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Police mum about suspect in theft of Blades

Vandalism of newspaper distribution boxes continues



Washington Blade, gay news, anti-gay, vandalism
Washington Blade, gay news, anti-gay, vandalism

(Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

D.C. police have so far declined to confirm whether they have tracked down the license plate number of a car driven by a suspect that multiple witnesses have said is systematically removing bundles of the Washington Blade and Metro Weekly magazine from distribution boxes throughout the city.

Blade publisher Lynne Brown said she and others have given the license plate number of a white Toyota Camry and a description of its middle age, white male driver to the police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit. She has not heard back about whether police have traced the identity of the driver or owner of the car, Brown said.

Witnesses say the license plate on the car in question is a Maryland vanity plate with the letters “JS.”

“Theft of all bundles of Washington Blade newspapers from their street boxes around the city continues,” Brown told GLLU Officer Justin Markiewicz in a Jan. 10 email. “It happens weekly. It happens in different neighborhoods. It most often happens, by eyewitness accounts, early Friday mornings.”

D.C. police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump said in a statement late Wednesday that the police department is “very committed” to addressing reports of vandalism against the newspaper boxes.

“However, we consulted with the U.S. Attorney’s office and they determined that it is not a crime to take a free paper,” Crump said. “The criminal statute is that you cannot steal something that is free. It’s not about quantity.”

Inquires about the status of a possible police investigation into the removal of large quantities of the two LGBT publications from their distribution boxes follows reports in September that Blade and Metro Weekly boxes also were being vandalized in the Dupont Circle, Logan Circle and 17th Street gay entertainment areas.

Brown said one or more suspects have been systematically breaking a clear plastic clip that holds a single issue of the Blade in the window of the distribution boxes, allowing readers to view the front page of the paper to find out when the new edition is delivered each Friday. She said the vandalism is continuing.

Metro Weekly co-publishers Sean Bugg and Randy Shulman didn’t reply to a Blade email seeking comment this week.

In a Metro Weekly story in September about the vandalism and thefts, Bugg said one or more vandals had deposited trash and human or animal feces in some of the LGBT publication’s boxes. The article, in which Bugg described the vandalism as an anti-LGBT hate crime, said Metro Weekly was expending large sums of money to clean and sterilize the distribution boxes, only to have the perpetrator or perpetrators vandalize the same boxes again.

Brown said GLLU members have told her informally that the removal of a free newspaper from a distribution box doesn’t appear to fall under the definition of a theft, even if large quantities of the paper are taken. Brown said she was told that the United States Attorney’s office was being consulted to advise police over whether a suspect could be arrested and prosecuted for removing a free publication from a distribution box.

“I would like the owner of the car identified and an arrest warrant sworn out,” she said.

William Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, said he would make inquiries about whether prosecutors in his office were looking into the matter.

Brian Moore, an aide to D.C. City Council Chair Phil Mendelson (D-At-Large), said Mendelson would be open to studying whether the Council should consider legislation to make it illegal to remove large quantities of a free newspaper or other publications from distribution boxes.

The Metro Weekly article suggested that the motive behind the removal of large quantities of the magazine from its boxes appeared to be anti-LGBT animus in at least some of the cases because stacks of the magazines were found in city trash cans near the site of the boxes.

Brown said another possible motive could be the potential sale of bulk quantities of newspapers to recycling centers that pay for newspapers. An aide to D.C. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who monitors the city’s recycling programs for Cheh’s Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment, said most commercial recycling centers don’t pay for newspapers unless they are delivered in quantities of at least one or more tons, making it difficult for an individual to carry out such a task in a private car or even a small truck.

“The police have been polite and helpful,” Brown said. “However the message has been this is a low, low level of priority.”

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  1. brian

    January 16, 2013 at 11:04 pm

    “The police have been polite and helpful,” Brown said. “However the message has been this is a low, low level of priority.”
    f/ DC’s Hate Crimes (Bias-Related Crimes) Law…

    (2) “Designated act” means a criminal act, including arson, assault, burglary, injury to property, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, rape, robbery, theft, or unlawful entry, and attempting, aiding, abetting, advising, inciting, conniving, or conspiring to commit arson, assault, burglary, injury to property, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, rape, robbery, theft, or unlawful entry.

    Read it for yourself, folks. DC’s hate crimes law is as clear as a bell. Note well… injury to property, theft or conspiring to commit those offenses is SPECIFICALLY included.

    MPD, at its highest levels, has long been ignoring this law. The lame MPD excuses and fuzzy-wuzzy legal obfuscations given to the Blade are familiar to a number of us.

    The Washington Blade is discovering what victims of anti-LGBT violent hate crimes in DC over the past 6 years have long suspected. MPD is apparently engaged in a quiet, institutional homophobic and transphobic bias against LGBTQ people and their business stakeholders in DC.

    MPD is simply ignoring effective enforcement of DC’s hate crimes law as applied to LGBTQ residents and visitors. Let’s just ask a simple question again and again– how many of DC’s anti-LGBT hate crimes over the past 6 years have been closed with an arrest? All District residents and especially LGBT residents and visitors are entitled to know that.

