Subversive Historian – 05/21/09

The White Night Riots

Back in the day on May 21st, 1979 demonstrators took to the streets of San Francisco in what would be known as the White Night riots. Exactly thirty years ago, a verdict was returned in the controversial trial of Daniel James White. The former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors stood accused of the murders of city mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk, the first openly gay member of the city board elected. The jury in the case convicted White of lesser charges finding him guilty only of “involuntary manslaughter.” When the news hit the streets, crowds began converging in San Francisco’s Castro district and angrily marched on city hall. It was there that they were met by police and riots ensued.

Later on that night, a group of policemen entered the Elephant Walk – a popular bar in the Castro – trashing the establishment and clubbing its patrons. Despite the repression, people took to the streets once more the very next day in remembrance of Milk’s first birthday after his death.

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