White Night Riots Remembered

21 05 2009

Unbelievable footage of the White Night Riots on May 21, 1979.

The White Night Riots were a series of violent events sparked by an announcement of the lenient sentencing of Dan White, for the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk. The events took place on the night of May 21, 1979 in San Francisco.

LGBTQ San Franciscoians had a long-standing conflict with the police department. The struggle against the SFPD turned violent when White, who was himself a former policeman, was given the lightest possible sentence for the assassinations. This became known as “The Twinkie Defense” that contributed to the lighter sentence. Initial demonstrations took place at San Francisco’s City Hall after the verdict of voluntary manslaughter was announced. The riots caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage. We…were…angry!!!

Later that night, police made a retaliatory raid on a bar in the Castro District. Many patrons were severely beaten by police in full riot gear. Two dozen arrests were made, and several lawsuits were filed against the San Francisco Police Department. The show of strength that we led increased political power, which culminated in the re-election of Mayor Dianne Feinstein the following November. In response to a campaign promise, Feinstein appointed a pro-gay Chief of Police, which increased recruitment of gays in the police force and eased tensions.






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