Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mr. President, meet your closest neighbor


Mr. President, meet your closest neighbor: Concepcion Picciotto.

The tourists come and go on Pennsylvania Avenue; the presidents, the inaugurations, the dignitaries and the political scene is always changing. But some things remain the same in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House in Washington, D.C.

She stands directly in front of the White House; she has been called "The Little Giant", a paradox, a mystery. Concepcion Picciotto is one who stays; through the rain and snow, the arrests, the abuses and threats through the years. Since 1981, Concepcion, or 'Connie' to her friends, has continued a vigil for world peace against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction ; and that she would still be here 26 years later

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Vigil: Past To Present

The Vigil: Past To Present 

The following excerpts are from the many articles that have been written by sympathetic and malicious reporters alike to give you a real PIECE OF HISTORY. I'd like to take this opportunity to Thank the many publications and supporters over the years who have contributed their ideas, energy, and compassion to keep the vigil going. Any representation of articles is for the purpose of exhibiting the TRUTH, and to tell the story only, not for any personal gain. This web site has been contributed by friends. Sincerely, Concepcion Picciotto.
March 1, 1997.

Reflections of the Past: The Early Years

In The Beginning: (Just click the article nameif you want to read the rest of the story.)

Connie and Thomas Call Sidewalk Home


By Kathleen Tyman

The new, carefully painted signs on the White House fence read "Wanted: Wisdom and Honesty," among other noble but obscure demands. They are the property of William Thomas, one of three self appointed protesters- in- residence.

Thomas and Concepcion Picciotto have been in their chosen spot on the sidewalk everyday for more than a year...on June 17, they held their ground and were arrested.

Connie's Beloved Thomas' 'MANIFESTO OF INDEPENDENCE'



by William Thomas

The purpose of my life is to acquire wisdom and attain moral perfection.

I live as a penniless wanderer and a pilgrim

Wisdom compells me to recognize that moral perfection is impossible for a member of an amoral nation-state.

Then Concepcion and Thomas met their good friend and mentor, Norman Mayer, click picture below for story.
Norman gave them the courage to make more and bigger signs:

"After Norman died, we painted even more signs," said Concepcion. "I don't remember how many signs there were, but they reached about three-fourths of the way down the White House sidewalk," Thomas said.

Connie's Dear Friend Norman Mayer Slain - Vigil Continues


Houston Chronicle March 13, 1983
United Press International
Sympathizers with demonstrator who was slain at White House continue their anti-nuclear vigil

WASHINGTON -- A guard at the gate calls them the regulars. the ones who sit, stand or pace Pennsylvania Avenue nearly every day picketing the White House.

People for or against nuclear war, abortion, the Vietnam War, budget cuts, and many other issues have made the northern front of the White House their forum.

"Whatever makes the headlines one day, there's someone who comes in the next day to file for a First Amendment permit. It goes in cycles," says National Park Police spokeswoman Sandra Alley.

Some protest there for a few hours, others persist in their cause for years. Most remain anonymous. Norman Mayer didn't.

On Dec. 8, Mayer, 66, who had demonstrated daily before the White House against nuclear weapons since June 1982, besieged the Washington Monument for 10 hours before he was killed by police.

Something else happened after norman's death, the Park Police were worse than ever. It became apparant that new rules were being promulgated by the U.S.Park Police. Concepcion and Thomas fought them in Federal Court:

Connie and Thomas Legal Battles Con't

Judge Lifts White House Picket Rules

The Washington Times

By David Sellers
Washington Times Staff

A federal judge yesterday struck down new National Park Service regulations that limit the activities allowed as part of demonstrations on the sidewalk in front of the White House.

U.S. District Judge William Bryant issued a temporary restraining order, explaining that he failed to find that an emergency existed and that federal officials should have allowed a 30-day comment period on the regulations instead of putting them into effect immediately.
"I don't think there's any justification for not having that 30-day period:' Bryant said. "There's no articulated exigency."

Although there are 20 days left in the comment period, Bryant's order is good for only 10 days. Lawyers for both sides acknowledged that they may be back before the court at a later date; but they said they would try to work out any differences among themselves.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Bates said he was not certain whether his office would appeal Bryant's order.

