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Man charged with allegedly burning Pride flag in New York gay bar twice

Man charged with allegedly burning Pride flag in New York gay bar twice

A Pride flag was found by staff crinkled and in ashes outside a New York City bar | Picture: Instagram (@alibiharlem)

Police have arrested a man suspected of setting fire to Pride flags on two separate occasions outside New York City’s only black-owned LGBTI bar.

The suspect, a 20-year-old Manhattan male, has been charged with two counts of criminal mischief as a hate crime and two counts of arson.

Alibi Lounge, an uptown Harlem bar on 2376 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard, saw the Pride flags in its street entrance set alight twice on 31 May and 8 July, ABC News reported.

What happened?

A Pride flag was found burning at the entrance of Alibi Lounge nightclub in Harlem, New York earlier this week.

The club’s owner, Alexi Minko, said he was ‘in shock’ to see it happen a second time, and questioned the timing of the incidents.

‘I have to say that what I find odd was the timing of both events,’ he told NBC.

‘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.’

With Minko documenting the two incidents on the club’s Instagram and CCTV catching the suspect, New York governor Andrew Cuomo quickly assigned the Hate Crime task force to investigate.

But just a day after this, NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said officers made the arrest thanks to tips from the community.

‘Your calls to @NYPDTips and the efforts of our @NYPDHateCrimes detectives have led to the identification and apprehension of the individual who burned the pride flag,’ Shea tweeted on Tuesday.

Although he did not release any details about the suspect in custody, he did tweet a screenshot image of the suspect.

‘Evil has struck again!’

The ashes of the burnt-up Pride flag laid beside a red carpet and tree foliage.

Alibi Lounge owners posted images of the torched flag on their social media early Monday morning.

‘Evil has struck again!’ they tweeted. ‘Someone set our new Pride flag on fire!’

Moreover, the incident came just five weeks after surveillance cameras caught a man lighting two rainbow flags on fire at the club.

On 31 May, the suspect leant down and lit the flag – which was acting as a red carpet rope – to the dismay of bar owners and locals. Staff ran out to put out the flames.

Hate crime is on the rise in the city

Furthermore, the incident comes as the city battles with a spike in hate crimes.Anti-LGBTI crimes jumped 20% from a year ago as of 2 June, the NYPD said at a press conference earlier this week.

The department said it had recorded 220 reported hate crimes year-to-date. A 48% increase from the same period last year, as overall crime decreases.

The total of reported hate crimes were listed at 184 on June 2, when the city released its most-recent monthly crime report.

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