NYPD Commissioner Refuses to Apologize for Behavior of Cops at Stonewall

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Almost 48 years after police raided the Stonewall Inn and inadvertently helped kicked off the LGBTQ rights revolution, NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill declined an opportunity to apologize on behalf of the department for its actions on that fateful day.


Stonewall Inn–which President Obama declared as the country’s first national monument celebrating LGBTQ rights about a year ago–was raided by plainclothes and uniformed NYPD officers in June 1969 for not having a liquor license. The State Liquor Authority would not grant appropriate licenses to many of the city’s gay bars, and it was illegal to serve alcohol to gay patrons.

In response to the arrests and police behavior at the raid, a rebellion—led by trans people of color—erupted for six days, sparking the movement for LGBTQ rights.

O’Neill was speaking at a New York City Bar Association event the day after the city’s annual Pride Parade. He was asked by a member of the audience if he would “apologize for the discrimination and violence” police carried out at Stonewall in 1969, Politico reported.

O’Neill then told the audience member that he thought that issue had been addressed already. “We’re moving forward,” he said.

This was an apparent reference to comments O’Neill’s predecessor, Bill Bratton, made in 2016.

“There’s no doubt denying that out of that terrible experience came so much good, that it was the tipping point,” Bratton said, as reported by Gothamist. “An apology, I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s necessary. The apology is all that’s occurred since then.”


Earlier this month, O’Neill tweeted in support of Pride Month and gay cops. According to a video posted by New York’s Gay Officers Action League, he’s a “life member” of the organization, which held a breakfast in memory of the uprising on Sunday.

“I couldn’t be prouder,” he said in a video posted by the group. “This police department and the people in it right now and everybody standing in this room: you’ve made it a better NYPD. I came on in 1983 and I don’t think we were the most tolerant organization back then. Right now it’s well beyond tolerance: it’s acceptance, and that’s what counts.”