On November 27, the “35th Harvey Milk & George Moscone Vigil & Night of Remembrance” organized by the “Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club” will begin at Milk Plaza (Castro and Market) at 7 pm. This is the original candlelight march to City Hall that has been going strong for 35 years. A performance by the Gay Men’s Chorus, words of inspiration from Dustin Lance Black, and a recorded message from Harvey Milk will conclude the evening
According to the organizers:
Harvey and George were the brightest beacons of hope for San Francisco’s disenfranchised and displaced. But more than that, they represented the spirit of San Francisco, a city for anyone and everyone, welcoming to all, affordable to all, with justice for all. 35 years later, the time has come again for us to gather, one and all, to remember Harvey and George. More importantly, the time has come to make their vision of a city of hope come alive. Now more than ever, we have to give each other hope.
This history of this tragic event on November 27, 1978 is best represented in the Academy Award winning “The Times of Harvey Milk”(1984) by Rob Epstein, digitally remastered from the original film and released on DVD. It begins with the announcement by the President of the Board of Supervisors Dianne Feinstein that Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone had been shot and killed in City Hall by Dan White. The documentary brought national attention to the inequalities of gay men and lesbians, especially since White was later convicted of manslaughter instead of murder.
Milk’s election as supervisor in 1978 was a milestone victory. Ron Epstein had been hired to make this documentary about Milk, not about his assassination. Milk held office from January to November of 1978. The documentary inspired Gus Van Sant’s film “Milk” (2008) starring Sean Penn who insisted the film be shot in San Francisco.
The facts that are presented in the documentary are overwhelming and as the 35th anniversary of Milk and Moscone’s deaths approach have not diminished in potency. Invaluable testimony and information make this documentary a classic.
White’s defense team argued that White, even though he was armed and entered City Hall through a side window to escape metal detectors, had not planned to kill Milk and Moscone.
We hear in Epstein’s film that White was a “good person with good values”. Further it was argued that he was overly stressed that Moscone did not want him to resume the post he had resigned as supervisor because of low pay. Forensic psychiatrist Martin Blinder psychiatrist testified that he suffered from severe depression, aggravated by too many twinkies and coca-cola . This defense was successful and the streets of San Francisco were full of riots and protests on May 21, 1979 after the verdict.
White served five years of a seven-year prison sentence for voluntary manslaughter. In the documentary one commentator states that had White murdered only Moscone he would have been given the death penalty, but because Milk was involved he was not charged with first degree murder. Though the defense argued he was a “good person” his homophobia was well known. The verdict implied White’s assassination of the mayor and an openly gay supervisor while on a “sugar high” was an act less culpable than murder. Two years after his release, White committed suicide. Forensic psychiatrist Martin Blinder was recently stabbed by his ex wife Dorothy Braco on Oct 9 this year who later washed ashore dead apparently from a suicide.
In 2011, newly released records of 1800 pages from the FBI obtained under the Freedom in Information Act revealed that Moscone, Milk and White were the subjects of an FBI undercover investigation. The files show trumped up allegations about corruption involving alleged favors given to Howard Hughes and McDonalds. Milk was claimed to have formed his own Pride parade committee with government funds. Following the murders, and the trial, the charges were dropped.
Although we know a great deal about Milk, it was Mayor George Moscone who fashioned a San Francisco with districts where the supervisors represented their constituencies. This system is still in place. Today there are 11 San Francisco supervisors who are African American, Asian American or Hispanic American and two supervisors of European descent:
District 1 Eric Mar
District 2 Mark Farrell
District 3 David Chiu * President of the Board
District 4 Katy Tang
District 5 London Breed ( former district of Harvey Milk : Fillmore/Western Addition, North of the Panhandle, Lower Haight, Haight-Ashbury, Cole Valley, Inner Sunset, Hayes Valley, Japan Town and Alamo Square.)
District 6 Jane Kim
District 7 Norman Yee
District 8 Scott Wiener
District 9 David Campos
District 10 Malia Cohen
District 11 John Avalos
Scott Weiner is an openly gay supervisor representing District 8 who has lived 15 years in the Castro. This was Dan White’s former district, which at the time was hostile to the growing gay community.
The “Harvey Milk & George Moscone Vigil & Night of Remembrance” will honor the memory of these two extraordinary politicians.