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Police describe Wilton Manors Pride incident as ‘fatal traffic crash’

Pickup truck driver identified as 77-year-old man

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A screenshot from a video taken at the scene by Joey Spears. (Image courtesy of @pinto_spears, via Twitter.) Screenshot used with permission from South Florida Gay News.

WILTON MANORS, Fla. — The Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Sunday released additional information about an incident at a Wilton Manors Pride parade that left one person dead and another injured.

A press release notes a 77-year-old man who was “a participant who had ailments preventing him from walking the duration of the parade and was selected to drive as the lead vehicle” was behind the wheel of a 2011 white Dodge Ram pickup truck that struck the two people near the Stonewall Pride Parade’s staging area shortly before 7 p.m. on Saturday.

“As the vehicle began to move forward in anticipation for the start of the parade, the vehicle accelerated unexpectedly, striking two pedestrians,” reads the press release. “After striking the pedestrians, the driver continued across all lanes of traffic, ultimately crashing into the fence of a business on the west side of the street.”

“The driver remained on scene and has been cooperative with investigators for the duration of the investigation,” further notes the press release. “A DUI investigation of the driver was conducted on scene and showed no signs of impairment.”

The press release confirms the driver and the two people he hit are members of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus.

Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue transported both victims to Broward Health Medical Center “with serious injuries.” The press release notes one of the victims died shortly after he arrived at the hospital.

The Fort Lauderdale Police Department, which is leading the investigation, has not publicly identified the victims and the driver, but the press release describes the incident as a “fatal traffic crash.” The press release notes the second victim remains hospitalized at Broward Health Medical Center, but “is expected to survive.”

“While no arrests have been made, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department continues to investigate this incident and will not be releasing the names of the involved parties due to the status of the investigation,” says the press release. “The Fort Lauderdale Police Department asks anyone who may have witnessed this incident, who has not already spoken to investigators, to contact Traffic Homicide Investigator Paul Williams at (954) 828-5755.”

The pickup truck narrowly avoided U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who was in a convertible participating in the parade. Florida Congressman Ted Deutch was also nearby.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the tragic accident that occurred when the Stonewall Pride Parade was just getting started,” said Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus President Justin Knight in a statement he issued after the incident. “Our fellow chorus members were those injured and the driver was also part of the chorus family.”

“To my knowledge, this was not an attack on the LGBTQ community,” added Knight. “We anticipate more details to follow and ask for the community’s love and support.”

Fort Lauderdale mayor initially described incident as anti-LGBTQ ‘terrorist attack’

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis initially described the incident as “a terrorist attack against the LGBT community,” without any official confirmation. Detective Ali Adamson of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Saturday confirmed to reporters that investigators are “working with” the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but stressed the “investigation is active and we are considering and evaluating all possibilities.”

“Last evening, at the start of what was to be a celebration of pride for the LGBT community and commemoration of our hard-won victories for equality, our community faced the worst of tragedies. The grief of our LGBT community — and greater Fort Lauderdale as a whole — is palpable,” said Trantalis on Sunday in a statement he posted to his Facebook page.

“I was an eyewitness to the horrifying events. It terrorized me and all around me. I reported what I saw to law enforcement and had strong concerns about what transpired — concerns for the safety of my community. I feared it could be intentional based on what I saw from mere feet away,” he added.

Trantalis added “law enforcement took what appeared obvious to me and others nearby and investigated further — as is their job.”

“As the facts continue to be pieced together, a picture is emerging of an accident in which a truck careened out of control,” he said. “As a result, one man died, two others were injured and the lives of two members of Congress were at risk. My heart breaks for all impacted by this tragedy.”

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Panhandle Florida teacher wants 117 books removed as obscene

ALA says 1,600 books in more than 700 libraries and library systems across the nation involving race, gender and the LGBTQ community targeted

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Vicki Baggett (Screenshot/Studio 850 Facebook)

PENSACOLA – An English teacher in Escambia Public Schools is challenging 117 books available to high school and middle school students labeling them as obscene.

Vicki Baggett recently sat for an interview with The Panhandle Citizen/Studio 850, a local news content provider, to express her point of view on the books she labeled obscene including titles that had LGBTQ+ affirming themes.

The District has been center to controversy over book bans and teaching materials being deemed inappropriate on not only LGBTQ+ themes but race related as well. A career special education teacher resigned this past month just as classes were scheduled to start after a Escambia County Public School District staffer removed posters and pictures of historically significant Black Americans from his classroom.

Michael James, 61, who has taught special ed classes for the past fifteen years told Pensacola News Journal reporter Colin Warren-Hicks in an interview that he had emailed a letter to Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Escambia County Superintendent Tim Smith in which he wrote that a district employee removed the pictures citing the images as being “age inappropriate.”

