Puerto Rican Gay Bar Bombed After Reopening in Wake of Hurricane Maria

A Puerto Rican gay bar was attacked this weekend in an incident local activists want investigated as a hate crime.

A group of masked figures dressed in all black entered Circo Bar, San Juan’s most popular gay nightclub, at 7:30 on Saturday night. Witnesses say that the assailants threw “incendiary devices” into the bar, which was originally reported in the Puerto Rican newspaper El Vocero.

Reports are scarce about the attack, but some have suggested the crude bomb was a Molotov cocktaila bottle filled with flammable liquid.

No one was killed or harmed in the incident, which took place just weeks after Hurricane Maria did significant damage to the U.S. territory. Circo Bar, which was operating on a generator on Saturday night to provide power to guests, did not experience significant damage.

The attackers fled before police could arrive to extinguish the fire.

San Juan Police Colonel has yet to publicly identify suspects or name a motive for the assault. But LGBTQ activists are calling on the Division of Crimes Against Property and the Division of Explosives and Public Security to determine whether the arson attack was incited by anti-LGBTQ bias.

Pedro Julio Serrano, a Puerto Rican activist, has been one of the leading voices calling attention to the violence on Twitter.

While Serrano confirmed to INTO that local advocates have no knowledge of what was in assailants’ minds during the attack, Serrano tweeted that authorities must “investigate if there is an motivation of hatred.” He added in a separate message to this publication that homophobia is a “probable” cause.

Saturday’s incident took place during an extremely vulnerable time for Puerto Rico’s queer and trans population.

Serrano claimed that the LGBTQ community “has created its own support networks” to cope with the devastation from Hurricane Maria. But like the majority of residents, he said this group “is suffering the lack of essential services.” Many on the island remain without electricity or clean water more than a month after the hurricane first hit.

At the time of writing, more than 51 people have died as a result of the natural disaster. Estimates suggest that it could cost as much at $95 billion to rebuild.

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