Brooklyn Bridge white flag mystery: a political statement or a prank?
New York police and counterterrorism officials are looking closely at a video of the Brooklyn Bridge that apparently shows the moment when two huge American flags that were flying over the bridge were replaced with white flags.
The white flags were actually American flags that had been whitewashed, further fueling speculation that the stunt was a political statement.
No one has claimed responsibility so far which may also suggest some other motive for replacing the flags.
John Miller, the city's deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, said at an afternoon press conference that the lights illuminating the flags flickered around 3 a.m. just before the switch, and that the locks affixed to the gates on top of the bridge were still in place, suggesting that the perpetrators had a background in climbing training.
But the motive for the act remained unclear.
"At this time, it appears (the act) has no particular nexus to terrorism," Miller said. "This may be somebody's art project, or may be an attempt to make some kind of statement. But it's not clear what that statement is."
Miller said that security video shows that four or five people in a group, "and some other individuals," were seen climbing the bridge shortly after 3 a.m. Around 3:30 a.m., the light that normally illuminates the flag on the Brooklyn side of the bridge flickered, then appeared to go out. It appeared that aluminum pans were used to cover the lights.
He added that there was a 13-minute gap between the two flags going up, which he said was "suggestive" that two individuals, or two teams of individuals, were responsible.
"It looked like it had been thought out in advance," Miller said.
The white flags -- which appear to be American flags that were bleached white and measure 20 feet by 11 feet -- were discovered by construction workers around 5:30 a.m. They were removed around noon, authorities said earlier Tuesday.
White flags are a universal sign of surrender. Miller said whether the decision to use bleached American flags was a statement of patriotism or defiance was "up for everyone's interpretation."
NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said "he's not particularly happy about the event," and said police were seeking the public's help in finding suspects. Miller added that police are combing social media to see if anyone took credit for the switch.
Mark S. Weprin, a city councilman, posted a photo of the white flag on his Twitter account. He wrote, "Why are there white flags on top of the Brooklyn Bridge?"
If a political statement, it's pretty powerful. Everyone is talking about it. The timing would suggest it's commentary on current events; a surrender to Putin, to Iran, and, of course, a surrender at the border.
But that may be jumping to conclusions. Just because the narrative fits doesn't make it true. It may be an ironic statement about New York, as the Gothamist points out:
Two large white flags, possibly indicating a complete surrender to the forces of gentrification, have been spotted atop the Brooklyn Bridge. Several tipsters have sent us photos of the flags, which upon closer inspection appear to be whitewashed or weathered American flags. So maybe it's America that's "over," not Brooklyn?
I suspect we'll discover the truth in the next few hours or days. In the meantime, America, perhaps we should contemplate who is surrendering what, and if there's anything we can do about it.