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Crowd gathers in San Francisco Castro District to celebrate Harvey Milk Day

Castro crowd celebrates life of Harvey Milk on Sunday
Castro crowd celebrates life of Harvey Milk on Sunday 02:13

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- A celebration of Harvey Milk Day in the Castro on Sunday acknowledged the progress made decades after his work as a city supervisor.

"I think it's important to remember our history and the people who participated and made our history," said Gwenn Craig, a speaker at the event and friend of Milk who worked with him on campaigns. "We thought we had defeated these forces and they're back with the same messages we thought we had put a rest to."

May 22 is Harvey Milk Day in California, the birthday of the first openly-gay man elected to public office in the state. He was killed in 1978 and would have turned 92 this year. 

"It's so important for us to remember the words of Harvey Milk, 'hope will never be silent,'" said Jeffrey Kwong,  vice president of Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club. "We're gearing up for Pride. I know Harvey marched in Pride and launched many of his campaigns on Pride Month so we want to have that celebration and have that activism at the same time."

The event in the Castro District featured friends of Milk like Craig who spoke to a crowd gathered at Market and Castro streets along with local elected officials who are members of the LGBT community.

Almost all of them brought up a variety of current political issues including a law in Florida that limits what can be taught in the classroom regarding sexual orientation and gender identity for certain grades. They expressed anger at other attempts to target transgender youth. 

"I think that every era had its challenges, you know? Back then it was really about visibility," said Ryan Jones, co-owner of Hot Cookie, which has a store on Castro Street. "It kind of does feel a little right now like we've taken four steps forward and now we're taking a huge step back in terms of civil rights and recognition of the different needs in different communities."

Jones says it is frustrating because it felt like acceptance was on the rise before a recent change in political moves to set back LGBT equality. He and his company still want the day to be a celebration. On Sunday, Hot Cookie named one of its most popular items after Harvey Milk. 

"The whole concept of democracy and the constitution is to protect the rights of the minority not the majority," Milk said in an interview. His words were a source of inspiration in the Castro and his friends believe celebrating his life is another way to continue the fight. 

"In solidarity, I think there is strength, I think when we come together then we can feel the unity that makes us feel hopeful," Craig said.


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