The new regulations, implemented April 22, prohibit individuals from exhibiting placards or signs on the White House sidewalk unless the person holds them at all times.

In spite of their resistance, the Park Police and the Secret Service won the battle, and the protesters were forced off the White House Sidewalk:
Concepcion salutes the Park Police, Hitler-style, as they take the signs away.
"It was disgraceful," she remembers.

Protesting on the White House Sidewalk had come to an end. A new way of life began for Thomas and Concepcion: 

Conchita's Signs Taking Root in Lafayette Park


By Charles E. Wheeler
August 8,1984

Dozens of large protest signs have gone up in Lafayette Park since last year's National Park Service regulations restricting demonstrations on the White House sidewalk, and they're getting mixed reviews from locals and tourists. 

Connie and Thomas - Watchers at the Gate



Beaten, abused, living rough, they stand like some moral Maginot Line on a permanent White House peace vigil..

The man and the woman -Concepcion Picciotto and William Thomas - live under the stars, exposed to the rain and snow, summer and winter, without tent or sleeping bag. They feed like the pigeons and squirrels in the park, on what comes along, sometimes from the nearby McDonald's or Hardees bins.

It is a starkly contrasting picture in the capital of the world's greatest nation. On the south side, in the great mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue live Ronald and Nancy Reagan...across the street in Lafayette Park, without address or visible means of support, are Concepcion and William, with their messages of peace..

Connie Advertising a the White House?

Advertising at The White House!?

Word of Mouth,Inc. A Newspaper
Dedicated to the Population Majority
VOLUME III An International Publication Based in Jacksonville,Florida,USA

........ a very powerful advertising campaign was launched in Washington, District of Columbia, more than three years ago. The marketing director was one of the growing number of women in the business of public relations. Except that she was hired to do a huge campaign, -- with no prior experience! She got the job due to connections. So, she was offered only the experience of the job itself--with no salary.

She took the position anyway, knowing that its ultimate worth could not be measured in dollars; that its true reward would be in proving herself, opening doors only dreamed of by most of us. She experienced running an effective national campaign, and saw her work spread rapidly to a campaign of international repute.

Concepcion is the name of this woman. . Her name means "the beginning of creation or something"-- and she lives to conceive the idea of the real possibility of peace on earth through disarmament.

