By LOUIS FLORES
Embattled New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton stirred controversy with New York’s LGBT community on Thursday when he said that the police department owed no apology for the pattern of harassment that contributed to the raid on the Stonewall Inn in 1969 that sparked the gay liberation movement.
During a press conference at the LGBT Community Center, the Newsday political reporter Matthew Chayes asked Commissioner Bratton if the NYPD owed the LGBT community an apology for the Stonewall Inn raid.
“There’s no doubt denying that out of that terrible experience came so much good, that it was the tipping point,” Commissioner Bratton said in response, according to a report filed by Jillian Jorgensen for The New York Observer, adding that, “An apology, I don’t think that’s necessary. The apology is all that’s occurred since then.”
The Stonewall riots erupted in 1969 after a years-long pattern of City-directed harassment intended to close gay drinking establishments, a policy carried out by then Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr. (D-New York City), during the 1960's. This policy targeted establishments that allegedly were "permitting homosexual solicitation on the premises," according to a 1966 report published by The New York Times. After the first night of the Stonewall riots, police acknowledged having raiding three such bars in the preceding two weeks, according to a 1969 report published by The New York Times.
Reaction by New York’s LGBT community to Commissioner Bratton’s remarks were swift and heated.
"Police Commissioner Bill Bratton says the NYPD doesn't owe the LGBT community an apology for the 1969 raid of the Stonewall Inn, which is an insult to the LGBT community," said Pauline Park, chair of the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy. "Bratton's comment is all the more outrageous given the NYPD's continued campaign of harassment and intimidation against members of the community, especially LGBT people of color and translatinas in Queens, in particular," added Park, who led the campaign for the transgender rights law enacted by the New York City Council in 2002.
On social media, individuals reacted to Commissioner Bratton’s remark by describing it as a “disgusting comment," whilst another turned to the use of expletives, including one tweet which read, “Bratton can go fuck himself, the fucking pig,” and another tweet, which read that Commissioner Bratton had “absolutely no shame.”
As noted by the reporter Nick Pinto, there is precedent for police commissioners to apologise for past acts of state-sponsored discrimination and harassment of the LGBT community. Just yesterday, Toronto, Ontario, police Chief Mark Saunders issued an apology for the 1981 raid by police armed with sledgehammers and crowbars of four gay bathhouses, according to a report published by CBC/Radio-Canada.
As the initial gay liberation movement evolved into the modern-day LGBT equality movement, the pattern of police harassment has not subsided. As recently as 2011, the NYPD have dropped in on gay bars to reportedly inspect the premises as part of what has been described as routine operations. Yet, such actions have been described as disruptive to patrons. For example, the NYPD chose to conduct one such inspection on the same evening as the LGBT community celebrated passage of marriage equality by the New York State legislature, according to a report published by The New York Times. Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president at the time, described the circumstances of the police raid of one gay bar, named the Eagle, as "ill-conceived and ill-timed."
Also during the administration of then Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R-New York City), the NYPD were targeting men for false arrest at gay book stores on trumped-up charges of prostitution in a bid to reportedly close gay businesses.
During the de Blasio administration, the NYPD have participated in joint operations controversially led by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to raid online community bulletin boards, where members of New York City's LGBT community sought sex work that public health activists said was comparatively safer than street sex work.
'Pink-washing' the NYPD's history of harassment and discrimination against New York's LGBT community
Commissioner Bratton’s controversial remarks come as he faces increased calls for his resignation after Federal prosecutors on Monday publicly revealed for the first time incriminating details about a corruption scandal that has rocked the police department.
For weeks, Commissioner Bratton has sought to exploit the recent mass shooting attack at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, Florida, for positive press stories about the NYPD providing extra protection to LGBT institutions as investigators try to determine the definitive motivation of the perpetrator, Omar Mateen. Commissioner Bratton has also posed for pictures with a rainbow logo-detailed NYPD SUV, as if such symbolic actions could undo the injuries, pain, and suffering of state-sponsored harassment and discrimination against New York's LGBT community.
As reported by Progress Queens, New York’s LGBT community are wary of the increased NYPD deployment, given the NYPD’s pattern of discrimination against New York’s LGBT community, in particular, trans women of color, as noted by Ms. Park and as reported by The New York Times.
Commissioner Bratton's recent troubles reached a flash point of anger when he spoke during a politically-tinged vigil a week ago Monday outside the Stonewall Inn in memory of the Orlando shooting victims. He was booed by mourners, who rejected what appeared to be self-interested speeches by public officials during what was supposed to be a solemn event. That vigil was put together by the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, a group of establishment members of New York's LGBT community. The Stonewall Democratic Club did not answer a request made by Progress Queens for an interview about the organizing of that vigil.