In a disturbing incident in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood, a woman set fire to a restaurant by igniting a gay pride flag hanging on the building's facade. The incident occurred in the early hours of Monday morning and was captured on security cameras. It is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
The restaurant, Little Prince, is operated by Prince Hospitality Group, which is led by Cobi Levy and Will Makris. The company's other restaurants include Lola Taverna and Alba in Manhattan and Lucali in Brooklyn. The restaurant was closed at the time, and no one was injured in the fire, but it caused minor damage to the facade.
The security camera footage shows a white SUV stopping in front of the restaurant, and a woman getting out, approaching the building, and setting the rainbow-colored flag on fire. She then got back into the passenger side of the vehicle, which drove away. The police have released the footage as part of their investigation.
The incident has sent shockwaves through the community, and City Councilman Erik Bottcher of Manhattan arrived at the restaurant to hang a larger rainbow flag out front. Television news cameras captured the scene as people stopped by to express their shock and support for the restaurant.
Al DiRaffaele, a neighbor of the restaurant and a Vietnam War veteran who identifies as gay, called the incident “a horrendous act.” “It affects me, being a gay man,” he said. “It's a slap in my face, along with every gay person in the world.”
This incident comes at a time when the LGBTQ+ community is facing increasing violence and discrimination across the United States. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 2021 was one of the deadliest years on record for transgender and gender-nonconforming people, with at least 44 people killed.
The LGBTQ+ community has also been the target of discriminatory legislation in several states, with laws that restrict access to healthcare, housing, and employment. This violence and discrimination only serve to underscore the importance of Pride Month and the fight for equality and acceptance for all.