Last year, the Long Beach Marine Safety Division painted a lifeguard tower near 12th Place in rainbow colors to commemorate LGBTQ+ Pride Month. The lifeguard tower quickly became a tourist attraction and meeting place for photos in a city that is celebrated for its incredible support of its LGBTQ+ citizens. Each year, Long Beach hosts one of the biggest Pride festivals in California, drawing hundreds of thousands to Ocean Boulevard.
On Monday night, authorities responded to the lifeguard tower after being alerted that it had been set on fire around midnight. Within minutes the fire had consumed the structure and left only metal standing in the sand.
— Jennifer Pruitt (@Jenisey123) March 23, 2021
The motive for the fire is still under investigation. Long Beach Mayor, Robert Garcia, who is openly gay, deems it a hate crime.
Last night, our PRIDE lifeguard station that was painted by LGBTQ+ lifeguards, burned down. The fire is under investigation but I personally have little doubt this was an act of hate. To whoever committed this act, we will rebuild it better and brighter. pic.twitter.com/VxNQZgCBpF
— Robert Garcia (@RobertGarcia) March 23, 2021
Many have shared on social media that it is known many people experiencing homelessness and youth would gather at the lifeguard tower nightly. According to Garcia, the last time a lifeguard station was burnt down in Long Beach was in the 1950s. Long Beach Fire Department asserts that the lifeguard tower will be rebuilt and painted by lifeguards.
By Tuesday morning, the remaining structure had been removed and two Pride flags had been placed in the sand.
Long Beach, like countless other thriving cities, has been majorly impacted by the pandemic. LGBTQ+ spaces, which primarily line the boystown that is known as Broadway, have been shuttered for over a year now. While it is still unclear whether the lifeguard station fire was a hate crime or not, it is apparent that we have reached a point in time when people are acting out their frustrations in frightful and dangerous ways that are threatening to the LGBTQ+ community.
General Manager of The Broadway Bar, Miguel Betancourt, shared a harsh reality that has plagued queer spaces such as the defacing of property and lack of regard for the hard work of staff who are struggling to keep these establishments open.
Betancourt posted this photo of the bar’s door:
With hate crimes re-emerging in the media now that the pandemic has cycled past a year, it would not be a surprise if we learned that the safe spaces we long to return to are the next target of the hate we have been trying to abolish for decades.