Canadian police are investigating a “possible hate-motivated” assault they say may have been motivated by the suspected purchase of Bud Light.
Global News reports that a man and woman were allegedly confronted by three men outside a liquor store in Vaughan, Ontario at around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“One of the suspects commented on the male victim’s choice of alcohol and uttered anti-homosexual derogatory slurs as he approached the victim,” York Regional Police said in a news release.
A police spokesperson said that the initial suspect believed the victim had purchased Bud Light. The beer brand has been embroiled in controversy recently following a promotional partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney that led anti-LGBTQ+ conservatives to call for a boycott of parent company Anheuser-Busch’s products.
But, the spokesperson said, the victim had not in fact purchased Bud Light. “I guess there were some rainbow colors on the cans and so it was initiated that way… Then upon further determination as to what they purchased, [the suspects] still weren’t happy with that. Let’s just put it that way. And the insults continued.”
The victim’s female companion reportedly stepped between the victim and the suspect and was assaulted. Two other suspects got involved, and the male victim was reportedly knocked to the ground. When a bystander intervened, the suspects fled.
Police released photos of one of the suspects, described as 25 to 35 years old with a slim build, short buzz-cut hair, and a tattoo on his jawline and tattoos on both hands. The second suspect is described as having a light-brown complexion, black hair, and a full black beard. All three suspects reportedly fled in a black Nissan Rogue with the Ontario license plate CLHL733.
Police believe there was a crowd of people nearby at the time of the attack and urged witnesses to come forward. “Anyone who has information about the identity and/or whereabouts of the suspects are urged to contact police as soon as possible,” they said.
The 27-year-old woman was reportedly treated for her injuries at a nearby hospital, while the 26-year-old man did not require medical attention.
While anti-LGBTQ+ conservatives have called for a boycott of Anheuser-Busch beers, the company has also angered the LGBTQ+ community with its weak response to the anti-trans backlash. In April, the company put out a statement saying that it “never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people,” while failing to condemn transphobia. Two marketing executives responsible for the Mulvaney partnership also reportedly took leaves of absence last month in the wake of the controversy.
Last week, Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Michel Doukeris brought up the controversy in an investor call. “We will continue to learn, meet the moment in time, all be stronger and we work tirelessly to do what we do best: Bring people together over a beer and creating a future of more cheers,” he said. Doukeris was criticized for not standing up for Mulvaney, transgender people, or LGBTQ+ people more generally in the face of anti-LGBTQ+ backlash, leading several LGBTQ+ bars in Chicago to drop Anheuser-Busch products from their menus.
The company has been criticized in the past for marketing to the LGBTQ+ community, particularly during Pride celebrations, while donating tens of thousands of dollars to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians.