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State Department urges Zimbabwe to stop LGBT crackdown

Police arrested 44 Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe members in Harare on Aug. 11

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The State Department on Thursday condemned Zimbabwe for its ongoing crackdown on LGBT rights activists following two police raids on an advocacy group’s offices earlier this month.

“We are deeply concerned when security forces become an instrument of political violence used against citizens exercising their democratic rights,” said spokesperson Victoria Nuland. “We call upon the government of Zimbabwe to end this pattern of abuse and to eradicate the culture of impunity that allows members of the security sector to continue to violate the rights of the Zimbabwean people.”

Gay News, Washington Blade, Zimbabwe

Photo courtesy of GALZ

Police on Aug. 11 arrested 44 members of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe at the group’s offices in Harare, the country’s capital, after it unveiled a report that documented LGBT human rights abuses in the southern African nation. GALZ said on its website that riot police beat activists with batons and their fists before taking them into custody. Authorities subsequently released them without charge, but GALZ reported that police have since gone to 10 members’ homes — the group said police detained and interrogated three activists before releasing them.

“This is an outrageous breach of the rights of these activists, who are being harassed for their real or perceived sexual orientation,” said Audrey Gaughran of Amnesty International. “The authorities must call a halt to the ongoing arbitrary detention and interrogation of GALZ members. The police action is a blatant violation of the basic human rights of these individuals. They have not committed any crime under Zimbabwean law.”

In a separate incident on Monday, GALZ said authorities confiscated computers and publications from the group’s Harare office. It noted that police seized the same equipment that they had returned after a May 2010 raid in which two activists were arrested.

GALZ co-chair Talent Nyathi told the Blade from Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city, that his group welcomes the State Department’s statement. He urged American officials, however, to do more to stop the ongoing crackdown.

“They must not just talk,” he said. “They must also do something to stop these attacks on LGBT persons.”

These raids took place less than a month after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton honored gay Ugandan activist Frank Mugisha and other human rights advocates in the East African country during an 11-day trip to the continent.

The ongoing crackdown also coincides with the process to rewrite Zimbabwe’s constitution that began in 2010. Zimbabweans are expected to vote on it and elect a new government sometime next year, but President Robert Mugabe has yet to announce when the election will take place.

Nyathi stressed that he feels authorities continue to target his group because LGBT rights have become politicized in Zimbabwe. He once again urged authorities to end their crackdown against GALZ and other advocacy organizations.

“We demand to be respected as [an] LGBT community,” said Nyathi. “We are also human beings who want equality and tolerance and it is the duty of the government not to harm its citizens but protect them all the times.”

 

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Maryland

Protests interrupt Moms for Liberty meeting about removing books in Howard County schools

Guest speaker led book-removal campaign in Carroll County

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Gabriella Monroe holds a poster that says 'Ban Bigotry Not Books' outside Howard County’s Central Branch library in Columbia on Feb. 26, 2024 (Photo by Sam Mallon for the Baltimore Banner)

BY KRISTEN GRIFFITH | When a Howard County chapter of Moms for Liberty wanted to learn how to remove books from schools, they were met with a swarm of protesters sporting rainbow colors and signs looking to send the message that such actions are not welcome in their district.

The conservative parents’ group met Monday night at Howard’s Central Branch library in Columbia to brainstorm how they could get books they deemed inappropriate out of their children’s school libraries. Their guest speaker for the evening was Jessica Garland, who led a successful book-removal campaign in Carroll County. The Howard chapter wanted the playbook.

The rest of this article can be read on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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Rehoboth Beach

Former CAMP Rehoboth official pleads guilty to felony theft

Salvatore Seeley faces possible jail time, agrees to reimburse $176,000

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Salvatore “Sal” Seeley, who served as an official at the Rehoboth Beach, Del., CAMP Rehoboth LGBTQ community center for 20 years, has pleaded guilty to a felony charge of Theft In Excess of $50,000 for allegedly embezzling  funds from the organization for at least a two-and-a-half-year period, according to a Sussex County, Del., Superior Court indictment and a spokesperson for the Delaware Office of the Attorney General.

