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, "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, "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."
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