Concepcion's Life of Protest


By George Joseph Tanber
TOLEDO MAGAZINE, Decmber 4-10, 1988

WASHINGTON: She's beginning her eighth winter in the neighborhood, yet she's never met the only other residents of the block.
Mr. and Mrs. Reagan, meet Concepcion Picciotto.
Mrs. Picciotto - Connie to her friends -- occupies a humble patch of sidewalk in Lafayette Park, directly across from the entrance to the White House. She's there in the morning, when the tourists line up fa their visit to the executive mansion; she's there in the afternoon, when office workers flock to the park for picnic lunches; she's there in the evening, when rush hour traffic clogs Pennsylvania Avenue, and she there at 3 a.m.. when silence rules, save for the occasional stirring of a restless drunk on a nearby park bench.
Each day, and nearly every night since August 1981, Concepcion Picciotto has been there It`s her home. But she's not alone. She has her signs - "Live by the Bomb . . Die by the Bomb." "Civilized People do not Nuke Fellow Humans" -- her friend William Thomas, and the squirrels.
Mrs. Picciotto and Mr. Thomas demonstrate for living Co-founders of the White House Anti-Nuclear Peace Vigil, they claim the modern record for presidential protest They pass out pamphlets, they talk with passersby, and they display their signs Their message, they say, is simple: peace, freedom, and justice for mankind.
Not so simple, it seems, has been the response. They've been harassed and arrested by police, beaten and taunted by strangers, and ignored by most of their audience.
"We are sacrificing a lot." says Mrs Picciotto. who is 43. "And we are enduring a lot. But it's worth it.
IT'S A CURIOUS life for a woman who was born half a world away, in western Spain. Orphaned at a early age, Mrs. Picciotto was raised By her grand mother. When she died. young Concepcion decided to fulfill her lifelong ambition of emigrating to the United States. She arrived in New York at age 18 and found work as a secretary with the Spanish Consulate.
At 21, she met and married an ltalian businessman. The birth of a daughter, in 1973, was followed 20 months later by a messy divorce, the details of which Mrs. Picciotto declines to discuss The result, she says, was the loss of her husband, her daughter. her job, and her home.
She spent seven years trying to gain custodv of her child. Her odyssey began in the courts of Manhattan and took her to Albany, Madrid, and finally Washington. where she sought help from her congressman. Rebuffed at every turn. Mrs. Picciotto decided to take her case to the streets.
In 1980, she secured a part-time job as a babv sitter and began spending her off-days in front of the White House with her hand-painted signs calling for justice. She also wrote letters. One, to Lillian Carter, drew this response: "I sympathize with your case, but I am 80 miles away and have no power."
Gradually, as she befriended other demonstrator: Mrs. Picciotto`s repertoir expanded to include the anti-nuclear effort. Her zeal also grew. Finally, on warm summer day, halfway through Ronald Reagans first year as president, she collected her belongings and took a bus to Lafayette Park, where she has remained.
Shortly after, she joined forces with Mr Thomas, 40, who had begun protesting at the White House the previous year. (He had been expelled From Britain for discarding his U.S passport and declaring himself stateless).
Initially. Mrs Picciotto and Mr Thomas spent their days in front of the White House and their nights in the park. But in 1985 the National Park Service enacted restrictions on White House sidewalk demonstrations forcing the protestors across the street The protestors responded by increasing the number and size of their signs. At one time. Mrs Picciotto and Mr Thomas had 18 free-standing plywood signs in a row. The tallest was over 10 feet high.
Public concern and pressure from the Interior Department resulted in further restrictions two years ago. Today, no one is allowed more than two signs. and thev can't exceed 6 feet in height. This peeves Mrs Picciotto, who sees a conspiracy directed at forcing all protestors away from the area.
Rather than pout about her misfortune, though, she is content to sit on her milk crate, which doubles as her bed, and spread the word: "Stop building nuclear weapons, and let`s use the money to eliminate poverty."
MRS PICCIOTTO is a tiny woman, about 5 feet tall. she's well-mannered and articulate, although she speaks with a thick accent. She always wears a brown wig the size of a football helmet, covered with a scarf -- she won't say why -- and on a recent chilly afternoon she wore corduroy slacks, a wool sweater, and a down vest covered with protest badges. Her shabby appearance contradicts her penchant for tidiness; she constantly sweeps leaves and litter from her part of the sidewalk and neatly stacks her belongings behind the signs.
Her face is weather-beaten, but her dark eyes sparkle, reflecting the enthusiasm she has for what she calls her "life's work."
She survives. she says, on coffee, sweet rolls, and bread. Occasionally, friends bring her cheese, fruit, and sandwiches. She uses the restroom at a nearby Hardy's restaurant and showers infrequently at a downtown shelter for the homeless. She averages three hours of sleep a day, leaning against one of her signs.
Winters are the worst, says Mrs. Picciotto. No amount of clothing keeps the cold out, and she spends most nights pacing the sidewalk to avoid perishing.
Her livelihood comes from donations, she says. On a good day she may make $15. The money is spent on food, printing literature and paint for the "peace rocks" she began making several years ago. The rocks have become popular souvenirs for tourists, although Mrs Picciotto declines to charge for them.
Harassment is her biggest concern. It ranges from verbal abuse to physical harm: Eight years ago a U.S Marine punched her in the face. There also are threats from the homeless people who sometimes inhabit the park.
Park police are another problem, since sleeping is considered camping: -- a park offense -- and leaving posters unattended also is unlawful. Mrs. Picciotto and Mr. Thomas frequently play 'cat-and-mouse' with their adversaries. Sometimes they lose. Last summer Mr. Thomas, who calls himself an intellectual and spends a lot of time in the library, served 90 days in the pokey for camping.

