Matthew Michael Robinson Photo: Orlando Police Department
Police have arrested a man in connection with the vandalism of two LGBTQ+ centers in Orlando, Florida, late last month.
On Wednesday, Orlando police arrested Matthew Michael Robinson. The 34-year-old has been charged with three counts of criminal mischief, according to a statement from the Orlando Police Department, which was also posted to X (the social media platform formerly known as Twitter). Police say they will be “seeking enhancements for evidence of prejudice during the commission of these crimes.”
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But as WKMG reports, surveillance footage shows a second suspect involved in the vandalism who has not yet been arrested.
According to the police statement, officers responded in the early hours of August 26 to two neighboring buildings where several murals had been defaced. The buildings are home to Orlando’s LGBTQ+ Center and LGBTQ+ youth organization Zebra Youth, which created the colorful artworks celebrating gay Pride and transgender joy.
The murals were spraypainted with Nazi and Christian Nationalist hate speech, including a swastika and the words “Gay is not okay.”
“One male, one female, no more no less,” read one message sprayed across a heart painted in the colors of the trans Pride flag. “Protect lives, saves kids’ eyes from trans lies,” read another bit of graffiti painted on a wall next to a heart in rainbow colors. “Lev 20:13” was painted over another rainbow heart, referencing the Old Testament admonition from the Book of Leviticus: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
Several of the messages were accompanied by what appeared to be the crosshairs of a gun scope.
“People might say, ‘What’s the big deal with graffiti?’” Commissioner Patty Sheehan told WKMG following Robinson’s arrest. “Hatred and graffiti are not a good mix because it starts with vandalism and it escalates to violence.”
The Center has been targeted with hate speech before. In 2009, vandals spray-painted “Die F**s” and “Go to Hell” on the building’s walls. In 2020, a mural dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting was vandalized with white supremacist stickers and graffiti.
“Governor [Ron] DeSantis (R) has unleashed and emboldened a scourge of hate in Florida,” Equality Florida said in a statement released last month in response to the vandalism. “He has fanned the flames of anti-LGBTQ bigotry and his agenda sends a clear message that his administration not only tolerates hate, it welcomes it.”
In response to Robinson’s arrest, Heather Wilkie of Zebra Youth thanked Orlando police, the FBI, and the community. “We have confidence that justice will be served, and we will continue to show that we will not let hate win,” Wilkie told WKMG.
Orlando police say the investigation is ongoing and they are encouraging anyone with information about the incident to contact the Orlando Police Criminal Investigations Division or the Central Florida Crimeline.
Source of data and images: lgbtqnation