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6/10/2004

Happytown > Happytown

No loitering in front of Mexican consulate

 

Apparently there's a new crime on the books in The City Beautiful: loitering while Mexican.

Signs went up recently in the alley just east of the Mexican Consulate at 100 West Washington St. in downtown Orlando, sternly advising – in English and Spanish – that anyone thinking of resting their dogs, perhaps copping a little shade, had better move along, by order of the Orlando Police Department.

The Mexican Consulate is a very busy place. They issue work documents, IDs and passports for Mexican nationals coming here, and visas for American citizens who want to visit Mexico. On any given day there are scores of people outside the nondescript building tight against the railroad tracks, waiting for their paperwork to clear.

Sharp-eyed Happytown™ reader Graeme Wright alerted us to the signs. A downtown worker, Wright thinks the location of the new signs is not a coincidence. "It's typical of city authorities to marginalize the Hispanic community," he tells us. "I'm sure if the people 'loitering' there were wearing suits and ties, this wouldn't be an issue."

There aren't any other "no loitering" signs posted downtown, notes Wright. Nor are there any outside the driver's license office in Winter Park, for example, where people (presumably better dressed and presumably more white) congregate while waiting for their paperwork to clear.

"I just thought it was so offensive," he tells us. "What are people supposed to do, walk around the block with their children?"

We were offended too, but we're easily offended. We spoke to Juan Constantino, who works at the consulate, but he didn't know anything about the signs (which, we're happy to report, were largely being ignored on a recent weekday). We also spoke to Brian Gilliam of the Orlando Police Department, who said the signs were designed primarily to move people out of the alley and away from nearby Washington Street so that no one gets run over.

Our advice is that if you're going to rest your dogs near the Mexican Consulate, make sure you wear a suit and tie. And try to be white.

Taken a nightstick to the jaw lately? Perhaps a jackboot to the groin? A Taser to the neck? Then the NAACP wants to hear from you, friend.

The group, whose state headquarters are right here in Orlando, is holding hearings on police brutality this Friday, June 11, at the JR Smith Center, 1723 Bruton Blvd., beginning at 6 p.m. (Get there on time or the cops will kick your ass – joking!) The beatdown roundtable is the culmination of hearings that have been going on around the state since May.

Locally, there's a lot to discuss, police-brutality wise: Five dead since 2002 after getting zapped with police Tasers (not including Orange County Sheriff "Big" Kevin Beary who, when shot with a Taser at a June 3 news conference to show how safe and effective they are, had two underlings to guide his corpulent backside to the floor, just like all perps, right?); Marvin Williams, an unarmed man shot and killed by Orange County deputies in January; Tommy Mike, who was shot by Orange County deputies in January 2003 after being ordered out of a car reported stolen; and many other cases.

"We are trying to open up a dialogue with people who claim they have been violated," says the NAACP's Shahra Anderson. Orlando Police Chief Michael McCoy is scheduled to attend the hearings, says Anderson. Beary couldn't make it, she notes.

We were torn between tears and beers as we slung ourselves up on the Happytown™ couch for the duel of the (last) century: the instant martyrdom of Sir Ronald Reagan vs. the slightly embarrassing wrinkle of old D-Day men in funny hats simpering to "Taps."

Now, we like tribute as much as the next guy, but the advent of 24-hour news has made cynicism a far greater likelihood. And the fact that exactly 20 years prior, Reagan was speaking to the same simpering funny hats made things seem all the more eerie.

Still, it was Gay Days weekend. Though we're tired of Gay Days, we were able to dry our reverential tears long enough to cull some meatier gossip from a different kind of simpering old men in funny hats – you know, the ones that Reagan hated. Get this: Reichen, one of the gay winners from the Amazing Race 4 (the only show we never watch) was spotted sitting at the Kerry booth at Saturday's Gay Days Expo out at the Hotel Royal Plaza. No kidding.

Further into the gossip maelstrom, Disney refused Miss Gay Universe D.C., a drag thing named Tulah, entry into the park, stating that they allow no costumes on anyone (not willing to suffer in the heat for $6 an hour, that is). They were afraid she might be confused for another princess. We saw her, and we don't think so.

And the prize for the First Tasteless Reagan Joke by a Gay Man goes to whomever told us the following: "Do you think he remembers he died? He can't be dead, then."

The Dedge Report: You may recall a story in these pages regarding Wilton Dedge and his long legal battle to get out of prison for a rape he didn't commit ["Locked in limbo," April 29]. You may also recall an update in these pages May 13 reporting that Dedge, who has been incarcerated since 1982, won the right to have the DNA test that proves his innocence admitted in court. Barring any further prosecutorial hijinks, Wilton Dedge will likely be a free man in a matter of weeks.

Now 42, Dedge will be starting over. And he won't get any help from the state, because Florida is one of the 34 states that offers no compensation for the wrongfully convicted. He won't even get an apology.

To help Dedge, The Innocence Project – the legal team that represented him in court – is looking for a volunteer to be a contact person for Dedge when he returns to civilian life in Central Florida. The ideal person will be familiar with the area, have a background in nursing, medicine, or social work, and have a flexible schedule.

Candidates will be screened and trained by the Life After Exoneration Project, a group founded by The Innocence Project. If you would like to find out more, send an e-mail to info@exonerated.org or check out their website at www.exonerated.org.

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