Unity rally held in Long Beach after Pride lifeguard tower destroyed in fire

A unity rally was held in Long Beach Wednesday following a fire that destroyed the Pride Lifeguard Tower.

The fire, which sparked around midnight on Tuesday, burned down the lifeguard tower that was painted in rainbow colors for Pride Month in 2020.

"I think what's really important is that people realize that this was absolutely an act of hate and this community is so progressive when it comes to gay rights that folks come out and say they're going to support gay people," said Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia.

Garcia said the towers are at times occupied by other people.

"Folks will come to the towers. It might be people experiencing homelesness or young kids playing at a lifeguard tower at night," he said.

However, the towers have not been burned in a fire in decades.

"We know that a lifeguard tower hasn't burned down in at least 70 years, since the 1950s in Long Beach. They're very hard to burn down. This tower just got painted a year ago in pride colors. For the one tower that was painted in rainbow to burn in over 70 years, there's no question that was intentional. It was not coincidental and that's what people are rallying around," said Garcia.

The Pride lifeguard tower was painted by LGBTQ+ lifeguards including Jeremy Rocha, a lifeguard for the Long Beach Fire Department for five years.

"Me and a few other lifeguards were on the team that helped paint this station as well as design it," he said.

When Rocha found out about the tower, he was very emotional.

"Obviously I cried. I was pretty emotional with what had happened and I just couldn't fathom the fact that it had burned so I actually drove down and to see it in real life. It was just horrific. It's hard to really take into consideration that somebody would vandalize such a monument for inclusivity and cohesiveness and equality," said Rocha.

City officials plan to rebuild the tower by Pride Month in June of this year.

"We're gonna rebuild it. I've been saying we're going to rebuild it bigger and gayer than ever," said Garcia.

Rocha has some ideas on how to include symbols of trans rights and other minorities too.

"I definitely would love to incorporate more colors with the other flags we have here. I believe that trans rights are a big thing. I believe that maybe doing something with the Black Lives Matter movement and other stuff like that to show that we are not just a community that looks out for ourselves but we look out for all minorities, everybody who is being challenged," said Rocha.

Speakers at the rally included Councilwoman Cindy Allen, Carlos Torres, the Executive Director of the LGBTQ Center in Long Beach, Angel Macias, the Founder and CEO of California Families in Focus, and Gonzalo Medina, the Marine Safety Chief for the Long Beach Fire Department.  

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