THERE ARE good moments. too. Every week a woman from the Humane Society delivers a bag of peanuts to Mrs. Picciotto so she can feed her beloved squirrels. She sometimes receives mail from people she has become friends with. (The Vigil has a post office box). And after her bike was stolen, a young man employed at a nearby bicycle shop pieced together another for her Despite the hardships. the sidewalk across from the White House will remain Mrs. Picciotto's home for the foreseeable future.
"Certainly. I could go back to society." she says "I could make a !iving. But God has chosen a greater task for me". One of the squirrels grabs a peanut from Mrs Picciotto`s hand and scampers into the park.
"Imagine." she says,"I have seen people freeze to death in that park, right across the street from the house of the most powerful man in the world."


Conchita's Round the Clock Vigil


Daily Express
Sunday, Sept. 19, 1993

From James Sarda

PENNSYLVANIA Avenue in Washington D.C. is home to two famous residents both located diagonally across from the other.

One is the most powerful men on earth-who exercises great influence from a secure and comfortable white-washed 1818 century mansion.

The other is a woman who braves the wind, rain, sun and snow in a lonely round-the-clock street vigil alerting people to the horrors of weapons and nuclear war.

What inspires this intelligent woman to stay there? Her answer is quick: "I am in pursuit of Peace and Justice", says Concepcion, "to make people aware, so that they wake up to the reality that weapons of mass destruction threaten the extinction of mankind. The people have to make the change. The governments do not represent the people, they represent the corporations. We have to start from scratch. If the people lead, the leaders will follow. That's when revolutions happen, when the people cannot tolerate anymore," she concluded., "The people are in despair, the economy is crumbling, the crime is worse than ever, and the bombers are everywhere."

"People just want to be heard'" Concepcion added;

Connie - Proof that if you keep trying, some will listen

Concepcion has learned that if you keep trying, some people do listen:

Reflexion grafica por Sally Hanlon:

Revista Maryknoll, March 1992 Cargando la cruz ajena

Concepcion Piccioto, oriunda de Espana, lleva 10 anon dia y noche frente a la Cas Blanca en vigilia permanente por la paz?
Concepcion Picciotto, a native of Spain, has spent 10 years [97: now 16 years] of her life in front of the White House day and night in a permanent vigil for peace.
What will I contribute to peace?

Conchita - Inspiring Peace Activists World-wide

Concepcion has been an inspiration to Peace Activists from around the world who come back year after year to have their picture taken with her and to hope they will be the next recipient of the beautiful and famous "peace rocks" she paints with the word "Peace" in several different languages, which she also speaks.

These people tell her, "Please don't give up,we need you here!", and "You do this for all of us, and for the children." That's why she does it, for the children. 

Connie - "We must teach our children to value Life"

"We must teach the children to respect and value LIFE, not material things. That's the only way we will have peace," she said at a recent interview in Washington. "The people must demand that the governments stop using the people's money to buy weapons, and use it for the people's needs, such as education, jobs, housing and health care; People need to live with dignity. If the people have what they need, there would be no reason to fight," added Concepcion. 

Concepcion - No More Hiroshimas

No More Hiroshimas
One of Concepcion's Fliers depicts the little girl, Sadako Sasaki, who died on October 25, 1955, from leukemia, "the bomb sickness", which killed many for years after the war. This statue was erected in Hiroshima Peace Park, in 1958, in memory of Sadako and the thousands of children who died at Hiroshima. Sadako is holding a golden crane in outstretched arms atop a granite mountain. The legend in Japan is that if you fold a thousand paper cranes, the angels will grant your wish. Every year, on August 6 --Peace Day, children come from all over the world to place paper cranes at the base of the statue.

Connie, an Unmatched Defender of Free Speech - 1st Amendment

The White House Anti-Nuclear Vigil is one of those constant reminders that Free Speech is alive and well in the United States of America: even in Washington. Or, is it?
The "Regulations" being implemented by the National Park Service have slowly, subtly, consistently pushed the First Amendment frontliners to the back of the park, away from the White House and the tourists, but the Park Police don't let up.
After Clinton's second Inauguration, we moved the signs back to the front of the White House, as we have done since Reagan's second term. The Park Police were rude, and said, "No, you can't move those signs until the supervisor gives the order."

