Richard Pollock, DCNF
Vice-President-elect Mike Pence’s move to a modest Northwest Washington, D.C., home until his Jan. 21 inauguration is being met with hostile liberal neighbors.
Activists have mobilized to protest his move onto their street by hanging rainbow flags outside their homes to express “solidarity” with gay, lesbian, transgender, bi-sexual and queer communities.
At least 10 rainbow flags now hang from homes on the street where in a few days Pence will arrive. He moved a few things into the home during Thanksgiving week, according to neighbors. As Vice-President, Pence will reside in the official vice-presidential residence at Number One Observatory Circle on the Naval Observatory grounds in northwest Washington, D.C.
Pence could have chosen to live anywhere in the Washington metropolitan area, including the pricey and exclusive Georgetown or Old Town Alexandria neighborhoods where the rich and the powerful usually reside. Many Georgetown homes cost in excess of $10 million, according to Zillow.
Or he could have chosen posh Potomac, Maryland, outside of the nation’s capital with many 12,000 square-foot mansions on large estate lots. The Secret Service would have preferred a large lot for security purposes.
Instead, the Vice President-elect chose to rent a modest 2,500 square foot home that sits 30 feet from his next door neighbor in a relatively unknown community called Barnaby Woods, a racially and ethnically diverse neighborhood that’s also home to many gays and lesbians.
His block is packed with liberal Democratic activists like Peter Fenn, the national Democratic political consultant who lives a few doors away from Pence. So does Michael Zeldin, a Barack Obama surrogate in the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. Across the street from Pence’s temporary abode is Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell.
“The house that he chose, there’s nothing showy about it. Which I think the house sort of looks like him. He’s clearly not a showy sort of person,” Allyson Penn, Peter’s wife, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. The Penn residence has a rainbow flag flying in front.
The flag protest organizers initially claimed they wanted a “dialogue” with Pence, and they don’t view their “in-your-face” flags as counter to a conversation.
Organizer Joanna Pratt told TheDCNF the flag protests is a way to blow off steam from the shocking election results.
“We’ve gone through the various stages of grief. We cried. We yelled. Then we sort of felt, that we’d really like to do something,” she said. “We do not see it as a statement of hatred. We do not see it as a statement of meanness, it’s about tolerance,” she said.
“We see it as our opportunity to say to the Vice President-elect we have very strong feelings about where this administration is headed,” she added.
Phil Kerpen, president of the conservative activist group American Commitment, lives in the neighborhood and thinks the protest has nothing to do with tolerance. He pointed to a Pratt quote in Sunday’s Washington Post saying protest organizers first wanted to put up a “Chevy Chase Loves Hillary” banner across from the Pence home. Barnaby Woods is part of the Chevy Chase section of D.C.
“I thought it was remarkably forthcoming, that actually their statement has nothing to do with gay rights or tolerance,” Kerpen told TheDCNF. “They just wanted to make a political statement that we’re Democrats and we love Hillary Clinton. It’s a deliberately misreading to pretend that this has something to do with deeper content.”
Penn said the Secret Service told her husband they were unhappy with the flags because it would increase traffic to the neighborhood. The street is narrow and also has a speed bump that could make it difficult for protective agents, police or emergency vehicles to guard Pence and his family.
Most of the rainbow flags on the homes are not on flag poles, but are hung from windows, an issue that irks Kerpen.
“I asked myself, who hangs a flag that way? And then I realized none of these people have ever put out an American flag out. They don’t own a flag pole. It didn’t occur to them that if you want a flag out, you need a flag pole to do it properly,” he said.
Pratt admits they have not had an American flag flying in front of their home “for a long time” and they don’t own a flag pole. She has both an American and a rainbow flag hanging from windows. Both are brand new, she said.
Burwell’s home doesn’t have a rainbow flag.
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