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Baltimore shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth vandalized

Suspect charged, police say incident was not hate crime



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A Baltimore City man faces charges in connection with the vandalism of a shelter for homeless LGBTQ youth. (Photo by Bigstock)

Baltimore police on Oct. 2 arrested a 26-year-old Baltimore man on the same day police say he broke into and burglarized Baltimore’s newly launched LGBTQ youth homeless shelter operated by the nonprofit group Safe Haven, according to a police report obtained by the Washington Blade

The police incident report says police charged Elijah Shabazz-Daquan Lewis, a Baltimore City resident, with burglary and breaking and entering after apprehending him on the scene. The report says he was carrying a large plastic bag filled with items he allegedly stole from Legacy House, the new LGBTQ youth shelter on Edmondson Avenue in North Baltimore.

Safe Haven Program Director Ja ‘Nae Tyler told Baltimore’s WMAR 2 TV News that Lewis had attempted to break into the facility once before and he made some “derogatory comments around sexuality and gender.” But the police report says there was no “bias motivation” involved in the incident.

Tyler also told the TV news station that Lewis appeared to have made a threat that “things will happen” if the youth facility did not move out of its current location.

Iya Dammons, Safe Haven’s executive director, told the Blade on Monday that Lewis damaged several TVs by attempting to pull them off wall mounts in several of the rooms where residents of the facility will be staying when it opens in an apparent attempt to steal them. But when asked if she thinks the incident should be listed as a hate crime, Dammons said she believes Lewis’ action was motivated by hate.

“His words said that,” she said in recalling something Lewis said during his earlier attempt to enter the facility that was captured on security cameras with an audio recording function. “He was indicating he did not think people like women who were biologically men should be able to have a shelter space,” Dammons said.

A Baltimore police spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to a request by the Blade for an explanation of why police didn’t list the break-in and burglary as a hate crime.

The police report says the manager of the building, whose name is blacked out in the report, told police the building was unoccupied at the time of the break-in. The report says the building’s owner told police the value of the items stolen by Lewis and recovered by police was about $2,000. The report says the owner told police the damage caused by the break-in, which involved mostly damage to a rear door and door frame, would also come to about $2,000.

The report provides a detailed list of more than two dozen small and medium size items that Lewis allegedly stole and placed in the plastic bag; including a silverware set, a cookware set and multiple other household items. The police report says all the stolen items were returned to Safe Haven.

The GoFundMe appeal, which as of early this week had raised $9,912 of its goal of raising $12,500, also suggests that the break-in incident was a hate crime.

“On Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, Baltimore Safe Haven’s Youth Homeless Development Program (YHDP), a residential facility which is comprised of seven one-bedroom apartments that will serve as phase two of our transitional housing plan, was broken into,” a statement on the GoFundMe page says.

“During this act of violence against the community in our safe space, several things were destroyed, including our cameras and security system, back door to the facility, TVs and dining furniture,” the statement says. “Additionally, several items were stolen such as kitchenware, bathroom items such as towels and décor,” it says.

“We are asking for your help recovering from this egregious act of violence against our community, in a place that should be deemed safe,” the statement continues. “LGBTQ youth are some of the most marginalized and displaced persons, and our program seeks to provide support, vital resources and transitional housing to these persons. However, it’s these acts of violence against our community that renders us stagnant,” the statement says.

When asked by the Blade whether the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case against defendant Lewis, is considering charging Lewis with a hate crime, a spokesperson said the office does not comment on pending cases still under investigation. 

However, the online docket report from the Baltimore City District Court shows that the state’s attorney’s office upgraded the charges against Lewis from the charges filed by Baltimore police.

The current charges now pending against him are malicious destruction of property with a value greater than $1,000, theft at a value of $1,500 to under $25,000; burglary 4th degree-Storehouse; and burglary 4th degree theft.



Prince George’s County library system launches banned book club

First discussion to take place in Hyattsville on June 14



(Bigstock photo)

The Prince George’s County Memorial Library System has launched its Rock Banned Book Club.

