman’s lawyer didn’t actually invoke the law in his defence.
But Stevie is still taking his stand – signed, sealed and delivered. The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter made his remarks during his stage turn as closing-night headliner at the Festival d'été de Québec. He also told the crowd: “You can’t just talk about it. You gotta be about it.”
Wonder’s boycott joins the growing collective of famous-people indignation over the Zimmerman verdict. Naturally the feedback runs the gamut of celebrity class.
The first reaction out of the gate, and likely the classiest, came from superstar Beyoncé, who took a moment to remember Martin during her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour show in Nashville. Her concert began 30 minutes after the Zimmerman verdict was announced.
“I’d like to have a moment of silence for Trayvon,” the star said, according to The Associated Press. After a short period, Beyoncé then sang the chorus to Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You.
And then Twitter got busy with a steady stream of star-invective regarding the Zimmerman verdict.
As always, the music world was well-represented. From Chris Brown: “Bullshit.” From Miley Cyrus: “I feel sick.” From Josh Groban: “Oh no. Seriously? Crap.” From Rihanna: “This is the saddest news ever!”
There was this tweet from Sophia Bush: “The wind is more than knocked out of me. My heart aches for this boy’s family. Justice System? I don’t think so.”
And this powerfully worded stinger from Nicki Minaj: “And our taxes paid for that trial. We just paid to see a murderer walk free after killing an innocent little boy.”
Several members of the acting community registered their opinion, including Girls creator and star Lena Dunham, with this response to the verdict: “No. My heart is with Sybrina Fulton, Rachel Jeantel, everyone who loved Trayvon and has been sent the message that his life didn’t matter.”
Canadian actress Ellen Page attempted to broach the broader issue with her tweet: “If u really believe racism isnt a massive problem, that the oppression of minorities is not a horrific and systemic issue. U R in denial.”
Filmmaker Michael Moore stayed true to his libertarian roots with the tweet: “Had a gun-toting Trayvon Martin stalked an unarmed George Zimmerman, and then shot him to death… DO I EVEN NEED TO COMPLETE THIS SENTENCE?”
And this poignant comment from African-American actress Gabrielle Union: “How do we explain this to the children?”
As might be expected, the Zimmerman acquittal garnered social-media feedback from opportunists, including disgraced politician Anthony Weiner, currently mounting a hopeless campaign to become mayor of New York.
Tweeted Weiner: “Keep Trayvon’s family in our prayers. Deeply unsatisfying verdict. Trial by jury is our only choice in a democracy.”
The only famous person anywhere near being in Zimmerman’s corner was real-estate mogul/reality star Donald Trump, displaying the sort of fence-straddling in keeping with his oft-threatened presidential runs.
Said The Donald: “Zimmerman is no angel but the lack of evidence and the concept of self-defense, especially in Florida law, gave the jury little other choice.”
But so far, the prize for pithiest celebrity tweet on the Zimmerman verdict goes to comic actor Marlon Wayans, the star of such films as I’m Gonna Get You Sucka, White Chicks and two entries in the Scary Movie franchise.
Tweeted Wayans: “They traded us one OJ and a BARACK for a ZIMMERMAN.”