Stonewall Riot Apology: Police Actions Were ‘Wrong,’ Commissioner Admits


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New York’s police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, apologized on Thursday on behalf of the Police Department for the actions of police officers during the Stonewall riot, a seminal 1969 clash outside a Greenwich Village club that is widely regarded as a turning point for the modern gay rights movement.

The commissioner made his comments at Police Headquarters during a safety briefing related to Pride Month, the annual celebration of L.G.B.T. culture.

“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,” Mr. O’Neill said. “I do know what happened should not have happened. The actions taken by the N.Y.P.D. were wrong, plain and simple.”

“The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize,” he added.

The auditorium applauded.

“I vow to the L.G.B.T.Q. community that this would never happen in the N.Y.P.D. in 2019,” Mr. O’Neill went on. “We have, and we do, embrace all New Yorkers.”

The Stonewall uprising began after midnight on June 28, 1969, when the police raided a Greenwich Village gay bar on Christopher Street known as the Stonewall Inn.

The police said they were there because the bar had violated liquor laws. But the Stonewall patrons, fed up with longstanding harassment at the hands of law enforcement, decided to push back.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who were forced out of the bar that night taunted the police. Some threw bottles and stones. Days of street protests followed, resulting in arrests, injuries and property damage.

On Wednesday, Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, suggested in a radio interview on 1010 WINS that it was time for the Police Department to apologize for its behavior.

Mr. Johnson, who is gay, noted that the police had previously apologized for other past incidents.

“I think it would be an important step toward further healing and reconciliation, and recognizing what happened in that crucial moment,” Mr. Johnson said.

He added that he thought it would be especially fitting for Mr. O’Neill to issue the apology during Pride Month.

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