Images that were removed from the bulletin board at O.J. Semmes Elementary School included depictions of Martin Luther King Jr., Harriett Tubman, Colin Powell and George Washington Carver, James said.

Florida Politics reported that the controversy comes as the first Florida schools, including Escambia County schools, begin their first academic year under legislation signed by DeSantis that targets “critical race theory.”

Among other rules, the law prohibit lessons teaching students that they are inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race, color, sex or national origin. It would also ban instruction that they are personally responsible and should feel guilty for the past actions of members of their race, color, sex or national origin.

A new report released by the American Library Association (ALA), covering its annual assessment of books being challenged or banned in the United States showed a dramatic increase in just a three month period of time in 2021 versus all of the previous year.

According to the ALA, nearly 1,600 books in more than 700 libraries and library systems across the nation involving race, gender and the LGBTQ community, were targeted by conservative groups in many cases led by anti-LGBTQ+ groups like the Florida-based ‘Moms for Liberty.’

ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 729 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2021, resulting in more than 1,597 individual book challenges or removals.

WATCH:

Escambia Public Schools District published a listing of the titles she challenged:

TitleAuthorLevel
(ES, MS, HS)
School form submitted and date
*All Boys Aren’t BlueGeorge M. JohnsonHS8/1/22
*Bluest EyeTony MorrisonMS, HS8/1/22
*Perks of Being a WallflowerStephen ChboskyHSNorthview High 6/2/22
A Court of Frost and StarlightSarah J. MaasHS9/2/22
A Court of Mist and FurySarah J. MaasHS9/2/22
A Court of Wings and RuinSarah J. MaasHS9/2/22
Ace of SpadesAbike-lyimideMS, HS9/2/22
All the Things We Do in the DarkSaundra MitchellHS9/2/22
Almost PerfectBrian KatcherMS, HS9/2/22
And Tango Makes ThreeJustin RichardsonES9/2/22
Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal SnoggingGeorgia NicolsonHS9/2/22
Art of Racing in the RainGarth SteinHS9/2/22
AutobiographyChristina LaurenHS9/2/22
Being Jazz: My Life as a TransgenderJazz JenningsHS9/2/22
BelovedToni MorrisonHS9/2/22
Better Nate than NeverTim FederleES9/2/22
Beyond MagentaSusan KuklinMS, HS9/2/22
Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage WizardEcho BrownMS, HS9/2/22
Boy2GirlTerence BlackerHS9/2/22
BreathlessJennifer NivenHS9/2/22
BumpedMegan McCaffertyHS9/2/22
City of ThievesDavid BenihoffHS9/2/22
CrankEllen HooverHS9/2/22
Darius the Great Deserves BetterAdib KhorramHS9/2/22
Dead Until DarkCharlaine HarrisHS9/2/22
Deogratias: A Tale of RwandaJ.P. StassenHS9/2/22
DimeE R FrankHS9/2/22
Doing ItHannah WittonHS9/2/22
DramaRaina TelgeimeierES, MS9/2/22
Draw Me a StarEric CarleES9/2/22
Empire of StormsSarah MassHS9/2/22
Extremely Loud and Incredibly CloseJonathan Sagran FoerHS9/2/22
FadeLisa McMannHS9/2/22
ForeverJudy BlumeHS9/2/22
GeorgeAlex GinoES, MS, HS9/2/22
GLBTQKelly HuegelHS9/2/22
Go Ask AliceAnonymousHS9/2/22
GracelingKristin CashoreES, MS9/2/22
Ground ZeroAlan GratzES, MS, HS9/2/22
Hear These Voices: Youth at the Edge of the MillenniumAnthony AllisonHS9/2/22
HeroineMindy McGinnisHS9/2/22
IdenticalEllen HopkinsHS9/2/22
InfandousElana K. ArnoldHS9/2/22
Jesus Land: A MemoirJulia ScheeresHS9/2/22
Killing Mr. GriffinLois DuncanMS9/2/22
L8r G8rLauren MyracleHS9/2/22
Lessons from a Dead GirlJo KnowlesHS9/2/22
LexiconMax BerryHS9/2/22
Little and LionBrandy ColbertHS9/2/22
Looking for AlaskaJohn GreenMS, HS9/2/22
LuckyAlice SeboldHS9/2/22
LushNatasha FriendMS, HS9/2/22
Me and Earl and the Dying GirlJesse AndrewsHS9/2/22
Melissa (George)Alex GinoMS9/2/22
Milk and HoneyRupi KaurHS9/2/22
