Some time ago, a friend of mine asked me if I knew anything about the Stonewall Uprising. Embarrassingly, my first assumption was that it had something to do with “Stonewall” Jackson and the U.S. Civil War. It certainly wasn’t something taught in the history books of my youth.
Since taking office, I have learned a great deal about this event and the impact it had on the advancement of equal rights. As Sheriff it’s important for me to learn and understand the background of our entire community so I can serve ALL people to the best of my ability.
Although the uprising occurred just prior to my birth, it still happened in modern history….June 28, 1969. 50 years-ago this month.
For those that don’t know, the Stonewall Inn was a club in Greenwich Village that openly welcomed and served LGBT community members. At the time, NYPD (and most likely many police agencies throughout the country) enforced very discriminatory & oppressive laws that targeted gay people. These included “disorderly acts” such as holding hands, kissing and dancing, as well as gender-appropriate clothing statutes. The NYS Liquor Authority also frequently penalized and shut down establishments serving members of the gay community.
50 years-ago the Stonewall Inn was raided by NYPD and several patrons were arrested under these statutes. This led to a 6-day uprising demanding an end to disparate treatment and a call for equal rights, a fight that continues on today. In 2016, the inn, nearby Christopher Park, and surrounding areas were designated as a national monument.
Just recently, NYPD Commissioner Jimmy O’Neill had the courage to apologize on behalf of his department’s past actions. Such targeting was not a shining moment for my beloved profession, and I share Commissioner O’Neill’s sentiment that “…what happened should not have happened”.
No segment of our society should have to endure such treatment, and I strive to be a positive force in making public safety accessible to all and without fear.
I would like to recognize the 50th anniversary of this very important historic event and wish all a very happy Pride Month.