Entries in Petition (4)


George Zimmerman Prosecution Petition Overwhelms NAACP Website

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(SANFORD, Fla.) -- An NAACP petition calling for a federal prosecution of George Zimmerman collected 225,000 signatures in the hours after he was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin Saturday night, but the effort was temporarily cut short when the site crashed under the heavy traffic.

The rush to add to the petition -- which had more than 350,000 signatures by noon Sunday -- was match by the outpouring of anger on social media.

Protests, which police had feared could turn violent, were muted, but the rhetoric was impassioned and often framed around the issue of race. Zimmerman, 29, is a white Hispanic and Martin, 17, was black.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a statement that put the onus on gun laws.

"Sadly, all the facts in this tragic case will probably never be known. But one fact has long been crystal clear: 'shoot first' laws like those in Florida can inspire dangerous vigilantism and protect those who act recklessly with guns," Bloomberg said. "Such laws – drafted by gun lobby extremists in Washington – encourage deadly confrontations by enabling people to shoot first and argue 'justifiable homicide' later."

Immediately after Saturday night's acquittal, the NAACP said it was "outraged" by the Florida jury's verdict and called on the Justice Department to prosecute Martin for civil rights violations.

The civil rights organization also posted a petition on their site calling for the prosecution.

"The most fundamental of civil rights -- the right to life – was violated the night George Zimmerman stalked and then took the life of Trayvon Martin," the petition read. "We ask that the Department of Justice file civil rights charges against Mr. Zimmerman for this egregious violation. Please address the travesties of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin by acting today."

Zimmerman shot and killed Martin in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012. Zimmerman, 29, maintains he shot Martin, 17, in self-defense, while the state argued that Zimmerman "profiled" Martin and concluded he was a criminal.

NAACP spokesman Derek Turner told that the petition garnered approximately 225,000 signatures between the hours of 11 p.m. Saturday and 3 a.m. Sunday.

Sometime overnight, the NAACP's website crashed, Turner said, because of "too many viewers and too many hits."

The NAACP's website was still inaccessible as of this morning, and Turner said the organization is working to get it back up and running. He did not know how long the website had been down, but he was last able to access it around 2:30 a.m. Sunday, he said.

The same petition was also made available on in partnership with the NAACP early Sunday morning. It gained more than 130,000 supporters by noon Sunday.

"Our members, like so many Americans, are outraged at the verdict. Justice has not been served. The facts are clear: a 17-year-old boy is dead because George Zimmerman shot him. This is a sad day for our country and our justice system," Civic Action executive director Anna Galland said in a statement.

An investigation had previously been opened by the Justice Department, and the department said Saturday night, "The department continues to evaluate the evidence generated during the federal investigation, as well as the evidence and testimony from the state trial."

ABC News anchor Dan Abrams said it is unlikely the civil rights division will file charges against Zimmerman "because they can't win."

"There will be a federal investigation. They will publicly discuss it. The civil rights division will not file.” Abrams said. “They won't win, and they know that."

Police departments across south Florida had been braced for possible violence in response to the acquittal, but while reaction in social media has been heated the handful of protests in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Atlanta were muted and peaceful.

Benjamin Crump, a lawyer for the Martin family, acknowledged the disappointment of Trayvon Martin's supporters, but he urged them not to resort to violence.

"For Trayvon to rest in peace, we must all be peaceful," Crump said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Thousands Petition to Label Anti-Gay Church a Hate Group

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A growing number of people want to designate the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group.

The Kansas-based church gained notoriety for protesting military funerals with anti-gay messages, and threatened to protest the recent funerals of the young Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims.

More than 280,000 people have signed a digital petition on the White House's website requesting that the church be labeled a hate group, well above the number needed to mandate a response from the Obama administration. According to The Huffington Post, the petition is the single most popular petition ever created through the White House's "We the People" site.

The petition was submitted on December 14, the day the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre occurred. The shooting also sparked gun control petitions on the same site, which generated enough support to prompt the White House to release a video of President Obama calling for increased gun control.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) handles some individual hate crimes, but it does not keep a public list of hate groups. However, several groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, have already labeled the church a hate group, and the FBI's website lists the center as a resource. The center defines a hate group as one that has "beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics."

Several other petitions calling for action against the church have also generated at least 25,000 signatures, the number needed to warrant a response from the Obama administration. Some petitions request that the organization's tax-exempt status be revoked.

The church is best known for picketing military funerals. While the Obama administration has not specifically outlawed Westboro from doing so, the president signed a bill in August that prevents protesters from coming within 300 feet of military funerals and prohibits protests two hours before or after a service.

