White Night Riot — BLOG 47

Monday, May 21, 1979

white night riot

When Dan White was arrested, I thought he was toast: a slam-dunk First Degree premeditated murder verdict.

The jury came back this afternoon at 5:30 — guilty of manslaughter and the lightest sentence he could have received.

That’s what you hand down when somebody gets killed by mistake, negligence, or as the result of a sudden heat of passion.

Heat of passion — used to be what happened in those Catholic School yards fights where Dan White and I grew up. If somebody pissed you off, you just stood up and punched the guy in the mouth.

Maybe White felt a heat-of-passion for getting screwed around by Moscone …. but why did he climbed through a side window in City Hall to avoid the metal detectors that would have revealed he was armed?

The verdict pissed off a lot of people and opened the flood gates. Thousands of protestors descended upon Civic Center, so cops from all the district stations were summoned to quell the violence — but they were outnumbered.

More cops got hurt than protestors

Looks like Gain simply left a bunch of guys out there in front of City Hall to let people throw rocks at them and get hurt. A line of police cars parked on McAllister Street were set afire, and a three-hour pitch battle of hand-to-hand combat ensued between cops and demonstrators.

Radio cars burning in front of City Hall

Radio cars burning in front of City Hall

Looked like something out of World War II with flaming radio cars lighting up the night. Just a real bad scene, particularly when the cops retaliated going up to 18th and Castro to kick some ass and trash a gay bar.

Catholic Guilt

At times in the SFPD, I’ve thought a Guardian Angel watched over me. Tonight, I truly believe that. I was “watch off” — my regularly scheduled day off.

I saw the riot unfolding on TV and could easily have left home, driven to the station, and put on my uniform. Could have helped out in some way, but I didn’t.

I feel guilty about that, but it’s just not a good time.

The scars from tonight are going to take years, if not decades, to heal.