I’ve just learned this morning that longtime White House protester Concepcion Picciotto passed away yesterday. Ever since 1981 she had been protesting around the clock against nuclear weapons and for world peace outside the White House. It all started when, in response to President Reagan’s policy of escalating the Cold War against the Soviet Union by building more nuclear weapons, a peace activist named William Thomas decided to set up a protest camp in Lafayette Square outside the White House on June 3, 1981. Concepcion Picciotto joined him just a few months later in August, 1981 where they would staff the camp 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. After Thomas’ death in 2009 Picciotto kept up the camp with help from other local activists who would watch the tent for Picciotto whenever she needed to take breaks.

Over the years that protest camp was quite a fixture in Lafayette Square. That camp has remained through the presidential administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. It has remained erect despite the end of the Cold War, Operation Desert Storm, the NATO bombing of Serbia over its policy in Kosovo, 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, and the frequent calls for the U.S. to start wars in Syria and Iran. It has outlasted similar protest camps that were set up in McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza as local off-shoots of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. As time went on the camp because a designated tourist stop as part of the general White House tour. Many protest demonstrations of all kinds of causes would either begin or end their march in Lafayette Square so the protesters can have a chance to talk with the woman who became a living legend among peace activists. She had her own YouTube channel consisting of just five videos that were all uploaded two years ago. She even made a cameo appearance in Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. Concepcion Picciotto has endured all kinds of weather along with gawking tourists, snickers, taunts, and outright hostility from strangers yet she never wavered because she placed so much importance on the cause of world peace.

I first saw that tent during an occasional outing to Washington, DC while I was a student at the University of Maryland at College Park and I would continue to walk past that camp numerous times over the years. The last time I encountered that camp was when I checked out the Occupy Monsanto protest back in 2013 when the march began in Lafayette  Square. Here are the photos of Concepcion Picciotto and her camp that I shot back then.

Occupy Monsanto

Occupy Monsanto

Occupy Monsanto

Concepcion Picciotto can be seen in the next photo wearing a blue vest and a large helmet-like hat on the right.

Occupy Monsanto

Now that Concepcion Picciotto is dead the fate of the protest camp she has left behind is unknown as of this writing. You may feel tempted to write her off as crazy for giving up the last 35 years of her life for a single cause or believe that her method was too idealistic and foolhardy but you can’t deny that she was very passionately committed to the cause of world peace. If more people had her mindset the world would be a different place with less violence and suffering.

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