The spokesperson, Mat Marshall, sent the Blade a copy of the indictment, which he said was handed down against Seeley on Feb. 27 and which provides the only specific court information that the Washington Blade could immediately obtain.

“Salvatore C. Seeley, between the 27th day of February 2019 and the 7th day of September 2021, in the County of Sussex, State of Delaware, did take property belonging to Camp Rehoboth, Inc., consisting of United States currency and other miscellaneous property valued at more than $50,000, intending to appropriate same,” the indictment states.

“I can further confirm that the Defendant entered a guilty plea to one count of Theft in Excess of $50,000,” spokesperson Marshall told the Blade in an email message. “Mr. Seeley also agrees to make restitution of $176,199.78 to CAMP Rehoboth,” Marshall said. “He will be sentenced on April 5 and does face the possibility of prison time.”

Marshall declined to provide additional information on the findings of the law enforcement investigation into Seeley’s alleged theft. The restitution figure of $176,199.79 suggests investigators believe Seeley embezzled at least that amount from CAMP Rehoboth during the time he worked for the organization.

Seeley couldn’t immediately be reached for comment

CAMP Rehoboth describes itself as a nonprofit LGBTQ community service organization and the largest organization of its type “serving the needs of LGBTQ+ people in Rehoboth, greater Sussex County, and throughout the state of Delaware.” The statement adds that the organization “is dedicated to creating a positive environment inclusive of all sexual orientations and gender identities in Rehoboth and its related communities.”

Kim Leisey, who began her job as executive director of CAMP Rehoboth in July of 2023, said it was her understanding that officials with the organization discovered funds were missing and opened an investigation in September of 2021, a short time before Seeley left the organization. Leisey said that at the time of his departure, Seeley served as CAMP Rehoboth’s director of health and wellness programs. 

At that time, former D.C. Center for the LGBT Community director David Mariner was serving as CAMP Rehoboth’s executive director and reportedly took steps to open an investigation into missing funds. Wesley Combs, CAMP Rehoboth’s current board president, said Seeley resigned from his job around that time in 2021.

“I know that I took this job knowing there was a concern and a problem and an investigation,” Leisey told the Blade. “And I also know that the board of CAMP Rehoboth has done everything it needs to do to ensure that we were compliant, cooperative and that things are going really well here at CAMP Rehoboth.”

Leisey said CAMP Rehoboth currently has a staff of six full-time employees and several contract employees. She said the organization has a current annual budget of $1.4 million.

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District of Columbia

Capital Pride announces 2024 Pride theme

‘Totally radical’ a nod to 80s and 90s

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Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos, on left, announces this year's Pride theme at the Pride Reveal party on Thursday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Pride Alliance on Thursday announced this year’s Pride theme is “totally radical.”

The organization made the announcement at Penn Social in Downtown D.C.

“Capital Pride’s 2024 theme celebrates the courageous spirit and unwavering strength and resilience that defined the LGBTQ+ community during the transformative decades of the 1980s and ‘90s,” said Capital Pride Alliance Executive Director Ryan Bos. “It’s about embracing our authenticity, pushing boundaries and advocating for a world where everyone can live their truth without fear or discrimination.”

Capital Pride on Thursday announced this year’s Pride parade, which will take place on June 8, will begin at 14th and T Streets, N.W., and end at Pennsylvania Avenue and 9th Street, N.W.

The Capital Pride Block Party and Family Area will once again take place on 17th Street in Dupont Circle. A Tea Dance will also take place on Constitution Avenue, N.W., near the end of the parade. 

The Capital Pride Festival and Concert will take place on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., on June 9.

Capital Pride has also launched a campaign to raise $1.5 million for a new D.C. LGBTQ community center. 

WorldPride will take place in D.C. in 2025. The event will coincide with the 50th anniversary of Pride events in the nation’s capital.

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