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Harvey Milk and the LGBT Activism in the Castro District
In Harvey Milk’s Hope Speech he said, “You have to give them hope,” and that’s what he did (DanaRoc p16). After San Francisco passed a gay rights ordinance in 1978 (kqedHM p5), Dan White, a former Supervisor, assassinated Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone (kqedHM p6). White pleaded the “Twinkie Defense” which stated that he had consumed a large amount of sugar that affected his arteries, resulting in him killing the Mayor and Milk (Pogash p1). The jury charged Dan White with two counts of voluntary manslaughter (Stein xxxix). Five years later, White became a free man again (Adam 107). His verdict led to riots later known as “White Night” (Stein xxxix). Harvey Milk strengthened the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender, also known as LGBT, activism. For years after his death the LGBT community would still be fighting for equal rights. Although LGBT activism has a long history, the assassination of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in America, led to an uprising in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community in the Castro district greatly strengthening the LGBT movement.
The Castro District of San Francisco used to be part of a large ranch owned by Jose de Jesus Noe, a Mexican land baron (Bay p4). Castro was named after a prominent Mexican Army General (Bay p9). In the 1880s the Castro District became home to many German, Irish and Scandinavian immigrants. They built large, beautiful Victorian houses (Bay p5).
San Francisco has had a steadily growing population of homosexual’s since World War Two. During World War Two many military personnel were dishonorably discharged in the Bay Area. This happened because of their homosexuality which inspired them to fight for what they believed in (kqed p1). In 1978 California voters rejected proposition 6. This proposition, that State Senator John Briggs sponsored, would have jailed anyone involved with LGBT (Stein XXXIX). Gilbert Baker introduced the LGBT flag in San Francisco in 1978 (Stein XXXIX). Gays were denied jobs because of their sexuality. Some LGBT people were denied housing (Marcus 235). By 1980, 17% of San Francisco’s population were homosexual (kqed p1).
Barbra Gittings, a lesbian activist from Philadelphia, moved to California in 1956 (Williams 107). She went to the Daughters of Bilitis (Tobin 211). Daughters of Bilitis, DOB, was formed in 1955 in San Francisco (Marcus 70). DOB dealt with a lot of anger from others and from people in DOB that weren’t being treated well (Marcus 74). The DOB were getting their first issue of The Ladder ready (Tobin 211). LGBT people from all over the US subscribed to The Ladder (Tobin 212). Jose Sarria was a drag queen, he ran for city council in 1960 (Williams 96). This made him the first openly LGBT person to seek electoral office (Stein 337). Jose did not win, but he gave many people hope (Williams 96).
Harvey Bernard Milk, born May 22, 1930 in New York City, had always loved attention. As a kid, Harvey pretended to conduct the orchestra music which came from the radio (Shilts 5). He graduated from Bayshore High School as a linebacker (Shilts 13), basketball player, track team member, and wrestling team member (Shilts 8). These factors made him very popular in high school (Black 23). After graduating high school Milk signed up for the United States Navy. He became a Chief Petty Officer on the U.S.S. Kittiwake, a San Diego based aircraft carrier (Black 25). In 1955 Milk was discharged and he returned to New York (Black 22). Harvey Milk became a stockbroker but soon met Tom O’Horgon, the director of several plays. After meeting O’Horgon, Milk quit his job and became a hippie. Soon after Milk quit his job, he met Scott Smith and fell in love. Together they moved to San Francisco (Black 29).
Harvey and Scott moved into an apartment on Castro Street (Shilts 65). Harvey Milk and Scott Smith saved up money for “Castro Camera,” a local film developing shop (Black 38). On March 3, 1973, Harvey hung a sign in the window that read, “Yes, We Are Very Open” (Shilts 65). Harvey Milk always tried to help everyone fix problems. He became very involved with the community (Black 42). “Milk became involved in organizing gay voter registration drives, helping to establish the first Castro Street Fair, speaking out against Anita Bryant's anti-gay campaign, and working against the Briggs initiative, and a proposal to bar lesbians and gay men from teaching in California public schools” (NTFHP p2). Being a good orator and a strong leader, Milk decided to campaign for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1973 (kqedHM p4).
