Thirty-four years after the assassination of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, the two leaders will be remembered on Tuesday at a ceremony on the steps of City Hall and a candlelight march to the Castro District.
“The purpose is to honor and remember two men who died protecting our basic human rights,” said Anne Kronenberg, a co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation.
Moscone, 49, a liberal Democrat in his third year as mayor, and Milk, 48, the city’s first openly gay supervisor in his first year in office, were fatally shot by former Supervisor Dan White on the morning on Nov. 27, 1978.
White, then 32, a former police officer and firefighter, had resigned his position as supervisor 17 days earlier and was angry that Moscone had turned down his request to reappoint him.
After entering City Hall through a window in a side entrance, White shot Moscone four times in his second floor office, reloaded his revolver, walked down the hall and fired five bullets into Milk.
Kronenberg, who was Milk’s campaign manager and his administrative assistant at City Hall, said the tradition of a commemoration began with a spontaneous candlelight march and vigil on the night of the assassination.
“Thousands of people came together at Castro Street on that sad day and marched to City Hall,” she recalled.
“The only thing you heard was the sound of people crying,” Kronenberg said.
Since then, there has been a commemoration every year, primarily sponsored by the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, ranging from smaller vigils in the Castro to larger events on the five-year anniversaries, Kronenberg said.
This year’s commemoration will have two parts: a ceremony on the steps of City Hall at 4:30 p.m. and then a candlelight march to Milk’s former camera store in the Castro District.
Participants at City Hall will include Moscone family members; Milk’s nephew, Stuart Milk; Mayor Ed Lee; former Mayor Willie Brown and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, according to the foundation.
Kronenberg said both events are organized by a coalition of groups, but the foundation has taken the lead in organizing the City Hall ceremony while the Democratic Club is the lead sponsor of the march.
The all-volunteer foundation was established in 2009 by Kronenberg and Stuart Milk to promote Milk’s legacy through national and international education and outreach.
Kronenberg said she sees that legacy as “spreading hope for equality for all.”
The former aide noted that Tuesday’s commemoration, starting at City Hall and ending in the Castro District, is the reverse sequence of the original march, and said one reason for that is to celebrate advances in gay rights in the past 34 years.
“We have a lot to celebrate. We’re doing a reverse march as a sign of hope and renewal,” she said.
The 1978 slayings propelled Dianne Feinstein, then president of the Board of Supervisors and now a U.S. senator, into office as mayor.
White was tried on murder charges, but after his defense argued he suffered from diminished mental capacity, the trial jury chose a verdict of voluntary manslaughter in May 1979. The judgment sparked riots in the Castro District and at City Hall by protesters who thought the conviction was too light.
White was sentenced to seven years and eight months in prison and was released early on parole in January 1984. He committed suicide on Oct. 21, 1985.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News