Balloons celebrating Pride stripped from Westport bridge

Photo of Amanda Cuda

WESTPORT — Multiple rainbow-colored balloons that had been fastened to the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge in celebration of Pride Month have been removed in an apparent vandalism incident.

Brian McGunagle, founder of Westport Pride, said he was driving on the bridge on his way to work Friday morning and noticed most of the colorful balloons on the north side, which were placed on lights, had been torn off, and several lights were damaged.

The southbound side of the bridge appeared to have been not affected.

Westport police said Friday they have identified the “responsible party” and the incident remains under investigation. In a statement, police said they are working with the state’s attorney’s office to investigate the motive and determine the potential criminal charges.

“This incident is upsetting because it is not only an act of destruction, but also offensive to many members of our community,” the police statement said.

The balloons were part of Westport’s first Pride Month celebration, to honor and recognize LGBTQ+ people. “This was a shock to me,” McGunagle said of the incident.

He said most people he’s encountered have been supportive of the Pride celebration, which included a rally on Jesup Green last week that drew hundreds and the first Pride celebration at Staples High School.

“We haven’t had any pushback,” McGunagle said. “The town has been very receptive. I assume it was some kind of vandalism. I can’t even speculate.”

The bridge decoration had been done by the Westport Downtown Association, which regularly adorns the structure with decorations for various holidays.

“We were really happy to support Pride,” said Randy Herbertson, president of the Westport Downtown Association. “We were trying to figure out a really high-profile way to celebrate the month with them.”

After seeing the balloons had been removed, McGunagle contacted Herbertson, who said the association would replace the balloons immediately.

“We’ll keep putting them back up,” Herbertson said. “We’ll put them up any time they come down.”

McGunagle said the incident hasn’t deterred the enthusiasm for Westport’s first Pride Month.

“Hate doesn’t have a home in Westport,” he said.