Well, the signs were moved, but we have suffered constant harassment since then. The police have locked the bathrooms, and they watch every minute to see if I leave the signs. Thanks to friends, I do get a break occasionally; and the vigil goes on...  

More than 30 years the Soldier for Humanity

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Washington Post - Whatever Happened To... ... the protesters at Lafayette Square park?
By Kris Coronado
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Protester Concepcion Picciotto holds a poster depicting William Thomas. After gazing at the White House, a group of well-dressed tourists turns around and takes in an entirely
Protester Concepcion Picciotto holds a poster depicting William Thomas. (Benjamin C Tankersley - )different scene across the street. There, centered on the sidewalk along Lafayette Square park, is a jumbled menagerie of wooden and cardboard signs. One shows photos of Hiroshima bombing victims. The caption reads: "Stay the course and this will happen to YOU."
When the onlookers approach for a better view, they catch the attention of Concepcion Picciotto -- the woman to whom this anti-nuclear vigil belongs.
She is rearranging her signs. The previous day, U.S. Park Police briefly relocated her to the northwest corner of the park when they closed it to the public for undisclosed reasons.
"It's so hard," Picciotto explains. "For two hours, they made us move everything and wait."
A 40-something tourist smiles condescendingly. "That's a good idea, though, because you wouldn't want one thing to be in a spot for too long," she says.
Picciotto is not amused. "Well, I have this here for you because you do nothing," she retorts. "You people go around like robots with cameras. If you people were more concerned, we wouldn't have to be here."
The group scoffs and mockingly makes robot movements before walking away laughing.
This is no joke for Picciotto. She has been staging her protest against nuclear weaponry every day since 1981. On this windy winter morning, her petite frame is bundled in a thick corduroy jacket. She wears a scarf over a wig, and many of her front teeth are missing.
When featured in The Washington Post in June 2006, Picciotto left the talking to William Thomas, the man who began the vigil on June 3, 1981. Picciotto had met Thomas a few months earlier and decided to join him.
The pair had regulations to follow -- they couldn't stray three feet from their property or sit in anything resembling bedding. Thomas was arrested multiple times.
Yet all of these challenges seemed negligible in comparison to the one Picciotto faced on Jan. 23, 2009 -- the day Thomas succumbed to pulmonary disease at age 61. With her compatriot gone, how could she maintain the vigil on her own?
That's when Start Loving (yes, he goes by that name only) stepped in.
"I was just unwilling to see it jeopardized," says Loving, a fellow activist.
Loving's presence in the mornings and evenings means Picciotto can grab a shower or relieve herself.
For now, Picciotto will maintain her vigil for a nuclear-free world. There's no apparent end, she insists. To this day, no president has crossed the street to meet her. It's a fact she finds frustrating. "I'm very discouraged," she says. 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Washington protester who outlasts presidents

