Just before International Pride Month, Alibi Lounge, a gay bar in Harlem, became the victim of what appears to be a hate crime. Two rainbow flags were set on fire outside of the establishment in the early hours of Friday, May 31. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, with this incident serving as a harrowing reminder of the additional prejudices that Black LGBTQ+ individuals face.
Alibi Lounge stands out as the only gay bar in Harlem and the only Black-owned LGBTQ bar in New York City. As police investigate the incident as a hate crime, many believe that race was a motivating factor.
Alibi owner Alexi Minko told news outlets that he’s worried about the message the arsonist was trying to send.
“You start to worry a little bit about what it means for us in terms of being a gay bar, in terms of the fact that we’re visible to the community and also for the LGBT community in general — right the day before pride,” he told ABC 7 NY. “Is it a message that somebody’s trying to send?”
Surveillance video shows the culprit kneeling down outside of the bar and then lighting two flags on fire. A person is seen coming into frame and alerting bar staff, but rain had mostly extinguished the fire by the time they were able to respond. No injuries were reported.
Despite concerns, the bar will remain open as the investigation continues. The singed and tattered flags still stand, perhaps as a symbol of the community’s resilience and commitment to living proud. Minko says he wants whoever did this to know that he isn’t going anywhere.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo released a statement assuring locals that, “There is no place for hate in New York.” He has directed the state’s Hate Crimes Task Force to assist NYPD with any resources needed to investigate the incident.