LONG BEACH (CBSLA) — Dozens of people gathered in Long Beach Wednesday night to support the LGBTQ+ community after a pride lifeguard tower was torched by a suspected arsonist.
Lifeguard Jeremy Roach said he was heartbroken after seeing the rainbow-colored tower he helped paint burn to the ground.READ MORE: Southern California Real Estate Market Cools Off In Fall
“I cried, I was pretty emotional with what had happened,” he said. “I just couldn’t really fathom the fact that it had burned.”
And just one night after the fire, Long Beach lifeguards, members of the LGBTQ+ community and city leaders gathered in front of a large pride flag on the beach where the symbol of solidarity once stood to announce plans to replace the tower.
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia said he was convinced the fire was a hate crime, though Long Beach fire and police were still investigating the blaze.
“For the one tower that was painted like a rainbow to burn in over 70 years, there is no question that it was intentional,” he said. “That was not coincidental, and that’s what people are rallying around.”READ MORE: 'If You Don't Get Vaccinated, Don't Visit': Mayor Of West Hollywood Calls For Proof Of Vaccination For Business Entry
“Look at what happened in the Asian community, I think everybody is kind of on edge, and I think it’s just somebody wanted to send a message, ‘You’re not welcome here,’ but little did they know we’re gonna triple down on it,” Sal Flores, a Long Beach resident, said.
The tower got its rainbow paint job last June by the LGBTQ+ members of the Long Beach Marine Safety Division.
Rocha said he wanted the new tower to incorporate other movements and stand as a pillar of diversity and inclusion.
“To be able to show that we’re not just a community that looks out for ourself, but we look out for all minorities and everybody that’s being challenged,” he said.MORE NEWS: One Killed, Four Injured In El Monte Shooting
The city said a replacement tower is expected to arrive in the next four to six weeks.