NYPD Apologizes For 1969 Raid Of Stonewall Inn

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Above Photo: The Stonewall Inn in New York City. (NPCA Photos / Flickr)

Note: Reclaim PRIDE of New York City described the police commissioner’s apology of the way the NYPD handled Stonewall as “disingenuous.” In a statement they wrote:

“We are not impressed by Commissioner O’Neill’s empty apology, given under pressure during Pride Month. Where has this apology been for the last 50 years? The NYPD Vice Squad is still in business, busting sex workers and others, while its members run their own brothels. The NYPD is still arresting trans kids of color for walking down the street, and arrested a transwoman in the Bronx who was walking home from work, holding her in custody for 24 hours, in handcuffs! The NYPD has spent decades entrapping gay men. And the NYPD continues to strike fear in communities of color and other marginalized communities.

“Commissioner O’Neill had the nerve to say that this would never happen in 2019 completely ignoring that the NYPD continues to be an oppressive force in our communities even on the day of Pride.  For decades, the Christopher Street Piers have been somewhat of a public safe space for LGBTQ+ youth of color who were violently policed out of the space. Every year, cop watch activists patrol the piers during Pride because of the amount of violent policing the youth who hang out there experience.  Last year the NYPD completely cut off all access to this space, taking away a gay space of community from hundreds of mostly Black and Brown LGBTQ people. This is only one example of the continued oppression faced by marginalized members of the LGBTQ+ population and it happens on Pride Day!

“The Reclaim Pride Coalition is a group of individuals and organizations producing a massive Queer Liberation March people’s protest for June 30th (reclaimpridenyc.org).  No corporations and no uniformed police in our March. From our first meetings in the months prior to the 2018 Pride Parade, the Reclaim Pride Coalition has called for a comprehensive NYPD apology including for their ongoing brutality against marginalized groups and for a systemic change in their operations.”

KZ

NEW YORK — Nearly 50 years after a police raid at the Stonewall Inn catalyzed the modern LGBT rights movement, New York’s police commissioner apologized Tuesday for what his department did.

“The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple,” Commissioner James O’Neill said during a briefing at police headquarters.

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

The apology comes weeks ahead of the milestone anniversary of the raid and the rebellion it sparked the night of June 27-28, 1969, as patrons and others fought back against officers and a social order that kept gay life in the shadows.

Organizers of what is expected to be a massive LGBT Pride celebration in the city this year had called this week for police to apologize. So had City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is gay.

The Pride organizers cheered O’Neill’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,” said James Fallarino, a spokesman for NYC Pride.

Police participate in and protect its annual parade, but the lack of a formal apology from the department for the 1969 raid — the very event that gay pride marches commemorate each June — has hung over the collaboration, Fallarino said. He hopes people will see O’Neill’s remarks as a sign of “the NYPD’s commitment to positive change.”

Organizers of an alternative Stonewall anniversary march, however, see no such thing. They called O’Neill’s comments an “empty apology” made under pressure.

“Where has this apology been for the last 50 years?” the group, called the Reclaim Pride Coalition, said in a statement. The coalition, which is excluding police from its Queer Liberation March, is seeking a more sweeping apology from the NYPD. The group says transgender and minority LGBT people, among others, still face heavy-handed policing.

At the time of the Stonewall raid, the psychiatric establishment saw homosexuality as a mental disorder, and law enforcement often viewed it as a crime.

LGBT people could be subject to arrest for showing affection, dancing together, even for not wearing a certain number of items deemed gender-appropriate. Bars that served gay people had at times lost their liquor licenses, and others — like the Stonewall — were simply unlicensed. Raids were common.

The confrontation at the Stonewall wasn’t the first time gay people protested or spontaneously clashed with police. But it proved to be a turning point, unleashing a wave of organizing and activism. A park across from the Stonewall now houses first national monument to gay rights.

The police inspector who led the raid, Seymour Pine, said in 2004 that he was sorry, according to news accounts of a talk he gave at the time. Pine, who died in 2010, said officers were prejudiced about gay people, whom they didn’t understand.

NYPD leaders have expressed some regret before about the events at the Stonewall, but until Thursday, they stopped short of a formal apology.

Former Commissioner William Bratton in 2016 called it “a terrible experience” but noted that it had also been “a tipping point” for change. He said an apology was unnecessary: “The apology is all that’s occurred since then.”

When O’Neill was asked the next year about apologizing for Stonewall, he said it had “been addressed already.”

On Thursday, he addressed it frankly: “What happened should not have happened,” he said.