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LGBT+ History Month: the Cooper Donuts Riot – 1959

Last year we saw numerous events marking the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, often cited as the start of the modern LGBT+ rights movement. However, it is less commonly known that Stonewall, rather than being the first uprising, was the last in a decade of acts of rebellion against the attacks on LGBT+ people.

Cooper Donuts signage

On the night in question, the police attempted to arrest several patrons including two drag queens, two male sex workers and a gay man. As those arrested attempted to fight back, protesting their unjust arrest onlookers from Cooper Donuts decided enough was enough, and a group consisting of transgender women, lesbians, drag queens and gay men, spilled out onto the street in support and threw coffee cups, donuts and trash at the police until they were forced to retreat without their detainees. Backup was called and a night of rioting ensued, closing the street for an entire day and resulting in several arrests.

The years following this saw numerous uprising and acts of rebellion by LGBT+ people standing up again harassment including amongst others the New York’s Army Induction Centre protest (1964), Independence Hall Protest (1965), Deweys Sit In (1965), Comptons Cafeteria Riot (1966), Black Cat Tavern Riot (1967) and ultimately 10 years the Stonewall Riots (1969). The Stonewall Riots were the largest and last of these uprisings, marked a year later by the Christopher Street parade, the first ever LGBT pride march.

About the author – Heather Paterson is a LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Development Worker for SAYiT.

You can find out more about SAYiT’s Domestic Abuse project ‘Call It Out’ here –

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