A pair of rainbow pride flags outside a Harlem bar were set on fire early Friday, and the NYPD is currently investigating the incident as a possible bias crime. The Alibi Lounge's owner Alexi Minko vowed, "To the homophobic coward, we will make our mission to find you!"
In an Instagram post showing the damaged flags outside Alibi, Minko added, "It's #pridemonth motherfucker!"
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Few minutes ago, someone set our rainbow flags on fire! To the homophobic coward, we will make our mission to find you! It's #pridemonth motherfucker! #pride #lgbtpride #gaybar #gaybarnyc #Harlem #gayharlem #gayinstagram 🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏴☠️
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Thanks to the @nypd for doing a great job standing under the rain to help find the a$$hole who set our rainbow flags on fire! The symbol of our pride of being part of the LGBTQ community! We are proud! #Harlem #gaybar #gayparty #gayinstagram #pride #pridemonth #pridenyc 🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈🏳️🌈
Minko said someone came into the bar, located at 2376 Adam Clayton Boulevard, around 12:30 a.m. on May 31st and screamed, "Fire!"
"When we look[ed] out," Minko recalled to WCBS 2, "we could see both flags completely blazing.”
Minko told NY1 that "he and a handful of customers ran outside and put the small fire out," while police also told WCBS 2 that the rain also helped tamp down the fire.
Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the NY State Police to assist with the investigation. In a statement, the governor said, "I am disgusted by the burning of a Pride flag outside an LGBTQ bar in Harlem early yesterday morning. 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."
Neighbors and patrons of the bar were shocked at the act. Dwayne Nash, a regular who lives nearby, said, "It's incredibly disheartening. I have chills thinking that someone would think it was ever okay to make that expression... burn a flag that symbolizes acceptance for everyone who's born and is expressing their love."
Alibi "is an incredibly welcoming space," Nash said. "It's a celebration of what means to be black, gay, lesbian, transgendered."
Nash's boyfriend Omar Matos wasn't going to let the flag burning bring him down, saying, "If anything it makes me stronger, it makes me want to hold my boyfriend's hand even more, kiss him even more, and appreciate him even more, how lucky we are to live in a country who allows us to be who we are."
"Harlem is known [as] a place for love.... Everybody's been welcome to this community," said Assembly Member Al Taylor, who represents New York's 71st Assembly District. "We have a president who stirs up hate, and it's unacceptable... He goes to lowest level every time. he's created an atmosphere that fosters hate."
With reporting by Jessica Gould, WNYC