Monday’s Not ComingTiffany JacksonMS, HS9/2/22
More Happy Than NotAdam SilveraMS, HS9/2/22
My Friend Dahmer: A Graphic NovelDerfHS9/2/22
New KidJerry CraftES, MS, HS9/2/22
Nineteen MinutesJodi PicoultMS, HS9/2/22
Out of DarknessAshley PerezHS9/2/22
PushSapphireHS9/2/22
Queer, There and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the WorldSarah PragerHS9/2/22
Race and Policing in Modern AmericaDuchess HarrisMS9/2/22
Rainbow BoysAlex SanchezHS9/2/22
Ready or Not (All-American Girl Series)Meg CabotMS, HS9/2/22
Red HoodElana K. ArnoldHS9/2/22
Slaughterhouse FiveKurt VonnegutHS9/2/22
Sloppy FirstsMegan McCaffertyHS9/2/22
Sorted: Growing Up, Coming Out, and Finding My PlaceJackson BirdHS9/2/22
SpeakLaurie Halse AndersonHS9/2/22
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in AmericaIbram X KendiHS9/2/22
The 1619 ProjectMS9/2/22
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianSherman AlexieMS, HS9/2/22
The Black FlamingoDean AttaHS9/2/22
The BreakawaysCathy JohnsonMS9/2/22
The God of Small ThingsArundhati RoyMS9/2/22
The Handmaid’s TaleMargaret AtwoodHS9/2/22
The Hate U GiveAngie ThomasMS9/2/22
The House of SpiritsIsabel AllendeHS9/2/22
The Kingdom of Little WoundsSusan CokalHS9/2/22
The Kite RunnerKhaled HosseiniMS, HS9/2/22
The Music of What HappensBill KonigsbergHS9/2/22
The Nowhere GirlsAmy ReedHS9/2/22
The Poet XElizabeth AvevedoMS, HS9/2/22
The Prince and the DressmakerJen WangHS9/2/22
The Truth About AliceJennifer MathieuHS9/2/22
Thirteen Reasons WhyJay AsherMS9/2/22
This One SummerMariko TamakiHS9/2/22
This One SummerMariko TamakiHS9/2/22
TricksEllen HopkinsHS9/2/22
Two Boys KissingDavid LevithanHS9/2/22
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black BoyEmmanuel AchoHS9/2/22
UnravelTahereh MafiMS, HS9/2/22
Water for ElephantsSara GruenMS, HS9/2/22
We are the AntsShaun David HutchinsonHS9/2/22
What Girls Are Made OfHS9/2/22
When Aidan Became a BrotherKyle LukoffES9/2/22
When Wilma Rudolph Played BasketballMark WeaklandES9/2/22
57 BusDashka SlaterMS, HS9/16/22
Bear Town: Book 1Fredrick BackmanHS9/16/22
Eleanor and ParkRainbow RowellMS, HS9/16/22
From Blood and AshJennifer L. ArmentroutHS9/16/22
The Freedom Writers DiaryErin GruwellMS, HS9/16/22
Girl in PiecesKathleen GlasgowHS9/16/22
GritGillian FrenchHS9/16/22
GuyaholicCarolyn MacklerHS9/16/22
The HatersJesse AndrewsHS9/16/22
Leah on the OffbeatBecky AlbertalliMS, HS9/16/22
Ramona BlueJulie MurphyHS9/16/22
ScarsCheryl RainfieldHS9/16/22
Simon vs The Homo Sapiens AgendaBecky AlbertalliMS, HS9/16/22
SmokeEllen HopkinsHS9/16/22
Stella Brings the FamilyMiriam B. SchifferES9/16/22
The Upside of UnrequitedBecky AlbertalliMS, HS9/16/22
Where I End and You BeginPreston NortonHS9/16/22

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Florida

North-Central Florida Pride Community Center vandalized

“Our Pride Center is a place where our community can come & be safe- feel welcomed. Seeing the center vandalized in this way breaks my heart”

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Debris left after vandalism at the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida (Photo Credit: PCCNCF/Facebook)

GAINESVILLE, Fl. – With less than a month from the return of in-person LGBTQ+ Pride after a two-year coronavirus pandemic imposed hiatus, staff of the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida, (PCCNCF) were alerted to vandalism at the center early Saturday morning.

PCCNCF board member Debbie Lewis told Gainesville ABC News affiliate WCJB-20 that she  received a call from a real estate office in the same complex about their building being vandalized.

“She told me that she was just informed by somebody that came to her office that the pride center had been vandalized and that the windows were all smashed,” said Lewis. She added that she immediately reached out to PCCNCF Board vice-chair James Brown.

