Why the Stonewall Uprising Is Still So Important Today — and Why the NYPD's Apology 50 Years Later Matters

Why the Stonewall Uprising Is Still So Important Today — and Why the NYPD's Apology 50 Years Later Matters

"What happened should not have happened. The actions taken by the N.Y.P.D. were wrong, plain and simple," Commissioner James P. O’Neill said.

By Tamara Palmer
Stonewall Uprising 1969

Almost 50 years to the day since the New York Police Department forcefully raided a prominent gay bar in Manhattan, the current NYPD Commissioner has apologized for the force's actions.

“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,” Commissioner James P. O’Neill said on Thursday, according to The New York Times. “What happened should not have happened. The actions taken by the N.Y.P.D. were wrong, plain and simple. The actions and the laws were discriminatory and oppressive, and for that, I apologize.”

Commissioner O'Neill made a new promise to the city on Thursday: “I vow to the LGBTQ community that this would never happen in the NYPD in 2019. We have, and we do, embrace all New Yorkers.”

NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969, during an era when being openly gay in public in New York City was still prohibited. The raid was ostensibly to crack down on illegal alcohol sales at one of the city's many mafia-controlled gay bars, but the tactics included roughing up and rounding up patrons for arrest (and even forcing some into the women's room to confirm their gender) and led to days of rioting and protests. The viciousness of the violence and treatment are thought of as a worldwide catalyst to the formation of the gay rights movement.

With the current administration's systematic stripping of LGBTQ+ rights and protections, many of the equality gains since the Stonewall Riots are still under fire. Knowing what happened half a century ago is more important than ever to fight that tide.

The NYPD's apology fittingly came during the beginning of Pride Month, which will celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. One member of the Bravo family is fittingly being honored for their work this month: Andy Cohen has the distinction of being the first openly gay host of a late night talk show with the 10-year-old Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen. He's featured many LGBTQ stars and members of the community in the Bravo Clubhouse and has used his platform to speak out about issues such as marriage equalityanti-transgender legislation, and hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people. His philanthropic work includes serving as an ambassador for the Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative, and he is this year's recipient of the GLAAD Media Awards' Vito Russo Award, which is named after the GLAAD founder and longtime activist who formed the Gay Activists Alliance soon after witnessing the Stonewall Riots in 1969.

"To be gay today is something that I am so thankful for, but it's a fight that's not over and it's a fight that I'm committed to even more so now that I'm a father," Andy said during his acceptance speech for the Vito Russo Award. "When Benjamin was born three months ago, I looked into his eyes and I saw there was no hate, no bias, no bigotry, just love. That's how we come into this world, and that is how hopefully one day we will all live in it."

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