Late on February 21, police announced the arrest of a suspect who they believe is responsible for setting a Rainbow Flag on fire at a Manhattan restaurant on February 20.
Angelina Cando, 30, was charged with arson as a hate crime, criminal mischief as a hate crime, and reckless endangerment as a hate crime for allegedly torching the flag at The Little Prince restaurant at 199 Prince Street, according to the NYPD.
The arrest came hours after community members gathered to raise a new flag in a demonstration of resilience. Out gay Councilmember Erik Bottcher of District 3 — where the crime took place — climbed a ladder and hoisted the Rainbow Flag above The Little Prince restaurant.
“This flag is five times the size of the original flag,” Bottcher said as he held the new flag up. “The person who did this — their plan has backfired and backfired badly.”
The original Rainbow Flag that waved outside of The Little Prince restaurant featured a “Make America Gay Again” slogan. It was set ablaze at around 1:35 a.m. on February 20, according to police. The new flag was up less than 10 hours later.
In a separate written statement, Bottcher said the incident once again shows “how hateful rhetoric against LGBTQ+ people has violent consequences.”
“When right wing politicians demonize us to get elected, they put people’s lives at risk,” Bottcher said. “[The] arson is just another example of that. But our community will not be intimidated. Our resolve to keep fighting has only been strengthened.”
Out queer Queens Councilmember Tiffany Cabán, who is a part of the City Council’s LGBTQIA Caucus alongside Bottcher, issued a statement of solidarity.
“I just want to give it up one time for @ebottcher, who has been consistently defiant and unintimidated in the face of repeated anti-queer hate incidents in his district,” Cabán said in a Twitter post. “To Erik and all his constituents targeted with these kinds of bigoted scare tactics: We got your back!
Gay City News reached out to the restaurant owners for comment. They did not respond by press time.
It was early on February 20 when a white four-door SUV pulled up in front of the restaurant, cops said. The suspect exited through the passenger side of the car, according to police. She allegedly walked up to the front door of the restaurant near where the flag was hanging and she turned, lit a lighter, and held it up to the Rainbow Flag, which caught fire.
The suspect then got back into a passenger seat of the car, which headed westbound on Prince Street toward MacDougal Street.
An all-hands alarm was immediately sounded. Around 60 firefighters and EMS personnel quickly arrived on the scene at 1:40 a.m. A total of 12 NYPD officers arrived soon after.
More than 20 minutes later, firefighters extinguished the fire. Tenants in the apartments above the restaurant were temporarily evacuated. No injuries were reported.
An employee of The Little Prince restaurant, who is also a resident of the building, told ABC7 News that his home and place of work were “taken away” and that he is “confused and I’m hurt, and I don’t know how to feel about it.”
Some of the restaurant’s employees told ABC7 News on the scene that the restaurant’s playful slogan — which ties into the restaurant’s spirited self-described “playful rework of a Parisian bistro” theme — could have set the arsonist off.
Neighbors were stunned and shocked by the incident. Asli Fevzi, a neighbor, called the hate “heartbreaking.”
Stu Matz, another neighbor, described the neighborhood to ABC7 News as “usually [a] nice neighborhood where everybody respects each other.”
He added, “I just think we’ve started to go the wrong way,” talking about hate rhetoric.
This was the second time that The Little Prince’s flag was attacked. Workers told ABC7 News NY that the flag was stolen only a few months ago.
There have been other incidents of attacks on pride flags and LGBTQ businesses around New York City in recent years. In November 2022, Sean Kuilan, 34, was arrested for a string of attacks on Vers Nightclub, allegedly throwing bricks through the windows on several occasions. In April 2022, John Lhota, 24, was charged with starting a fire that injured two people and destroyed the building at Bushwick’s Rash, a popular nightclub within Brooklyn’s LBGTQ+ community. In 2020, Aljo Mrkulic, 31, fatally stabbed his alleged boyfriend in an incident that also involved an apartment fire and an attack on police officers who responded to the scene. In 2019, Harlem’s Alibi Lounge’s Rainbow Flags were set ablaze in multiple incidents in May and July.
Monday morning’s incident is also under investigation by the New York City fire marshals, according to the Fire Department.