We're recruiting new authors! To find out how to apply, click here!
Site under maintenance. We apologize for any inconvenience.


Freedom Requires Wings FRW The #1 QUILTBAG opinion blog on the web. We aim to open minds and help the queer community. News, blogs, video, worldwide suicide prevention and more. Worldwide

27 November 1978 - A voice silenced

Freedom Requires Wings | by on




Harvey on his last birthday in 1978 throwing pies at his friends
By now you will have read about Harvey Milk's early life, his political career and his activism focused on making this world a better place for LGBT people.
My post is about telling you how it all ended.

And it would seem that Milk himself knew how it was going to end...

Being a supervisor on the San Fransisco advocating for gay rights, Milk knew that he was in a dangerous position and so suspecting what was coming, he recorded three copies of a will to be read only if he were assassinated. In it says: 

"If a bullet should enter my brain, let it destroy every closet door."

And Milk was right, on the 27th November 1978, he was murdered along with George Moscone by former supervisor Dan White.

Milk and White got along well up until Milk opposed one of his bills, in return he opposed one of Milk's civil rights bills, only to find himself as the only person opposing it. As a result, White resigned from his seat in November 1978 declaring that he didn't earn enough to support himself and his family. Moscone found out and called him back saying that if White were to return he would consider reappointing him. White returned only to be turned down by Moscone who, after a request made by Milk refused to let White return.

Angered by the turnout of the event, White entered the City Hall through the basement to avoid metal detectors detecting his gun, and made his way to Mayor Moscone's office where he shot the Mayor in the chest, shoulder and twice in the head. White left the office to find Milk, and ask him to join him in his former office. Milk went to meet White and was killed, shot 5 times, two of which were in the head at point blank range. The bodies were found by the President of the Board of Supervisors, Diane Feinstein who called the police.

The deaths were announced on the City Halls steps by Feinstein, plunging the city into shock and grief.
"Today San Franscisco has experienced a double tragedy of immense proportions. As President of Board of Supervisors, it is my duty to inform you that both Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk have been shot and killed."

Candlelit vigil from the Castro to City Hall
That evening, without any planning beforehand, 40,000 people walked through the streets of the city holding candlelit vigils, showing the strong supporting community Milk had pulled together during his activism. While the bodies lay in the City Hall, around 10,000 people came to pay their respects.

White turned himself over to the police on the same day as the murders. The jury constituted for his trial was to be in his favour as it was mainly composed of Catholics, all minorities had been excluded. His lawyers argued that an unhealthy diet and depression were the cause of White's behaviour. This will later be known as the "Twinkie Defence". White was only convicted of manslaughter and not murder, he was sentenced to seven years and eight months of prison for both crimes.

Angry crowds on their way to City Hall
As the word of White's sentence got out, angry crowds formed in the streets. Riots broke out in the City Hall, and rocks were thrown at the building. Police cars were burned. When asked why they were destroying the city, a rioter replied: "Just tell people we ate too many Twinkies." The reference goes of course to the arguments formulated by White's lawyers.

In response to the riots, police turned up at the Elephant Walk Bar and beat up the patrons and anyone they could find in the streets. By the end of the riots at least a hundred people were taken to hospital. The riots of the 21st May 1979 became known as the "White Night Riots".

Milk's and Mosone's murders as well as White's trial led up to some crucial changes in both San Francisco's politics and California's legal system. In 1980, district supervisor elections were cancelled as there was a worry of a divisive Board being damaging to the city. It was believed that a divisive board could have been a factor to the murders. District elections were restored in the mid-1990s. As for White's trial, it led up to crucial changes in California's juridical system; notably the change of the law to reduce chances of accused being acquitted because they claimed that their capacities had been in some way impaired. Diminished capacity is now only taken into consideration when courts are deciding how to punish a convicted defendant.

Most of Harvey Milk's ashes were scattered at sea in San Francisco Bay by his former lovers, the "Milk Widows", however a small amount are buried under Milk's plaque in front of his old camera store. On it is written the following:
Harvey Milk
May 22, 1930 - November 27, 1978
Harvey Milk made history as the first openly gay elected official in California, and one of the first in the nation, when he was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in November 1977. His camera store and campaign headquarters at 575 Castro Street and his apartment upstairs were centers of community activism for a wide range of human rights, environmental, labor and neighborhood issues. Harvey Milk's hard work and accomplishments on behalf of all San Franciscans earned him widespread respect and support. His life is an inspiration to all people committed to equal opportunity and an end to bigotry.
"You gotta give 'em hope!"
< > F
Join us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter