Amid a heated national debate over gay and transgender rights, the Los Angeles City Council has designated a corner of downtown Los Angeles as a historic landmark for the LGBTQ+ community.
Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to designate the intersection of 2nd and Main streets as “Cooper Do-nuts/Nancy Valverde Square.”
Cooper Donuts, whose first location was on this corner, was known as a haven for the LGBTQ+ community in the 1950s and 1960s. Nancy Valverde, who frequented the donut shop, was arrested and harassed by police in from the late 1940s for wearing gender-nonconforming clothing in violation of a city ordinance.
Keith Evans, a descendant of the founder of Cooper Do-Nuts, told the board meeting that the shop was a special place for Angelenos.
“It was a place where people could be authentic without fear, judgment or prejudice,” he said.
The stores’ gay and gender-nonconforming clientele were regularly harassed by Los Angeles police officers. According to some accounts, the business was the scene of a protest in May 1959 when customers threw trash, donuts and coffee at police trying to arrest drag queens, gay men and sex workers .
The incident is known as one of the first open acts of LGBTQ+ resistance against police abuse in the United States, predating the best-known protests at the 1967 Black Cat Tavern in Los Angeles and the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in New York.
However, there are debates as to whether or where the Cooper Do-nuts riot actually happened. According to New York Timesthe family behind Cooper Do-nuts cannot confirm the event took place there.
The Los Angeles Police Department has often arrested Valverde on allegations of violating a city ordinance – designated as 5022 – which prohibited men and women from wearing gender-nonconforming clothing.
In a law library, Valverde found court rulings that it was illegal to make it a crime for a woman to wear male clothing and used them in her defense in court. According to the council’s motion, it paved the way for an end to laws that targeted the LGBTQ+ community.
Tony Hoover, treasurer of the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council, said naming the intersection had been his passion project for 2½ years and that LA had been slow to recognize such significant sites and people.
“This motion is about two things: it’s about Cooper Do-Nuts being essentially a haven for people from this period who were victims of 5022 but also about Nancy Valverde taking the courage to stand up for her own defence,” said Hoover.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the council delayed a vote to designate the home of Morris Kight, an influential right-wing LGBTQ+ activist, on 4th Street as a historic-cultural landmark.
Kight co-founded the Christopher Street West Gay Pride Parade, the West Coast’s first gay pride parade and celebration, and the Gay Liberation Front. Kight also co-founded the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center, now known as the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
Council member Eunisses Hernandez called for a 60-day voting deadline to allow for the purchase of the home, located at 1822 W. 4th St., as well as time for departments to analyze whether the site is viable for the development of new housing.
The council’s decision came as the Human Rights Center, the largest LGBTQ+ rights organization in the United States, declared a state of emergency on Tuesday for LGBTQ+ people across the country.
This year, Tennessee passed legislation targeting drag performance; several states, including Kansas, have passed legislation restricting transgender people using the toilet associated with their gender identity; and in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a series of anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
In Glendale, people protested outside a Glendale Unified School District board meeting on Tuesday about how students learn about gender and sexuality. In North Hollywood, parents got involved Friday against a Pride Day assembly outside Saticoy Elementary School, where a transgender teacher’s pride flag was burned.
California Daily Newspapers