Just out. (Portland, OR) 1983-2013, January 20, 1984, Page 4, Image 4

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    Protests in
San Francisco over
Dan White's release
by Michael Helquist
It happened at 8 am on January 6th: Dan
W hite, convicted assassin o f San Francisco
M ayor George Moscone and gay supervisor
Harvey Milk, became a free man. W hite was
released from prison after serving just over
five years o f his voluntary m anslaughter
sentence. All political and judicial efforts to
prevent his release had failed. Angry San
Franciscans rallied to protest the widely
perceived travesty o f justice, and several
thousand in the city refused to let the day
pass with business-as-usual. A num ber of
incidents o f civil disobedience occurred, but
there were no reports o f violence.
The full day o f protests began on January
5th ju st before m idnight, the hour at which
W hite becam e eligible fo r parole. Two pro­
testors joined the sm all crowd o f reporters
cam ped outside the entrance o f Soledad p ri­
son where W hite had served m ost o f his sen­
tence. Health activist and person with AIDS,
B obbi C am pbell and his lover Bobby H illiard
carried candles and signs w hich declared
“Dan W hite Is More Dangerous than AIDS"
and “ B ut He Can’t K ill Gay Pride.” Cam pbell
to ld reporters that AIDS currently has a m o r­
tality rate o f 40% whereas Dan W hite has a
fatality rate o f 100%.
The C alifornia State Parole Board
announced the next day that W hite had al­
ready been m oved from Soledad to another
prison facility fo r his release. Authorities cited
concern over W hite’s safety as the reason for
the unprecedented security surrounding his
Two m ajor protest rallies drew thousands
o f San Franciscans during the day. The Ad
Hoc C om m ittee to Protest the Injustice had
issued a call to all city workers to support a
w ork-stoppage and not to go to w ork that day
if possible. A bout 500 dem onstrators rallied
at noon at U nion Square in downtown San
Francisco. Speakers included lesbian activist
and attorney Mary D unlap and recent candi­
date fo r city supervisor Sister Boom Boom .
A ttorney D unlap called upon the dem on-
s tra to ri, "to turn against the governm ent that
perm its us to be ¡(legitim atized and that al­
lows us to be turned ou t o f ou r houses and
jobs." D unlap underscored the feelings o f
m any o f the protestors when she addressed
the issues o f violence. “ We dem ean our
m o ve m e n t ou r lives, and our values if we join
in the chain o f violence begun by Dan White.
It is to the death to his ideas and actions that
we m ust dedicate ourselves.”
Sister B oom Boom , a m em ber o f the p o lit­
ically active gay m ale group Sisters o f
Perpetual Indulgence, also refrained from
any calls to violence, but he did indulge in
som e plausible conjectures about W hite s fu ­
ture. He stated, “Yesterday was the last day
Dan W hite could be assured he’d live through
the w hole day. Today he begins his life sen­
tence, and I’m sorry to say it’s going to be a
short one.” Sister Boom Boom brought a
lig h t m o m en t to the protest when he ex­
plained, “ I d o n ’t call fo r violence, but who
knows, maybe one o f us som eday will be a
little depressed, maybe o ff our diets, and who
know s what may happen." At this point he
began eating a Twinkie, sym bolic o f W hite’s
successful defense o f “ dim inished capacity”
due to to o m uch stress and to a diet o f junk
A fter a half-hour o f speeches the crowd
too k to the streets fo r an im prom ptu m arch
th ro u g h the financial district stopping traffic
fo r six blocks. D em onstrators blew shrill
police whistles and banged pots and pans.
The m arching crow d quickly swelled to over
50 00 as m en in business suits and wom en in
fashionable attire joined the casually dressed
At the sam e tim e about 150 dem onstrators
blocked tra ffic at 18th and Castro streets.
M any o f them later walked to the Castro and
M arket street intersection to sit down and
block tra ffic on that m ajor city thoroughfare.
The H aight-Ashbury neighborhood became
defeaning with widespread w histle-blow ing
and yelling. Lesbian and gay em ployees at
the U niversity o f C alifornia San Francisco
dem onstrated outside the cam pus student
union building. T hroughout the city there
was a concerted and intense outpouring o f
em otion.
Frequently dum g the day the question of
w hether violence w ould erupt kept surfacing
am ong dem onstrators and observers alike.
M ost city residents either rem em bered or
had been to ld about the violent "W hite Night
R iots" on May 21.1979 when W hite's volun­
tary m anslaughter verdict was announced.
Many observers suggested that if violence
occurred, it w ould take place during the
evening dem onstration scheduled for 8 pm
on C astro S treet At the beginning o f that
rally, however, protest organizer Donald
M ontw ill declared the evening a tim e of
celebration. Standing before a huge hand-
painted banner splattered with red paint that
read “He G ot Away W ith Murder,” M ontwill
congratulated the crowd o f 9000, “ We have
bro u g h t this incident into the forefront of
th in kin g in this city. This part o f our history
m ust always be rem em bered. We celebrate
o u r ability to rem em ber and to protest We
w ill not give up our power to do so."
