Cuomo: Watertown man ‘must be held accountable’ for Pride flag incident

WWNY Cuomo: Watertown man ‘must be held accountable’ for Pride flag incident

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Governor Cuomo said Monday that a Watertown man “must be held accountable” for taking down a gay pride flag, only hours after it had been raised over Watertown city hall Saturday.

Donnie Lee Barrigar , an avowed opponent of gay rights, posted video of himself lowering the flag and stuffing it into a drop box outside city hall.

That happened a few hours after a small ceremony to raise the flag, attended by the mayor, city council members and LGBTQ supporters.

The flag was later retrieved and city police raised it again, but as of Monday afternoon, Barrigar had not been charged with any crime - and it was not clear that he would be.

A spokesman for Watertown police said the police department is working with the Jefferson County District Attorney to determine, what, if any, charge could be brought against Barrigar.

“I am disgusted by the actions of this individual and he must be held accountable for this repugnant attack against the LGBTQ community.,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“I am directing the State Police to assist local authorities in further investigating the perpetrator of this cowardly act.

“These hateful acts of division have no place in our state and we will not allow a bigot to bully the Watertown community with impunity,” the governor said.

Particularly disturbing to LGBTQ supporters; this isn’t the first incident involving Barrigar. Last year, he posted to Facebook “Watertown is having a LBGTQ celebration. For the love of God please let someone go on a mass shooting.”

“For him to be able to go in and remove a city hall flag, it’s just not right, there should be some penalty against that,” said Wil Murtaugh, executive director of ACR Health. Murtaugh attended Saturday’s flag raising.

“Unfortunately, on Saturday night in an act of ignorance and narrow-mindedness, one individual who literally believes the world is flat, removed the rainbow flag from the City Hall flagpole,” Watertown Mayor Jeff Smith said in a statement Monday. (Barrigar has been known to argue that the world is flat - his YouTube Channel is called “Flat Earth Watertown.”)

“The Mayor and City Council are united in our condemnation of this intolerant and ignorant act.”

Meanwhile, a 41 year old man was charged with disorderly conduct after he allegedly shouted obscenities outside Barrigar’s home.

Governor Cuomo’s full statement

“I am disgusted by the actions of this individual and he must be held accountable for this repugnant attack against the LGBTQ community. The Pride flag is a symbol of equality and dignity and respect, and it is raised across the Empire State this month because we are united in believing the strongest four letter word is love. I am directing the State Police to assist local authorities in further investigating the perpetrator of this cowardly act. These hateful acts of division have no place in our state and we will not allow a bigot to bully the Watertown community with impunity.”

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