“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,” New York City’s police commissioner, James P. O’Neill said Thursday during an LGBTQ police event, according to The New York Times.
“The actions taken by the N.Y.P.D. were wrong, plain and simple,” he continued. “The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize.”
In recent years, multiple commissioners have refused to apologize for the now-documented violence that the LGBTQ community faced at the hands of New York City officers at the Stonewall Inn. In 2017, O’Neill originally declined to apologize, saying “I think that’s been addressed already," before adding, "we’re moving forward."
O'Neill's predecessor, Bill Bratton, acknowledged the year prior that there had been a "terrible experience" at Stonewall that became a "tipping point" and eventually led to "so much good." He added, "An apology, I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s necessary. The apology is all that’s occurred since then."
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is gay, had called for an apology from the NYPD in a Wednesday interview with Juliet Papas of the 1010 WINS radio program. Johnson said the police raid, which took place in the early morning hours of June 29, 1969, said such an act would be a show of "decency."
"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, and it's something they should do,” he said. "I think it's never bad to apologize. One thing that personally I do, is if I think I've made a mistake, I try to say I'm sorry, I was wrong and I learn from that because I don't think there is anything wrong with admitting a mistake. It shows decency to recognize something that you may have done wrong."
Incidents that the NYPD have apologized for in the past include a “long overdue” public apology to a rape survivor whose 1994 complaint was met with skepticism by investigators. “We were wrong then,” O’Neill said in a statement on the police department website in October 2018. “I want us to be right today.”
In 2015, Bratton, New York City's police commissioner at the time, said he personally called James Blake, the former tennis star, to say sorry after Blake was tackled by a police officer after being racially profiled “I spoke to Mr. Blake a short time ago and personally apologized for yesterday’s incident,” a statement read.
Johnson had anticipated a similar apology as the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising neared. Stonewall is credited with being the most important event to spark the modern fight for LGBTQ equality in the United States.
"I would love for it happen this month and I will bring it up to the police commissioner," Johnson said Wednesday. "I will have a conversation with [the NYPD commissioner] about it because 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."
Pride's across the world are kicking off, with the launch of the Sydney Pride Festival last night at Sydney's own Stonewall Hotel, and celebrations across America and Europe will go through to August... with the main festival in NYC for World Pride at the end of June.