Mantra from the Milk/Moscone memorial march: "Fight back!"

Activists march from the Castro to City Hall.
Luke Thomas

Hundreds of activists and progressive San Franciscans marked the 35th anniversary of the Mayor George Moscone and Sup. Harvey Milk assassinations on Wednesday night in the Castro with fiery speeches urging the crowd to “fight back!” against displacement and gentrification, conjuring the words and spirit of those slain leftist leaders.

“Gotta have hope just to stay alive,” the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus sang of Milk and his message on the 35th anniversary of that chorus’ first performance, on the steps of City Hall on the day of the tragedy, belting out the refrain, “Gotta give ‘em hope.”

Despite the onslaught of evictions triggered by real estate speculators and the city’s current economic development policies, such as the tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks extended to Twitter alone, the defiant message from this podium did have an undercurrent of hope.

But that hope was predicated on people’s willingness to organize and engage in “a fight they started,” Tom Temprano, president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, said of Milk and Moscone, “a fight against gentrification and displacement.”

Yet Temprano also said that people have to feel stable and secure to really have hope: “You can’t have hope without a roof over your head. You can’t have hope without affordable housing. And that’s why we’re marching today.”

Temprano then played an old news clip of Milk talking about his own eviction from the camera store and apartment where he lived on Castro Street, the result of similar economic forces that are overtaking the city today.

Milk explained how San Francisco’s economy relies on local residents being able to earn a living wage and not pay too much of their incomes in rents. But when landlords gouge their tenants, they have less to spend in local businesses, “and sooner or later, that’s going to crunch the economy locally.”

One of the more fiery speeches of the evening came from Brian Basinger of the AIDS Housing Alliance, who used one of Milk’s signature lines when he said, “I’m Brian Basinger and I’m here to recruit you. I’m here to recruit you into a movement for housing justice that goes back decades.”

He cited the recent successes of that movement, from suing to stop CitiApartments from abusing and exploiting its tenants to stopping the 8 Washington luxury condo project when the voters overwhelmingly defeated Props. B&C this month.

“Housing rights are human rights,” Basinger said.

Housing activist Tony Robles, a board member of the Manilatown Heritage Foundation, recalled being a student at Mission High School when the news of the assassinations was announced, an event that profoundly affected him. He said they represented “the spirit of community and the spirit of fighting for what is right.”

Robles called out Sup. Scott Wiener, a Milk successor representing the Castro, calling Wiener unworthy of that legacy, citing Wiener’s legislation allowing more apartments to be converted to condos and with closing the parks at night. “You were no Harvey Milk when you made that move, brother,” Robles said, closing with this hope: “Let the poetry of Harvey Milk’s struggle live on in the streets of San Francisco.”

Wiener and other politicians, including Mayor Ed Lee, Sen. Mark Leno, Board President David Chiu, and state Democratic Party head John Burton, spoke earlier in the day at a City Hall memorial. But they pointedly weren’t invited to the more raucous evening event (although Sup. David Campos, whose Assembly race against Chiu the Milk Club has endorsed, did show up to offer his silent support).

“Fuck you, we are staying!” was the message Shannell Williams, a San Francisco native and a rising young activist who came from the Save City College movement, had for city’s landlords and those who say low and middle income earners should just move to Oakland.

She and others recalled the message of love and inclusion that were hallmarks of Milk and Moscone’s political philosophy, as well as their belief in building coalitions to defeat powerful economic interests.

Tommi Avicolli Mecca of the SF Housing Rights Committee cited recent successes the movement has had in fighting back against evictions and said, “It’s because of the power we have as tenants when we unite and we fight back.”

He said that was Milk’s central message: “If we unite and fight, we can win.” And Mecca said San Francisco “doesn’t belong to greedy landlords, it belongs to all of us.”

Cleve Jones, an longtime LGBT activist who was an intern for Milk at the time of the assassinations, noted that, “There are some who will question our desire to raise political points tonight,” recognizing this occasion has usually been a solemn memorial march.

But he said that using this occasion as a vehicle for political organizing is the best way to honor the legacy of Milk and Moscone, who Jones said would be appalled by what’s happening in this city. Jones told the story of an aging gay activist who was recently depressed about being displaced from the city, and Jones tried to comfort him by saying, “It’s hard to get old in this town and see all the changes.”

It didn’t help: Days later, Jones said his friend committed suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge.

“It’s not rhetoric and it’s not hyperbole. This destroys lives,” Jones said. It was a message repeated on a large banner carried by those leading the march to City Hall, which read, “Eviction=Death.”

