CHEVY CHASE, Maryland — About 200 protesters marched to Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s neighborhood, turned up the music and started a dance party — less than 48 hours before his inauguration.
“We are here tonight to send a clear message to Daddy Pence that we will not tolerate bigotry and hate in our country,” organizer Firas Nasr said as he rallied the protesters, citing Pence’s past support of conversion therapy, anti-LGBT record and anti-same-sex marriage stance.
“We are here today to take the streets as our dance floor,” he said.
Nasr, who founded “Werk for Peace,” planned the demonstration along with the DisruptJ20 group.
They handed out rainbow flags, assembled glow sticks, applied glitter and broke it down on the streets of suburban Maryland.
It was a diverse crowd of men and women and gender non-binary, LGBTQ and allies, young and old, Washingtonians and activists from faraway. They wore tutus, sparkly stilettos and spandex. There were light-up hula hoops and noisemakers and gold party hats to go around. One protester walked with a tray of high-protein snacks and condoms for her fellow marchers.
Pence, however, was across town hosting the Vice President-elect’s Inaugural Dinner at the National Portrait Gallery.
“Great crowd at the Vice President-elect’s Inaugural Dinner. Honored to introduce & welcome special guest, President-elect @realDonaldTrump,” he later tweeted.
The group peacefully walked the 1.2 miles from the Friendship Heights metro station around Chevy Chase Circle to the Pence’s temporary home over the course of an hour, with frequent dance breaks. A pick-up truck decked out with flashing lights pumped anthems from gay-icons Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston and Beyonce.
Wednesday evening’s protest was one of many organized surrounding Donald Trump’s inauguration, but so far it’s been the only one with this much dancing.
The nation’s capital is expecting thousands of protesters through the weekend.
Activist Lisa Fithian traveled from Texas to protest the inauguration.
“We are here to celebrate the queer liberation and say that love will trump hate,” she said, swaying to the music. “Mike Pence needs to find his heart and recognize that this is a country that needs to be loving and welcoming to everyone. If they want to make America great again, we actually need to embrace our humanity.”
Pennsylvanian Stephanie Fritsch had a message for Pence as she reached his neighborhood.
“Get to know us. Talk to us. I would want to speak to him one-on-one, just explain how it is to be a trans woman in this country, and tell him it can be hard and they are making it harder, trying to push us down. But I’m not being pushed down, I’m here,” she said.
The group did not interact with a small handful of Trump supporters on hand as they got closer to Pence’s home.
Nasr implored the group not to engage: “We do not need to feed their energy.”
Georgetown University student Matt Palmquist, toting a “Big Daddy Mike” protest sign, joined the dance party on behalf of the LGBT community and other minority groups.
“We don’t agree with everything he (Pence) says and how he’s treated us in the LGBT community, and especially how Trump and his incoming administration plans to treat other minority groups,” he said. “As minority groups, we are weak if we only have our own interests in mind, but if we band together and we all advocate for our combined interests, we’re much stronger.”
As the crowd approached the normally quiet Chevy Chase street, they were greeted by dozens of neighbors, some bearing snacks, who had come out to see the spectacle.
It was a festive scene as they set up about half a block from the Vice President-elect’s rental home, chanting, “Daddy Pence, come dance,” and jamming to the music.
“This is the most exciting thing that’s happened in our neighborhood,” resident Suzanne Frederick said as Nasr twerked on top of the pickup truck, the crowd cheering him on.