The club will feature monthly discussions of the 13 top banned books from 2022, most of which focus on LGBTQ-specific themes. 

The club’s first discussion, which will take place at the Hyattsville Branch Library on June 14, will be on “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe. 

Kobabe’s memoir won the 2020 American Library Association Alex Award and recounts Kobabe’s exploration of gender identity and sexuality through adolescence and adulthood. According to the American Library Association, the book faced the most censorship challenges of any novel at 151.

“We’re seeing nationally the highest rate of challenges to books in libraries since the data has been collected by the American Library Association,” Nicholas Brown, acting co-chief executive officer of the library, said. “I think what happens with all of the discourse around book banning is that, oftentimes, not everyone participating in that discourse is actually taking the time to read the full works and discuss them and understand where the author might be coming from and whose stories are being reflected in these books.”

Along with the book club, the library system is hosting a Pride celebration at the Hyattsville branch on Saturday from 12 – 4 p.m. It will feature a panel discussion, vogue and runway workshops, free HIV testing and more. 

The library system will host its second annual Rainbow Festival on June 24 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Bowie Branch Library with family-friendly events like craft stations, story time and a live DJ. In April, the library system won a Top Innovator Award from the Urban Libraries Council for its banned books campaign.

“I think a lot of folks don’t always realize that your local public library is kind of the front line of democracy and we always have been,” Brown said. “Public libraries across the country are very united on this and if the right to read continues to be under threat like it’s been, it is not a good time for the state of our democracy.”

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District of Columbia

Bowser: No credible threats to D.C. Pride events

Mayor spoke with the Blade after flag-raising ceremony at the Wilson Building



D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser at the flag-raising of the Progress Pride flag at the Wilson Building in D.C. on June 1, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on Thursday said authorities have not received any credible threats to upcoming Pride events.

“We don’t have any to report,” she told the Washington Blade.

“MPD is constantly working with all of our agencies to make sure we have safe special events and we’re going to keep going with our planning, like we do every year,” added Bowser. “There’s always a scan for any threats to the District.”

Bowser spoke with the Blade after she joined D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Council members Anita Bonds, Charles Allen, Kenyon McDuffie and Zachary Parker, D.C. Attorney General Brian Schwalb, D.C. Mayor’s LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and other officials and activists in raising the Progress Pride flag in front of the Wilson Building.

The Blade last month reported D.C. police are investigating a bomb threat a Twitter user made against the annual District Pride concert that will take place at the Lincoln Theater on June 29. Bowles in a May 19 statement said his office reported the tweet, but further stressed that “no credible threat at this time has been made.”

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Moore issues Pride month proclamation

Governor on May 3 signed Trans Health Equity Act



Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (Public domain photo/Twitter)

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Thursday proclaimed June as Pride month in recognition of  “the contributions, resilience, courage and joy of LGBTQIA+ Marylanders,” according to a press release.

“In Maryland, we lead with love and inclusion. I want everyone in our LGBTQIA+ community to know that they deserve to be seen for who they are, and our administration will stand with them in the fight for equality and equity,” Moore said. “We need to elevate the stories, embrace the courage, and celebrate the humanity of our LGBTQIA+ community — and as long as I am governor, we will take the steps forward to protect and celebrate all Marylanders.”

Moore on March 31 became the first governor in Maryland history to recognize the Transgender Day of Visibility and last month he signed into law the Trans Health Equity Act into law, which requires Maryland Medicaid to provide coverage for gender-affirming care beginning next year.

“This month is a celebration of the beauty and uniqueness of the queer community, but it’s also a time to reaffirm our commitment to uplifting LGBTQIA+ Marylanders and continuing to fight against hatred, discrimination, and bigotry,” Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller said in the same press release that Moore’s office released. “LGBTQIA+ Marylanders deserve to be who they are, to live their pride — without fear or having to hide. This administration will always stand alongside and protect the rights of all Marylanders.”

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