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Publix suspends political contributions following criticism for supporting pro-NRA candidate

Publix suspends political contributions following criticism for supporting pro-NRA candidate
Posted at 7:40 PM, May 25, 2018

Publix has suspended its political contributions as it reevaluates its giving processes, the national grocery chain said in a statement on Friday. The announcement comes days after Parkland student activist David Hogg called for a "die-in" at the grocery store to protest its support for a Florida gubernatorial candidate backed by the National Rifle Association.

"We regret that our contributions have led to a divide in our community. We did not intend to put our associates and the customers they serve in the middle of a political debate," the company said in a statement.

Publix added: "We would never knowingly disappoint our customers or the communities we serve. As a result, we decided earlier this week to suspend corporate-funded political contributions as we reevaluate our giving processes."

Hogg is a survivor of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed.

Since then, Hogg and other survivors launched a national movement to call for gun reform and led a march on Washington called March for Our Lives.

On Tuesday, Hogg called on advocates of gun reform to stop shopping at Publix until the company withdraws its support for gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, who has earned a top rating from the powerful gun-rights group and even once described himself on Twitter as a "proud NRA sellout."

Publix and its leadership have donated $670,000 over three years to Putnam, according to the Tampa Bay Times. He currently serves as Florida's commissioner of agriculture.

"Anyone who supports an NRA sellout is an NRA sellout," Hogg tweeted. "That is why I am calling on everyone to stop shopping at Publix until they pull their endorsement of Putnam publicly."

The following day, he announced plans to hold a protest at two local stores.

"In Parkland we will have a die in the Friday (the 25th) before memorial day weekend. Starting at 4pm for 12 min inside our 2 Publix stores. Just go an lie down starting at 4. Feel free to die in with us at as many other @Publix as possible," he tweeted.

The protest announcement sparked widespread calls on social media for Publix to maintain or withdraw its support of Putnam.

"At Publix, we respect the students and members of the community who have chosen to express their voices on these issues," the company said in its statement on Friday, before announcing plans to "reevaluate" its process for giving political contributions.

The statement was issued shortly before Hogg led a die-in protest at a store in Coral Springs.

Participants drew chalk outlines in the parking lot and laid down for exactly 12 minutes inside the store, CNN affiliate WSVN reported.

Hogg lay with the protesters in the store's produce isle. Each carried a sunflower, symbolizing the flower Parkland victim Joaquin Oliver bought for his girlfriend for Valentine's Day at the same store before he was killed, according to WSVN.

Based in Florida, Publix is the largest employee-owned grocery chain in the United States, employing more than 190,000 people.

In the weeks following the Parkland school shooting, many companies -- including MetLife, Delta Air Lines and Alamo Rent a Car -- distanced themselves from the NRA.