Concepcion Picciotto in front of White House

Concepion Picciotto kept a peace vigil and encampment in front of the White  for more than 30 years.  It was considered the longest political protest in American history.

Picciotto, died in a Washington on January 25th.

Camped on a red brick sidewalk under a plastic tarp, Ms. Picciotto, a diminutive, weather-beaten Spanish immigrant and transplanted New Yorker, became a familiar sight to passers-by and tourists as she denounced nuclear weaponry and fended off those who dismissed her as daft.

Her hand-lettered signs declared “Read My Lips, No New Wars” and “Live by the Bomb, Die by the Bomb.”

Ms. Picciotto was also familiar to five presidents, though they ignored her.

“Not a single president ever walked across the street from the White House to meet her or to recognize her quest for peace and justice,” the consumer advocate Ralph Nader, an admirer of hers, wrote in an email.

Ms. Picciotto gained a measure of wider celebrity when she appeared in Michael Moore’s documentary film “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which was scathingly critical of President George W. Bush’s war on terror.

Another admirer was Eleanor Holmes Norton, Washington’s nonvoting delegate to the House of Representatives.

“During Picciotto’s more than 30 years of vigilance for nuclear proliferation and peace, many of her goals were achieved,” Ms. Norton, a Democrat, said in a statement, citing “a measured reduction” in atomic weapon proliferation, including the Obama administration’s recent accord with Iran.

In 2011, Ms. Picciotto was honored by the Shafeek Nader Trust for the Community Interest, established by Ralph Nader and his sisters to honor their brother after his death. The group lauded her for “setting the highest standards for testing the authenticity of free speech protection under the Constitution.”

To do so, she played a cat-and-mouse game for more than three decades with the United States Park Police, which prohibits demonstrators from sleeping on its property or leaving a protest site unattended. When she left to rest, volunteers would relieve her.

That system broke down one day in 2013 when she took a break to grab a bite at a nearby headquarters for peace advocates and her scheduled stand-ins failed to show up. The park police moved in, took down her protest site and got rid of her signs. But after Ms. Norton intervened, Ms. Picciotto was allowed to retrieve her belongings and return to her camp.

In interviews, Ms. Picciotto said she had been orphaned in Spain and raised by a grandmother. After arriving in the United States in 1960, she worked as a receptionist for a Spanish government commercial attaché in New York. She and an Italian immigrant she married (his name could not be learned) lived in the Gravesend section of Brooklyn and adopted an infant daughter, Olga, in Argentina in 1973.

Ms. Picciotto said her husband had committed her to mental institutions to mask his nefarious dealings, which she did not specify, involving the adoption. Eventually, she was released, lost her daughter in a custody dispute and wound up in Washington, where she gravitated to William Thomas, who was conducting his own peace vigil along Pennsylvania Avenue. They were joined in 1984 by Ellen Benjamin, who became Mr. Thomas’s wife. He died in 2009.

Source: New York Times

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