SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — The shock still reverberates from the blurry, aged video tape.
Dianne Feinstein, now a U.S. senator but in 1978 a San Francisco Supervisor, announcing to the world the unthinkable has happened. Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay elected official, had been gunned down in their City Hall offices.
“Both Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot and killed,” Feinstein said with the crowd of veteran reporters gasping in the background. “The suspect is Supervisor Dan White.”
In the 40 years since that dark Nov. 27th day, San Francisco has changed a great deal but the impact of that afternoon still lingers.
White was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, a verdict that sparked the “White Night riots” in the city by Milk supporters who wanted him convicted of first-degree murder.
White would be released from prison in 1984 and commit suicide inside a Sunset district garage.
On Tuesday, San Francisco Mayor London Breed heralded the “enduring legacies” of Moscone and Milk.
“While 40 years ago we may have lost two great San Franciscans, we also were gifted with two great legacies on which our city has continued to build its passion for advancing the rights of all San Franciscans,” Breed said in a statement.
Moscone, she said, championed diversity within the city government.
“Mayor George Moscone made many contributions leading the City where he was born and raised, including his work to make our government reflect the diversity and backgrounds of the people of San Francisco,” she said in a statement. “He appointed Commissioners who were women, people of color, and LGBT to serve the City and the communities they represented.”
“As a black woman who served as a Commissioner before becoming Supervisor, I know these opportunities opened up paths for people like me to serve our City in ways that were not possible before.”
She called Milk a ‘transformative’ figure on the national scene.
“Supervisor Harvey Milk’s impact was transformative not just for San Francisco, but the nation,” she said. “His very presence on the Board of Supervisors as the first openly gay elected official in California opened the doors of opportunity for future leaders in our LGBT community. His message of equality and opportunity, for not only those in the LGBT community but everyone who lacked representation, helped to shape who we are as a city, and the values we strive to uphold.”
Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who now represents the district that Milk used to represent on the board, said the importance of Milk’s message is that gay people have to stand up for their rights
“He famously said that news of his election would give folks throughout this country in the hinterlands two new options: move to San Francisco was one, or stay and fight,” said Mandelman.
They did both, and the fight continues to this day, Mandelman said, pointing to the mid-term elections. “Part of that blue wave was that 150 out LGTBQ people who were elected to positions around this country,” he said.