NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Police responded to a bar in Harlem on reports two rainbow flags were set on fire, just before the start of Pride Month.
Police are investigating the matter as a possible hate crime after finding the flags tattered and charred, reports CBS2’s Reena Roy.
It happened just after midnight Friday at the entrance to the Alibi Lounge, a gay bar on Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard. No one was injured in the incident.
“In 2019 someone literally destroyed a symbol of an entire group of people, that’s the shocking part of it,” said bar owner Alexi Minko, who spotted people burning the flags. “All of a sudden someone knock on door and scream ‘fire.’ … When we look out, we could see both flags completely blazing.”
The venue posted pictures of the damaged flags on social media, along with the statement “We are not scared nor intimidated! Happy Pride everyone!”
“You can’t begin to imagine that someone on purpose burned the rainbow flags at the beginning of Pride,” said Minko. “Quickly it became evident that it was a deliberate criminal.”
The LGBTQ community rallied on Saturday in support of the bar, saying its an important establishment in the area.
Police tell CBS2 the overnight rain Friday helped put out the fire before it got out of control, but the big question is how and why the flags were torched.
“Seeing this, what goes through your mind?” said Harlem resident Sheba Simpson-Amsterdam. “Hate but I also know that love overcomes hate so that’s why we came out today in solidarity.
“We want people to know that this cannot continue to happen in our community at all,” she said.
On Saturyday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement about the incident.
“I am disgusted by the burning of a Pride flag outside an LGBTQ bar in Harlem early yesterday morning,” said Cuomo. “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 behavior 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,” he said.