Harvey Milk began campaigning forSupervisor in 1973 (kqedHM p4). Scott Smith helped Milk with everything for which he needed help (Black 46). Harvey Milk lost his first election, but he got an impressive 17,000 votes (kqed p4). He had to make compromises if he wanted to become Supervisor. When he ran a second time, he shaved his beard and cut his hair (Black 57). Harvey did not own a suit of his own, so he went to the laundry mat and got one from the lost and found (Black 59). In 1975 Milk lost his second election, but Mayor George Moscone appointed him to the Board of Permit Appeals, he became the first openly gay commissioner in the country (kqedHM p4). “The mayor appointed him to the Board of Permit Appeals, and by promising not to run against the traditionalist people who were getting ready to run their candidate, Art Agnos. Harvey immediately turned around and announced his candidacy, and the mayor ?red him” (Black 61). Harvey Milk ran for his third time and lost but became even more popular (Black 61).
In 1977 Harvey Milk finally won during the 4th election that he had run in (kqedHM p5). Harvey Milk became the first openly LGBT elected official in the United States, gaining a large foothold for openly LGBT candidates in San Francisco (Stein 337). In Harvey Milk’s acceptance speech he said, “This is not my victory-it’s yours. If a gay man can win, it proves that there is hope for all minorities who are willing to fight” (Black 85). Milk worked vigorously to pass a Gay Rights Ordinance in 1978. This protected LGBT people from losing their jobs (kqedHM p5). Harvey Milk gave a speech called “Hope.” He talked about children that are gay and aren’t accepted by the world. Harvey Milk talked about a child that needed to know that there is hope, and that we need to give that child hope. He talked about how that child would get thrown out of the house and made fun of if anyone found out that they were gay (Hope). Milk received stacks of hate mail at his office. He made three recordings of him self on November 18, 1977, with instructions to listen to it only if he were to be killed by assassination. On one of the tapes he said, “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door” (kqedHM p6).
On September 2, 1946 in San Francisco, California, Dan White was born as the second of nine kids. In high school he excelled at sports. He went on to be a paratrooper in the Vietnam War (Bio p2). In 1969 White joined the San Francisco Police Department (Grave p1). He resigned from SFPD and joined the San Francisco Fire Department (Bio p2). He earned several awards for bravery while at the fire department, but decided that he deserved a higher salary (Grave p1). In 1977 White ran as a Democratic candidate for a position on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (Black 90). He won the election and earned himself a spot on the board. Dan White had voted against the Gay Rights Ordinance that Harvey Milk introduced, making him the only person that had cast a vote against it (Adam 106). On November 10, 1978, White resigned his elected position (Dan p4), but soon after he tried to regain his seat. White became furious when he found that Mayor George Moscone was unwilling to reappoint him (Adam 10). “White was a conservative who was troubled by growing official tolerance of overt homosexuality and crime” (Bio p3).
On November 27, 1978, Dan White bypassed the metal detectors located at the front doors of City Hall by climbing through an unlocked window. He had a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver and extra bullets in his pockets (Perry 13). White shot Mayor Moscone four times before going to Milk’s office (Perry 14). Dan White invited Harvey Milk into his old cubicle before shooting him five times in the chest (Black 98).
The LGBT community and San Franciscans responded with a massive candlelit march to City Hall (Adam 107). Thirty to forty-thousand people participated in the memorial ceremony for Supervisor Milk and Mayor Moscone (Black 101).
Many people knew that White would most likely not get a heavy sentence, but the results of the trial still came as a shock (Corsaro p2). In 1979 Dan White pleaded “diminished capacity,” which is now known as “the twinkie defense” (Black 91). This defense stated that White had consumed a large amount of sugar. The claim was that the sugar had hurt his arteries, causing him to murder Milk and Moscone (Pogash p1). Sunday, May 20, the jury sat in the juror’s room (Weiss 398). The jury had reached their verdict for the killing of Mayor Moscone on the preceding Friday. Now they had to decide on Harvey Milk’s death. Never once had any of them thought about finding him guilty of first degree murder (Weiss 400). Monday Afternoon came, the day of the trial (Weiss 401). Everyone took their places as the jury filed in (Weiss 403). The Jury convicted Dan White of two counts of voluntary manslaughter resulting in a maximum time in jail of seven years and eight months (Marcus 235). As the jury filed out of the court room they were met by several reporters and camera men (Weiss 403). People all over San Francisco were quickly learning about the verdict (Corsaro p1). Not only were LGBT people furious with the verdict but people unassociated with LGBT were, too (WNR). On January 6, 1984, a little more then 5 years later, Dan White became a free man again (Adam 107).
