Doughnut shop hit with a molotov cocktail after drag-queen art show

Around 2:30 a.m., Sarah Swain and Brian Hunter were jolted awake by a phone call from the fire department. The doughnut shop the couple owns in Tulsa had been targeted — again — just two weeks after they’d hosted an art exhibit featuring drag queens.

Early that morning, a person in a dark hoodie, red cap and gloves was captured by a security camera quickly walking toward the Donut Hole with a baseball bat and a note in one hand and a bottle in the other. The assailant, who still hasn’t been apprehended by police, posted the note on the neighboring business’s door and then stood before the Barbie-pink facade of the doughnut shop. They took three thundering swings at the glass door until it shattered, then lit the bottle on fire and threw it inside.

The damage from the molotov cocktail was minimal, the owners told The Washington Post. By Wednesday, the Donut Hole was back open, and its employees were ready to serve up hot cups of joe and the fresh doughnuts Swain decorates every day. But Swain said there’s an unnerving sense of shock that someone would take to violence over “something so small as having a ceramic doughnut exhibit with drag queen servers.”

“We just want to make doughnuts,” Hunter said. “We’re just a small business. Like we’re just trying to make doughnuts and have fun. We don’t understand.”

Drag exploded in popularity. Then came the protests and attacks.

The Oct. 15 event had been filled “with overwhelming support, love and laughs,” Hunter said. That night, the doughnut shop transformed into “The Queens Dirty Dozens,” a concept envisioned by artist Daniel Gulick. A cartoon silhouette of Queen Elizabeth II decorated the shop. Instead of performing, drag queens dressed in their best 1950s housewife outfits served colorful ceramic doughnut sculptures. People lined up, down the block, hoping to enjoy the pop-up.

But the morning after the event, Swain and Hunter returned to the shop to find pieces of shattered glass where the front door had once been. Someone had smashed it overnight, Hunter said — though the motive behind the vandalism isn’t clear.

“We couldn’t work for a couple of days because the weather affects the inside temperature and impacts the doughnut-making,” Hunter said. “Thankfully we had so much support from the community to get everything back together and get back operational.”

Locals helped pick up the mess, and children used chalk to draw rainbows and hope-filled messages outside the Donut Hole. Donors quickly surpassed the goal set on GoFundMe to replace the glass, and the leftover $3,500 was donated by Swain and Hunter to Tulsa’s Dennis R. Neill Equality Center, which supports the LGBTQ community. The shop reopened Oct. 19, serving Halloween-themed baked goods and pumpkin doughnuts with cream cheese icing — Swain’s favorite.

But just when everything seemed to be turning a corner, the Donut Hole was targeted a second time — just three days before Swain and Hunter were planning to give out free doughnuts as a thank-you to their community. The molotov cocktail thrown inside didn’t completely break, but it left behind traces of smoke and ash. Investigators still don’t know who was behind the attack, but the person left “an envelope with anti-LGBTQ messages and scripture,” Swain said.

Arizona GOP candidate who criticized drag was once a fan, drag queen says

The incidents at the doughnut shop in Tulsa’s Brookside neighborhood mirror the string of protests and attacks that have followed drag and LGBTQ events across the nation this year. From California to New York, far-right groups and individuals have increasingly targeted events such as Drag Story Hour, often justifying their actions by casting the normalization of discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity as the “grooming” of children, The Post previously reported.

“It’s super heartbreaking because this is like a new thing for us that we’re experiencing,” Swain said. “But for the [drag] queens, this is just their life and nothing really new to them. And it’s so sad because they’re feeling some guilt after what happened to us, and it’s in no way their fault.”

Yet, despite the shock and fear, Swain said she’s ready to get back to making doughnuts at the shop she and Hunter bought in May — the place where she’s able “to create, be artistic and bring joy every day.”

Strangers and customers have once again helped that become a reality. When the Donut Hole reactivated its original GoFundMe after Monday’s attack, hundreds of donations began to pour in, reaching over $20,000 — well over its $2,500 goal.

It also helps that the same local business that replaced the shop’s glass door after the first attack was able to make another copy after this week’s incident.

“Luckily they still had our measurements,” Swain said.

Add a Comment