The rally was closed out by members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who cited a long list of “weird, kooky artistic innovators” from San Francisco’s past, and said that, “They never could have afforded to live here today.”

Then the Sisters offered an invocation they called the “Rosary of Housing Evils,” asking the crowd to repeat the mantra “Save us from the speculators” between each of their prayers and observations for the city, which included:

“Harvey Milk was evicted from his home.”

“Extend rent control to all residential and commercial units.”

“Forty percent of queer seniors cannot afford their rents.”

“Rent has risen 21 percent this year.”

“We all need to stay together or they’ll pick us off one by one.”








"triggered" evictions but you have not offered a shred of evidence that even one single eviction is linked to or caused by that in any way.

It's just wild speculation. The reality is that many people who are living here should not be, but rather should be in other and much cheaper parts of the Bay Area.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

There isn't any such claim in this article.

Posted by Eric on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 2:38 pm

"Despite the onslaught of evictions triggered by real estate speculators and the city’s current economic development policies, such as the tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks extended to Twitter alone . . "

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

Oakland is really not that bad! And it's only getting better as more an more fantastic people move here.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

Why are we subsidizing the rent of people who would probably be happier just 10 minutes away in Oakland?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 2:40 pm

for the most part.

I forget which one demonstrated such a lack of knowledge about the City which anyone who'd lived here even a short time would have; i.e. not referring to Bart as "the Bart" -- but to the extent that the above "Guest" *is* a city resident, his/her presence here makes the ratio being posited more true just by virtue of the fact.

*real lillipublicans or imp? Reader must decide.

Posted by lillipublicans* on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

about whether one anonymous poster here may or may not be the same as some other anonymous poster here?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

should not be directed at trying to retain people in SF who require large subsidies to do so?

Especially when other, cheaper options are available so nearby?

Posted by anon on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 4:42 pm

Rent control isn't a subsidy, it is simply the people through their government limiting how much profit landlords can take from people who need housing. But for the city to decide Twitter and other favored business should be paying lower tax rates than other businesses, that is a subsidy, even though such corporate welfare initiatives get lauded by you neocon trolls, who have things backward. Nobody has a right to make obscene profits from property, but people do have a right to be secure in their homes, even if they rent.

Posted by Steven T. Jones on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 7:20 pm

enumerated in the constitution Steven?

Posted by The Goebblin Love Child of Smaug on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 8:06 pm

He didn't say "constitutional right" you idiot. Damn, you're thick.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 12:09 am
Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 7:03 am

There is of course no constitutional right to cheap rent or to subsidies. There is no constitutional right to rent control. The key question is always when an attempt to control rents becomes unconstitutional as a "taking".

Many States either have constitutions that forbid control of rents or have passed laws banning it. That's the situation in at least 30 States.

And SF's own experience is that several additions to rent control have either been rejected by the courts or outlawed by state laws such as Ellis and Costa-Hawkins.

Steven claims that rent control is not a subsidy, but of course he is totally wrong. There is a subsidy, which is the discount to the real rent. And that subsidy comes from the property owner and not the government. But it is still a subsidy.

Steven is also wrong when he states that rent control is about limiting the landlord profit. Computation of the LL's profit never figures in the allowable rent, except in some narrowly-defined cases involving petitions to the rent board.

This is easily proven. When a building is sold, the new owner typically has far higher costs than the seller, due to a bigger mortgage and a property tax cost basis reset. And yet the rent cannot be raised.

I'd actually prefer it if Steven was correct, and a LL can set a rent to give him a mandated minimum ROI. But that is not the current situation - Steven is mistaken.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 7:51 am

The Fourth Amendment specifically recognizes "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses," and it draws from a long philosophical line of recognizing people's right to shelter, which is a far superior right to an investor's ROI. Landlords have had their due process, and rent control is the law of this land. The rights to profit from property isn't inalienable, particulalry when it clashes with other social obligations.

Posted by steven on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 6:47 pm

The 4th relates directly to the experience of the colonists under the crown, which conducted house-to-house searches without warrants. I don't know of any case anywhere in the US in which the 4th has been used to justify the usurpation of private property rights.

Posted by The Goebblin Love Child of Smaug on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 7:12 pm

action on the basis of the 4th amendment?

You only have the "right to be secure in your home" is that tenure does not constitute a "taking" of property rights, and rent control has often been limited for exactly that reason.

And that is why we have the Ellis Act.

Posted by anon on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 7:13 pm

Why are we trying to retain those people in SF when they require large subsidies? Why can't they move to a business park in Brisbane?

I agree entirely.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Dec. 01, 2013 @ 8:53 am

What you are calling a "subsidy" is really just a reduction in what is still a very high contribution of taxes.

