The New York City Police Department cited art not terrorism as a possible motive of the people who put bleached-out American flags atop the Brooklyn Bridge where the Stars and Stripes usually fly.
The replacements were discovered this morning on the towers at opposite ends of the bridge and were removed, police said. Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller said the incident had “no particular nexus” to terrorism or politics.
“This may be somebody’s art project or an attempt to make some sort of statement, but at this time it’s not clear what that statement is,” Miller told a packed news briefing at police headquarters.
Surveillance video shows a group of at least four or five people crossing the bridge around 3:10 a.m., Miller said. They are of interest to police because shortly afterward the lights illuminating the flags flickered and went out. Police later discovered the beacons had been covered with aluminum pans.
At least some of perpetrators had experience with climbing for construction or other work, Miller said.
“This is a security breach and of concern,” he said.
Reports of the incident and photos went viral on the Internet today and the story appeared on the top of the Drudge Report news website. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former police officer, said in a statement that he plans to offer a reward for information related to the arrest of suspects.
City Council member Mark Weprin said he was stunned by the incident and called for the NYPD to probe how someone was able to bypass patrol cars and security cameras. Adams said on his Twitter feed that if the incident was “someone’s idea of a joke,” he wasn’t laughing.
“We won’t surrender our public safety to anyone,” Adams said. “Political and social expression, whatever its message may be, has a place in our society, but not at the expense of others’ security.”
The Brooklyn Bridge, which opened in 1883 and was once the longest suspension bridge in the world, carries more than 120,000 vehicles, 4,000 pedestrians and 3,000 bicyclists every day, according to the city’s Department of Transportation, which referred calls about the incident to the NYPD.
The incident comes just months after security breaches at the World Trade Center site in Manhattan. In March, a teenager from New Jersey crawled through a fence, rode an elevator and climbed to the roof of 1 World Trade Center, 1,368 feet (417 meters) above ground. Six months earlier, three men parachuted from the roof.
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the incident. The mayor is on vacation in Italy.