The flower box outside of Anatalie David’s business was initially decorated with a rainbow LGBT pride flag in commemoration of (and show solidarity to) the victims of the shooting at PULSE nightclub in Orlando. In fact, in preparation for Jersey City’s Vigil for Orlando, quite a few downtown businesses proudly displayed rainbow flags in their storefronts.
Unfortunately, this weekend, David’s flag went up in flames. Literally.
“I was away from the salon (The Hair Room) all weekend,” said David, “and when I came back in Monday morning, I discovered my pride flag was completely burnt up.”
What was once an 11 x 17 inch flag waving over the outer edge of the wooden box is a now a single scrap. “It seems like someone held it and set it on fire. The entire top of the flag was completely untouched. To me, it was definitely lit from the bottom and burnt all the way up to the top,” David tells JCI.
“I discovered it and my heart sunk. I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t imagine that someone would intentionally damage someone else’s property… but I truly couldn’t imagine that someone was reacting to the symbolism of the what the flag stands for. I would hope that’s not what happened – but I don’t know. I would like to think that people are better than that. I like to see the good in people,” says David.
So, like so many of us in the digital age, in her shock, David photographed the flag. She posted the picture on The Hair Room’s Instagram page and called the police. And as it happens with tight communities and social media, almost immediately the community sprung into action.
Friends and community members stopped by, including Co-Producers of the Jersey City LGBT Pride Festival Eddie Baez and Michael Billy, who were saddened by the incident.
“In the wake of the Orlando shooting, the LGBT community needs to show that we are united and will not give into fear and hatred. Pride is one way we can demonstrate to the world that we, along with our allies, are a unified force,” says Baez in a Facebook post.
In addition, neighboring businesses checked their security systems, the city has a camera in that neighborhood, and the residential building across the street has cameras pointing in the right direction. According to David, “footage of the flag burning has been handed over to the police.”
David was pleased with the reaction from the police. “They took it very seriously. It was considered arson. They’re doing an active investigation.”
Not only is the imagery and symbolism of a burning LGBT flag horrific and threatening as a long term message, but in the short term, “The side of the building that the flower box is on is plywood. It’s a dangerous wall to be that close to fire,” finishes David.
JCI will be following this story. For more information on the upcoming Jersey City Pride Festival, visit jerseycitypride.com.
Photo provided by Anatalie David