Two rainbow flags were deliberately set on fire outside an LGBT+ bar in New York on Friday evening (May 31), in what police are investigating as a possible hate crime.
The Alibi Lounge, in Harlem, is reportedly the only black-owned LGBT+ lounge in New York. Two Pride flags were found burning on the ground outside just after midnight on Friday.
Alexi Minko, the Alibi Lounge’s owner, said, “In 2019 someone literally destroyed a symbol of an entire group of people, that’s the shocking part of it.”
Minko described how he saw the flags burning. “All of a sudden someone knock on door and scream ‘fire.’ … When we look out, we could see both flags completely blazing,” he said.
Security footage shows a man crouching as he sets the flag on fire. Because it was raining heavily, Minko believes he must have used an accelerant.
Minko extinguished the flags by stamping on them. No one was injured.
<p dir=«ltr» lang=«en» xml:lang=«en»>According to the owner of @lounge_alibi these flags outside of the Harlem #LGBTQ bar were set on fire around midnight, just one night before #PrideMonth kicks off in the city. @NY1 pic.twitter.com/IPNIpkbLNv
— Alyssa Paolicelli (@APaolicelli17) May 31, 2019
Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, tweeted that he was directing the hate crimes task force to investigate.
In a statement, Cuomo said, “I am disgusted by the burning of a Pride flag outside an LGBTQ bar in Harlem early yesterday morning.”
“This was a despicable and cowardly act made worse by the fact that it happened on the eve of Pride month.”
“There is no place for hate in New York and those responsible for this repugnant behaviour must be held accountable. I am directing the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to immediately provide the NYPD with any resources needed to assist in an investigation of this incident.
“Rather than divide New Yorkers, this despicable act will only strengthen our commitment to tolerance, equality and justice for every individual,” Cuomo said.
Minko said he had given the police the burned flags as evidence but would have new flags up outside the bar by Monday (June 3).
“Bigger, brighter, bolder flags,” he said.