Pence's D.C. neighbors have a message for him

Contributed PhotoVice President-elect Mike Pence’s new neighbors in Washington, D.C. greeted him with rainbow flags such this one across the street from his temporary home. In addition, Joanna Pratt added a sign calling on Pence to support a local pizzeria where gunfire erupted in an incident that police say was inspired by fake news reports.

WASHINGTON - When Vice President-elect Mike Pence moved into an upscale D.C. neighborhood around Thanksgiving, the neighbors decided to send a message.

Across the street, Joanna Pratt and her husband, Steve Samuels, put up a big rainbow flag in front of their brick house in Chevy Chase.

Several neighbors put up their own rainbow flags, as well.

In part, Pratt and Samuels wanted to show disapproval for what they consider to be divisive comments made by President-elect Donald Trump on the campaign trail.

Their flag was also a symbol of opposition to Pence's record on gay rights while Indiana's governor

Now, Pratt and Samuels are putting up a sign in front of their house: "VPE Pence: Please Stand up for Comet Ping Pong."

The pizzeria about a mile from their home was the locus of a purported child-sex ring overseen by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, as described in fake news reports.

As outlandish as that may sound, police say a 28-year-old North Carolina man, Edgar Welch, walked into the pizza place with an assault rifle Dec. 4 to investigate and fired several shots.

Pence may only be living in the house temporarily, until he moves into the vice president's home at the U.S. Naval Observatory once he and Trump are inaugurated on Jan. 20, but Pratt said it's the neighborhood's pizzeria.

"We wanted to say, 'Vice President Pence, this is your neighborhood,'" she said.

They want him to stand up for the pizza joint known for ping pong tables -- not kidnapped children -- in the back, while denouncing fake news stories "and the culture of hatred that's being sown through them," she said.

Pence, so far, hasn't responded to the rainbow flag, or an invitation by his neighbors to sit and visit.

Pratt said she doesn't think he'll react to the latest sign.

The upscale neighborhood in northwest Washington is usually quiet, and though a cabinet secretary is said to live in the area,there's not much action.

Pratt thought it was strange the Monday before Thanksgiving when she came home and found nowhere to park on the street.

People with earpieces wouldn't say whom they were protecting. A neighbor was handed a business card that said, "Vice Presidential Protection Services."

Early the next morning, Pratt got up early and stood by the window to rubber-neck at her new neighbor. She didn't see much, so she went back to bed.

Her husband looked out later and saw Pence come out of the house then get into a car. "I was so mad at my husband," she said.

The insight raised the question of what to do when the vice president moves in across the street. Pratt and Samuels came up with the idea for a rainbow flag, she said, "because one of the things we'd heard about him was his abysmal, from our point of view, record on gay-rights issues."

As governor Pence signed a law exempting businesses from lawsuits based on religious liberty - a move criticized as allowing discrimination against gays.

Pratt slipped a note through the mail slot of Pence's rental, inviting him and his wife over.

"Although our idea is for the gathering to be primarily social in nature, it won't come as any surprise to you that many of your neighbors (including ourselves) have political views that are very different from your own," their letter said.

They thought a get-together could "set an example of how people with diverse views can still show respect for one another, especially by listening to each other," she said.

Pence doesn't appear to be home much, Pratt said.

He hasn't come out in his bathrobe to get the paper.

A couple of times neighbors have seen him quickly get into a car and leave with a Secret Service escort. He hasn't waved or even nodded hello.

Pratt said she was inspired to put up the Comet Ping Pong sign on Sunday, when reading a piece in the New York Times decrying fake news.

A couple of people in the neighborhood have objected to the displays. "They don't think it's very neighborly," she said.

But how many times do you get to tell the vice president what you think because he's living across the street?

Kery Murakami is the Washington, D.C. reporter for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Contact him at kmurakami@cnhi.com

The Daily News is a CNHI News Service publication.

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