A rainbow-coloured ‘Pride’ lifeguard tower in Long Beach, Los Angeles has been burned down what the city’s mayor called “an act of hate.”
The Long Beach tower was painted in Pride colours by LGBT+ members of the city’s Marine Safety Division last year and had become a popular photo spot for beachgoers.
Around midnight on Monday (22 March) firefighters found it fully engulfed in flames. By Tuesday morning it was reduced to ashes.
A Long Beach police spokesperson said they were not aware of any threats against the LGBT+ community, but the city’s mayor Robert Garcia, who is gay, had no doubt as to the motivation behind the torching of the Pride tower.
“The fire is under investigation, but I personally have little doubt this was an act of hate,” he tweeted. “To whoever committed this act: ‘We will rebuild it better and brighter.'”
He addressed it again at a COVID press conference, adding: “To whoever committed this act, just please know that: one, you are not welcome in our community. And two, that we will rebuild the lifeguard station, brighter, gayer, and bigger than it was before.”
According to The OC Register the Long Beach Pride tower is one of 20 lifeguard towers in the city, which has strong roots to the 50th anniversary of the first Pride march held in New York City in 1970.
The mayor acknowledged that kids and homeless people often go out to the towers at night, but said the fact that it happened to the only rainbow-painted one made it “abundantly clear” it was done in protest against LGBT+ rights.
“For it to be the one tower that was recently painted in Pride colours was surprising from a perspective of how supportive this city is,” Garcia said. “But that doesn’t diminish that there is still hate that exists and hate incidents that occur across our city.”
Long Beach’s marine safety chief Gonzalo Medina said the last time a lifeguard station burned down in the city happened in the 1950s.
“The tower served as a symbol of our strong support for the diversity within our ranks and the LGBTQ community who call Long Beach home,” he said in a statement.
“The Fire Department Marine Safety Division remains committed to the safety and inclusion of our LGBTQ staff and community members. The tower will be replaced and repainted by lifeguards.”