A riot began shortly after Dan White’s verdict (Marcus 235). A large crowd formed at the intersection of Market and Castro Street. Everyone was furious (Corsaro p4). The crowd from Castro met up with a crowd from Polk and together they marched to City Hall (Corsaro p7). No organization was put into this riot, just pure anger and the hatred (White p5) of more than 40,000 people (Corsaro p4). Cleve Jones, a good friend of Milk’s, had warned police that there would be a riot if the verdict turned out to be manslaughter, but no one had listened (Weiss 406). The Board of Supervisors were just getting back from dinner that night when the crowd arrived at City Hall (Weiss 407). The mob began to yell chants (White): “Out of the bars into the streets,” “Dan White was a cop,” “Dan White was a fire man,” “Avenge Harvey Milk,” “Dan White, Dan White, hit man for the new right,” “All straight jury, No surprise, Dan White lives, and Harvey Milk dies,” and “Kill Dan White” (Shilts 327-328).
The crowd stormed the front of City Hall. They threw rocks at the windows, shattering them (Black 106). Police whistles screamed (Weiss 407), a tac squad from the SFPD was sent to protect the doors of City Hall (White p5). A gladiator line was formed by police units. They all had helmets, batons, and shields (Black 106). The SFPD all had black tape over their badges so they couldn’t be identified (Corsaro p8). Rioters grabbed everything and anything they could find to beat cops with (Black 106). Men uprooted parking meters to use as weapons, newspaper dispensers were overturned and thrown along with trash cans (Weiss 407). Pieces of the concrete curb were broken off the sidewalk and thrown at officers (White p5). Rocks and bottles were thrown at police officers protecting City Hall’s doors (Weiss 407-408). Grillwork was ripped off of City Hall, which became sharp and spearlike (Weiss 408). Men carrying grillwork spears, parking meters, and bottles were faced with police with riot sticks (Weiss 410).
The San Francisco Police Department was greatly outnumbered. “Four women fell upon one female cop and beat her to the ground” (Weiss 410). Batons from hurt police were picked up by rioters and used to beat other cops. Garbage can lids were all being thrown at the peace keepers and officers in the front door of City Hall (Weiss 411). “Again and again the man, now joined by others, attacked City Hall” (Weiss 408). A tree located straight in front of the doors to City Hall was set aflame around 9:30 (Weiss 409), several street fights had broken out between police and rioters (Weiss 413). Police were commanded not to retreat or advance (Weiss 412). A small police squad was slowly surrounded. One officer, in an act of fear, disobeyed orders and began to throw tear gas canisters. Soon several police officers threw their own tear gas canisters. No one had gas masks, people were falling on the ground coughing, people tried washing their eyes out to stop the burning (Weiss 411).
Nearby public building windows were being smashed (Weiss 413). A police car was set on fire, a garbage can was thrown through the windshield and the back window was smashed with a foot (Weiss 412). A fire truck came to put out the fire but was blocked by rioters. They started throwing bottles and rocks at it and screaming, “We won, We won.” All police cars that were left unattended had their windows kicked in and were set aflame. Fires raged, people screamed, sirens wailed, cars burned (White). The crowd surged toward the burning police cars, the police were then ordered to advance from all sides. They surrounded the crowd (Weiss 413), officers ran in trying to beat rioters, but in turn were then beaten.
Around 2:00 A.M. Supervisor Britt and Chief Gain negotiated a withdrawal with the rioters (Weiss 414). Then around 3:00 A.M. everyone had gone home. There was some resistance, but all the rioters and officers were exhausted(Weiss 415). In all, there were several small fires that had been lit in City Hall (Corsaro p7), eleven police cars were set aflame, most city hall windows were smashed, 120 people were brought to the hospital with injuries, and about four times that number were arrested (Adam 107). The district attorney said that all people that were arrested would be prosecuted (WNR). The riot had lasted several hours (Corsaro p7). On a near by diner wall someone had spray painted “HE GOT AWAY WITH MURDER” (Weiss 415). Later that night, after the riot, a few angry cops stormed “The Elephant Walk Bar.” They beat anyone they could get to, including pedestrians walking near the bar (Corsaro p9).
