In what is considered the longest protest in the history of the USA, Concepcion Picciotto sat vigil in front of the White House for 30 solid years in the name of peace. She died this past Monday, January 25th, from health complications.
Ms. Picciotto, sitting under a plastic tarp with signs illiciting various calls-to-action, had become a fixture for locals and tourists alike. Some thought her to be wholeheartedly determined, others wrote her off as just another crazy person. No matter, she stood her ground rain or shine, denouncing war, nuclear weapons, and corruption.
When she wasn't at her little "peace tent" Concepcion slept in a Washington DC apartment with 3 roommates. Those who knew her maintain that her health had been in decline for some time, though specifics were not divulged. She was around 80 years old when she passed.
Although Ms. Picciotto protested her way through 5 presidencies, each commander-in-chief ignored her despite their knowledge of her tireless vigil. Ralph Nader, a political activist and professed admirer of Picciotto, recently conveyed in an email:
“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.”
But just because she never spoke to a president doesn't mean her actions didn't have an impact in some way.
“During Picciotto’s more than 30 years of vigilance for nuclear proliferation and peace, many of her goals were achieved,” said democratic delegate to the HoR, Eleanor Holmes Norton. including Obama's recent deal with Iran, Norton cited “a measured reduction” in atomic weapon proliferation in the past few years. But did Picciotto's fearless voice really make a difference?
It's hard to say. What's certain is that she served as an inspiration for many. In 2011, she was honored by the Nader family's Trust for Community Interest for “setting the highest standards for testing the authenticity of free speech protection under the Constitution.” Her dedication was surely unmatched by any other- she even had volunteers take her spot when she left to grab a meal, and often had to fight with park police, who, on one occasion, confiscated all of her signs and protest material.
With her eccentric scarves, wigs, and general flamboyance, it was easy for people to question Concepcion's sanity, regardless of the poignancy of her message. But in the wake of her passing, many are gravitating to the ethos she embodied. She stood for an end to war, she begged us “to stop the world from being destroyed,” and she, once a petite orphan girl from Spain, made history in her own way.
Schroeder Stribling, who helps provide services to homeless women, gave this response when asked for her thoughts on Ms. Picciotto:
“What’s happening in the aftermath of her death is testimony that she did accomplish something. She was a person of passionate attachment to some ideas. You can call that sane or not, but it made a difference.”
Read more about Concepcion here.