New York City police are searching for a man who defecated on a gay Pride flag at an Upper West Side eatery before carving a smiley face into the pile.
The incident, which is being investigated by the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force as an anti-gay bias-motivated crime, occurred at Buceo 95, a wine and tapas bar at West 95th Street and Amsterdam Avenue around 10 a.m. on April 15.
According to surveillance footage, the man placed the rainbow banner on a chair and then defecated on it.
He then picked up a second Pride flag and used it to wipe his backside before fleeing north on Amsterdam Avenue, reports The New York Post.
Police are looking for the suspect and released video of him walking in the area near Buceo 95.
The surveillance footage released by the NYPD on its Instagram page shows the man wearing a black ski cap, a white undershirt, a black or dark gray sweatshirt or overcoat with a green hood, gray pants, and one black sneaker and one white sneaker.
“The unidentified individual entered the location and defecated on a Pride flag,” the post reads, noting that any information leading to an arrest could be rewarded with up to $3,500.
Buceo 95 general manager Nathan Nolen Edwards, who is gay and has worked for the restaurant for six years, says the establishment has “a very inclusive, largely LGBTQ-identifying staff,” including several professional drag performers — which could explain why the suspect, who has yet to be identified, targeted the place.
“It’s definitely a punch to the gut,” Edwards said. “We certainly haven’t experienced anything to this degree. A defecation on a pride flag is not the norm here.”
Courtney Barroll, who co-owns Buceo 95 with her boyfriend, told the Post that the restaurant has displayed flags for years.
“Obviously we thought it was disgusting,” she said of the incident. “It was sad, it was disgusting. It angered me that people in this world have such hatred for others that they could do something so awful and so vile.”
But Barroll also said she wouldn’t be intimidated by the incident, telling her staff she’d put up even more Pride flags to replace those that were damaged.
“I said, ‘Don’t worry, because for the two flags that he has taken from us, I will put 50 more up, and I’ll wallpaper the whole restaurant with them,” she said. “They all burst out laughing, and said ‘We know you.'”
Anybody with information about the suspect is encouraged to leave a tip by calling the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS or by submitting a tip through the Crime Stoppers website at crimestoppers.nypdonline.org.
The incident is one of several attacks against the LGBTQ community in New York over the past few years, especially since the end of pandemic-imposed lockdowns in 2021. It comes at a time when LGBTQ people are being increasingly scapegoated nationally and accused of “grooming” or seeking to abuse children, resulting in threats of violence or demonstrations of anti-LGBTQ animus.
Last month, a gay couple in Manhattan was attacked in Times Square by at least four suspects who began beating them and hurling profanity-laden insults and homophobic slurs at them.
Just a few days prior to that incident, a man was stabbed in the leg while defending himself against verbal harassment, including anti-gay epithets, from a group of young men who later turned violent.
Police also arrested a number of suspects believed to be part of a gang carrying out a robbery scheme in which they allegedly targeted and drugged people — including a number of patrons at gay bars — before robbing them of their valuables and transferring money to their own accounts using facial recognition technology on the victims’ phones.
That scheme allegedly resulted in the deaths of two gay men who overdosed on a mixture of narcotics laced with fentanyl and other deadly drugs.
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