Washington protester who outlasts presidents
June 18, 2010 Updated Mar 15, 2009 at 4:11 AM EDT
She is President Barack Obama's closest neighbor, but don't expect her to be invited over for tea any time soon -- not while carrying on the longest continuous act of political protest in the United States.
Each morning like she has for the past 28 years, Concepcion Picciotto pulls back the plastic flap of her makeshift shelter in Lafayette Park and stares across the street at the White House, but the protester-in-residence voices little hope that the new president will make a difference on issues that dominate her life: ending US interventionist wars and banning nuclear weapons.
"No, they're all the same," Picciotto laments about the commanders-in-chief she has literally watched come and go since 1981, when she and fellow activist William "Doubting" Thomas began their 24-hour White House peace vigil.
"From the beginning I said Obama isn't going to work, because he's inside there," she hisses, pointing to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
"It's a revolving door," she tells AFP in an interview on a recent frigid night.
Obama and the other presidents she has outlasted -- Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush -- "don't support peace."
"It's against what they do: invasions, occupations, wars."
Some Americans dismiss the Spanish-born Picciotto, who declines to give her age but is said to be 64, as a little old lady with a bone to pick.
For many tourists, she is a colorful character who recites greetings in several languages and paints peace messages on rocks -- a harmless flake who has spent most of her adult years living under the sun and stars, enjoying the best view in Washington.
But others see her as someone far more vital: a rabid defender of free speech, a global peace activist who serves as the unheralded conscience of a nation grappling with its warrior/peacemaker past and present.
To activist Jamilla El-Shafei, Picciotto is nothing less than "a living symbol of resistance," defiantly anchored across the street and a world away from the most powerful leader on the planet.
"She is an amazing example of grassroots democracy and she understands that power is with the people," said El-Shafei, who has protested against the US-led war in Iraq alongside Picciotto.
Colman McCarthy, a former columnist in Washington who now heads the Center for Teaching Peace, says she "steadfastly defines the madness of American militarism."
"She is certifiably sane," McCarthy adds. "The rest of us, who think we can live with nuclear weapons, we are insane."
More than just about anyone in the US capital except longstanding members of Congress, the diminutive woman with several missing teeth and a helmet of brown hair is a Washington fixture.
Her large signs -- "Live By The Bomb, Die By The Bomb," "Ban All Nuclear Weapons Or Have A Nice Doomsday" -- are throwbacks to the early 1980s, and the tail end of an era of large-scale government protest.
In the decades since, she has been cursed at, spat on and beaten up -- and that's just by the police, she claims.
"We have had a very hard time with the government," she whispers, batting her mittens together to keep warm.
She recalls the dozens of arrests, the constant 50-dollar citations for illegal "camping" in the park, and dozens of forays by Thomas to Capitol Hill and courtrooms to protect their constitutional right to protest by challenging the various new regulations imposed on them.
But just days after Obama's January 20 inauguration, Picciotto's world collapsed. Thomas, 61, died at their nearby office.
"It was horrible. Horrible," Picciotto recalls of the death of her longtime protest partner.
"They killed Thomas in a way," she says, referring to the harassment by US Park Police, the law enforcement arm responsible for Lafayette Park.
The Park Police acknowledges the longstanding face-off, but insists it has followed the rules to the letter, even as the changing regulations on protests made for some uncomfortable clashes.
"It's like a marriage... but over the years, it's been a good relationship," Park Police information officer David Schlosser says.
Picciotto scoffs at the suggestion that she and police have resolved their differences.
"Just last night a policeman stopped me when I went to the trash can because it was more than three feet (one meter) away from my signs!"
Yet Picciotto carries on, thanks to what McCarthy calls her "great grace of persistence."
The area in front of the White House bustles with protesters during the day, but when darkness falls, Picciotto is alone. She savors the silence, but the absence of other activists is glaring.
"No one else has the courage to challenge (the government) and go through what we've gone through," she says.
Days later, she appears in jovial mood. Ten South Koreans are gathered around her vigil, and she offers greetings in Korean while the tourists snap pictures with her.
A young woman in the group, perhaps mindful of the thousands of Koreans who died in the 1945 atomic blasts in Japan, bows slowly at the waist and wordlessly presses folded dollar bills into Picciotto's palm.
When asked what she would tell Obama if she had the chance, Picciotto says she would urge him to ban nuclear weapons, stop funding Israel's military, pull troops out of Iraq "and put the money here, for people here."
Claiming good health, Picciotto aims to be around for years to come, and wants to write a book about her experiences. But for now she appears content with bringing her issues to light for the million or more tourists and Washingtonians who see her vigil each year.
"She is standing up for her conviction, for peace ... and she is a manifestation of the nation's feelings about war," El-Shafei said.
"She is standing there for all of us."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Minn Tribune: Will it ever end?

Published February 11, 2010, 12:00 AM

Will it ever end?

