Homophobia/Resistance at Peg's Place

Pegs-Place.jpg

Homophobia/Resistance at Peg's Place.

The Erlinda Symaco and Alene Levine Legal Fund.

Peg’s Place “Release.”

San Francisco, April 11, 1979.

Photocopied press release, 280 x 217 mm, in very good condition with two contemporary additions in hand changing “I” for “Alene,” in reference to one of the people involved in the incident reported.

ABOUT THIS OBJECT

A press release describing a homophobic attack on the lesbian bar Peg’s Place, including “What Happened” and “How And What You Can Do To Help,” seemingly authored by Alene Levine—referred to as “I” in the statement but changed by hand to “Alene— a bouncer at the bar who was severely wounded in the incident. The “Release” describes how a group of ten to fifteen men from a bachelor’s party—including members of the police force and vice squad—appeared “drunk and rowdy and shouting, ‘Let’s go to Peg’s, let’s get the dykes’.” They were first turned away by Levine at the door, with Levine closing the shutters and baring the entrance to the bar, but eventually three men forced their way in when the door was open to admit customers. Erlinda Symaco, the owner who was tending bar, then got involved and was “viciously attacked…in a head and throat hold.” Alene Levine was badly beaten with a pool cue by one of the men. The incident is brutal in detail, listing the three suspects as Daniel Mar [sic], Michael Kelly, and Kevine Guerine, and describing how “Linda has been hospitalized now for 10 days and [Alene] had severe enough head injuries to warrant a skull fracture x-ray series.” The flyer asks for help to find out why the men hadn’t been arrested, why the victims were not offered medical assistance at the scene, why police refused to take the names, phone numbers, and witness statements from those present, and “WHY THE D.A. HAS NOT PRESSED CHARGES AGAINST THESE THREE MEN.” There is also mention that the Examiner newspaper had barely reported the incident, citing the victims’ injuries as “minor.” The document concludes with asking help petitioning for charges to be pressed and requesting financial support for the legal fund of both victims.

The Advocate and The Lesbian Tide, two magazines that publicised the attack and its aftermath, reported that officers Daniel Marr and Michael Kelly were suspended: Marr was convicted and fined for his brutality, but Kelly was not charged, nor was Kevin Guerine. The anger over this failure of the justice system would only increase in the following months, when Dan White, who had assassinated Harvey Milk and George Moscone, was acquitted of a first degree murder charge and given a lighter sentence for voluntary manslaughter for both. In response to the ruling, a crowd of protesters changing “Avenge Harvey Milk” protested the wider culture of homophobia and police brutality on the steps of City Hall in what have been remembered as the White Night Riots.

The Lesbian Herstory Archives have digitised a few beautiful photos of bartenders & patrons of Peg’s Place, which closed in 1991, but otherwise OCLC records no copy of this press release nor archival holdings related to Peg’s Place institutionally.

FURTHER READING

Randy Shilts, The Mayor of Castro Street: The Life and Times of Harvey Milk 

Brooke Palmieri