New York City’s police commissioner apologized Thursday for the “discriminatory and oppressive” police raid 50 years ago on the Stonewall Inn that inspired what became the modern gay pride movement.
Just weeks before the actual anniversary date of the raid on the gay bar in New York’s Greenwich Village, Police Commissioner James O’Neill during a press briefing at police headquarters offered his regrets on behalf of the department, the Associated Press reported.
“The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple,” O’Neill said. “The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive. And for that, I apologize.”
Activists have long pressed the NYPD to publicly apologize for the wrong done the LGBTQ community on that fateful night of June 27-28 in 1969.
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In those days, police raids of gay bars and other establishments were common. There were laws on the books making it illegal for people of the same sex to show affection toward one another, dance together or congregate. Even dressing in a gender-non-conforming manner could get someone thrown in jail.
But on that night, members of the LGBTQ community fought back, hurling bottles at the cops and refusing to be made to leave Stonewall and the area surrounding it. The rebellion sparked what became the modern fight for gay rights and acceptance.
Organizers of this year’s LGBT Pride celebration and parade in New York City praised the police commissioner’s remarks.
“The NYPD, as an institution, needed to take responsibility for what happened at Stonewall. This isn’t going to undo the decades of violence and discrimination that our community has experienced at the hands of the police, but it’s a good first start,” James Fallarino, a spokesman for NYC Pride, told the AP.
But some activists said the apology was too little, too late and does not go far enough to address current problems of over-policing or police abuses in the LGBTQ community, especially when it comes to transgender people and people of color.
“Where has this apology been for the last 50 years?” a group called the Reclaim Pride Coalition, said in a statement, according to the AP.
Reclaim Pride, which seeks a more sweeping apology from the police, will hold a separate Queer Liberation March, at which police will be excluded, the AP reports.