After Jesse Williams' awards speech went viral, opposing online petitions go to war over him

The 'Grey's Anatomy' actor's comments were viewed as hate speech by some, leading to calls for him to be fired from the hit TV show

Jesse Williams, BET, Awards, Grey's Anatomy, ABC, Isaiah Washington, Shonda Rhimes

Jesse Williams stars as Jackson Avery in the popular medical drama [YouTube]

Actor and activist Jesse Williams made global headlines last month when his acceptance speech made at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards was widely shared across the Internet. The Grey’s Anatomy star was accepting a humanitarian prize and delivered a speech that expressed major concerns over the treatment of African American communities by the police, political pundits, the media, and everyone in between.

But despite his rhetoric receiving widespread praise, now he has become the focal point of opposing Change.org petitions.

Thefirst, created by Erin Smith and with nearly 17,500 supporters, is calling for ABC, the Disney-owned television network, to fire Williams from the Grey’s Anatomy cast because of his “racist rant.”

“Jesse Williams spewed a racist, hate speech against law enforcement and white people at the BET awards,” Smith writes. “If this was a white person making the same speech about an African American, they would have been fired and globally chastised, as they should be, but there has been no consequences to Williams’ actions.”

During his acceptance speech, Williams said that activists have access to “data and we know that police somehow manage to de-escalate, disarm, and not kill white people every day. So what’s going to happen is we are going to have equal rights and justice in our own country or we will restructure their function and ours.”

But now several other Change.org petitions have been created by angry fans demanding that ABC ignores the first and keep Williams on television.

“Jesse’s speech is an eloquent and passionate call to action against countless unarmed African Americans being murdered at the hands of Police across American,” one of the petitions said. “Jesse’s speech is NOT a hate speech.”

This led to a war of words between the warring Change.org sides, with the one calling for his head to roll firing back: “Why was Burke’s character fired from Grey’s Anatomy after his inappropriate homophobic slur, but nothing for Jesse Williams?”

This was in reference to actor Isaiah Washington, who was cut from the show in 2007 after he referred to another member of the cast using a gay slur. Washington himself responded to being pulled into the mix by posting the petition to save Williams on his own Facebook page.

Fans of both Williams’ activism and acting can rest assured that his place in Grey’s Anatomy is secure, as the final voice to weigh in on the messy debate was Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes, a Hollywood superproducer behind the likes of Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder, and Scandal responded to the controversy with a single tweet.

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