Moscone–Milk assassinations - San Francisco, CA
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member saopaulo1
N 37° 46.755 W 122° 25.114
10S E 551200 N 4181481
Quick Description: City Hall was the site of the 1978 shooting of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.
Location: California, United States
Date Posted: 9/16/2008 8:21:19 PM
Waymark Code: WM4PT9
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member cache_test_dummies
Views: 81

Long Description:
From Wikipedia:

Preceding events

White had been a San Francisco police officer, and later a firefighter. He and Milk were each elected to the Board of Supervisors in the 1977 elections, which introduced district-based seats and ushered in the "most diverse Board the city has ever seen". The city charter prevented anyone from holding two city jobs simultaneously, so White resigned from his higher-paying job with the fire department.

With regard to business development issues, the 11-member board was roughly split 6-5 in favor of pro-growth advocates including White, over those who advocated the more neighborhood-oriented approach favored by Mayor Moscone. Debate among the Board members was sometimes acrimonious and saw the conservative White verbally sparring with liberal supervisors Milk and Carol Ruth Silver amongst others. Much of Moscone's agenda of neighborhood revitalization and increased city support programs was thwarted or modified in favor of the business-oriented agenda supported by the pro-growth majority on the Board.

Further tension between White and Milk arose with Milk's vote in favor of placing a group home within White's district. Subsequently, White would cast the only vote in opposition to San Francisco's landmark gay rights ordinance, passed by the Board and signed by Moscone in 1978. Dissatisfied with the workings of city politics, and in financial difficulty due to his failing restaurant business and his low salary as a supervisor, White resigned from the Board on November 10, 1978. The mayor would appoint his successor, which alarmed some of the city's business interests and White's constituents, as it meant Moscone could tip the balance of power on the Board as well as appoint a liberal representative for the more conservative district. White's supporters urged him to rescind his resignation by requesting reappointment from Moscone and promised him some financial support. Meanwhile Moscone was lobbied not to reappoint by some of the more progressive city leaders, most notably Milk, Silver, and then-California assemblyman Willie Brown.

On 18 November, news broke of the mass deaths of members of Peoples Temple in Jonestown. Prior to the group's move to Guyana, Peoples Temple had been based in San Francisco, thus most of the dead were recent Bay Area residents, including Leo Ryan, the United States Congressman who was murdered in the incident. The city was plunged into mourning, and the issue of White's vacant Board of Supervisors seat was pushed aside for several days.

The assassinations

Moscone ultimately decided to appoint Don Horanzy, a more progressive federal housing official, rather than re-appointing White. On Monday, November 27, 1978, the day Moscone was set to formally appoint Horanzy to the vacant seat, White packed his loaded service revolver from his work as a police officer and ten extra rounds of ammunition into his coat pocket, and had an unsuspecting friend drive him to San Francisco City Hall. Once there, White slipped into City Hall through a basement window, avoiding City Hall's metal detectors. He proceeded to the mayor's office, where Moscone was conferring with Brown.

White requested a meeting with the mayor and was allowed to see him when Moscone's meeting with Brown ended. As White entered Moscone's outer office, Brown exited through a different door. Moscone met White in the outer office, where White asked again to be re-appointed to his former seat on the Board of Supervisors. Moscone declined, and their conversation turned into a heated argument over Horanzy's pending appointment.

Wishing to avoid a public scene, Moscone suggested they retire to a private lounge attached to the mayor's office, so they would not be overheard by those waiting outside. Once inside the small room, White pulled his revolver and shot the mayor twice in the abdomen. White then shot Moscone twice more in the head.

White reloaded his weapon and left the office, observed by supervisor Dianne Feinstein, who attempted to engage him in conversation. Brushing her off, White made his way to the opposite side of City Hall and down a corridor to Milk's office. There he asked for a private conference in an adjacent room, where he confronted Milk. According to White, the supervisor smirked at White and told him "too bad" about the Horanzy appointment.[citation needed] White reported that he began to scream at Milk and that Milk then rose from his seat. White then pulled his gun and shot the supervisor multiple times: three times in the chest, once in the back, and two times again in the head. Feinstein discovered Milk's body, but attempts to resuscitate him were in vain.

White fled City Hall unchallenged and eventually turned himself in to Frank Falzon and another detective, former co-workers at his former precinct. He then recorded a statement in which he acknowledged shooting Moscone and Milk, but denied premeditation, despite his choice to carry a gun, to carry extra ammunition, to reload after the first killing, and to circumvent metal detectors.

Aftermath of the shootings

An impromptu candlelight march started in The Castro leading to the City Hall steps. Tens of thousands attended. Joan Baez led "Amazing Grace," and the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus sang a solemn hymn by Felix Mendelssohn. Upon learning of the assassinations, singer/songwriter Holly Near composed "Singing For Our Lives", a.k.a. "Song For Harvey Milk".

Moscone and Milk both lay in state at San Francisco City Hall. Moscone's funeral at St Mary's Cathedral was attended by 4,500 people. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma. Milk was cremated and his ashes were spread across the Pacific Ocean. Dianne Feinstein, as president of the Board of Supervisors, succeeded to the Mayor's office.

Trial and its aftermath

Further information: Twinkie defense and White Night Riots
White was tried for first degree murder with special circumstance, a crime which potentially carried the death penalty in California. White's defense team claimed that he was depressed and that this was evidenced by, among other things, his eating of unhealthy foods. (Inaccurate media reports that White's defense had presented junk food consumption as the cause of his mental state, rather than a symptom of it, would give rise to the legal term "Twinkie defense.") The defense argued that White's depression led to a state of mental diminished capacity, leaving him unable to have formed the premeditation necessary to commit first-degree murder. The jury accepted these arguments, and White was found guilty of the lesser crime of voluntary manslaughter.

The verdict proved to be controversial. In particular, many in the gay community were outraged by the verdict and the resulting reduced prison sentence. Since Milk had been homosexual, many felt that homophobia had been a motivating factor in White's attack upon Milk and/or in the jury's failing to convict White of murder. This groundswell of anger sparked the city's White Night Riots.

The unpopular verdict also ultimately led to a change in California state law which ended the diminished capacity defense.

White was paroled in 1984 and committed suicide less than two years later. In 1998, the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco magazine reported that Frank Falzon, a homicide detective with the San Francisco police, claimed to have met with White in 1984. Falzon further claimed that at that meeting, White confessed that not only was his killing of Moscone and Milk premeditated, but that he had actually planned to kill Silver and Brown as well. Falzon quoted White as having said, "I was on a mission. I wanted four of them. Carol Ruth Silver, she was the biggest snake ... and Willie Brown, he was masterminding the whole thing." Falzon, who had been a friend of White's and who had taken White's initial statement at the time White turned himself in, said that he believed White's confession. (visit link)

Date of crime: 11/27/1978

Public access allowed: yes

Fee required: no

Web site: [Web Link]

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