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Petition to get Jesse Williams fired over passionate BET Awards speech prompts outpouring of support

When activist and Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams won the Humanitarian Award at the recent BET Awards ceremony, he used his uninterrupted mic time to deliver a stirring speech on racism in America, invoking the names of Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, moving the audience to its feet, and drawing praise from thousands of people on social media. In response, a Change.org petition was launched over the weekend by someone named Erin Smith, demanding that ABC fire Williams for his “racist hate speech against law enforcement and white people.”

Ensuring that viewers knew where she stood on the issue, Grey’s creator and showrunner Shonda Rhimes tweeted a rebuttal yesterday:

—and while Smith’s petition has claimed close to 10,000 signatures, it’s also spurred several others to drum up support for Williams, whose mother is white. The most successful petition, started by Dawn Murphy, has garnered more than 22,000 as of late Tuesday afternoon, and calls Jesse Williams a “brave leader” and “committed advocate of black people and #BlackLivesMatter.”

As for Williams’s thoughts on the issue?

You can watch Williams’s five-minute speech here.

—Reported by J.J. McCorveyAP