WATERTOWN — Donnie Lee Barrigar thinks he was well within his Constitutional rights when he took down the PRIDE flag that hung in front of City Hall over the weekend.
He called his actions “a peaceful protest,” insisting that he’s protected by his First Amendment rights to use the PRIDE flag in his protest.
Because it hung in front of City Hall, the flag is public property, so he doesn’t think police will charge him with a crime, Mr. Barrigar said.
City Police Detective Lt. Joseph R. Donoghue said Tuesday morning that the incident remains “under investigation” and doesn’t know when a decision will be made whether to charge him.
Realizing it “was controversial,” Mr. Barrigar expected taking down the PRIDE flag would create such a reaction. Figuring it would go viral, he also understands why people took exception with what he did and that he’s “hated” for it.
He gets his views about homosexuality from his religious beliefs, he said.
“It mocks God. It represents an abomination,” he said, adding his belief that the LGBTQ+ community involves “pedophiles, incest and bestiality.”
Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith, the members of the City Council and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo have condemned Mr. Barrigar for taking down the PRIDE flag, which was found in the City Hall drop box and quickly put back up.
Members of the local LGBTQ+ community are organizing a protest in front of City Hall from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, saying that their community is here to stay. They think that Mr. Barrigar wants to drive them out of Watertown.
But Mark Irwin, who’s involved in the Watertown Pride committee, thanked the mayor, council members and Gov. Cuomo for showing their support for the LGBTQ+ community. Other members from the faith community also have come forward to disagree with Mr. Barrigar’s beliefs.
“Obviously, it’s a hard thing to witness for the LGBTQ community,” he said. “They feel bullied. They want to feel welcomed here.”
Last year, Mr. Barrigar caused an uproar and tension within the LGBTQ+ community after he posted a threatening Facebook message that called for a mass shooting upon hearing of last year’s PRIDE flag raising at City Hall.
After hearing about what Mr. Barrigar did with the PRIDE flag, Mr. Irwin’s first thoughts were: “Here we go again.”
Mr. Barrigar is singling out the LGBTQ+ community in his hatred, Mr. Irwin said. He hasn’t removed the Irish flag during St. Patrick’s Day festivities or the Italian flag during the Columbus Day weekend.
“I think he has a misunderstanding,” Mr. Irwin said.
Mr. Barrigar, who said he plans to attend Wednesday’s protest, said he wished people would talk to him to get his opinion about his religious beliefs involving the gay community, adding it’s a lifestyle that they have chosen.
He denied Gov. Cuomo’s assertion that he’s a bigot or that council members refer to him as narrow-minded or ignorant. He thinks that he’s defeated the governor so far, since the governor asked for state police to investigate him last year for the threatening Facebook posting and he was never charged.
“It was 1-0 last year against the governor and, so far, in round two, I’m ahead of the count,” he said.
The fact that he hasn’t been charged is one of the things that upset people in the gay community, that he hasn’t been held accountable, Mr. Irwin said.
On Tuesday, Mr. Barrigar said that the Facebook posting was wrong and that he shouldn’t have put it up. He recalled how Facebook asked what was on his mind that day and that was on his mind, so he posted it and within an hour took down.
He was kicked off Facebook for posting a violent threat and has not been back on the social media site since.
“It was very damaging,” he said.
While he says that “God loves everybody,” Mr. Barrigar was insistent he “will not stand by any mockery” of God.
Mr. Barrigar claims that he’s received death threats for what he’s done and for his video postings on YouTube, but they won’t sway him from coming out and saying what he believes.
Mr. Barrigar is also a “Flat Earther,” which means he doesn’t believe that the Earth is round and that the world is flat or a disc. Most believe that science shows that is not true and it’s an archaic, laughable concept.
He’s been barred from city property because he allegedly took down an American flag in from City Hall and put it back upside down. He can only go to City Hall if he has legitimate business to go there.
Mr. Barrigar now says he plans to run for City Council.