Speeches, protests mark Harvey Milk Day
by Matthew S. Bajko
This year's observations of the second annual Harvey Milk Day in the Castro brought out a number of the celebrated gay politician's friends and former City Hall aides to honor his legacy.
It also drew a number of protesters to the city's gayborhood, from nudists and hotel workers to demonstrators opposed to the city's sit/lie law and Uganda's notorious anti-homosexuality bill.
"It is Harvey Milk's birthday. It is appropriate to speak out and have a presence," said Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who helped organize a sit down at Harvey Milk Plaza Sunday, May 22 against the newly enacted ordinance prohibiting people from obstructing city sidewalks during certain hours.
A few male nudists also showed up, continuing their ongoing attempt to bring attention to their cause. Others took part in a die-in to oppose the Uganda bill that would, among other penalties, legalize the execution of homosexuals.
Members of Unite Here Local 2 passed out fliers demanding that the Human Rights Campaign downgrade its ranking of Hyatt Hotels on its annual corporate equality index. The hotel employees have been in a years-long contract dispute with the hotel chain, whose properties in San Francisco are the focus of a boycott.
The workplace dispute tied into a push Avicolli Mecca and other LGBT leaders have embarked on to make economic justice issues a larger focus within LGBT circles.
"Economic justice was important to [Milk.] It is why so many flock to his banner," said labor organizer and transgender activist Gabriel Haaland, who brought his dog Lucky to the plaza protest.
Across the street at the official city ceremony at Jane Warner Plaza, speakers also stressed that Milk was not a single-issue politician.
"It is important to remember he was one of us. It is also important to remember he was part of the movement, the larger movement," said Cleve Jones, a labor and AIDS activist who helped elect Milk in 1977.
The day also saw the opening of the Trevor Project's Harvey Milk Call Center inside the HRC store and action center located where Milk had
Also found inside the HRC store is a number of Milk-branded items. Tags on the merchandise, which include $59.50 zippered track jackets and $25 T-shirts, say that 20 percent of the purchase price will be donated to the Castro's Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy and 20 percent will go to the Harvey B. Milk Foundation.