Frustrated Floridians sign up to secede

6:50 AM, Nov 26, 2012   |    comments
President Barack Obama, with daughter Malia, right, goes shopping at a small bookstore, One More Page, in Arlington, Va., Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012. He referred to shopping list on his Blackberry phone.
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Washington (Florida Today) -- More than 150 years after Florida tried to violently split from the Union, thousands of its citizens are asking nicely this time.

Sort of.

In an online petition posted on the White House's web site, frustrated Floridians are beseeching the Obama administration to "peacefully" allow the state to leave the United States and form its own government.

"We the people of the great state of Florida, do see that in today's world the Federal Government has not led our citizens justly and with honor," reads the petition, created Nov. 10. "We therefore as free men and women of our great state do believe that it is time to take matter (sic) upon ourselves to ensure our continued freedom, and to enact our own laws and here buy (sic) govern ourselves without the federal government's involvement in our internal matters from this day forward."

The petition has more than 34,000 signatures. Most who signed listed Florida hometowns, though a large number identified themselves as out-of-state residents. The petition includes signers' first name and last initial as well as their hometown and the order in which they e-signed the document.

Florida is one of dozens of states that are the subject of secession petitions, all filed since President Barack Obama's re-election on Nov. 6. Texas has the most with more than 115,000 signatories.

In keeping with a pre-election policy, the White House has promised it will review and respond by early December to every petition that draws at least 25,000 signatures.

Florida and seven other states - Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas - had crossed that threshold last week, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The group, which is monitoring the petitions through its "Hatewatch" blog, says ultra-conservatives and white supremacists are fueling the secession push.

"The petitions carry no legal weight at all, and almost no one anywhere on the political spectrum expects them to result in anything more than a collective blowing off of right-wing steam," the blog reads.

The White House declined to comment on the petition.

Not everyone who's unhappy with the direction of the country thinks breaking away is a good idea.

Don Forward, who helped organize the Titusville Patriots, a tea party group, believes the system is "corrupt."

"But seceding? What does that gain you? I don't know if it accomplishes anything," he said, noting that the state, by itself, would have trouble sustaining its current standard of living. "I wouldn't want to live in a tiny little country like this."

Forward said he's telling fellow tea party members not to sign because he thinks those who do will end up on an enemies list.

"All that's doing is just giving the White House an opportunity to gather information on us," he said. "I really think that's what they'll do is use it against us. They'll say, 'Hey, you people tried to overthrow the government and we're going to get you.' "

Tallahassee Tea Party President Beatriz Macia didn't sign.

"I'm not giving up on my government just because things didn't go the way we wanted it to go," she said. "If anything, it's even more important for us to stay and fight now."

But Macia said Republican and Democratic politicians shouldn't dismiss the petition movement as a fringe idea.

"There's plenty of blame to go around," she said. "The fact that so many states are talking about secession should send a very clear message to the president about how unhappy Americans are with the direction that he's taking the country, and I think both parties need to pay attention."

Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott understands the frustration, spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said.

"But Gov. Scott still believes in the American Dream, and that Florida will continue to create jobs and opportunities for the families of our state as one of the fastest growing economies in America," she said.

Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian-minded Republican from Texas who ran for president, has given the movement a thumbs-up.

"Secession is a deeply American principle," he wrote on his congressional web site. "This country was born through secession. Some felt it was treasonous to secede from England, but those 'traitors' became our country's greatest patriots . . . If a people cannot secede from an oppressive government, they cannot truly be considered free."

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