30 years ago in PGN

30 years ago in PGN

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Riots rage in San Francisco

A series of violent demonstrations later known as the White Night Riots broke out in San Francisco beginning May 21 following the verdict in the murder trial of openly gay city Supervisor Harvey Milk.

A jury found Milk’s killer, former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White, guilty of voluntary manslaughter rather than first-degree murder, and he was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Thousands of LGBT and ally individuals marched from Castro Street to City Hall for a protest, where some began smashing windows at the building with newspaper boxes, rocks and bricks. More than a dozen police cruisers and other vehicles were set on fire, windows in area businesses were smashed and protesters tore down electric trolley wires and threw tear gas that they’d taken from police into the crowd.

Police, many of whom allegedly put black tape over their badge numbers to prevent identification, beat, kicked and clubbed dozens of protesters.

Police later raided a bar in the Castro, unauthorized by Police Chief Charles Gain, smashing windows, beating patrons and prompting a second wave of violence.

By the morning, more than 100 LGBT and ally individuals were hospitalized, as well as more than 60 police officers.

The city estimated total damage from the riots at about $1 million, with $60,000 in damages at the City Hall building alone.

Openly gay city Supervisor Harry Britt was unapologetic for the riots: “Society is going to have to deal with us not as nice little fairies who have hairdressing salons, but as people capable of violence. That was gay anger you saw.”

The following night, the city’s LGBT community gathered for a peaceful observance of what would have been Milk’s 49th birthday.

Gov. supports Gay Pride, angers lawmakers

During a May 29 LGBT reception for former Pennsylvania Gov. Milton Shapp, Secretary to the Commonwealth Dr. Ethel Allen read a proclamation from then-Gov. Dick Thornburgh declaring the week of June 24-30 Gay Pride Week in the state, a move that drew sharp criticism from the state legislature.

Two days after the announcement, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted 180-14 on a resolution criticizing the proclamation and urging the governor to withdraw it. Among the 11 cosponsors of the resolution was current U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania Joe Pitts (R-16th Dist.).

Following the House vote, the governor’s office received more than 4,000 calls from residents angry with the governor’s decision. Fourteen churches throughout the state placed ads in local papers opposing Gay Pride Week, and 14 county commissions adopted resolutions supporting the House action.

Thornburgh refused to withdraw his proclamation, but later issued a supplemental announcement also designating the week as Family Pride Week.

— Jen Colletta


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