The Orlando Police Department is investigating an incident in which a digital sign appears to have been reprogrammed to read “KILL ALL GAYS.”
The altered sign stood at Lake Nona Boulevard and Nemours Parkway, near Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Orlando Police Department received a call just before 4 a.m. on Wednesday, May 17, complaining that the digital traffic sign displayed the hateful message.
Police investigated, finding the sign “appeared to be tampered with,” according to a police department spokesperson. That spokesperson also said the investigation remains active.
The sign was hauled away by workers hours later, according to CBS affiliate WKMG.
Those with information about the incident are encouraged to call the police department at (321) 235-5300.
The message was aired on Wednesday morning, which marks the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, a day designed to raise awareness of anti-LGBTQ actions and laws throughout the world, and encourage others to engage and become supporters of LGBTQ rights.
Nico Cardoso, a resident of the area, expressed disagreement with the sign’s message.
“It’s the first thing you see when you enter Lake Nona, so you don’t want to see that hate being spread,” Cardoso told WKMG.
According to Orlando Weekly, the Lake Nona area around Waterford Lakes was the site of a neo-Nazi rally last year, in which three participants were arrested. On New Year’s Eve, anti-Semitic slogans were projected on buildings around downtown Orlando.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer condemned the anti-gay message in a statement posted to Twitter.
“Hate has no place in Orlando and this disgusting display is not who we are as a community,” Dyer tweeted. “To Orlando’s LGBTQ+ residents and visitors: you are respected and valued here. And we won’t be deterred in our efforts to ensure that our city is inclusive for all.”
Orlando Commissioner Jim Gray, who represents the district where the sign was located, told WKMG that the vendor, Flash-Rite, originally posted messaging about an upcoming 5-kilometer race, but someone was able to alter the message overnight because the sign’s messaging box was open and accessible.
“We just know somebody got in there, did something unfortunate they shouldn’t have done, but the reason it happened was because the messaging box where you type in the messages was unlocked,” Gray said.
“We’ve told the vendor in the future that everything needs to be locked or else we’ll find a new vendor,” he added.
A spokesperson for Flash-Rite was not immediately available for comment.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!