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Werk for Peace

The queer activists throwing a party at Mike Pence’s house

We speak to Werk for Peace, a powerful group using dance to confront the incoming vice-president and his anti-LGBTQI agenda

Mike Pence has cemented himself as an enemy of LGBTQ people and women in his time as a governor and politician. The incoming vice-president and Republican demon in a skin suit has repeatedly used his position to attack queer rights – whether it’s with his support of the appalling gay conversion therapy, significantly cutting the funding for HIV/Aids programs or coming out with Siberian mudslide-hot take quips like homosexual relationships will cause ‘societal collapse’.

Activists WERK for Peace are here to give ‘Daddy’ Pence a queer, sparkly farewell as he leaves his home in Chevy Chase for a new spot at the Naval Observatory as Trump’s administration takes the United States off towards the burning sun.

The group, founded after the deadliest shooting of LGBT people in history at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, plan to lead a dancing parade from Washington D.C’s Friendship Heights metro station all the way to the Pence household for one big twerk-out, teaming up with #DisruptJ20 in the process. Through dance, they’re telling him that his homophobia and transphobia won’t get past them.

We spoke to Firas Nasr about their plans to celebrate queerness, promote peace and send a clear message against hate.

When did WERK for Peace come about and what do you stand for?

Firas Nasr: WERK For Peace is a queer grassroots organisation that uses dance to promote peace. We were founded in response to the Orlando tragedy, in which 49 individuals were massacred at Pulse nightclub. Our philosophy is really about taking the dance war to the street, to occupy space and assert #WeAreHere, #WeWillDance’. We want to send a clear message to both Congress and politicians that, from a top-down approach, there needs to be change for the queer community. We also want to send that same message to grassroots, from a bottom-up approach, people need to change their perception in order to accept the LGBTQAI community.

And using dance is particularly lovely and powerful, because it’s been an integral weapon of queer people.

Firas Nasr: Yeah, definitely. I mean, the nightclub space and dance have always been a modality for self-expression and for activism within the queer community. We're really taking that into the streets.

And what is it you want Mike Pence to know?

Firas Nasr: We’d like to send a clear message to Mike Pence that homophobia and transphobia is not tolerated in our city or country. We want to send that message to other homophobic and transphobic individuals. We will not tolerate bigotry and hate. It also goes for the intersection of various identities, within which the queer community sits. Refugees, immigrants, people of colour, disabled persons. We're really about using this space to be inclusive, to love one another, to connect and to dance for peace.

Mike Pence’s record speaks for itself. He has openly supported conversion therapy, which is archaic, and signed in a draconian law that was very anti-LGBT – aside from opposing gay marriage and other queer rights. Dancing at his house and protesting him is really important – he's going to be in one of the highest positions in our country.

So what’s the details for the queer dance party?

Firas Nasr: We are going to meet at the Friendship Heights metro. Then we will parade for about a mile until we get to his neighbourhood. We have glitter, rainbow suspenders, glow sticks and other rainbow paraphernalia to wear and celebrate our bodies. We'll have a huge sound system. We’ll embrace one another, love ourselves, embrace our diversity and our differences, and dance for peace.

We have nearly 750 people who have RVSP-ed going on our Facebook page, and over 3,000 people have expressed interest from not only DC, but around the country and around the world.

Not only is it an act of protest, it's also an act of fun. You know? That, I think, is a beautiful thing.

Are you working on any other kinds of positive action as Trump takes power?

Firas Nasr: We have one other action that we will be participating in at the inauguration, in conjunction with Disrupt J20. There will be various checkpoints and we will be ‘cock-blocking’ the entrance using dance. We're excited about that. In other events, we're planning to expand – not only naturally, but also around the world.