On Thursday, New York Police Department Commissioner James O’Neill offered the department’s first official apology for the violence the force infamously inflicted on LGBTQ New Yorkers at the Stonewall Inn 50 years ago.
“What happened should not have happened. The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple,” O’Neill said in a statement posted to the department’s social media pages. “The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize.”
The apology from O’Neill is a departure from his predecessor Bill Bratton, who in 2016 told reporters that while the infamous police crackdown and ensuing rebellion—which is widely regarded as a watershed moment for the LGBTQ rights movement—were “terrible,” an official apology was not warranted given the subsequent internal policy changes undertaken by the department.
“There is no denying that out of that terrible experience came so much good. It was the tipping point, if you will. So I think we should all celebrate that out of that terrible experience, a lot of good came,” Bratton said, according to Gothamist. “An apology? I don’t think that’s necessary. The apology is all that’s occurred since then.”
In 2015, Stonewall Inn was officially designated a landmark by the city. A year later, the Obama Administration followed suit, designating the inn and surrounding area a national monument.
Given the upcoming half-century anniversary, the location will be one of several historic West Village locales featured in the upcoming New York City Pride March. The nonprofit organization that runs the march wrote in a statement, per NBC News, that they would happily provide O’Neill an on-stage opportunity to offer the apology directly to the city’s LGBTQ community at the June 28 event. O’Neill has not yet indicated whether he would accept the offer.