Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Before Stonewall uprising (’69) there was the Compton Cafeteria and Silver Lake’s Black Cat Tavern uprisings (‘66) and before that was the Dewey’s Lunch Counter protest (‘65). But even before those was the Cooper Do-nuts uprising (‘59). What all of these had in common was harassment, the police used to come in and check to see if everyone had at least three pieces of clothing of their birth gender and if there was any same-sex dancing or kissing was going on.

This blog was recently posted on Facebook and even through it is a couple of years ago I feel that it is timely.
The Cooper Do-nuts Uprising - LGBT Heritage Month
By Eric Brightwell
June 17, 2013

May 1959: Seven years before Silver Lake's Black Cat Riot and ten before New York's Stonewall riots, a group of drag queens and hustlers clashed with LAPD officers at Cooper Do-nuts (also often referred to as Cooper's Doughnuts or Cooper's Donuts) usually considered to be the first gay uprising in modern history.
…There were also numerous small eateries, one of which was Cooper's Doughnuts, a 24 hour coffee and donut spot popular with a clientele comprised in part of multiracial trans and hustlers. The network of gay hangouts came to be known as "The Run."
Transgendered people made obvious targets and were imprisoned in large numbers for the crime of “masquerading” (despite the fact that courts had declared such behavior not criminal in 1950 -- at least for women). On the night of the riot, as they did on many nights, LAPD officers entered the donut shop and demanded to see the patrons' IDs. If the sex on their ID didn’t match their gender, it was department policy to throw them in jail -- usually a wing of the Lincoln Heights Jail nicknamed "The Fruit Tank."
The same story would be told six years later at Dewey's Lunch Counter and then the following year at the Compton Cafeteria and Silver Lake’s Black Cat Tavern. The Los Angles Magazine said in an article about the Black Cat,
Before Stonewall
How a brutal police raid in 1966 at Silver Lake’s Black Cat Tavern ignited the nation’s first Gay Rights rally
By Ben Ehrenreich
September 2, 2013

On New Year’s Eve of 1966, the Black Cat had been open for just two months. It joined a dozen or so gay bars huddled around a single square mile of Silver Lake. Affection between men was officially a perversion, a crime, a sign of mental illness. But in a few bars in a few neighborhoods, gay men could find acceptance, companionship, the indispensable solace delivered by music, dancing, laughter. That night the Black Cat was packed, the barroom strung with Christmas lights. A trio called the Rhythm Queens was performing, and when the costume contest concluded at New Faces, the saloon down the block, 15 or 20 men in wigs and gowns squeezed into the Black Cat.

The clock hit twelve. Balloons tumbled from the ceiling. The Rhythm Queens belted out “Auld Lang Syne,” and for a moment there was time to grab a kiss. But not all the revelers were there for the same party. At five minutes after midnight, plainclothes policemen began swinging clubs and pool cues, dragging patrons out the door and into the street. They pulled the bartender over the bar, lacerating his face on broken glass. Two patrons ran across Sanborn and took cover in the crowd at New Faces, where Circus of Books now stands. Officers followed, breaking one bartender’s nose, leaving another with a ruptured spleen. Sixteen people were arrested that night—six of them charged with lewd conduct, also known as kissing.
All of these uprisings were because of police oppression, making a marginalized community the focus of their raids. LGBT people were an easy target because no one would speak up for them, they were the perfect victim. They took the abuse without complaining because if they did they could lose their families, their jobs, their housing, everything was on the line.

They took it until they had nothing to lose and then they fought back against their oppressors. The oppressors called it a riot and the oppressed called it an uprising.

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