Harvey Milk’s Medal of Freedom Sparks Protest—In San Francisco

by flickr user Stewf used under the Creative Commons licesnse

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


In Washington, no one blinked when President Obama chose Harvey Milk, the slain San Francisco councilman and gay rights activist, to receive the Medal of Freedom. But in San Francisco, one man did.  

His name is Randy Thomasson, and he heads the conservative policy watchdog Save California. On Wednesday, the group held a press conference outside San Francisco City Hall to protest the honor, spitting distance from where Milk was assasinated in 1978. Using a series of visual aids, Thomasson argued that the civil rights crusader was unfit for the nation’s highest civilian honor. 

“Is this for the Onion? Come on, this must be for the Onion,”  a casual observer announced to no one in particular.  

That pretty much sums it up. Of the 16 recipients of the Medal of Freedom today—among them Stephen Hawking and Sidney Poitier—perhaps none is more artificially controversial than Milk, whose life and work inspired last year’s Oscar-nominated film. Sure, California’s enjoyed it’s fair share ofreal gay controversy this past year (Prop 8, anyone?). But nothing stokes artificial controversy like TV news cameras. 

 

In a city where every third public building and charity breakfast is named for Milk, the conference was well attended by the local press. All in all, a half dozen showed up, along with a couple of photographers and another ten reporters, who flanked the camera-ready Thomasson and his posse. 

“I’m always curious who’s exercising their right to assembly,” said Steven Tritto, an observer who had stepped out to give his maltese Gusto a breather while he waited for a friend at a job interview. “And I’m always interested in who’s getting attention from the media.”

Others were less diplomatic. 

“They’re honoring a man. It’s just like honoring Caesar Chavez. Caeser wasn’t perfect,” said Dan Barber, a gay denizen of the city for more than 30 years. “Was Jesus Christ perfect?” 

 

In addition to protesting Milk’s Medal of Freedom, Thomasson is also fighting a proposed Harvey Milk Day in California schools, and the “sexual indoctrination of kindergarteners.” He told CBS and MSNBC that the president had made “a mistake” by honoring Milk, one he was anxious  that Gov. Arnold Shwarzenegger not repeat.

“Harvey Milk ‘Gay’ Day will rope school children into confusion,” he said, adding that honoring Milk in California’s public schools “would promote the homosexual-bisexual-transsexual agenda…to up to six million children.” 

Heaven forbid.  

THIS IS BIG FOR US.

And we won't beat around the bush: Our fundraising drive to finish our current budget on June 30 and start our new fiscal year on July 1 is lagging behind where we need it to be.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please consider joining your fellow readers with a donation to help make it all possible. Whether you can pitch in $5 or $500, it all matters.

If you're new to Mother Jones or aren't yet sold on supporting our nonprofit reporting, please take a moment to read Monika Bauerlein's post about our priorities after these chaotic several years, and why this relatively quiet moment is also an urgent one for our democracy and Mother Jones’ bottom line—and if you find it compelling, please join us.

payment methods

THIS IS BIG FOR US.

And we won't beat around the bush: Our fundraising drive to finish our current budget on June 30 and start our new fiscal year on July 1 is lagging behind where we need it to be.

If you value the reporting you get from Mother Jones and you can right now, please consider joining your fellow readers with a donation to help make it all possible. Whether you can pitch in $5 or $500, it all matters.

If you're new to Mother Jones or aren't yet sold on supporting our nonprofit reporting, please take a moment to read Monika Bauerlein's post about our priorities after these chaotic several years, and why this relatively quiet moment is also an urgent one for our democracy and Mother Jones’ bottom line—and if you find it compelling, please join us.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate