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On November 27, 1978, San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and city supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated in City Hall by former supervisor Dan White. A few weeks earlier, on November 10th, White resigned from the Board of Supervisors, giving Moscone an opportunity to appoint a new supervisor and shift the balance of the board to favor his policies. The more conservative bloc of the board, however, convinced White to withdraw his resignation to prevent that shift. Although Moscone was originally inclined to reinstate White, he ultimately chose not to. Milk had pushed Moscone to not reinstate White. White shot and killed Moscone after Moscone informed him that he would not be reinstated, and Milk was shot shortly thereafter.

The assassination was announced by board president Dianne Feinstein later that day, and she implicated White in the murders. Feinstein succeeded Moscone as mayor, while White was charged with murder. He was convicted of manslaughter as opposed to murder, sparking the White Night Riots in the city. White returned to San Francisco and committed suicide after serving in prison for five years.

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