    Let me be very clear. This MPD institutional homophobia and transphobia does NOT emanate, nor “bubble up” from ‘rogue’ rank and file MPD officers, anxious to sacrifice the honor of their life’s work, their families’ livelihoods and their retirement benefits by ignoring what their chiefs really want them to do. Nor does it come from our dedicated GLLU officers– who must always follow their MPD chiefs’ orders– or else.

    Perhaps for political reasons, but whatever his reason, Mayor Gray is tacitly complicit in this institutional anti-LGBTQ MPD bias.

    LGBT voters should recall that Mayor Gray’s first broken promise was to DC’s LGBT community, when he failed to consult GLAA, GLOV and other DC LGBT public safety stakeholders in his selection of a police chief. LGBT residents of, and visitors to our Capital City have been paying a heavy, violent price ever since. That number now includes hate crime attacks on DC’s LGBT news media publications.

    We don’t need any more new laws, Chairman Mendelson. We DO need you, CM Cheh and CM Wells– as well as ALL of our council members who purport to be LGBT ‘allies’– to EFFECTIVELY exercise COUNCIL’s POLICE OVERSIGHT responsibilities to end anti-LGBT hate crimes in DC.

    Moreover, it is long past time that we ask President Obama why his Justice Department is ignoring anti-LGBT hate crimes in our Nation’s Capital.

    Of all cities in these United States, Washington, DC should be a welcoming and safe place for LGBT visitors and tourists– from every city, village and hamlet across our country– and from all over the world. It is not.

  2. Wilhelm Ogle

    January 17, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    But let someone start stealing some of the free African-American publications and see how quickly the MPD acts.

    From Lanier on down it is quite clear, GLBT issues are of no concern to the MPD.

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action



Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January



SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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Rainbow History Project to honor LGBTQ ‘Pioneers’

Virtual celebration to take place on Dec. 9



David Mariner, gay news, Washington Blade
David Mariner (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s Rainbow History Project says it will honor and recognize 12 individuals and one organization by designating them as Community Pioneers “for their diverse contributions to the Washington-area LGBTQ community” at a Dec. 9 virtual celebration.

“Rainbow History Project is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the LGBT history of metropolitan Washington, D.C.,” the group says in a statement announcing the event. “The Pioneers awards recognize diverse community leaders for their roles as organizational founders, innovators, advocates and volunteers,” the statement says.

“The Pioneers celebration will be held virtually and is designed with special features that reproduce the feeling of attending in-person, such as live streaming and video chatting with other attendees and Pioneers before and after the core awards programing,” according to the statement.

“Celebrating our Community Pioneers has been a cherished tradition since Rainbow History Project’s founding 21 years ago,” said Rob Berger, the organization’s chairperson. “It’s always an inspiring event, and we are happy that our virtual platform will still allow participants to meet and talk with the Pioneers,” Berger said in the statement.

The virtual event is free and open to the public, the statement says. Organizers released this link for those interested in attending, saying a short registration process may require registering in advance. 

Remo Conference

Following is the list of Community Pioneers scheduled to be honored at the Dec. 9 event as released by Rainbow History Project along with the project’s description of their backgrounds.

Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a local group that since its founding has addressed equal rights issues for LGBTQ Virginians from a state and local perspective.

– Eboné F. Bell, founder and editor-in-chief of Tagg Magazine and Tagg Communication LLC.

Bart Forbes, founding member of “Gay Fairfax,” a pioneering television newsmagazine program in Northern Virginia.

– Ellen Kahan, youth and family advocate, president of Rainbow Families, former director of the Lesbian Services Program at Whitman-Walker Health, and currently senior director of programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

– Theodore Kirkland (deceased), a co-founder of D.C. Black Pride in 1991, member of the Gay Liberation Front and Skyline Faggots, active community health volunteer and advocate.

– Paul Marengo, community leader through LGBTQ organizations including Reel Affirmations, Cherry Fund, and Pride celebrations for youth, Latino, Black and Transgender communities.

– David Mariner, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, and former executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community.

– Mark Meinke founder longtime chair, Rainbow History Project, and co-founder of Rainbow Heritage Network, a national organization for the recognition and preservation of sites, history and heritage associated with sexual and gender minorities.

– Michael “Micci” Sainte Andress, artist, health educator and advocate and an early leader in bringing African Americans into HIV/AIDS clinical trials.

– Boden Sandstrom, founder and owner of Woman Sound (later City Sound), the first all-woman sound company, which makes LGBTQ rights rallies and the women’s music scene possible.

Casse Culver (deceased), nationally acclaimed D.C. lesbian feminist singer-songwriter, and partner of Boden Sandstrom, whose followers said her love songs and feminist lyrics moved audiences from foot stomping to silent reflection.  

Alan Sharpe, playwright, director and co-founder of the African American Collective Theater in Washington, D.C., in 1976, which now focuses on LGBTQ life and culture in the Black community.

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