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Harvey Milk’s friends upset at gay rights group for turning Milk landmark into gift shop

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Remember Castro Camera, the little shop that Sean Penn and Emile Hirsch hung out in when they were pretending to be Harvey Milk and Cleve Jones, respectively? Well, it's now occupied by Human Rights Campaign, "the nation's largest gay-rights lobbying group," says the AP. The HRC wants to use the location for a Harvey Milk information center and a gift shop — and Milk's friends are pissed about it.

How pissed? I'd-rather-see-a-Starbucks-there pissed.

"It's spitting in the face of Harvey's memory," said AIDS Memorial Quilt founder Cleve Jones, who received his political education at Milk's side in the 1970s."He was not an 'A-Gay' and had no desire to be an A-Gay. He despised those people and they despised him," he said. "That, to me, is the crowd HRC represents. Don't try to wrap yourself up in Harvey Milk's mantle and pretend you are one of us."

"What's next? Removing the Mona Lisa's face and replacing it with the Wal-Mart smiley face?" asked Bil Browning, the founder of a popular gay-issues blog.

That last one is pretty funny, though I'm sure some Dadaist art student already has it tattooed on his neck or something. At any rate, it does sound kind of tacky to hock "items bearing Milk's words and image," although less so when you take into consideration that "a portion of the proceeds going to a local elementary school named in Milk's honor and the GLBT Historical Society."

HRC creative director Don Kiser also argues that "each tourist who goes in to buy a Harvey Milk T-shirt or an HRC tote bag is a potential activist." He continued,

They live in small towns in Texas and flyover states. Those are the people we need to help find the spirit that Harvey Milk had. If they can go back and take a little of the spirit the Castro has, we will see sea changes.

There are certainly persuasive arguments on both sides. What do you guys think?