CHARLESTON, S.C. — Over 100 Charleston Area Transgender Support and local queer and transgender activists, along with WERK for Peace founder Firas Nasr who came into the public eye for staging a dance party protest outside Mike Pence’s home after the 2017 inauguration, held a demonstration through the streets of Charleston on Oct.18.
The “dance party” protest started at the Stern Center Gardens at the College of Charleston and paraded through the streets to Deco on Ann St., where Kendra Martinez was brutally assaulted. Dancers used their bodies to reclaim the space. The dancers were clad in rainbow paraphernalia and danced to loud music through the streets. The demonstration sought to center and celebrate queer and transgender individuals in the coastal city and to send a message to policy makers and lay people that bigotry and hate would not be tolerated.
“Anti-transgender and queer motivated violence in the city of Charleston has resulted in numerous attacks on the queer and trans community,” organizers said. On Aug. 19, Kendra Martinez, a Latinx transgender woman of color, was violently assaulted on Ann St. Then on Sept. 20, the Closet Case Thrift Store was vandalized by someone throwing bricks as they yelled, “I’m sick of all the gay shit.” Closet Case is an LGBTQ-run social enterprise that benefits the youth-focused We Are Family.
One of the organizers, Vanity Reid, said, “Far too often, we are attacked for claiming autonomy of our bodies and simply existing in a world that views our presence as defiant. We are attacked and then questioned about the validity of our trauma; our attacks are then discredited and assumed to be related to some sort of deceit or untruth on our behalf. Today we claim our space and speak power over our very ownership of this space and the spaces we navigate daily.”
“We are here to reclaim the spaces in which we have been harmed and fill them with joy,” said Leigh LaChapelle, another organizer of the protest. “We are here to show our community that we stand behind them.”
The “organic” protest followed a workshop led by Nasr on planning dance party protests, We Are Family Executive Director Melissa Moore shared. The event was co-sponsored by the organization as part of their annual Spirit Day event.