“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”
“I finally reached the point where I knew I had to become involved or shut up.”
33 years ago today: November 27, 1978, the George Moscone – Harvey Milk assassinations occurred in San Francisco.
Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were shot and killed in San Francisco City Hall by former Supervisor Dan White. White was angry that Moscone was refusing to re-appoint him to his former Board seat, from which had resigned for personal reasons, and angry with Milk for having
lobbied against that re-appointment. These events also launched the political career of Dianne Feinstein, one of White’s allies on the Board, who became a U.S. Senator 14 years after these events.
Gaywisdom.org recounts the event:
White requested a meeting with the mayor and Moscone met White in the outer office,
with White confronting the mayor about his perceived betrayal. White asked
again to be re-appointed to his former seat on the Board of Supervisors. When
Moscone declined, their conversation turned into a heated argument.
Wishing to avoid a public scene, Moscone suggested they retire to
a private lounge attached to the mayor’s office, so they would not be overheard
by those waiting outside. Once inside the small room White pulled his revolver
and shot the mayor twice in the abdomen. White then shot Moscone twice more in
White reloaded his weapon and left the mayor’s office, observed by
an unwitting Dianne Feinstein — herself a supervisor at the time —
who attempted to engage him in conversation. Brushing off her attempts at
conversation, White made his way to the opposite side of City Hall and down a
corridor to Milk’s office. There, he asked for a private conference in an
Behind closed doors, White confronted Milk. White reported that he
began to scream at Milk and that Milk then arose from his seat. With that,
White pulled his gun and shot the supervisor multiple times: three times in the
chest, once in the back and two times again in the head.
White then fled City Hall unchallenged as chaos reigned inside and
turned himself in to two detectives. Feinstein discovered Milk’s body, but attempts to resuscitate him were in vain.
White was subsequently convicted of voluntary manslaughter,
rather than of first degree murder. The verdict sparked rioting in San
Francisco — the so-called White Night Riots and ultimately led to the state of California abolishing the diminished capacity criminal defense. The Twinkie Defense,
popular shorthand but incomplete description of the diminished capacity
defense, gained currency during the trial.
White was paroled in 1984 and committed suicide less than two
“I ask this… If there should be an assassination, I would hope that five, ten, one hundred, a thousand would rise. I would like to see every gay lawyer, every gay architect come out – - If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door… And that’s all. I ask for the movement to continue. Because it’s not about personal gain, not about ego, not about power… it’s about the “us’s” out there. Not only gays, but the Blacks, the Asians, the disabled, the seniors, the us’s. Without hope, the us’s give up – I know you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. So you, and you, and you… You gotta give em’ hope… you gotta give em’ hope…” Harvey Bernard Milk, May 22, 1930 – November 27, 1978
Stuart Wilber believes that living life openly as a Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Allied person is the most powerful kind of activism. Shortly after meeting his partner in Chicago in 1977, he opened a gallery named In a Plain Brown Wrapper, where he exhibited cutting edge work by leading artists; art that dealt with sexuality and gender identification. In the late 1980′s when they moved to San Clemente, CA in Orange County, life as an openly gay couple became a political act. They moved to Seattle 16 years ago and married in Canada a few weeks after British Columbia legalized same-sex marriage. Although legally married in some countries, they are only considered domestic partners in Washington State. Equality continues to elude him.
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