Westboro Baptist Church did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Lackland Sexual Assaults: Tailhook Whistle-Blower Petitions for Hearings

U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ken Wright(WASHINGTON) -- Paula Coughlin-Puopolo, the whistle-blower in Tailhook, one of the military’s largest sexual assault scandals, unveiled a petition Wednesday calling on the House Armed Services Committee to investigate the unfolding military sex scandal at Lackland Air Force base.

Twelve male drill instructors have come under scrutiny for sexual misconduct with female Air Force members during training at Lackland in San Antonio, Texas, where all incoming airmen and airwomen attend boot camp.

“Unfortunately, our military leadership has made no changes that stop this predatory criminal behavior. The epidemic of criminal sexual assault and rape within our armed services has only gotten worse,” Coughlin-Puopolo wrote in her petition.

“How much longer and how many more of our brave men and women in uniform need to be raped or sexually assaulted before our elected officials do something to end the crisis? Congress should open an investigation immediately, and then put an end to the ‘systemic issues’ of military rape and sexual assault by legislating fundamental reform.”

The Air Force investigation has identified 31 female victims of sexual assault incidents that date back to 2009 at Lackland. The Air Force, which first learned of the incidents last fall when a female Air Force member stepped forward with an allegation of sexual misconduct, is surveying all the airmen who trained at Lackland in the past one or two years. That means 35,000 to 70,000 airmen will be asked if they were aware of incidents of sexual misconduct at the base while they were trainees.

Coughlin-Puopolo, who launched the petition with Protect our Defenders, an organization that aims to aid survivors of sexual assault in the military, was the whistle-blower in the 1991 Tailhook scandal during which 87 servicewomen, including Coughlin-Puopolo, were allegedly sexually assaulted at the Tailhook convention of naval aviators in Las Vegas.

Coughlin-Puopolo, who was serving as an admiral’s aide at the time of the assault, went public with her story in 1992, detailing her assault in interviews with the Washington Post and ABC News’ World News Tonight With Peter Jennings. Secretary of the Navy Lawrence Garrett was forced to resign over the handling of the investigations.

In June, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., asked the House Armed Services committee to hold a hearing into the sexual misconduct investigations at Lackland. Last week, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, told the San Antonio Express News that it was “certainly appropriate” to conduct a hearing on the matter.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Wisconsin Governor Recall: Signatures to Be Turned In Tuesday

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(MADISON, Wis.) -- After 60 days of fanning out petitions across the state, United Wisconsin, the group organizing the recall effort for Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker, will turn in their gathered signatures to the Government Accountability Board of Wisconsin on Tuesday at 3 p.m.

Though the group has yet to release a final signature count -- that number will not be released until they turn in the signatures, United Wisconsin spokeswoman Meagan Mahaffey tells ABC News -- it is widely expected that they will hand-in well over the 540,208 names required to hold a recall election.

In mid-December, 30 days into the 60 days allotted for gathering signatures, United Wisconsin announced that they had already collected 507,533 names. They are aiming to gather over 700,000, as some names are likely to be thrown out during the verification process.

“Tomorrow is going to be a great day for us,” Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin told ABC News Monday.  “We’re going to hand in a number that we believe will be well beyond any potential challenge from Scott Walker’s campaign.  We’re going to be working hard to make sure that the many numbers of people who signed these petitions are heard and that we have an election.”

After the signatures are turned in the Government Accountability Board will have 60 days to verify the signatures, though they have requested additional time.  Should the GAB verify that United Wisconsin did submit the 540,208 necessary names, Democrats will have six weeks to hold a primary, followed by an additional four weeks until a general election against Gov. Walker would take place.

With these time stipulations in mind, the earliest a recall election would occur is late May 2012.  The timing could be pushed back however, should the board be granted additional time to process signatures, or should any lawsuits be filed on either party's behalf.

The Republican party of Wisconsin has been firmly dismissive of the efforts against Governor Walker, particularly citing the cost to Wisconsin taxpayers should a recall election go forward.

“We have no doubt the Democrats were able to rally their left-wing base around this baseless and expensive recall effort,” writes Ben Sparks, spokesperson for the Republican Party of Wisconsin.  “This shameful recall of the governor will accomplish nothing but saddle Wisconsin taxpayers with over $9 million in un-budgeted costs.  Voters rejected the Democrats’ era of job loss and deficit spending in 2010, and they’ll do it again in 2012.”

There are several established Wisconsin Democrats who have been cited as possible gubernatorial candidates to challenge Walker should the recall go forward; the list includes former Congressman Dave Obey and Congressman Ron Kind.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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