NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The NYPD has released new video of a man burning two rainbow flags outside a gay bar in Harlem.
The suspected hate crime happened on the eve of Pride month.
Surveillance video shows the man taking a lighter to the two flags on display outside Alibi Lounge on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard shortly after midnight Friday.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Alibi Lounge employee Ashley Lugo-Brown said. “It’s really just an act of hate. I think that person just doesn’t understand or doesn’t have the right vocabulary to understand what’s happening in their community or in the world or what’s going on.”
Lounge owner Alexi Minko told CBS2 someone ran into the bar to alert them of the flames.
“When we look out, we could see both flags completely blazing,” he said. “In 2019, someone literately destroyed a symbol of an entire group of people. That’s the shocking part of it.”
“Obviously, it’s scary. I live here. I’m glad that we have cameras, so hopefully we can catch [the suspect],” said Shawn Decoster, who lives above the bar.
Newly released statistics from the NYPD show that while overall crime in the city is down, hate crimes have spiked 64 percent this year. Police said there have already been 18 incidents motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation — up from 15 at this time in 2018.
“Criminal mischief, property damage, or graffiti,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said. “That makes up the vast majority, and we treat them as seriously as we would an assault, quite frankly.”
The NYPD took the tattered flags in as evidence, and the LGBTQ community has since rallied outside the bar to send a strong message.
“Love overcomes hate,” one woman said. “We want people to know that this cannot continue to happen in our community at all.”
“We need to stand up to each other, support each other, and stand up for our rights,” another person said.
“I think it’s important for people to know that fear doesn’t run anything,” Lugo-Brown added.
An employee said a donor gave the bar an even bigger rainbow flag that will be on display soon.
“We’re not scared, we’re not intimidated, and we’ll have a happy Pride for the month of June,” he said.
Fortunately, no one was hurt by the fire and no further damaged was reported.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he is disgusted by the incident and has a state police unit assisting in the investigation. Employees CBS2 spoke to said they don’t recognize the person in the video, but if you do you are urged to contact the NYPD.