Contrast that with a low-rent tenant who contributes nothing to the city, and probably consumes expensive city services, as well as getting a direct and mandated handout from his landlord every month to stay in a place that he cannot afford.

Property owners who are compelled to sell something for far less than it is worth, will inevitably find that he has no choice but to exit the business via an Ellis eviction.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 01, 2013 @ 9:12 am

You want them to move?. NO you move you stinking bum.....Tracy, Stockton or Manteca... they all welcome you.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

FUCK YOU. How dare some transplant like yourself say that I should leave my home because I'm choosing to be a goddamn TEACHER. And how dare you think ANY of my friends who were born and raised in this city move to another one. WHO DO YOU THINK POURS YOUR COFFEE?? Do you think WE should commute every day in order to work our low paying jobs? What exact benefit do you provide to the city, like specifically?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

He just said that you probably cannot afford to stay.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

Support efforts to build more housing. It is as simple as that. The only solution to fix a shortage is to make more of what you need.

The vast majority of San Franciscans support me (and Scott Wiener) here, which is why he will be the next Mayor of San Francisco.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

unless they are "affordable". People like Marcos erroneously believe that building any new market-rate housing is somehow bad, even though it is intuitively obvious to most people that any new supply that soaks up demand helps relieve the pressure.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 5:13 pm

More housing requires more WATER... that is drying up forget it...

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

If you get the hell out of town, I will gladly pour my own coffee

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 4:46 pm

San Francisco snobbery is precisely what feeds the insatiable housing demand and ridiculous prices.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 3:02 pm

should not possibly be asked to live in Oakland. But that they should get handouts and protections so they cans stay in SF.

People who cannot afford Manhattan, live in Brooklyn or New Jersey.

People who cannot afford Beverly Hills live in West Hollywood or Burbank.

People who cannot afford La Jolla, live in San Diego.

People who cannot afford Central London live south of the river or in the home counties.

So why should people who cannot afford to live in SF not make similar decisions? And move to the East Bay?

Posted by anon on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

They should all move to Oakland, every last one.

Don't they know it's only 10 minutes away on BART? Why don't they pay attention, I've only repeated myself here 40,000 times.

And take their bicycles, weird food, outlandish politics and bad art with 'em.

Everybody must hop on the Oakland bandwagon now!!!!

Posted by guestorino on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 8:04 pm

nobody has yet refuted it.

I'm sure if an adequate argument against it is ever made, he will withdraw it, but so far nobody has managed to debunk the idea.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 7:04 am

Meanwhile back in the real world.....

Posted by Ed Dunkle on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 3:55 pm

The question is when you will be joining them.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

How do you know I'm not living in Oakland already and just showing up on this forum to make fun of you?

Posted by Ranger Rick on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

should be. Your sense of "fun" is certainly commensurate with that territory.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

Gosh I don't know if I should be pleased or offended.

Your wit is awe inspiring, Guest

Posted by Mason Washington on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 6:31 pm

Even if it was a soft pitch.

Posted by anon on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

I am pretty everyone has already moved to Oakland and that there are no actual human beings left in San Francisco. The SFBG is going to rename itself to be the OBG next issue.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 5:53 pm

"newspaper" anyway. If they focuses less on SF and more on the BA, they would see that many of these problems will go away.

It's very possible that the population of SF will decline as it becomes more expensive, while the EB, with its unlimited land and cheaper prices, will grow.

No problem.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 6:25 pm

There are no "handouts" being given if a tenant is paying the agreed upon rent on time. It's the landlord's responsibility to determine what they need to charge. It's also their responsibility to understand that local laws will make owning a rent controlled building a complicated and risky business venture. If they can't handle it, then they should get out of the business entirely or work towards convincing San Francisco voters that the rent control laws need to be changed or repealed entirely. Taking public cheap shots at RC tenants by implying that most are just lazy moochers won't do much to advance their cause.

If you want to have a discussion about the market distortions and other problems created by rent control, go ahead and make an argument. Smearing the tenants that live in these buildings and making overly simplistic comparisons to other parts of the country isn't an effective way to make your point though. You don't have the authority to dictate where everybody should and shouldn't live in the Bay Area.

Posted by Yo on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

get out of the rental business, as you say.

But what all these tenant activists are whining about here is exactly that - the LL gets out of the rental business by invoking the Ellis Act. And that is the issue here.

The problem, if you listen to the whiners, isn't rent control but rather the fact that LL's have a way out. Apparently they want LL's to be trapped with a lifetime obligation, just so a few people who cannot afford to be in SF can stay here.

