September 11, 2021
From The Anarchist Library

Cooper’s Donuts was an all night donut
shop on a seedy stretch of Main Street
in Los Angeles. It was a regular hangout
for street queens and queer hustlers at all
hours of the night. Police harassment was a
regular fixture of the Cooper’s, but one May
night in 1959, the queers fought back. What
started with customers throwing donuts
at the police escalated into full-on street
fighting. In the ensuing chaos, all of the donut-wielding rebels escaped into the night.

One weekend in August of 1966, Compton’s — a twenty-four-hour cafeteria in
San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood — was buzzing with its usual late-night crowd of drag queens, hustlers,
slummers, cruisers, runaway teens and
neighborhood regulars. The restaurant’s
management became annoyed by a noisy
young crowd of queens at one table who
seemed to be spending a lot of time without
spending a lot of money, and it called the
police to roust them. A surly police officer,
accustomed to manhandling Compton’s
clientele with impunity, grabbed the arm
of one of the queens and tried to drag her
away. She unexpectedly threw her coffee
in his face, however, and a melee erupted:
Plates, trays, cups, and silverware flew
through the air at the startled police who
ran outside and called for backup. The customers turned over the tables, smashed the
plate-glass windows, and poured onto the
streets. When the police reinforcements arrived, street fighting broke out all throughout the Compton’s vicinity. Drag queens
beat the police with their heavy purses and
kicked them with their high-heeled shoes.
A police car was vandalized, a newspaper
box was burnt to the ground, and general
havoc was raised all throughout the Tenderloin.

What began as an early morning raid
on June 28th, 1969, at New York’s Stonewall Inn, escalated to four days of rioting
throughout Greenwich Village. Police conducted the raid as usual; targeting people
of color, transpeople, and gender variants
for harassment and violence. It all changed,
though, when a bull-dyke resisted her arrest and several street queens began throwing bottles and rocks at the police. The
police began beating folks, but soon people
from all over the neighborhood rushed to
the scene, swelling the rioters’ numbers
to over two thousand. The vastly outnumbered police barricaded themselves inside
the bar, while an uprooted parking meter
was used as a battering ram by the crowd.
Molotov cocktails were thrown at the bar.
Riot police arrived on scene, but were
unable to regain control of the situation.
Drag queens danced a conga line and sang
songs amidst the street fighting to mock the
inability of the police to re-establish order.
The rioting continued until dawn, only to
be picked up again at nightfall of the subsequent days.

On the night of May 21st 1979, in what has
come to be known as the White Night Riots,
the queer community of San Francisco was
outraged and wanted justice for the murder
of Harvey Milk. The outraged queers went
to city hall where they smashed the windows and glass door of the building. The
riotous crowd took to the streets, disrupting
traffic, smashing storefronts and car windows, disabling buses, and setting twelve
San Francisco Police cruisers on fire. The
rioting spread throughout the city as others
joined in on the fun!

In 1970, Stonewall veterans Marsha
P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera founded
STAR — Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. They opened the STAR house,
a radical version of the “house” culture of
black and latina queer communities. The
house provided a safe and free place for
queer and trans street kids to stay. Marsha
and Sylvia as the “House Mothers” hustled
to pay rent so that the kids would not be
forced to. Their “children” scavenged and
stole food so that everyone in the house
could eat. That’s what we call mutual aid!

In the time between the Stonewall Riots
and the outbreak of HIV, the queer community of New York saw the rise of a culture
of public sex. Queers had orgies in squatted
buildings, in abandoned semi-trucks, on the
piers and in bars and clubs all along Christopher street. This is our idea of voluntary
association of free individuals! Many mark
this as the most sexually liberated time this
country has ever seen. Though the authors
of this essay wholeheartedly believe we can
outdo them.