LGBTQ Dance Group Literally Stops Traffic at D.C. Climate Change Protest

An LGBTQ dance troupe literally stopped traffic at a climate change protest in Washington, D.C. Monday morning.

The "Shut Down D.C." protest, which was timed to coincide with the United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York, happened during the national capitol's Monday morning rush hour. It involved participants drawing attention to the issue of climate change by temporarily blocking traffic, with activists sitting or standing in over a dozen streets. The self-described queer and trans dance group WERK for Peace participated via the medium of dance, and were accompanied by a cyclist towing a wagon with mobile speakers blasting dance music.

One of the group's founders, Firas Nasr, told The Washington Blade that the "roving dance party" had focused attention on a local Wells Fargo Bank, as well as the offices of the American Petroleum Institute, both of which members of the group claim are partially responsible for climate change.

"We know that climate justice affects marginalized communities around the world," Nasr told the paper. "And at the front of those marginalized communities are queer and trans people who are disproportionately affected by the climate catastrophes just as people of color and disabled folks and indigenous folks, undocumented folks are also disproportionately affected."

Man dancing at protest
The activist group WERK for Peace organizes dance protests around the country, to "demand change around issues pertinent to the queer and trans experience." Drew Angerer/Getty Images/Getty

Police in the city made 32 arrests during the event, when protesters refused to follow the instructions of cops attempting to direct traffic. Members of the dance group were not detained since they did not continuously block traffic.

A video posted by the group on Twitter Monday showed a man dancing in the middle of an intersection while being doused with handfuls of glitter as music played on in the background. A police car and stopped traffic can be seen in the distance.

Out here shutting down DC for climate justice. STOP PIPELINES NOW! KEEP IT IN THE GROUND! #ShutdownDC @350_DC @sunrisemvmt @GretaThunberg @mdc_dsa

— WERK for Peace (@werkforpeace) September 23, 2019

The group who organized the larger protest, the Coalition to Shut Down D.C., was formed last month with the intent of "demanding action" on climate change.

"We will block key infrastructure to stop business-as-usual, bringing the whole city to a gridlocked standstill," said the group on their website. "Parents, workers, college students, and everyone who is concerned about the climate crisis will skip work and school and put off their other responsibilities to take action on the climate crisis."

In a press release issued by the group prior to the event, a member of the coalition also suggested that the demonstration was in response to the actions of the Trump administration.

"Every day for the last 3 years, the Trump administration has been a disaster for our climate and communities. In response, we're doing what any volunteer emergency responder would do—we're shutting down the roads to contain the disaster that is Trump's presidency," said Liz Butler, Friends of the Earth Action's vice president of organizing and strategic alliances.

The dance group WERK for Peace describes itself as "a queer and trans grassroots movement that uses all forms of dance to promote peace." It was founded in response to the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, intending to "bring the dance floor to the streets to protest egregious social injustice."

The group says their demonstrations are "protests are like no other—hip-shaking, fist-pumping, ass-twerking, head-thumping dancing!" In addition to climate change, the group have also been involved in protests centered on "a number of intersectional issues," including health care, sexual violence and the Muslim ban.

In January 2017, the group held a "queer dance party" outside the temporary home of then-Vice President-elect Mike Pence.