Pulse Arsonist Arrested
Nearly one month after the Pulse arson occurred, a 64-year-old man is in Orlando Police custody today after allegedly setting fire to a portion of the memorial outside of the former Pulse Nightclub honoring the 49 people who died in the 2016 mass shooting.
According to the Orlando Fire Department, Mark Henson faces one charge of felony criminal mischief after setting a portion of the Pulse memorial on fire on Oct. 12. Focus centered on Henson after the onePULSE Foundation released security camera footage of the criminal act on its Facebook page Saturday. The video shows a man, believed to be Nelson, approaching the memorial in a wheelchair and setting multiple banners, including a collage of the 49 people who lost their lives in the shooting.
Pulse survivor Orlando Torres connected Henson to the video after seeing him near the former nightclub on Tuesday, noticing that a logo on the back of Henson’s wheelchair matched one seen in the security footage. “I broke out my camera and started taking pictures of him to make sure I had the right guy, Torres told the Orlando Sentinel. He subsequently called the police after the discovery.
Felony criminal mischief carries a maximum punishment of five years in prison under Florida statutes.
Chinese LGBTQ Advocacy Group Shuts Down
LGBT Rights Advocacy China, one of the nation’s most prominent LGBTQ advocacy organizations, closed its doors last week without any explanation. The move leaves China’s LGBTQ population without a major ally as the Chinese government continues its own culture war against the community.
The organization has in recent years offered legal assistance and spearheaded campaigns for LGBTQ equal rights in China. They led the push for same-sex marriage in China and helped LGBTQ workers sue employers in cases of workplace discrimination.
The group shut down its social media accounts on Thursday after announcing it would “stop all of our work indefinitely.” LGBT Rights Advocacy China founder Peng Yanzi did not respond to a request for comment from NBC News.
The organization’s closure is the latest in a series of unexplained, sudden and less than subtle cancellations, closures, and pressure on LGBTQ groups in Chinas. The nation’s longest-running Pride celebration, Shanghai Pride, ceased operations in August 2020 and the Chinese government has advised media companies operating in the country to stop depicting male characters as “effeminate” and including LGBTQ characters altogether earlier this year.
2021 Deadliest of Last 6 Years For Trans People In The US
The Marquiisha Lawrence’s death by gunshot on November 4 marked a somber and tragic loss, but it also represented a macabre benchmark in the heightened rate at which trans people face violence and murder.
Lawrence’s death marked the 45th known trans or gender-diverse individual to be killed in the U.S. this year, making 2021 the most deadly year for trans, nonbinary and gender non-conforming people since the Human Rights Campaign began tracking statistics in 2015.
Each of these 45 names represents a whole person and a rich life torn from us by senseless violence, driven by bigotry and transphobia and stoked by people who hate and fear transgender people and the richness of their experience,” said Joni Madison, HRC Interim President. “Dehumanizing rhetoric has real-life consequences for the transgender community, particularly transgender women of color but especially Black transgender women.”
Madison highlighted the increased number of anti-trans bills introduced in state legislatures in recent years as a major source of that dehumanizing speech that empowers further discrimination, dehumanization and violence toward those communities. “They have attacked transgender people’s right to health care, right to exist in public, and right to live openly, with the ultimate goal of dehumanizing and erasing their lives and experiences,” Madison said.
Out Soccer Player Fearful Of World Cup In Qatar
Josh Cavallo made waves when he came out as gay last month, becoming one of few out male professional soccer players ever. But being out carries some added concern within the global sport, most notably as it applies to its crown competition – the World Cup.
While world soccer governing body FIFA has launched multiple initiatives aimed at increasing LGBTQ acceptance and visibility in recent years, the organization still awards hosting rights to the world’s top tournament to nations with significant homophobic attitudes. The latest of which is the small Middle East nation Qatar, which will host the tournament next year.
Cavallo, who plays for Australian team Adelaide United, has hopes of donning his nation’s kit in World Cup competition, but holding the tournament in Qatar, where homosexuality continues to be criminalized, gives him extreme pause in his dream. “I read something along the lines of that [they] give the death penalty for gay people in Qatar, so it’s something I’m very scared [of] and wouldn’t really want to go to Qatar for that,” he said during an appearance on the Guardian Today’s Focus podcast.
“That saddens me,” Cavallo continued. “At the end of the day the World Cup is in Qatar and one of the greates achievements as a professional footballer is to play for your country, and to know that this is in a country that doesn’t support gay people and puts us at risk of our own life, that does scare me and makes me re-evaluate: is my life more important than doing something really good in my career?”
Despite Cavallo’s qualms, tournament chief executive Nasser al-Khater has made reassurances that LGBTQ people face no danger in coming to Qatar for the World Cup, calling Qatar “one of the most safe countries in the world” and stating that LGBTQ people will “all be welcome here.”
Pulse Arson: Previously on Towleroad
Photo courtesy of Dannel Malloy/Creative Commons