Nearly half a century after the Stonewall Riots took place in New York City, which subsequently sparked an uprising seen as a turning point for the modern gay rights movement, the NYPD apologized for the department’s actions during the events that took place in June 1969.
The apology comes weeks ahead of the milestone anniversary of the raid and the rebellion it sparked on June 28, 1969, as patrons and others fought back against officers and a social order that kept gay life in the shadows.
The Stonewall Uprising, also known as the Stonewall Riots, took place in June 1969 when police raided the Stonewall Inn, outside a Greenwich Village gay bar.
The police raid sparked an uprising serving as a catalyst for the gay rights movement, not only in the United States, but around the world.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill issued the apology Thursday during the NYPD’s first ever Pride Month community safety briefing.
“I think it would be irresponsible to go through World Pride Month and not to speak of the events at the Stonewall Inn in June of 1969," he said. "I do know that what happened at Stonewall should not have happened. The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple. The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that I apologize.”
O’Neill’s apology garnered a round of applause by those in attendance.
“I vow to the LGBTQ community that this would never happen in the NYPD in 2019,” he went on to say. “We have, and we do embrace, all New Yorkers.”
O’Neill also said that “the NYPD has been forging new relationships and repairing old relationships.”
During this LGBTQ Pride Month, New York City is hosting the Stonewall 50 Rally and WorldPride, an international event which promotes LGBTQ issues through parades, festivals, and other cultural activities, in conjunction with the annual Heritage of Pride march.
An additional three to four million people are expected in New York City from June 22 through July 6 to attend these events, police say.
O’Neill’s apology comes hours after the executive board of Heritage of Pride, Inc./NYC Pride, the non-profit organization responsible for the Stonewall 50 commemoration rally, scheduled for June 28, as well as WorldPride 2019, demanded the NYPD formally apologize for the actions it took in 1969.
“Last night, we voted unanimously to demand that the NYPD formally apologize to the LGBTQIA+ community for the violent police raid that triggered the Stonewall Uprising,” the executive board said in a statement Thursday morning.
“Under Commissioner O’Neill, the NYPD has made significant strides in improving relations with LGBTQIA+ New Yorkers. But the Department has yet to take responsibility for the decades of police violence committed against our community in New York City. Taking responsibility and apologizing for this single event is a small, albeit meaningful step towards improving the larger systemic issues that continue to cause significant harm to LGBTQIA+ people, especially transgender people and people of color. It demonstrates what is possible for the future of our community and our movement,” the executive board’s apology demand went on to say.
Following the apology, Twitter users took to social media to share their reactions.
“You live long enough, you see just about everything! An apology, even a half-century later, is a welcome thing. Thank you @NYPDOneill!” a Twitter post by @ERicBMarcus reads in part.
Eric Bottcher, Chief of Staff for New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, also posted a tweet commenting on the apology.
“This has never happened: NYPD Commissioner @NYPDONeill apologizes on behalf of the NYPD for the Stonewall raid. Thank you, Commissioner. #pride2019 #NYCPride #WorldPride2019,” Bottcher tweeted.