About 100 gathered for a unity rally in support of Long Beach’s LGBTQ community in response to the Pride lifeguard tower that burned early Tuesday morning in what Mayor Robert Garcia believes is arson.
“There has not been a fire at a lifeguard station that has burned a station down in at least 70 years,” Garcia said. “So to say that the one station that burned completely in the last 70-plus years was the one that just got painted pride colors…it’s not just sort of rare coincidence. That is clearly a targeted act.”
Councilwoman Cindy Allen and local activists organized the rally that featured an 80-foot-long rainbow flag on the sands of Alamitos Beach, where the tower stood just a few days ago.
At this time, the fire is remains under investigation. After the Long Beach Fire Department cleared out the station’s burnt remains Tuesday morning, community members began placing pride flags at the site, including Rich Charlie, one of the first people to do so.
“I think that we should do a BLM tower an AAPI tower. I think we need to have a United States veteran tower,” he said. “I think that every group in Long Beach should be represented by their own little towers.”
Long Beach Home and Living provided the flag to remain in place until the tower is rebuilt.
Also in attendance was LBFD Marine Safety Chief Gonzalo Medina, who oversaw the painting of the tower by LGBTQ lifeguards in 2020. Media said he has received messages from the community regarding the fire and shared a statement Wednesday evening from one resident, who identifies as the mother of queer kids.
“The station was not only a symbol of inclusiveness for your staff but also every child and young person who identifies in the community,” he read. “They felt affirmed and seen while they enjoyed our beautiful beach. It was a symbol that they matter and that they belong in that space.”
Media maintained that the fire department has already begun to collect funds to rebuild the tower, and community members have also started a fundraiser.
Shih-Wei Carraseo-Wu, a participate in the rally, suggested the new tower could feature more flags representing the entire LGBTQ community as well as adding a plaque acknowledging that the original tower was burned.
“Like I told the lifeguards, it’s going to be bigger, going to be better and it’s going to be gayer,“ Garcia said. “If you mess with the gays, we are gonna put two [lifeguard towers] out here, you mess with us and the paint’s gonna be glitter, you mess with us and the flags are gonna be taller.”