A Long Island man was arrested and faces hate crime charges for allegedly throwing a hot cup of coffee at another man outside a Starbucks.
Last week, police arrested Matthew Rowlinson, 26, of Port Washington, N.Y., charging him with third-degree assault as a hate crime and second-degree aggravated harassment as a hate crime. He was issued an appearance ticket and will appear in court for an arraignment on July 20, reports Patch.com.
According to police, on July 1, Rowlinson walked up to a 21-year-old man outside a Starbucks in Port Washington and threw a cup of coffee at the man’s chest. He then allegedly yelled an anti-gay slur before leaving the scene of the attack.
Port Washington police condemned the attack, saying there was “zero tolerance for hate crime” in their community.
It remains unclear what prompted Rowlinson to accost the other man.
Melannie D’Arrigo, the co-founder of the Long Island LGBTQ advocacy group Be The Rainbow, previously told Blank Slate Media that she had been in contact with the victim, whose identity she declined to reveal to protect their privacy.
D’Arrigo said the victim told her the attack was unprovoked and that there had been no engagement between the victim and Rowlinson prior to the incident.
“The victim was standing there as any other resident of the town might be, minding their own business,” D’Arrigo said.
She added that she was “deeply saddened, angry, and horrified” to learn of the attack, which she condemned.
D’Arrigo noted that the day before the attack, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in favor of a wedding web designer who wished not to create websites celebrating same-sex marriages.
In that case, the high court ruled that people who make or provide custom-made goods or services may refuse to serve a person if doing so would violate their personal religious or moral beliefs, and have a First Amendment right to broadcast their intention to discriminate in whom they serve.
D’Arrigo personally believes the timing of the attack — coming on the heels of a very high-profile case dealing with potentially contentious issues, such as same-sex marriage, free speech rights, and religious-based refusals — was not a coincidence.
“National politics have an effect on us locally,” she said. “It is so important that we locally act and that we make sure on a local level we are building the kind of community that makes us proud. That’s consistent with the work Be The Rainbow has done, and it will be consistent with the work moving forward.”
She also said that she believes the rise in anti-LGBTQ sentiment — like that which led to the attack outside Starbucks — is being exacerbated by a slew of bills in various states seeking to restrict LGBTQ rights, such as access to gender-affirming facilities, access to gender-affirming care, and expressions of LGBTQ identity.
“These are the effects of that hatred,” she said.
D’Arrigo said Be The Rainbow is looking at ways to prevent similar attacks, and is in conversations with North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte about a possible co-sponsored town event on how to stand up for LGBTQ people.
She added: “Port Washington has always been a diverse place, it’s always been an accepting place and we will always work and continue to work hard to make sure that that remains the case.”