Is it ever too late to apologize?
The producers of WorldPride 2019 | Stonewall 50 have publicly asked for the New York City Police Department to officially apologize for the violent police raid at the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969.
The brutal raids in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, led to what has become known as the Stonewall Uprising as drag queens, gays, lesbians, and transgender people fought back leading to more protests against police brutality. The event is credited for giving birth to the modern-day LGBTQ movement.
The Executive Board of Heritage Pride, Inc., the organization responsible for producing over 25 events in New York City celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, issued a statement which read, in part:
“Last night, we voted unanimously to demand that the NYPD formally apologize to the LGBTQIA+ community for the violent police raid that triggered the Stonewall Uprising. We offer our stage at the Stonewall 50 Commemoration Rally on Friday, June 28, 2019 for Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill to do so on behalf of the Department.”
The statement acknowledged “significant strides” made by the NYPD under Commissioner O’Neill, but asks the Department to “take responsibility for the decades of police violence committed against” the LGBTQ community in New York City.
The executive board added that the “small, albeit meaningful step” of an apology would demonstrate “what is possible for the future of our community and our movement.”
“Commissioner O’Neill and the NYPD, the eyes of the world are on our city, and we call upon you to show what real change can look like,” the board wrote in closing. “The platform is yours on June 28th.”
In an interview with radio station 1010WINS, openly gay City Council Speaker Corey Johnson also called for an apology.
“The NYPD in the past has apologized for other incidents that have occurred, and so I think the NYPD apologizing on this would be a very, very good thing, and it’s something they should do,” explained Johnson.
“I would love for it happen this month, and I will bring it up to the police commissioner,” Johnson continued. “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.”
When reached for comment regarding an apology to the LGBTQ community, Commissioner O’Neill told 1010WINS, “The NYPD of today is much different than the department of 50 years ago, and a number of important changes have been implemented that bring the police and all the communities we serve closer together.”
With an estimated three million people expected to travel from around the world to New York City for the WorldPride events, O’Neill said, “We are looking forward to the many events surrounding this year’s milestone anniversary, and to working with all attendees to ensure that everyone not only is safe, but feels safe, too.”
This isn’t the first time the idea of an apology from the NYPD has been floated.
Back in June 2017, at an event hosted by the NYC Bar Association, an attendee in the audience asked O’Neill if he would “apologize for the discrimination and violence” that occurred at the historic raid.
“I think that’s been addressed already,” replied O’Neill. “We’re moving forward.”
But this morning, Eric Bottcher, chief of staff for Speaker Johnson, tweeted that O’Neill formally apologized to the LGBTQ community at the first ever NYPD LGBTQ Pride Month Community Safety Briefing this morning.
“I’m certainly not going to be an expert of what happened at Stonewall,” O’Neill told the press. “The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong … and for that I apologize.”
From The New York Times:
“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.
“What happened should not have happened. The actions taken by the N.Y.P.D. were wrong, plain and simple,” he added.
“The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize.”