Fifty years after the Stonewall riots of 1969 kicked off the LGBT rights movement, the New York Police Department apologized Thursday for the violent raid that led to the uprising.
"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," Commissioner James O’Neill said in an address at the NYPD headquarters. "While 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 the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize.”
The historic protests at the Stonewall Inn in New York City began on June 28, 1969, when police raided the popular bar that was a gathering place for the LGBT community. Though police claimed it was because the bar was violating liquor laws, harsh police action against the community was a common tactic at the time.
Rather than go quietly, patrons fought back. For days after, hundreds of people rioted outside the bar, with many being arrested or injured.
Hours before the remarks, the organization responsible for NYC Pride said it had voted unanimously to demand that the NYPD apologize for the Stonewall raid.
"Under Commissioner O’Neill, the NYPD has made significant strides in improving relations with LGBTQIA+ New Yorkers," organizers said in a Facebook post. "But the department has yet to take responsibility for the decades of police violence committed against our community in New York City.
"Taking responsibility and apologizing for this single event is a small, albeit meaningful step towards improving the larger systemic issues that continue to cause significant harm to LGBTQIA+ people, especially transgender people and people of color. It demonstrates what is possible for the future of our community and our movement."
New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who is gay, also called on the police department to apologize.
"I know that the NYPD in the past has apologized for other incidents that have occurred," Johnson said. "And so I think the NYPD apologizing for this would be a very, very good thing. I think it would be an important step towards further healing and reconciliation."
Following O'Neill's statement, NYC Pride thanked him and the department.
"We are all very proud today!" the group tweeted.