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Brutal hate crime leaves man blind: Homophobia is main factor police say

The family discovered that the younger son, Oleh Makarenko, 21, was in a nine-month same-sex relationship with the victim

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21-year-old suspect Oleh (Alex) Makarenko/WPLG ABC 10 News Ft. Lauderdale (Booking Photo: Broward County Sheriff's Department)

FORT LAUDERDALE – In criminal court documents filed in Broward County Circuit Court this week, state prosecutors and the Broward County Sheriff Department investigators say that hate crime charges levied against a Ukrainian immigrant family of four are because they beat a 31-year-old victim in Pompano Beach on or about August 6, 2021, solely because the victim is gay.

He has been permanently blinded and sustained other serious injuries as a result of the incident. He has invoked Marsy’s Law rights, and is declining to be named publicly.

However, prosecutors say the family discovered that the younger son, Oleh Makarenko, 21, was in a nine-month same-sex relationship with the victim. As a result, Makarenko, who is also known as Alex, was being forced to marry a woman by his mother. According to court documents, the trio brandished a ‘firearm or other deadly weapon’ during the attack and all four of the suspects continued holding him and began punching, kicking, and hitting him all over his face and body.”

WSVN-TV 7 News in Miami reported Wednesday:

According to the arrest documents, 19-year-old Oleh Makarenko and the victim had been romantically involved for about nine months, but the victim said Oleh told him his father was not accepting him as gay.

After a two-week break in the relationship. on Aug. 6, the victim said he remotely opened his community’s gate believing it was a friend when it was actually the Makarenko family. The victim went outside but quickly went back into his apartment.

According to the arrest report, “… the suspects began pushing the door open in an attempt to force their way inside. Moments later, the suspects succeeded in force the door open … suspects then grabbed (the victim) as he began attempting to defend himself.”

The report goes on to state, “All four suspects continued holding (the victim) and began punching, kicking and hitting all over his face, head and body.”

“While this was occurring, Oleh and his mother walked into the apartment and watched as the suspects continued to beat (the victim) … (the victim) stated to Oleh’s mother, ‘Unfortunately your son’s gay.’ And (the victim) asked Oleh, ‘Is this what you wanted?’ to which Oleh replied ‘no’ … One of them grabbed an unknown object and struck him in the face. (The Victim) stated after falling to the floor, he pretended to be dead,” said the arrest report.

Oleh, 21, Yevhen, 44, Inna, 45, & Vladyslav, 26, Makarenko

“There’s no indication that anything was said or done to show that they had specific intent to kill,” said public defender Katherine Lopez. “It seems like, based on my reading, that their probable cause for beating him cause of a relationship with a family member of theirs.”

Charged with attempted first-degree murder, battery during the burglary of a dwelling, and kidnapping are Inna Makarenko, 45, Yevhen Makarenko 44, Oleh Makarenko, 21, and Vladyslav Makarenko, 26, who was transferred from Alabama to the Broward County jail system on Monday.

All four are jailed without bond and the investigation by the Broward Sheriff’s Office is continuing.

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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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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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