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Mike Murphy outside his Murphy’s Lobster Grill in Sunnyside. Photo by: Irish Voice Newspaper

Irish restaurant threatened over gay pride flag

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Mike Murphy outside his Murphy’s Lobster Grill in Sunnyside. Photo by: Irish Voice Newspaper

For three decades Mike Murphy, 50, the Galway-born owner of Murphy’s Lobster Grill in Sunnyside, has known and loved the remarkable diversity of his adoptive Queens neighborhood.

But when he flew a gay pride flag alongside the Irish and U.S. flags to welcome locals after the St. Pat’s for All Parade on March 2 things took an unexpected turn.

Since the day of the parade Murphy has received odd mailings and phone calls that seem calculated to intimidate his staff and himself at his Skillman Avenue seafood bar and restaurant.

“I started getting this mail,” Murphy told the Irish Voice. “I didn’t take any notice at first but they kept coming. The writing on them was very weird, as were the things they said.”

At first he didn’t take any notice. “I thought it might be some smart ass, you know? Then I received a message on a St. Pat’s for All postcard that included a weird message: Thank you for not breaking my virginity last night but your high wire stunt still needs improvement,” the postcard read.

Later Murphy received a large brown envelope containing a load of messages and press cuttings, which showed that someone was putting a lot of time into sending out these letters.

Murphy received the first mailing on March 10, eight days after the parade, signed by someone with the name of “Amanda.”  The note was handwritten on the back of an official St. Pat’s for All postcard.

Days later a package arrived that included Murphy’s business card as well as a number of local newspaper clippings featuring photographs of some of the gay groups who regularly march in the parade.

Some of the packages contained return addresses, Murphy said. One was apparently mailed by an Astoria, Queens resident and it included a working phone number.

When Murphy called the number the person who picked up said she had no idea what he was talking about. Since then Murphy has received several anonymous phone calls from a blocked caller ID. Each time he picks up the caller hangs up.

“My staff doesn’t know how to deal with stuff like this, nobody does really,” says Murphy. “I was contacted by the NYPD Hate Crimes division yesterday and they are taking it seriously and plan to investigate.”

Since the story first appeared online on the Sunnyside Post, a local Queens web page, a few people have criticized him for his support of the parade, but many more have taken his side.

“Who am I to judge anyone?” Murphy asks. “I put up the flags because that what you do for St. Patrick’s Day. For this parade you put up the Irish flag and the U.S. flag and the pride flag. Little did I think it would cause any fuss in this day and age.”

Undaunted by the hate campaign, the gay pride flag is still up alongside the others on his premises. “There is no reason for me to take it down. My restaurant welcomes everyone,” Murphy says.

Has he a message for the person or persons behind the campaign? “I want them to know that it’s 2014,” says Murphy. “Why not get on with your life?”

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