Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Rallies, parties planned for Milk Day


Tommi Avicolli Mecca is one of the organizers for the Sidewalks are for People rally on Harvey Milk Day. (Photo: Rick Gerharter)
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San Franciscans will have numerous options to mark the state's second annual Harvey Milk Day, as various rallies and parties are planned for next weekend to celebrate the life of the gay icon.

Fittingly, for Milk was not only a community activist and organizer but also liked a good party, the events range from the political, such as a "queen in" in the Castro in defiance of the city's sit/lie law, to the entertaining; a comedy and burlesque fundraiser at El Rio will benefit the Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center.

This year's Milk Day will take place Sunday, May 22 and coincides with the birthday of the late San Francisco supervisor, who became the first out politician in California when he won election in November 1977. Milk died a year later along with then-Mayor George Moscone after being shot inside City Hall by former Supervisor Dan White.

City leaders and the Harvey Milk Foundation are hosting a rally that day from 1 to 2 p.m. at Jane Warner Plaza, at the intersection of 17th and Castro streets. Speakers include Mayor Ed Lee and several local out politicians as well as Milk's family and friends.

Immediately following will be a march down to 575 Castro Street, the site of Milk's campaign headquarters and camera store.

Also that Sunday across the street in Harvey Milk Plaza will be a demonstration from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. against the city's new law banning people from sitting on the sidewalks during the day and early evening hours. The group QUEEN – Queers for Economic Equality Now – is hosting the event to mark Sidewalks are for People Day.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca, one of the organizers, said it was a fitting tie-in to Milk Day, as Milk opposed a similar sidewalk measure during his day. In another homage to Milk, there will be a soapbox for people to stand on and address the crowd similar to the one Milk used to deliver speeches at the same spot during the 1970s.

"We are calling it a 'queen in.' We are going to be hanging out in the plaza," said Avicolli Mecca, a gay housing rights activist. "We are going to do what Harvey used to do and have people get up on a soapbox and talk about whatever they want."

It is not being billed as a protest but more as an outdoor party. Organizers are encouraging people to bring games to play and have invited musicians to perform.

"It is not a protest, it is like a be-in. We want people to use the space," said Avicolli Mecca. "The idea is to have fun. We are not there to be heavy duty political people."

Nor are the two different Milk Day events meant to be dueling rallies, said Avicolli Mecca, noting that the "queen in" participants plan to march to Milk's old camera space when the city event begins.

"We have no intentions of confronting anybody. It is Harvey Milk Day; we don't want to confront," said Mecca. "We are not trying to aggravate them or be in their way and disrupt them. We are doing our thing."

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose office has helped spearhead the city celebration, said he was not concerned about having two different events competing for people's attention that day.

"No one has a monopoly on celebrating the holiday," said Wiener, whose seat is considered to be the one Milk represented, although the men's districts looked vastly different. "It would make sense people plan different things. I wish them the best in their celebration of Harvey Milk Day."

The QUEEN group does plan to protest the Human Rights Campaign renting Milk's old camera shop for its store and action center. The national LGBT rights group has said it plans to officially celebrate its opening in the storefront that day but has yet to release any details about its plans.

"We will address some issues we have with HRC. It is all going to be peaceful," said Avicolli Mecca.

AT 7 p.m. the evening of the 22nd, El Rio in the Mission will host the LYRIC fundraiser. Organized by queer comic Simone Campbell, the show will feature a host of entertainers and performers, including Dottie Lux, Alotta Boutte, Isis Starr, Scott the Blue Bunny, and comics David Hawkins and Natasha Muse. A screening of the documentary The Times of Harvey Milk will follow the performances.

"I think it is important as an out queer performer in San Francisco to celebrate Milk Day. I felt I had to do something," said Campbell. "I hope people come and bring their friends to come have a great time."

The club is located at 3158 Mission Street at Cesar Chavez. Entrance costs $10 at the door.

The Milk foundation scrapped plans to host its own fundraiser in the city Sunday night. And Campbell said the foundation turned down her offer to partner with her on the El Rio event.

"I don't know if they are doing something. I brought this to the table; they opted out, I guess," she said.

According to its website at, San Francisco is listed as hosting the foundation's "signature event to celebrate Harvey Milk Day" this year. But as of Tuesday, there was no information about what that event may entail.

A spokesman for the foundation told the B.A.R. this week that the organization's "signature event" would be the city rally and march to Milk's old storefront. Stuart Milk, Milk's openly gay nephew who founded the Milk foundation, plans to be at the event.

"At this point, the foundation decided to just focus all efforts behind the public rally," said Justin Knighten, of Sacramento-based Lucas Public Affairs, who is handling PR for the foundation.

As the B.A.R. reported last month, the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy is reprising its Milk Day outdoor carnival and "Hotcakes for Harvey" breakfast fundraiser from last year. But the celebration of the school's namesake will take place Saturday, May 21.

In addition to a street fair for children and families along 19th Street in front of Collingwood Park, the school is also hosting an informational fair that day for the LGBT community and educators from around the Bay Area interested in learning more about issues around equity and social justice.

Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy group, has released more specifics about its local Milk Day events. It is sponsoring a 1970s-themed dance from 8 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Saturday, May 21 at the Lookout in the Castro at the corner of Market and Noe streets. The nightclub is donating a portion of its drink sales that evening to EQCA.

The night of Thursday, May 24 EQCA is partnering with Microsoft at its Mountain View campus for a meet-and-greet fundraiser. Tickets for the 6 to 8 p.m. event cost $40 a person; for more information visit

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