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THE 1959 COOPER’S DONUT RIOT

Written by on July 29, 2021

Story by Chuck Tackett

THE 1959 COOPER’S DONUT RIOT

  Several years ago in one of my Chuck’s Chat articles, I wrote a piece about an LGBTQ riot that happened 2 years before Stonewall in 1967. It was called The Black Cat Tavern Riot. It happened in Los Angeles, California. I had learned about it in one of the Kansas City Black Gay Pride celebrations that were held in the late 1990s/early 2000s if my memory serves me correctly. Since this incident was unexplored in mainstream LGBTQ history, I wrote about it. As you know when I learn about LGBTQ events that are not well known, I love sharing them with you all. I love to educate myself and share with you what I learn.

Recently, I accidentally came upon another pre-Stonewall riot that happened again in Los Angeles. It was in 1959, 10 years before Stonewall. It is known as The Cooper’s Donut Riot. Cooper’s Donut shop was located in downtown Los Angeles as what has been described as a “Gay Ghetto.” During that time, it was illegal for a person to wear clothing that didn’t match the gender of their legal ID. The LAPD weaponized this law to target Transgender folks. Even in Gay bars, other LGBs were hostile to Transgender people. They either banned them or found ways to discourage them to be in the clubs for fear of police harassment.

Unlike other businesses in the area, Cooper’s Donuts to the LGBTQ community. Transgender folks as well. Being a 24-hour business, and not fearful of the silly-ass dress code, making it a very popular spot for LGBTs, hustlers, and others to frequent despite the police raids/harassments. Pioneer of American LGBTQ & Chicano literature, novelist John Rechy was patronizing Cooper’s Donuts the evening of that LGBTQ event. He was arrested along with 2 other people, but all 3 escaped when hell broke loose. Tired of the police harassment, Cooper’s Donuts patrons bombarded police with coffee, plates, and donuts. The riot took to the street. Mr. Rechy described the incident in more detail in his popular novel “City of Night.” 

Mr. Rechy is alive today at 90 years old. He has had a very successful career.

Chuck’s Chat operates under an open authority. Opinions and comments are always welcome. Send them to soultraindancing@yahoo.com

 


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