The New York Police Department has formally apologized for its actions during the 1969 Stonewall riot. But the mea culpa is getting flak as the police have been accused of mistreating trans people.
In a statement on Thursday, NYPD commissioner James O’Neill apologized on behalf of the police department, and said it would be “irresponsible” to not acknowledge its part in the riots.
On Jun. 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn — a club in New York City that provided an LGBTQ-friendly safe haven with cheap drinks and dancing. Homosexuality was criminalized in the ’60s and solicitation of homosexual relations was illegal. The NYPD arrested the club’s employees for operating without a liquor license and arrested other patrons for “not wearing at least three articles of gender-appropriate clothing.” Bystanders and other patrons began throwing debris at the officers, sparking a five-day long riot. The event is considered a “turning point” in the gay rights movement.
“I’m certainly not going to stand up here and pretend to be an expert on what happened at Stonewall,” O’Neill said, 50 years after the riot that ignited the modern gay rights movement. “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 room then burst into applause.
But the reaction outside the room wasn’t so rosy.
While many LGBTQ public figures welcomed the NYPD’s apology, others were skeptical. The NYPD continues to harass and target members of the LGBTQ community, particularly trans women of color and sex workers.
In April 2018, for example, the NYPD charged Linda Dominguez for “false personation” and locked her in a station using pink handcuffs even after she told officers she was trans and her legal name was Linda. A lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union alleges that officers also mocked Dominguez and referred to her with he/him pronouns.
Just this past January, we sued the NYPD for mocking and misgendering a trans woman and then charging her with false personation after she provided both her previous and current legal name. pic.twitter.com/MOaNCQlKqF
— NYCLU (@NYCLU) June 6, 2019
Stop brutalizing our communities and we’ll consider accepting the apology.
— DJ ACCIDENT REPORT (@eric_shorey) June 6, 2019
— washsox (@washsox) June 6, 2019
— Kristen Browde (@ChrissieSeeB) June 6, 2019
So it really took 50 years for the NYPD to apologize for Stonewall while they are STILL oppressing and killing our community — specifically black and brown queer and tgnc people. https://t.co/7cnCNqnpv0
— Jason Rosenberg (@mynameisjro) June 6, 2019
Thank you to the police commissioner of nyc for the long over due apology for what happened at stonewall
Now we must ensure NYPD is trained on pronouns, helping lgbtqia victims, and ensuring safety for our queer community
— Marti Gould Cummings (@MartiGCummings) June 6, 2019
What can he do for queer sex workers? Queer homeless people? Don’t just apologize for past wrongs, right current ones!
— Veleda_k (@veleda_k) June 6, 2019
Actions speak louder than speeches. They have much more work to do. Nice words are no different than Trump’s pride tweets.
— Chris 🏳️🌈 (they/them) (@RebelHeart311) June 6, 2019
The NYPD has taken some steps in the right direction. Earlier in June, the department issued new guides for prostitution-related loitering misdemeanors, which disproportionately targeted trans women of color.
According to the Queens Eagle, a local newspaper in Queens, NY, the updated language explicitly prohibits arrests based on “a person’s gender, gender representation, location, clothing, or arrest history.” In the past, trans women have been arrested on loitering charges for simply waiting for the bus or waiting near a gay bar.