On Friday, a group rallied at City Hall in San Francisco in support of renaming San Francisco International Airport the Harvey Milk International Airpot in honor of the LGBT hero.
The legislation was proposed by Supervisor David Campos, and already has the support of four other Supervisors on the Board. It requires just one more vote to be placed on the ballot for voters to decide.
Speakers at the event included John O’Connor, Executive Director of Equality California, Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley, Co-founders of the NOH8 campaign, Rebecca Rolfe, Executive Director of the San Francisco LGBT Center, Earl Plante, CEO of San Francisco Pride, among others.
Those who were close to Harvey Milk during his life also spoke at the event, including his nephew Stuart Milk and Harvey’s campaign manager Anne Kronenberg.
Stuart Milk, who is also the co-founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, told 429Magazine that, “Harvey took bullets for this community and the city should have a symbol to recognize this.”
429Magazine also asked Stuart whether or not celebrating Milk this way would overlook other, less talked about LGBT activists and heroes.
“Others have been held on the shoulders of my uncle,” said Stuart. “His was a candidacy of the people. He was the one martyr, the one person who had the message to free our community.”
Reverend Elder Troy Perry of the Metropolitan Community Church, also in attendance at the rally, told 429Magazine, “The community will put our heels in on this and keep getting signatures. [Harvey] was our martyr. He paid the ultimate price for being himself – surely we can name this airport after an openly gay man.”
Former member president of the Harvey Milk Democratic Club told 429Magazine that he thinks “it’s really important for people to be remembered in proper ways so we can continue to open doors for people who are still feeling that pressure.”
One man who attended the rally had lived in San Francisco, just up the street from City Hall for the past 35 years. He was nearby when Milk was assassinated in 1978. When 429Magazine asked him how he felt during that time, he said “It was very sad, very very sad. Because we were fighting so hard for gay rights. People were so against us. Not like now, it’s so easy. People don’t appreciate it, young gay people. I’m not putting them down, it’s just so easy for them. It wasn’t easy for us.”
John O’Connor, Executive Director of Equality California, said “Harvey Milk is an inspiration. Think about what he did and that should inspire us to dream big.”
Adam Bouska, co-founder and photographer behind the viral N0H8 campaign, told 429Magazine that he believed, “it is important for us to recognize Harvey for what he did. He represents so much. So if they can give back even a little bit of what he gave, I think it could represent so much and mean so much to the people of the community.”
Anne Kronenberg, who was the Manager of Harvey Milk’s campaign for Supervisor told 429Magazine that, “I think that having SFO named after Harvey is absolutely the most appropriate and wonderful dedication to his life and his legacy of hope.”
Not everyone in the community is as behind the initiative as those who rallied in support on Friday. Many cite the high cost of the change, and ask whether or not funds might be better directed towards addressing other issues in San Francisoc. Campos originally said renaming the airport may cost anywhere between $50,000 to $250,000. However, SFO administrators completed a calculation that places the potential price tag around $4 million, including cost to change highway signs, airport signing, maps and directions, and does not include any significant rebranding costs.
The Bay Area Reporter called the initiative to rename the airport a “flight of fancy” that could “divide the city, turn our friends against us, and zap resources that might be needed for other battles.
The SF examiner recently published a few excerpts from San Francisco residents writing in to the Board of Supervisors to voice their concerns with the proposed change.
“San Francisco Airport has long been a destination known internationally,” wrote one person. “For us natives it is in our history and our hearts. Find another public structure to honor Supervisor Milk.”
“Mr. Campos is more concerned with sparking ‘international conversation’ than fixing the problems that plague our great city,” wrote another.
Contributing writers: Jane Eisner, Joey Gonzalez, Chris Huqueriza, Eoin Marsh, Anna Peirano