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The White Night Riots

ID Number: 32222
Maker: Friendly Fire Collective; Bay Area Radical History
Technique: digital print
Date Made: 2008
Place Made: United States: California, San Francisco
Measurements: 14 cm x 43 cm; 5 1/2 in x 16 15/16 in
Main Subject: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ)
Materials: glossy paper (fiber product)
Digitized: Y

Full Text:
The White Night Riots On the evening of May 21, 1979, members of San Francisco's gay rights movement burned 12 patrol cars, disabled MUNI buses across the city, and broke windows across the face of San Francisco's City Hall in what is now known as the White Night Riots. The Gay Rights movement had been developing for over a decade in San Francisco's Castro district where businesses and clubs were organized to create safe spaces for gays to openly enjoy their lifestyles in the public and out of the closet. Harvey Milk, one of the key figures within the movement, was elected to the Board of Supervisors, San Francisco's version of the city council, in 1977 after a series of losses and played an important role in galvanizing the city's gay population into political action. During his term as city supervisor, the controversial Proposition 6 which would have banned gay teachers from having positions within schools was defeated by voters in California. Homosexuality in San Francisco had gone from being an underground lifestyle to a powerful social force in less than a decade. Dan White, a fellow supervisor and political opponent of Harvey Milk, resigned from his position due to frustration with the rest of the board. After realizing that he would be replaced by a more liberal supervisor by then city mayor George Moscone, Dan White tried to regain his post on the board. When Mayor Moscone denied his request, White shot him in his office and went down the hall and shot Harvey Milk as well. Dan White was put on trial for the two murders, but after his defense argued that White was thrown into depression because of his overconsumption of sugar which lead to the shootings (now known as the "twinkie defense"), White was only found guilty of manslaughter. Word quickly spread throughout the gay community in San Francisco and a march soon left from the Castro that went straight to City Hall where the riots broke out. Police were far outnumbered and the rioters attacked police lines and cars without significant reprisal. The rioters also smashed the main entrance doors to city hall as well as several storefront windows. No arrests were made during or after the riots. Hours later the police, whom had been defeated during the riots, stormed a popular gay bar in the Castro called the "Elephant Walk" and beat the patrons and destroyed property in the clubs. No police were charged with any crimes for their attack on the club, but patrons were given monetary restitution months later. "If a bullet should go through my head let that bullet go through every closet door." - Harvey Milk Bay Area Radical History -

Acquisition Number: 2010-025

Copyright Status:
Under copyright; used by CSPG for educational and research purposes only. Distribution or reproduction beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners.

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