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23 Oct, 2014 17:03

Chilling ad depicts bulletproof vests for children of color in Florida (VIDEO)

Chilling ad depicts bulletproof vests for children of color in Florida (VIDEO)

A public-service ad campaign in Florida, which depicts African American children in bulletproof vests, is urging voter participation to encourage the election of candidates who support repeal of the state’s stand-your-ground gun law.

The “Vest or Vote” campaign, pushed by social justice organization The Dream Defenders, includes a billboard in Tallahassee, the state capital, and online ads that will appear on Facebook and Twitter. Dream Defenders said the campaign wants to put the state's loose gun laws - and their impact on communities of color - front and center.

Sale on bulletproof vests for kids! Pick yours up today! Visit http://t.co/mKHWBsh24z or call 1-800-462-2405 pic.twitter.com/0zmt1ASZgd

— The Dream Defenders (@Dreamdefenders) October 14, 2014

“In November, Florida’s voters will be faced with the question first posed by Malcolm X, ‘the ballot or the bullet,’” Ciara Taylor, political director for Dream Defenders, said in a statement reported by Ad Week. “That dichotomy is what this election is ultimately about.”

The billboard mimics a clothing ad such as those one might associate with H&M or Gap, according to The BRPR Group, a Miami advertising agency that worked on the campaign. In the ad, an African American child is shown with arms outstretched, showing off a black bulletproof vest, called in the ad “The Dream Vest.”

The online ad can be seen at The Dream Defenders website. A mother pleads with her son to wear a bulletproof vest, because she needs to know he will be safe when she’s at work. He agrees, and the mother puts the vest on him as if she was helping him into a winter coat.

The ad ends with a statistic in text: "Every 28 hours an African-American is killed by a police officer, security guard or vigilante.”

The message is accompanied by audio from news clips announcing the deaths of young black men in America, including Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Oscar Grant in San Francisco; and Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, gunned down in 2012 by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of second-degree murder and of manslaughter charges last summer based in part on the state’s stand-your-ground law.

The controversial law, which Florida pioneered before similar legislation spread across the US, allows someone, in a place they are legally allowed to be, to use deadly force if they reasonably believe they face an imminent and immediate threat of serious bodily harm or death.

The intentionally eye-catching video is designed to spark conversation, according to The BRPR Group, and to encourage young voters to “contest fear and insecurity in communities of color.”

Others have said while the ad is catchy in its controversy, it might send an offensive message to African Americans, and that voter participation can be encouraged in other ways.

“You should be voting because it’s the moral thing to do, not because you’re voting out of fear,” Dr. Irving Cohen, a community organizer at Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, told CBS 47.

Speaking about the ad, activist Solomon Comissiong told RT's 'In the Now' that those fighting for social justice are seeking new and varied ways to raise awareness of police brutality, especially in minority communities, whether it means challenging local political structures or appealing to international organizations like the United Nations.

"These things are happening over and over again," Comissiong said. "Parents are trying to figure out how to protect their children from an outfit, an organizaiton (the police) that ... is allegedly supposed to be there to protect the interests of the community, but that's not the case when you look at those communities that are black and brown."