May 22, 1979 – White Night Riots – The Milk-Moscone Murder Trial Verdict
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May 22, 1979: The morning after the verdict in the trial of Dan White, accused murderer of San Francisco Supervisor and Gay Rights activist Harvey Milk. White, who was on trial for the murders of both Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, was given a verdict of Voluntary Manslaughter, rather than Murder as was expected. The verdict touched off a night of protest and violence, ripping through San Francisco, later to be dubbed The White Night Riots. Most felt the verdict was a slap in the face to the Gay community, and a return to the days of discrimination and homophobia, something the Gay community in San Francisco worked for years to get rid of. The murders were the result of Moscone’s refusal give White back the job he had resigned from. White shot Moscone four times. Reloaded his gun and shot Milk five times. The Jury agreed with the Defense argument that White was suffering from a Mental collapse and not guilty of premeditated murder. The Manslaughter verdict would see Dan White a free man within 5 years. And it was learning that detail of the verdict that brought some 4,000 protestors to City Hall and the riots that ensued.
Meanwhile, in another part of the country – John Spenkelink and Willie Darden were getting ready for their execution in Florida. Despite several last minute appeals for a stay, the Courts refused to hear the cases and the Electric Chair was getting ready. The executions, if carried out, would be the first in that state since 1964 and the first since Gary Gilmore’s execution by firing squad in 1977.
In Canada, it was Election Season and, like Britain, it was a matter of Liberals versus Conservatives. But it was looking more and more likely that Canada would give the balance of power to a small third party; the Socialist New Democrats in Parliamentary elections, slated for this day. Voters were going to the polls worried about Canada’s future as well as soaring inflation and the sinking value of the Canadian dollar.
And that’s just a little of what happened this May 22, 1979, as reported on The CBS World News Roundup.