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Veteran brings petitions with thousands of signatures to Dream Defenders

Navy veteran James Williams, who was in the service for 21 years, traveled to the Capital on Tuesday to present the Dream Defenders with thousands of signed petitions.

Williams, who is now retired and lives in Brazil, said that when he heard about injustice in two cases -- Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander -- he had to take action.

"It's not right," said Williams, 65, who was a U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class. "If we don't say anything, it will continue."

 Williams efforts also further demonstrate the impact of social media and reaching a global audience online to tell the story of a movement. He found out about how to launch a petition drive through Causes.com, and using Facebook, reached supporters from as far away as New Zealand.  

 Williams traveled first to Miami and then to Tallahassee, toting the results of two separate petition drives. He collected 40,000 signatures from all over the world calling for the pardon of Marissa Alexander, a Jacksonville woman who was sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot during an argument with her abusive husband.She tried to claim immunity under the state's controversial Stand Your Ground law but was found guilty.The Dream Defenders have also called for her pardon.

He also collected 27,000 signatures in support of Martin and demanding that George Zimmerman be stripped of his gun rights.

The Miami-based Dream Defenders have been camped outside Gov. Rick Scott's office since July 16th in response to the acquittal of Zimmerman in the shooting of 17-year-old Martin. The grassroots group has demanded a special session to repeal Florida's Stand Your Ground law and address other issues including racial profiling and a "school-to-prison" pipeline that results in the criminalization of youth.

Gov. Rick Scott has said he won't call a special session, but the Dream Defenders have been working on Plan B -- trying to get enough votes in the legislature to create a special session. It's considered a longshot though the Florida Secretary of State's office has received at least 32 letters from lawmakers, all Democrats, enough to trigger a poll of all legislators to see whether they'd support a special session on Stand Your Ground.

Watching the young Dream Defenders sitting around couches outside the Governor's office, discussing problems with the juvenile justice system, Williams was clearly impressed. "They're young and focused and they won't take no for an answer.... When I was in school, people of color were downgraded to be less than a human being. These are things you never forget." 

Williams is hopeful that the Dream Defenders will find a way to get his petitions to the governor.

Dream Defenders Executive Director Philip Agnew said Williams' efforts show that "people from all over the country want to see change in Florida and are passionate enough to sign a petition."

While the Dream Defenders is behind the "urgent" pardon of Marissa Alexander, Agnew, who noted  he hasn't yet seen the petitions, said the group hasn't been targeting issues concerning Zimmerman and his gun rights. "This has not a thing to do with him (George Zimmerman) right now." 


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Thank you for your service, but sir, you are an idiot.
Zimmerman did nothing wrong, he was defending himself, and was found NOT GUILTY by a jury of his peers. He is entitled to carry his weapon.

Ms. Alexander's story is heartbreaking but she was at fault. She retreated safely from her home, only to return. That is not stand your ground. Two, she fired a warning shot. The first thing you are taught in a gun safety course is you NEVER fire a warning shot. If you are in genuine fear for your life why fire a warning shot? Personally I am aiming for a midshot.

You live in Brazil, how nice for you. You are not one of us, FL Taxpayers, who are paying hundreds of thousands of $$ taxpayers footing the bill for these squatters.


Ask yourself how would you feel if Travon was your brother or Ms Alexander your sister, your comment to Mr Williams he's not one of us just because he lives in Brazil. This man has served in the United State Amr Forces. He is an American as much as you or more because of his years of experience. Learn to see issues throught both eyes and stop the ill feeling toward other human being who are not like you. The Dream Defender are protesting for a cause they not squatters. What have you done thats constructive for others lately?


Interesting question... because long before Trayvon, I have had extensive discussions with my children about appropriate behaviour and dressing appropriately, and have talked about how I would feel if they were to get in trouble in school, expelled, did drugs, burgled houses, and got into fights with people... and what the repercussions would be. They have chosen not to act that way.

Regarding the people at the Capitol, they are squatters that require babysitters that are being paid by Florida taxpayers, not Brazilian taxpayers.

That said, Mr. William perhaps was not as educated on the topics as he should have been. Mr. Zimmerman was found not guilty, therefore has every right to own and carry a weapon as every other law abiding citizen in Florida. Second, Ms. Alexander is a two-time gun user - serving the "20" under Florida's 10-20-Life law. Repubtallygirl is spot on when she says Ms. Alexander gave up the right to claim self defense when she became the agressor after she left a cruddy situation.


"Ms. Alexander's story is heartbreaking but she was at fault. She retreated safely from her home, only to return."

It wasn't her home to begin with.


Stand your ground is good law. The courts application of the statute is where you run into problems. Zimmerman didn't use a stand your ground defense and Alexander tried to use it when she was in the wrong. Dream Defenders are using an emotional attack because they can't fight with facts.


A more basic question... Why does the Miami Herald believe that this guy and his meaningless petitions are newsworthy?

Pat Kelley

That is justice - Florida style. A woman who shot into a ceiling, harming nobody, receives 20 years and a man that shot and killed an unarmed teen goes free.

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