WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rainbow flags on bikes. Rainbow suspenders. Glitter shining on the faces of protesters. Beyoncé blasting from the back of a pickup truck decorated with rainbow flags.
This was the scene Wednesday night as protesters danced their way from the Friendship Heights metro station to the Chevy Chase neighborhood where Vice President-elect Mike Pence lives.
Around 200 people marched into the liberal enclave, where several homeowners had already hung up LGBT pride flags alongside their American flags. Residents set up the rainbow flags when they learned in December that Pence was moving into the neighborhood. As the music blasted it's way through the quiet neighborhood, residents pulled the curtains on their front windows and came out of their homes to join in on the protest. Some brought out their own signs, such as an older man who was carrying a young child, who was holding a "Trump Loves Hate" banner.
When the march finally made its way up to Pence's house, it was blocked by police. The car and motorcycles leading the queer cavalcade stopped there, and an impromptu dance party began. Firas Nasr, the founder of Werk for Peace, danced on the roof of a car that blasted Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." Nasr shouted from the roof, "Daddy Pence, come dance!" The crowd chanted, "We are queer, we are here, we will dance!"
Protesters wore glow sticks, held up signs that read "Queer Love," and wore colorful tutu's as music blasted out of a truck covered in rainbow flags. Some activists set up a table near the car that was giving out free coffee and food. The people manning the station yelled out, "Free coffee and snacks for all gays!"
Werk for Peace partnered with DisruptJ20 for the event, dubbed a "queer dance party at Mike Pence's house," but it is only the first of several events activists plan for the week of the inauguration, which is Friday.
On that big day, the group will host a "qockblockade brigade," which the group describes as "a queer anti-Inauguration party." Werk for Peace describes itself as a "queer-based grassroots movement that uses dance to promote peace." The group was formed in response to the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Nasr told The Advocate that dance has the power to effect social change.
"Dance as a form of protest is a really powerful form of protest, especially in the queer community because dance and the dance floor has always been a sacred space for us," said Nasr. "It's been a safe space, a space for self expression, for connection, for love, for self-love, so Werk for Peace is taking the dance floor to the streets and assert that we are queer, we are here, and we will dance."
Nasr said he wants to assert that queer people will not be going away, and he described Pence as a "staunch homophobe and transphobic; he supports conversion therapy, he's passed a draconian anti-LGBT law, he does not support gay marriage, and we're here to say that's not OK."
The Werk for Peace founder's concern is not unfounded. Pence is known for his anti-LGBT record. When he was governor of Indiana, Pence signed a "religious freedom" bill that made it legal to discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of religious objections. The law was sharply criticized and was eventually "fixed" so it couldn't be used to discriminate. Pence opposes marriage equality, opposed repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, and doesn't support LGBT-inclusive hate-crimes laws or measures to prevent anti-LGBT job discrimination.
Pence was not in his Chevy Chase home at the time of the dance party. The vice president-elect was out with his wife for dinner with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, reported USA Today.
But to Nasr, whether or not Pence was home is irrelevant. "It doesn't matter," said Nasr. "We've gotten so much press and we really appreciate it because it really shows that love wins, regardless of whether or not he's home. His neighbors supported us; the community has really come out to really say that we are here, we are queer, and we will dance."