NEW YORK (AP) — For the second time in a little over a month, a rainbow flag at the entrance to a New York City gay bar was set aflame.
Alibi Lounge owner Alexi Minko said staff members alerted by someone on the street found the flag had been set on fire between 12:20 and 12:45 a.m. Monday. New York City police were already investigating a possible anti-gay bias crime after rainbow flags at the Harlem bar’s entrance were set on fire just after midnight May 31, day before the start of the city’s Pride Month celebrations.
“I have to say that what I find odd was the timing of both events,” Minko said. “One was at the beginning of Pride and one was right at the end. One has to wonder if there’s a kind of message they’re trying to send.”
No injuries were reported in either incident.
inko told The Associated Press that a staff member also had to remove the rainbow flags from the bar’s entrance on July 4 because people on the street “were intentionally setting off firecrackers” at the front door. Besides that, he said, the club hadn’t received any other threats during or after Pride Month.
Monday’s flag-burning is also being investigated as a possible hate crime and no suspects have yet been identified, a New York City police spokesman said. Minko said staff members didn’t catch a glimpse of a potential suspect, but the building’s landlord has cameras trained on the bar’s front door.
Business at Alibi Lounge, which bills itself as the city’s only black-owned gay lounge, is typically slow on Sunday nights, Minko said.
Minko didn’t expect the flag-burning to happen again after police released surveillance video of the suspect in the May 31 incident. Officers regularly surveilled the establishment after that, and had even stopped by Saturday night, he said.
“Second time around, I’m really kind of in shock, I have to admit,” Minko said.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has since directed the State Police Hate Crimes Unit to assist the NYPD in an investigation to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions.
“In New York we have zero tolerance for this despicable behavior,” the governor says, “and [we] will continue to live by the credo that the most powerful four-letter word is not hate – it’s love.”