Cleve Jones, an activist who led the first
m em orial m arch five years ago, told the
crow d, "D an W hite’s bullets were m eant for
you and fo r me. They were aim ed at a m ove­
m ent and a dream — and they missed!"
O ther speakers included a gay activist from
Ireland, a Puerto Rican fem inist, popular
singer Blackberri — who rem inded the as­
sem bled m edia that people o f color were aiso
am ong the protestors — and the new wave
g ro u p The Dead Kennedys. Sister Boom
B oom reiterated his message from the noon
rally and concluded, “Dan W hite, rem em ber
this is 1984, and Big Sister is watching !”
Finally, at 10:30 pm the crowd dispersed,
Dan W hite was burned in effigy, and Castro
Street was opened to traffic.
San Franciscans were not alone in their
Foundation created
to stamp out
A foundation, nam ed after com edian
E ddie M urphy, has been form ed to cure the
dangerous disease o f hom ophobia. The
fou nd atio n was nam ed after M urphy since he
ju stifie d a six-m inute attack on gay people
because he is afraid o f contracting AIDS from
grilfrie n d s w ho “ hang ou t w ith gay people.”
The verbal attacks were parts o f a Colum bia
record album and an HBO television program.
The Eddie M urphy’s Disease Foundation
stated, “ Yes, Eddie Murphy, like m illions of
his friends, suffers fro m hom ophobia: an irra­
tio n a l and uncontrollable fear o f hom o­
sexuality. Too m any people are confusing
hom ophobia w ith other diseases, like hem o­
philia, so from now on let’s just call it Eddie
M urphy’s Disease.”
The Eddie M urphy’s Disease Foundation
advocates a letter w riting cam paign to
C olum bia Records and HBO to protest
M urphy’s anti-gay jokes and let them know
th a t M urphy's “ faggot jokes" are as unac­
ceptable as a w hite com edian telling “ nigger
jokes.” They also suggest returning the al­
bu m o r video disk if buyers find it offensive.
And, the foundation wants people to spread
the w ord. “ You d o n ’t have to be black to help
protests. W hen m idday news reports told of
W hite’s release w ithin the city lim its o f Los
Angeles, residents o f that city — gay and
nongay alike — reacted an grily to the pre­
sence o f the convicted assassin in their com ­
m unity. W hite w ill serve o u t his one year of
parole in Los Angeles under the scrutiny of
parole officers. D uring that tim e period,
W hite is barred fro m visiting San Francisco.
A fter the one year, he is free to live as he
The focus o f attention w asn’t on W hite
alone on January 6th. F o r many, W hite is an
u n im p o rta n t figure w ho sym bolizes the in ­
adequacies and injustices o f the judicial and
p o litica l systems. M uch o f the protest was
directed at those in pow er w ho perpetrate
these perceived injustices. F o r many, gay and
nongay alike, the assassinations and the trial
verdict underscored the problem atic nature
o f the ju d ica l system. W hite’s release simply
focused attention once again on the issues of
ju stice and power in this country.
The intent o f the day o f protest was just
that: to protest an injustice. In a sense, there
was nothing m ore to be done. The assassina­
tions, the trial, the sentence, the political
m aneuvers had all been played o u t And the
con clusio n rem ained the same: Dan White
w ould be free. Many dem onstrators expres­
sed the belief that the very least they could do
was to protest and the ensure that at least on
th is one day business w ould not go on as
Lesbian/gay pavilion
at New Orleans
World's Fair
E ddie M urphy: new sym bol fo r hom ophobia.
Photo courtesy o f Django Records.
stam p out racism . You do n’t have to be gay to
help elim inate Eddie M urphy’s Disease.”
M urphy said on the HBO special, “ I’m
afraid o f gay people. Petrified. I have night­
m ares about gay people." And M urphy also
said that, during his perform ances, he tries to
avoid the "faggot section” o f his audiences
because “ faggots aren’t allowed to look at m y
ass when I’m on stage.”
The Foundation is distributing bum per
stickers w hich read, “ Eddie M urphy’s
Disease can be cured!” To get one, send a
self-address, stam ped envelope to The
E ddie M urphy’s Disease Foundation, Box
691585, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
The C rescent C ity C oalition o f New
O rleans are planning to open a gay/lesbian
pavilion in con jun ction w ith the 1984 W orld s
Fair, scheduled to run fro m May 16 to
S eptem ber 16 in the Louisiana city.
Roger Nelson, a m em ber o f the coalition,
firs t conceived o f the idea to set up a pavilion
in the French Q uarter, w hich cou ld later be
converted to a gay co m m u n ity center. The
co a litio n later adopted the idea as a group
p ro je c t calling the pavilion “ Stonewall + 15.
The C rescent C ity C oalition has leased a
17,000 square fo o t b u ild in g to house exhibi­
tions, “ illustrating o u r lifestyles and reflecting
the best o f gay people, illu m in a tin g our past
p re se n t and o u r expectations fo r the future,
acco rdin g to Nelson.
The C oalition is so licitin g ideas and mate­
rial fro m gay m en and lesbians across the
co u n try fo r inclusion in the e x h ib it For infor­
m ation: C rescent C ity C oalition, 720 Kerlerec
S t, New O rleans, LA 70116.