SAN FRANCISCO -- Among dozens of mourners who showed up at Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro District Sunday night for the annual vigil marking the pioneering gay rights leader's assassination were people who knew the supervisor personally.
"We have to always remember what has happened in the past so that, hopefully, we can look forward to a future where it will not happen again," civil rights activist Carol Ruth Silver told the crowd.
Silver, now 84, was a San Francisco supervisor and friend of Harvey Milk. They were both elected in 1977.
Milk and Mayor George Moscone were shot dead on this date in 1978 by Dan White, who had recently resigned his position as supervisor then asked to be reinstated. He became angry when Mayor Moscone refused his request and he blamed Milk for opposing reappointment.
"Forty-four years. It's time to stop crying and say 'what have you done?' I have done lots of things in Harvey's name. I was on the Board of Supervisors for another 11 years after he died and I protected as much as I could the things that he had been interested in," Silver said.
Milk was the first openly-gay elected official in California and one of the first in the United States.
Silver has continued Milk's work fighting for LGBT rights.
"He stood for allowing gay people, lesbians, trans, bisexual, people who were sexual minorities. That's a term that didn't even exist when Harvey was alive," Silver said. "People who were that kind of different, giving them the right to be and to exist."
Sunday's vigil also honored the five people slain in the recent mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs.
Silver has attended almost all of the vigils in remembrance of Milk and Moscone over the past four decades.
She said that, on the day of the assassinations, she was having a breakfast meeting with a political supporter who insisted on having just a bit more coffee.
"I often say a half a cup of coffee saved my life because my office was right next to Harvey's and had Dan White shot Harvey first -- he shot George then he came over he shot Harvey -- and we learned later that he had a list and I was on the list. Willie Brown was on the list," Silver said.
"What Harvey told us back in the 70s was that we could confront the hate and ignorance by coming out," Gwenn Craig told the crowd. "'Come out' was his strong message."
Craig, a friend of Milk who worked with him on campaigns, was among several speakers.
Silver said she will always remember Milk's humor.
"As a friend he was always very funny. He was a comic. He used to come to my house -- 'course my kids were there -- I have two sons and they were little kids and he would joke with them and play with them," Silver said. "He was just a nice, nice, person."
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