“Early today and in the pit of my stomach right now is it’s heartbreaking to see a building that we pour so much love and energy into. Being vandalized by people that were obviously targeting us because of the work we do here,” Brown later told ABC 20.

In a statement released by the center Brown noted: “Our Pride Center is a place where our community can come and be safe and feel welcomed. Seeing the center vandalized in this way breaks my heart. This incident is exactly the reason why our community needs safe spaces. Your board at this Pride Center will keep working hard and pouring our love into this community and on making this a safe space again.”

During the initial investigation by Gainesville Police a message was discovered attached to a rock. That message is currently not being disclosed although a police spokesperson said that Gainesville Police Department is investigating the incident as a hate crime.

PCCNCF board president Tamara Perry-Lunardo, told local media outlets that the vandal or vandals will not detour their work in the community.

“We are heartbroken but undeterred,” The Pride Community Center of North Central Florida remains committed to being a safe place, and this display of hatred has only strengthened our resolve to continue to show up with love for our beautiful LGBTQ+ community. We’re here, we’re queer—loud and proud.”

The Center noted that nothing had been stolen and that volunteers cleaned up the broken glass and boarded the openings to protect the Center ahead of the expected hurriacane and heavy rain storms expected this week.

The Center asked that donations can be made directly at https://gainesvillepride.org/donate/.

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Largest school district in Florida rejects LGBTQ+ history month

School security had to intervene when the crowd got rowdy after Mendez, 17, said she supported the recognition of LGBTQ History Month

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Audience members react with rancor during debate on LGBTQ proclamation (Screenshot/YouTube WPLG)

MIAMI – DADE COUNTY – The Miami Dade School Board rejected, by an 8-1 vote, a proclamation recognizing October as LGBTQ History Month in the district. This proclamation mirrored a nearly identical proclamation approved by the board with a 7-1 vote last year.

The board’s lone non-voting student advisor Andrea S. Pita Mendez, told Miami ABC News affiliate WPLG that she was very scared during the meeting. School security had to intervene when the crowd got rowdy after Mendez, 17, said she supported the recognition of LGBTQ History Month after talking to her peers.

“Our students want this to pass,” said Mendez.

School Board member Luisa Santos, who represents District 9, told WPLG ABC 10 News she was outraged by the way the adults who were in the room disrespected Mendez. Some of the adults booed the high school student who was attending the second meeting of her term.

The measure, introduced by Board Member Lucia Baez Geller, would have symbolically declared October LGBTQ History Month in Miami Dade County Public Schools and included a request to district staff to explore ways to support 12th grade civics teachers interested in including landmark Supreme Court cases on marriage equality and nondiscrimination in their course work.

During the public comments, many of the statements made were decidedly homophobic and transphobic with emphasis on religious freedoms and parental rights. Amid the mention of religion WPLG noted that MaryBeth Loretta, a clinician at The Alliance for LGBTQ+ Youth, asked the members to support the recognition “like Christ would do.”

The Miami-Dade School Board’s majority during the debate made statements that indicated that the vote to reject was due to seeing the proclamation being in conflict with the state’s Parental Rights in Education bill, also known as the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.

Eulalia Maria Jimenez, the chair of Moms for Liberty Miami-Dade, asked the school board members to vote against the recognition and said it equated to “indoctrination.”

“Tonight’s vote is one more proof point of the sweeping chilling effect of Florida’s discriminatory Don’t Say LGBTQ law and the toxic anti-LGBTQ environment being fostered by Governor DeSantis,” said Equality Florida Senior Political Director Joe Saunders.

“The Don’t Say LGBTQ law is rooted in the same dangerous tropes about LGBTQ people and baseless attacks on teachers that were on full display in public comments at last night’s hearing. We are shocked and alarmed to see this reversal from the Miami Dade School Board. This is a horrible signal to send to the thousands of LGBTQ youth in Miami-Dade County public schools. Voting down this simple recognition of our LGBTQ community makes our schools less safe.”

In a statement released Thursday, Equality Florida, the largest statewide LGBTQ equality rights advocacy non-profit thanked School Board Member Lucia Baez-Geller, who brought the LGBTQ History Proclamation [and] “stood strong in the face of unprecedented vitriol from extremists last night.”

“Nearly every board member opposing the resolution voiced their belief that the proclamation violated the Don’t Say LGBTQ Law, further evidence of the sweeping censorship of this law. Across the state, the law has fueled bans on books and “safe space” stickers and has led to dangerous policies targeting transgender students. Miami Dade County Public Schools have a long history of leading on common sense policies that include, recognize, and protect LGBTQ youth. Last night, board members abandoned that mission in service to anti-LGBTQ fear, misinformation, and a governor obsessed with a future presidential run,” the statement added.

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