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50 years on, New York police apologize for Stonewall riots

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New York (AFP)

The head of the New York police department on Thursday apologized for a crackdown on the city's LGBTQ community during the notorious Stonewall riots, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the clashes that gave rise to the Gay Pride movement.

"I do know what happened should not have happened," said police chief James O'Neil. "The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple. The actions were discriminatory and oppressive and for that I apologize."

The June 1969 riots, sparked by constant police raids on the Stonewall Tavern, a well-known gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village, proved to be a turning point in the LGBTQ community's struggle for civil rights and gave rise to the Gay Pride movement.

The police chief made the comments to long applause during a briefing on safety measures for the city's Pride Month, the annual celebration for the city's diverse LGBTQ community.

A number of people have called in recent days for the police department to apologize for its actions, including the speaker of the city council, Corey Johnson, who is himself homosexual, and the organizers of Gay Pride.

On June 28, 1969, members of the gay community protested against the latest in a seemingly endless series of police raids on the Stonewall Tavern on New York's Christopher Street, triggering a week of demonstrations and clashes that led to numerous arrests and property damage.

New York is staging a series of events and rallies to mark the anniversary this month, culminating on June 30 with WorldPride, billed as the largest gathering of the LGBTQ community in the world.

More than three million people are expected to attend those events in New York, New York police said.

Last month, mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city would erect a statue to two transgender women who participated in the protests and who fought for LGBTQ rights. The mayor said it would be the first such statue in the world.

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