New York City’s police commissioner apologized Thursday for the 1969 police raid at the Stonewall Inn that catalyzed the modern LGBTQ rights movement.
Speaking to a crowd gathered at Police Headquarters for a Pride Month safety briefing, Commissioner James O’Neill said that “the actions taken by the NYPD were wrong.”
Nearly 50 years ago, police raided a Greenwich Village gay bar just after midnight on June 28, 1969, claiming that the bar had violated liquor laws. Patrons and others fought back against the officers, spurring days of protests and a wave of activism.
“I think it would be irresponsible of me, as we go through World Pride Month, not to speak of the events at the Stonewall Inn in June of 1969,” O’Neill said in a statement published on Twitter.
“Well, I’m certainly not going to stand up here and pretend to be an expert on what happened at Stonewall. I do know what happened should not have happened. The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple. The actions and laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that I apologize.”
O’Neill concluded his remarks but telling the LGBTQ community that “this would never happen in NYPD in 2019.”
Jarrett Lucas, Executive Director of the Stonewall Community Foundation, a public foundation dedicated to strengthening the LGBTQ Movement, acknowledged the commissioner’s apology but called on the NYPD to take action.
“Many LGBTQ New Yorkers, who look and live just like the people at the center of the Stonewall Riots, are still being harmed by discriminatory and oppressive laws and policing,” Lucas wrote to USA TODAY.
He continued: “While apologies can hold symbolic value, taking action to address the wrongs happening right now is a far more effective way to signal change.”
Just two years ago, Commissioner O’Neill told an audience at the New York City Bar Association that the violent and discriminatory police actions at Stonewall had been “addressed already,” according to Politico reporting at the time.
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O’Neill’s change of tone came just one day after City Council Speaker Corey Johnson encouraged the police department to account for its behavior during a radio interview on 1010 WINS.
“The NYPD in the past has apologized for other incidents that have occurred, so I think the NYPD apologizing on this would be a very, very good thing,” Johnson said.
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“I think it would be an important step toward further healing and reconciliation and recognizing what happened in that crucial moment, and not just in American history, but New York history in June of 1969.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
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