The blue and gold signs are sprinkled all over Marion County. There isn't a neighborhood in the city that doesn't have at least one sign in a residential yard and it's more likely that you will find two or three, maybe even more.
Kevin Warren, the man behind those signs, couldn't be happier.
His goal is simple — to see Mike Pence out of the governor's office and someone else in that seat.
Warren sells the signs from his home on Central Ave. in the Mapleton-Fall Creek neighborhood. That home is the epicenter of the Pence Must Go committee, an official political action committee (PAC) dedicated to spreading a message of disapproval with Indiana's current governor while raising money for non-profit organizations that support the LGBTQ community. He also has T-shirts, hats and bumper stickers with the Pence Must Go message available for sale.
"I am just one pissed-off homo!" exclaims Warren.
Why the animosity towards Pence?
Warren, 50, explains his issues with the governor date back to Pence's positions against the LGBTQ community during his service in the U.S. Congress. His anger fire-flashed during the campaign to stop HJR-3, the constitutional amendment that would have banned same sex marriage in the Hoosier state and Pence's unyielding support for the measure.
"I was sitting in the [Senate] gallery during HJR-3 and someone from the clergy was opening the session with a prayer," recalls Warren. "In his message, he basically condemned all of us that were there to hell. I got so mad I shouted BULLSHIT! My friends and the people around me warned me to be quiet so I wouldn't get kicked out, but I didn't care."
Warren decided he was tired and had had enough. His fire continued to burn and grow hotter through the recent legislative session and the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. He had already had signs made to gather support against HJR-3, so it was just a matter of changing the message and having more signs made. The message he chose reflected exactly how he felt — Pence must go.
The signs took off like a rocket. People who felt the same way as Warren were clamoring to get one. Warren couldn't keep enough inventory to meet the demand.
Now the Pence Must Go PAC is operating in the black and Warren has plenty of stock to accommodate anyone who wants a sign, t-shirt or bumper sticker. He has varied the message to incorporate the different groups that have also been impacted by the governor's positions and actions, including teachers (Expel Pence – Teachers United) and business (Discrimination will cost our state billions!!).
Warren says he has plans for more signs with varying messages. He will continue the effort through the 2016 election cycle.
"You know how politics goes," says Warren. "A year from now people will have forgotten his horrific deeds, not just against us [the LGBTQ community], but so many people. And I'm not going to let that die."
Folks upset with Warren's in-your-face efforts to give Pence the boot have not been subtle about their discontent. Signs have been burned at his house and at other residences around the city. (It takes a lot of effort to burn the signs, which are made of corrugated plastic. An accelerant has to be used for the signs to burn.) Signs have been stolen and property vandalized.
"I know what the security vehicles that you see parked outside of the governor's mansion look like," says Warren. "And I've seen those same vehicles parked outside of my house a few times."
Just this weekend, Warren reported signs stolen from his porch, the information box with the instructions on how to get and pay for materials was stolen and his truck parked in front of the home was egged.
But, Warren says he is not going to stop. He says he feels safe in his home and he will not hide. He wants his address and contact information public so people can continue to get the materials they want and spread the Pence Must Go message.
"I will not be intimidated," says Warren.
The support Warren has received to date is overwhelming. Signs and other materials are sold through an honor system that allows people to come to Warren's front porch and choose the merchandise they want. A brown wicker table holds a clipboard with the instructions on how to pay for the signs and business cards for people to pass on to others for information on how to get their own signs. The clipboard also holds notes and messages of encouragement from people who have visited.
"I live in SoBro [South Broad Ripple] where a sign was torched last night! Rise Up!"
"My two signs were set on fire too in Devonshire!"
"Go get 'em!"
"Sign set on fire, reported it! I owe you $10."
"And the amazing thing is, those who leave an 'I owe you" always come back and pay," says Warren. "Someone wrote down that they would be back with $20, but needed to replace their signs ASAP. Sure enough, the $20 was there by the next morning."
Warren says the effort extends to Hoosiers from all walks of life, regardless of their ethnicity, race or socioeconomic status.
"One afternoon a couple in a very nice car dressed in cocktail attire pulled in to the driveway and paid for two signs," says Warren. "The same afternoon an elderly lady walking with a cane came by. She could barely walk the length of the driveway. She asked for a sign and tucked a roll of quarters in my hand."
Warren says his first instinct was to refuse her money (guessing she lived on a fixed income) and simply give her a sign. Then, he changed his mind, understanding the meaning of her gesture.
"I realized that she was giving me something precious in order to be a part of something. She wanted to be a part of something, so I let her," says Warren.
The desire to be a part of something is also reaching beyond Marion County. Warren sold his merchandise at the Indy Pride festival and sold about 100 signs at a Pride Festival in Spencer, Indiana. He plans to sell more signs, stickers and t-shirts at upcoming Pride festivals in Bloomington and Fort Wayne. His message isn't limited to the LGBTQ community. Warren says he will take his message and merchandise to whomever is working toward the common goal of removing Pence from office.
Warren admires the other campaigns and awareness efforts that are out there. Indiana Young Democrats contacted Warren before starting their own "Fire Mike Pence" sign campaign and fundraiser. He is friends with Josh Driver, the founder of the Open for Service campaign that has spread throughout the country. Like Warren, Driver became angry about the rhetoric surrounding RFRA, but wanted to find a positive release. His frustration led to a movement celebrating businesses that open their doors to everyone. However for Warren, his anger is personal and his actions targeted toward the man he feels is responsible.
"I know it's negative, but you know what? I'm tired," says Warren. "I'll never be Rosa Parks, but I understand where she was coming from. She just wanted to sit down!" jokes Warren. " I use her story jokingly because I know this is nothing compared to her struggle and that period, but I can relate because it's that last straw. She hit it because she was tired and wanted to sit down. I'm done. I'm done, I'm tired, and I'm angry. And he [Pence] is going to pay for it."
Warren may not see the parallels between himself and Rosa Parks, but they are there. Both had reached their limit and took and action on his or her own behalf. In 1955, Parks' action ignited a revolution leading to civil rights across the country. Sixty years later, Warren's action could very well lead to a dramatic shift in Hoosier politics.
Pence Must Go Sign messages
- Pence must go (your rights could be next)
- Discrimination will cost our state billions!!
- Equal Protection for All
- Expel Pence - Teachers United
- "Cast the First Stone" John 8:7
All t-shirts, hats and bumper stickers : Pence must go (your rights could be next)
Signs, t-shirts and hats: $10
Bumper stickers: $3 each or four for $10
Merchandise can be paid for via gofundme.com/pencemustgo
Shipping is available.
Although all proceeds will be distributed to charities supporting the LGBTQ community, donations to the Pence Must Go PAC are not tax deductible as charitable contributions.
For additional information contact:
Kevin Warren, 3544 Central Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46205