A Staten Island, New Jersey, man caught on camera tearing down Blue Lives Matter ribbons in Castleton Corners has received a storm of threatening messages on social media. The backlash has been so severe that Stephen Varvaro has made a public apology.
"I know that what I did was wrong," said Varvaro in a phone call to the Staten Island Advance, according to the Daily Mail. "Tearing the ribbons down was the wrong thing to do. It was disrespectful."
The footage was shared on Facebook and condemnation ensued for both Varvaro and anyone connected to him. In the video, a man in a vehicle is filming Varvaro as he rips off the blue ribbons. The man in the car confronts him and Varvaro responds with, “Black lives matter!” The driver lashes back, saying, “All lives matter!”
“I pray you never need help from [law enforcement],” Robert LeDoux said in a post addressing Varvaro. “I bet your life don't matter as much as it used to.”
The owner of a hair salon where Varvaro previously worked was threatened with a protest. Staten Island Live reports the salon’s proprietors stressed that Varvaro was no longer an employee.
The owner of Ted & Co Salon in Dongan Hills emphasized that, despite the fact that Varvaro hasn't worked there for about three weeks, the shop has been a target. They say they've received 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.
Needless to say, the controversial event has been bad for business, Ted said. The salon is offering the police a 20 percent discount for all services to show their gratitude, according to Daily Mail.
"We didn't do this, we're not responsible for this, we don't condone what he did," Ted said.
When asked why Varvaro removed the blue ribbons, he said it was because he "thought they meant ... 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 maintains, "I'm in no way against Blue Lives Matter."
Varvaro says he now recognizes that the ribbons are not so much a sign of approval for the New York Police Department, but "really in support of families with police officers in them."
He says he has relatives who are police officers and feels particularly bad about it. But Varvaro argues that some people are “overreacting” by posting obscenities and threats to his safety and livelihood following the video.
"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 be terminated from his job.