Just after midnight on Friday, as Pride Month festivities were about to get underway at Alibi Lounge in Harlem, two rainbow flags outside of the venue were set on fire in the pouring rain.
Alibi Lounge owner Alexi Minko told NBC News his business is the first and only Black-owned LGBTQ lounge in Harlem.
Minko said someone knocked on the door and screamed “fire!” He went outside and attempted to put the blaze out himself by stomping on the flags and the heavy rain helped put the fires out without any injuries. Security video from Alibi shows a man crouching next to the flags in the rain and lighting them on fire with an accelerant.
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But Minko said this won’t stop him. This week he’s putting more flags right back up because police needed the burned ones for evidence – and this time, they’ll be “bigger, brighter, bolder flags” and he’ll cover the sidewalk with rainbow flags.
“They’ll be bigger, more flamboyant,” he said. “We’ll cover the entire sidewalk with flags if necessary.”
The community and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have also stood up for the lounge and LGBTQ people. Community members held a rally on Saturday afternoon in support for the bar and Cuomo tweeted:
“I am disgusted by the burning of a Pride flag outside an LGBTQ bar in Harlem early yesterday morning. There is no place for hate in New York. I am directing the @NYSPolice Hate Crimes Task Force to provide NYPD with any resources needed to investigate this repugnant incident.”
The incident is now being investigated as a hate crime and Cuomo even offered the help of state police.