Thirty eight years ago today, Harvey Milk and George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, leaving our city in chaos and grief. The loss of Harvey’s leadership is still felt deeply by the LGBT progressive community, and often people pose the question of what would Harvey do?
While it’s uncertain to both of us what Harvey would do, the spirited, populist, brashly progressive approach that Harvey took continues to inspire the LGBT community in San Francisco and beyond. In the 1970s, during uncertain times rife with anti-gay sentiment and amid a rising tide of discrimination against gay people across the country, Harvey took to the pulpit. He seized the bull horn. He woke us up.
Like you, we awoke the morning of Nov. 9 to find that the country we thought we lived in — a country on its way towards realizing the ideals of liberty and justice for all — had apparently vanished overnight, dissolving into darkness. For many, the darkness in which we find ourselves seems new and terrifying, for others a final confirmation of familiar suspicions. The president-elect has already been busy making real his dark vision, appointing racists, anti-immigrant, anti-worker, climate denying crusaders to the highest positions of power. And we now face an uncertain prospect — what shall we do?
Our proposal is simple: We stop, center ourselves in both hope and love, and reach down deep to the core of our social power — our connection to each other. There can be no doubt that, were our political system truly responsive to the needs and desires of its people, then the election would have ended differently. Now, it seems, the system is set on an inevitable course that would put corporate profit over human need, and pit neighbor against neighbor. Neither our country, nor our planet, can afford to allow that to happen.
Harvey Milk refused to acquiesce to the status quo. Amidst the progress and the setbacks of the 1977 election, he called on the LGBT community to “break down the walls and the barriers so the movement to the left continues and progress continues in the nation.”
We are heeding Harvey’s call to action and believe that San Francisco must be at the forefront of the continued movement to the left. Whether within our local Democratic Party or in our community grassroots organizing, we need to break down barriers and ensure that we are working together toward progress for all. If we are going to lead the way, we need determined and bold action in our policy, politics and daily lives. Which is why we are encouraging our fellow LGBT citizens and allies to join us in a nationwide general strike and mass day of action on Jan. 20.
The general strike has a long history of changing the tide in desperate times of need. After strikes in multiple cities in 1934, Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act, first recognizing the fundamental right of workers to join together to work for their mutual benefit. This year, millions of workers in India have engaged in the largest General Strike in history, seeking to advance their own mutual interests against the power of elites.
On Jan. 20, 2017, as federal power is handed to the Trump Administration, shall we slog away at work and school, pretending that it is not happening? Instead, let’s come together in our streets and towns and join in love with our neighbors, our children and elders, in peaceful protest, to talk, to share and break bread in communion with each other.
Tonight members of the LGBT community are gathering in the Castro at 6:30 p.m. at Harvey Milk Plaza to honor Harvey’s life. Join us tonight on the streets, and join us in January when citizens across the country
rise up to say that he is not our
Peter Gallotta is president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club. Gabriel Haaland is former president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club.