There is no rule against same sex relationships in Buddhism, but there are parts of the religion that is oppose homosexual actions (Buddhism p4). “Lay Buddhists are expected to adhere to Five Precepts, the third of which is a vow "‘not to engage in ‘sexual misconduct’"(Buddhism p5). Hinduism and homosexuality is very controversial because the Hindu religious texts do not say much about sexuality (Hinduism p1). Sikhism is also very controversial. “The Sikh sacred text, the Guru Granth Sahib, is the highest authority in Sikhism. It is silent on the subject of homosexuality. However, there are parts of the Guru Granth Sahib that have been interpreted to mean that homosexuality is wrong.”(Sikhism p1). “The Torah is the primary source for Jewish views on homosexuality. It states that: "[A man] shall not lie with another man as [he would] with a woman, it is a to'eva" (Leviticus 18:22),” to’eva means an abomination (Judaism p2). “The Torah prohibition of Lo tikrevu legalot ervah forbids all other sexual acts which can lead to intercourse” (Judaism p5). Islamic beliefs say that lesbian homosexuality should be punished less then gay sexuality (Islam p2). “Same-sex intercourse carries the death penalty in five officially Muslim nations: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Mauritania, Sudan, and Yemen” (Islam p20).
Most Christians accept and welcome homosexuals into their communities and protect their civil rights, but some Christians are strongly against it and condemn homosexual acts as sinful. Leviticus 18:22 states “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; this is detestable,” and Leviticus 20:13 says, “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads” (Christianity p1). Many people argue that god loves all of his children, John 3:16 says, "God loved the world so much, that Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son, was freely given, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life." This is what christian gays use to prove that god loves everyone, no matter who they are (http://christiangays.com/ p1).
"In the 16th century, John Selden pointed at two Latin words carved into a marble wall in an ancient church in Rome: 'Scrutamini Scripturas,' which means search the Scriptures. 'These two words,' Seldon said, 'have undone the world.' In one way, John Selden was right. Misusing the Bible has drenched the planet in blood and tears" (http://www.soulforce.org/article/homosexuality-bible-gay-christian p14). Homosexuality in Ancient Greece was commonly found as pederasty. Pederasty is a relationship between an adult male and a male youth. It was seen as beneficial to both men. The older man would educate, protect and love the younger man and in turn the younger man would be his partner with beauty, youth, admiration, and love (Greece p13). “In Ancient Greece, same-sex romantic and sexual attractions were often regarded as a matter of taste or preference rather than a moral issue” (Greece p20).
There is several different places LGBT awareness in schools is found in the United States. Gay Straight Alliance is a student run organization (GSA p1). There are about 4,000 Gay Straight Alliances in the U.S. (Glsen p1). Several High Schools and Middle schools have it. They are most common in California. Gay Straight Alliance, GSA, is a program that strengthens the relationships of LGBTQ and straight students. GSA creates a positive and safe environment for students (GSA p1). In 1996 the first “Day of Silence” took place. A group of students at the University of Virginia had started it (DAY p3). The “Day of Silence” is a national student-led event. It brings attention to bullying, harassment, and anti-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer name calling. Middle school to college students take a vow of silence to encourage classmates to speak up about anti-LGBTQ behavior. This event illustrates the effect that bulling and harassment of LGBTQ and perceived LGBTQ has (DAY p1).
In 1978 between 250,000 and 350,000 people participated in a Gay Pride Parade in response to Briggs initiative. The Briggs initiative is also known as Proposition 6. Proposition 6, provided the state of California the right to fire any LGBT associated teachers (Newton p39). On November 4, 2008, California rolled back their marriage equality law. Although, in mid-August of 2010, Judge Vaughn Walker determined the ban as unlawful and freed gay marriage again (Good p1). New Mexico is the only state that doesn’t have any laws about same sex marriage (Good p5). For 17 years “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” had been in place (Ask p1). “Don’t Ask” states that commanding officers cannot ask about a militants sexuality. “Don’t Tell” states that members do not reveal their sexuality (Don’t p2). It was repealed after a senate vote of 65-31 (Ask p1).
Castro is now partially a tourist attraction (Timberlake p5), it has great night life. There are many bars, and clubs in and around the Castro (Timberlake p6). Every year the Castro community has a Halloween celebration. Around the end of the 2006 Halloween celebration, gun shots were heard (May p2-3). The shootings started around 10:40 P.M. (Chu p4). 10 people were shot (Chu p2), one victim was in critical condition (Chu p6).
Although San Francisco is still bustling with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, the revolution has died down sense the Harvey Milk Era (YouTube). The year 2000s census stated that the population of San Francisco, California had 30,574 residents. Of those residents 41% were Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (Timberlake p7). All though the Castro is mostly LGBT populated an increasingly amount of heterosexual’s have been moving in recently (Buchanan p2). Heterosexual’s are welcomed into the community as long as they understand that it is a LGBT community (Buchanan p5). Harvey Milk inspired thousands of people to fight for what they believed in, and he died fighting for who he was. “History is full of examples where people who thought they were free woke up one morning and discovered they weren’t free, and they had to fight or die” (YouTube).
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