And I have to ask why that is so important. As noted, they could move to Oakland. I'm not telling them that they have to, only that that is a better option than demanding lifetime leases at a discount.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

a rent that is less than market. It's not a handout in the normal sense of the word, i.e. the government throwing welfare at people. But it is a transfer of wealth from a provider of a service to the consumer of that service.

It's as if everything you buy is frozen in price at some point in time, thereby punishing the vendor who can no longer match increases in his costs and his obligations with an inflation-linked cashflow.

That's why landlords are bailing the business in every increasing numbers, leading to wholesale evictions. Tenants went too far and killed the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Posted by anon on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 6:37 pm


1. something given free to a needy person or organization.

This clearly doesn't apply to a gainfully employed tenant paying a landlord rent. I do agree that rent control represents a subsidy though.

"It's as if everything you buy is frozen in price at some point in time, thereby punishing the vendor who can no longer match increases in his costs and his obligations with an inflation-linked cash-flow."

Yeah, I get that. What I don't get is why I should feel bad for the landlords who recognize this, willingly accept the risk, and then blame everybody else when their investment doesn't work out. Maybe instead of pointing fingers, some of them can put their energy towards coming up with a way to sell voters on the idea of repealing rent control. It could be more productive than bashing tenants and telling everybody to move to Oakland.

Posted by Yo on Nov. 30, 2013 @ 8:31 pm

We are asking you to understand why they choose to Ellis evict and quit the business.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

The Ellis act is the law and it's lazy greedy rent controlled tenants who are having the problem, when property owners use it to assert their rights to their property. Yes rent control is the law in SF , but the Ellis act is the law in all of California.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 5:24 pm

"The reality is that many people who are living here should not be, but rather should be in other and much cheaper parts of the Bay Area."

Who the hell are you to say that these people should not be living here? You do realize that many of the people being priced out of San Francisco are natives, right? That have families that have been here for generations?

Also, "cheaper parts of the Bay Area" where the hell is that? Portland?

Also, as pointed out by Harvey Milk himself, when rents keep getting higher, that leaves less and less disposable income for everyone left behind. That causes businesses to raise prices. Then businesses either close because customers can't afford to shop there anymore, and/or because the businesses can't afford their higher rent. Just as Harvey Milk had to close his original shop in the Castro when he got a demand for a three-hundred-percent increase on his rent. This kind of speculation KILLS cities.

I'm an older software engineer myself, and the apathy, arrogance, and selfishness displayed by most of the people in my profession in this city disgust and shame me. I marched that night, and I intend to get much more involved in trying to keep San Francisco alive as a beacon to the rest of the world.

Posted by Eric on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 2:37 pm

He was questioning why taxpayers' money, or the money of SF property owners, should be used to subsidize people who lack the skills and earning ability to sustain a life in a very expensive and desirable place.

In SoCal, the people who cannot afford to live in Beverly Hills live in the cheaper neighborhoods around it. Why should the Bay Area be any different.

And yes, surrounding cities and counties are cheaper. Maybe not some part of the Peninsula or Marin, but certainly cast tracts of the East Bay, including most obviously Oakland where rents and home prices are about half the SF level, and which has excellent communications and transit everywhere.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 2:44 pm

Why don't you tell us what Jesus would to do.....and Stalin while your at it.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 05, 2013 @ 5:28 pm

"But they pointedly weren’t invited to the more raucous evening event..."

1. I believe *no* politicians where invited to speak, to make sure that the event could not be used to further anyone's political career.

2. You don't need to be invited to attend, but not speak. It was a public event. In fact, Weiner specifically told reporters that he planned to attend the march. I hope he did, so he could hear what his district and others in the city really think of him. He's marching his way to higher office on all of our backs, modelling his career on DiFi, and destroying the city in the process.

Posted by Eric on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

his district? Most of my neighbors love him.

Absent any polls, you can only infer his popularity from talking to people who know. It's possible that if you are a left-winger who rents, most of the people you know are in the same boat, and there is groupthink going on.

Ask a group of homeowners, professionals or retirees, and you might get a very different perspective.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

I friggin love Scott Weiner!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

"I friggin love Scott Weiner [sic] !

Yes I'm sure you do as pathetic as that is. One would hope you'd have higher standards. Yet another Wiener-bot who doesn't know how to spell their god's name, yet his name has been printed probably hundreds of times now since this conservative piece of work has been in office and you STILL haven't gotten it. Clearly you're not big on attention to detail (which probably includes details about his record which if I asked you about I'd get a blank stare from you). So that's the type of people he has as his rabid, angry, redneck, conservative supporters. Interesting.

It's Wiener. ("i" before the "e"). Work on it.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 29, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

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