A man armed with a flamethrower was seen on video Saturday burning a Pan-African flag outside a Black international socialist group’s headquarters in Central Florida, according to the organization.
Security footage of the incident shows someone opening the trunk of a white Honda sedan at about 10 a.m., taking out a flamethrower, walking towards a flag pole and setting the flag on fire outside the St. Petersburg Uhuru House, located in a historically Black neighborhood.
The Uhuru Movement is an organization under the African People’s Socialist Party that promotes uniting people of African ancestry as one nation “for liberation, social justice, self-reliance and economic development.” Created in the 1920s, the red, black and green flag represents people of the African Diaspora and symbolizes Black liberation in the United States.
St. Petersburg police spokeswoman Yolanda Fernandez said in an email Sunday afternoon that detectives “have no indication that this is a hate crime at this time,” noting the arsonist is a Black man. Nobody was hurt, she added, and detectives are working to identify a suspect.
After the fiery incident, the arsonist drove away as a neighbor tried unsuccessfully to block him with their own vehicle, St. Petersburg Uhuru House spokeswoman Akilé Anai told the Miami Herald. She said she thought it was suspect that the incident happened two days before Independence Day.
“The red, white and blue just represents colonialism, slavery and oppression,” she said referring to the U.S. flag. “This is an ideological assault on our movement — to burn that flag — because they knew what it represented.”
Despite not being targeted in recent years, the flag burning came as no surprise to Anai, she said, because the Black power movement has been under attack throughout the nation’s history by the government and other opponents.
“We anticipate that these kind of actions will occur,” she said.
The St. Pete Uhuru House, established in 1991, serves as office space for its organizers, an affordable banquet hall for community events and a licensed commercial kitchen for culinary artists looking to kick-start their businesses. It’s also the home to their famous Uhuru Pies and WBPU-LP Black Power 96.3 FM Radio, a community radio station, Anai said.
Authorities didn’t release additional information.