A suspect has been arrested in connection with the defacement of several LGBTQ+ murals in Orlando, Florida, including one honouring late Northern Irish journalist Lyra McKee. According to local authorities, Matthew Michael Robinson was detained on Wednesday, September 13, and charged with three counts of criminal mischief.
The 34-year-old is accused of vandalising artworks painted on the building of the Zebra Youth and LGBT+ Center with “hateful rhetoric” targeting the queer community. On the wall with the mural of Lyra McKee, the perpetrator painted, “Protect lives saves kids’ eyes from trans lies”, alongside a swastika and what appears to be a gun’s crosshairs.
On other pieces, trans and rainbow love hearts were defaced with messages such as: “one male one female no more no less”, “Gay is not ok” and “stop the lies”.
All of the murals have since been restored, with Kim Murphy of Painting Change Orlando leading the repainting efforts in the immediate aftermath.
The suspect was released on bail on Thursday, September 14, with police confirming they “will be seeking enhancements for evidence of prejudice during the commission of these crimes.” They added that the investigation is still ongoing and encouraged anyone with information to contact the relevant authorities.
On September 13, 2023, Matthew Michael Robinson (34yoa W/M) was arrested and charged with 3 counts of Criminal Mischief. We will be seeking enhancements for evidence of prejudice during the commission of these crimes.
Full details of the crimes he committed ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/QYeuS9HoB7
— Orlando Police (@OrlandoPolice) September 13, 2023
Lyra McKee was an openly queer journalist who committed her work life to exploring the consequences of the Troubles, seeking justice for crimes that had been forgotten since the Good Friday Agreement. She visited Orlando in 2017 as part of an international exchange, and later dedicated a TED Talk in Stormont to the 49 victims of the tragic Pulse nightclub massacre.
In 2019, Lyra was tragically shot and killed by an alleged member of the New IRA while observing a group of rioters in Derry, and the aforementioned LGBTQ+ youth centre erected a mural on its building in her memory.
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