Three of the biggest controversies causing heated debate across the United States have merged into one at a gun shop in Florida.
George Zimmerman, whose acquittal after fatally shooting black teen Trayvon Martin in 2012 sparked the #BlackLivesMatters movement, is raffling off an original painting of the polemical Confederate flag emblem to raise money for himself and for Andrew Hallinan, who last month proclaimed his gun shop a “Muslim-free zone” after a Muslim man attacked two military sites in Chattanooga, Tenn.
According to a blog post on the gun shop’s website, Mr. Zimmerman began painting an American flag, but changed his mind when he found out Mr. Hallinan was being sued by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The transition is reflected in the painting’s caption.
“The caption, ‘the 2nd protects the first’ is a double entendre,” Zimmerman said according to the post. “The first flag I painted on this canvas was an American Flag, but decided to repaint over it with the Confederate Flag when I heard Andy was getting sued by CAIR. The 2nd flag I painted was the Battle Flag – which we need in America in order to protect the first.”
The “2nd” and the “first” also refer to the bill of rights, the post continued: “You cannot have the 1st amendment without the 2nd, and you cannot have the American Flag if you remove the Battle Flag.”
Those who purchase prints of the painting will be entered into a raffle to win the original.
While Zimmerman’s artwork is not what has landed him in headlines in the past, an original painting of an American flag he sold on eBay last year earned him more than $100,000, the blog post said.
The money raised in the raffle will offset Hallinan’s and Zimmerman’s legal fees and living expenses, and a portion will be donated to the Boys and Girls Club of America.
By refusing service to Muslim patrons, Hallinan’s Florida Gun Supply claimed in a video that it was making “America a safer place to live.” While the video received a perhaps surprising number of supportive comments, the legality of a religion-based ban is doubtful.
As The Christian Science Monitor’s Meredith Hamilton reported at the time,
The Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it a crime for any place of ‘public accommodation’ to deny service to anyone based on religion, race, color, or national origin.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations responded to the incident with a news release calling for a Department of Justice review of Florida Gun Supply and Granite State Guns, which responded to the video by announcing, ‘I stand beside you 100% We too are a Muslim free zone!!!’
‘These bigoted declarations are no different than ‘whites only’ signs posted in businesses during a period of our nation’s history that we hoped was over,’ said Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR's national communications director.”
This report contains material from Reuters.