A Staten Island community decided to show support for police officers in the aftermath of the shootings in Texas and Louisiana by placing blue ribbons on trees and utility poles. However, one resident apparently did not agree with the idea of ribbons hanging in the neighborhood.
A passing motorist took out his camera and began recording when he saw the man tearing the ribbons down. The motorist posted the video online and it quickly went viral.
“Why you taking [the ribbons]—” the motorist asked.
Varvaro interrupted and put both hands around his mouth and yelled, “Black lives matter!”
The motorist shouted back, “All lives matter! Blue lives save all lives!”
He shouts it again and the driver filming the ribbon untying unfold before him shouts back:
“We’re not talking about all lives right now,” Varvaro hits back, before waving the man off and trying to end the conversation repeating, “Whatever, man, whatever.”
The exchange heats up more as Varvaro finds another blue ribbon placed on a telephone pole.
As he unties it the driver tells him, “You’re disgusting!”
Varvaro comes back, “You’re disgusting!” before enunciating slowly: “Black. Lives. Matter…. All lives are not being persecuted right now,” he said clapping his hands to drown out the man he was arguing with.
Then he lost it.
“Fuck all lives! Fuck blue lives—it’s about Black Lives Matter, OK?!” he spewed, before pacing away.
After the video was posted online, CBS 2 News reports the vandal was quickly identified as Stephen Varvaro.
“People immediately recognized him and immediately put his name out on Facebook, and that’s all it took,” Staten Island resident Rita DiGennaro told CBS2 News.
Other residents reportedly said they found Varvaro’s actions “disturbing” and “disgusting.”
Varvaro has since apologized for his actions after the video of the incident went viral.
“I know that what I did was wrong,” said Stephen Varvaro of Castleton Corners in a phone call to the Advance. “Tearing the ribbons down was the wrong thing to do. It was disrespectful.”
The video, which was circulated on Facebook, prompted intense backlash, both for Varvaro, as well as anyone viewers managed to link to him.
The owner of a hair salon where Varvaro used to work was threatened with a protest, and wants people to know that the man in the video no longer is an employee.
Varvaro explained that he removed the blue ribbons because “what I thought they meant was to hell with Black Lives Matter. I assumed, I was hasty, I acted in anger. I didn’t see blue when I saw the blue ribbons, I saw red and I was angry and I lost control.”
Varvaro stressed, “I’m in no way against Blue Lives Matter.”
Varvaro said he now realizes that the ribbons are not so much a sign of approval for the NYPD, but “really in support of families with police officers in them.”
He feels especially bad because he has relatives who are police officers.
Some people who have seen the video are “overreacting” by posting obscenities and threats to his personal safety and life on social media, Varvaro said.
“I’m getting threats about it and I don’t feel safe on the island anymore,” Varvaro said. At least one poster suggested that he should lose his job.
The owner of Ted & Co Salon on Richmond Road in Dongan Hills stressed that, despite the fact that Varvaro hasn’t worked there for about three weeks, the salon has been a target of numerous phone calls by people “cursing at us, screaming at us.” Threats of a protest in front of his building have been made via social media.
“My employees are frightened to be in the building,” said Ted, who declined to have his last name published.
The entire incident has been bad for business, Ted said. The salon is offering a 20 percent discount for all services for anyone on the police force to show their appreciation.
“We didn’t do this, we’re not responsible for this, we don’t condone what he did,” Ted said.