NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – New York City’s Times Square has long been famous for its neon advertising, giant billboards and characters dressed up as anything from Mickey Mouse to the Statue of Liberty.
But in the past couple of weeks a look-alike of Vice President-elect Mike Pence has been attracting the attention of passersby in one of the city’s busiest areas.
New Yorker Glenn Pannell has been using his striking resemblance to Pence to ask for donations for causes including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights – in a show of opposition to the politician’s conservative track record against gay rights and abortion.
Dressed in a red-striped tie, shirt and dark blue blazer on top and nothing but short shorts below, Pannell has dubbed his alter-ego “Mike Hot-Pence”.
The openly gay graphic designer said he has collected some $2,300 over the last two weekends while staging his one-man protest.
“The charities that I am choosing to raise money for have definitely been based on Pence’s track record,” Pannell, 51, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview.
“Those charities will really need a lot of help (with Pence as vice president) … and so I am hitting back now with Mike Hot-Pence.”
Recipients of the funds have included the Trevor Project, a nationwide suicide prevention hotline for LGBT youth, as well as women’s healthcare provider Planned Parenthood.
Many LGBT rights activists are wary of Pence’s years of opposition to gay rights, including as governor of Indiana.
And as a vocal abortion opponent, Pence has pushed for Congress to stop funding Planned Parenthood, which performs some abortions.
Friends first noticed Pannell’s resemblance to Pence last summer, a coincidence that became cause for laughter with the campaign for the U.S. presidency then in full swing, he said.
“And then the election happened and laughing stopped.”
Pannell said the results of the Nov. 8 presidential election, which Republican Donald Trump won with Pence as his running mate, spurred him into action.
“After a few weeks of seeing … the despair and the disillusion among my friends, I really felt like I needed to do something,” said Pannell, who has also set up a website for donations.
(Reporting by Sebastien Malo, Editing by Katie Nguyen. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org)