Protester Concepcion Picciotto sits in the snow Wednesday as she continues a 24-hour-a-day peace vigil in Lafayette Park across from the White House. Picciotto, an immigrant from Spain who has been active with her peace vigil since 1981, said she has been sleeping under a plastic tarp during the city’s recent record snowfall. A blizzard howled up the East Coast on Wednesday, making roads from Baltimore to New York City so treacherous that even plow drivers pulled over. More than three feet of snow has fallen since the end of last week. AP Photo/Charles Dharapak

Monday, March 16, 2009

Protester outlasts 4 US presidents

Protester outlasts 4 US presidents
Published: Monday, Mar 16, 2009, 0:33 IST
Place: Washington, DC | Agency: AFP
Concepcion Picciotto is president Barack Obama�s closest neighbour, but don�t expect her to be invited over for tea any time soon, not while carrying on the longest continuous act of political protest in the US.
Each morning like she has for the past 28 years, Picciotto pulls back the plastic flap of her makeshift shelter in Lafayette Park and stares across the street at the White House, but the protester-in-residence voices little hope that Obama will make a difference on issues that dominate her life: ending US interventionist wars and banning nuclear weapons.
�No, they�re all the same,� Picciotto laments about the commanders-in-chief she has literally watched come and go since 1981, when she and fellow activist William �Doubting� Thomas began their 24-hour White House peace vigil.
�It�s a revolving door,� she said. Obama and the other presidents she has outlasted, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush � �don�t support peace.� �It�s against what they do: invasions, occupations, wars.�
Some Americans dismiss the Spanish-born Picciotto, who declines to give her age but is said to be 64. She has been cursed at, spat on and beaten up and that�s just by the police, she claims.
Picciotto wants to write a book about her experiences. But for now she appears content with bringing her issues to light for the million or more tourists and Washingtonians who see her vigil each year.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

One-man demos to silent protests

    One-man demos to silent protests

How do you express objection?
Mr Joseph Mbogo, 45, spent his morning last Tuesday standing, in protest, outside Parliament in a one-man demonstration, but positioned well enough to be seen by those going in or leaving the Parliamentary Building. The former NRA bush war veteran hasn’t had a share in the national cake, the way many of his colleagues have. It’s now 22 years since ‘they’ took power but all he has is the memory of the harsh bush days. “I wrote to the president in August 2007,” he told The Independent in an interview.
He personally took the letter to Lt. Gen.  David Tinyefuza, the presidential advisor on military affairs. Tinyefuza passed on the letter to the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence with instructions that Mbogo gets help. CMI never helped him. Now he wants CMI to give the letter to the president.  “I need money, I am homeless, my children don’t go to school yet we worked hard together and he had promised not to forget us.”
He joined the army when he was only 15 years, in September 1981. “He [M7] badly needed manpower, they called us thieves, it rained on us but when they arrived in Kampala they forgot about us.”
For his efforts, just as President Museveni was leaving Parliament, a PGB soldier walked up to him and gave him Col. Proscovia Nalweyiso’s (first NRA woman  officer) number. He called her immediately and arranged a meeting. Maybe something could come out of his demo. 
Just the day before Mbogo’s demonstration, Mr Jeff Sewava, 30, an electrician with UMEME took his cause to Parliament, his concern being child neglect and abuse. “There is a lot of violence against children, they are beheaded, defiled, and starved yet the minister for children is not heard and in fact unknown,” Sewava told The Independent. To make his point, Sewava carried his four-year-old child to Parliament and says the child’s mother abandoned him at two weeks and that if it were him who had done so, FIDA and other flurry of NGOs would have been chasing after him. 
But not everybody is taking their issue to the sidewalk at Parliament.  According to some observers, more people are going solo in protest against society injustice.  These people aren’t going to street corners holding placards laden with statements; rather they are enforcing their boycotts and protests quietly as they go about their daily tasks.  According to some silent protesters, the power of a silent protest can be far reaching and effective.
The silent protesters are up against numerous issues. One resident of Bweyogerere says he has been driving without a driving license for some time now. He says he cannot waste time and money on Face Technologies, the company that procures the permits, just to get a laminated piece of paper that is too shoddy to be called a driving permit – but at the cost of an arm and a leg!  
Some people have boycotted bars, restaurants, beauty salons, supermarkets, banks, and other service points because of bad customer care, rude attendants, disrespectful security, dirtiness, or because the firms are owned by people who have been reported to have swindled public funds.  The protesters say they relentlessly complained out loud at first but never saw change until they silently walked away and launched their boycott.
“There is no place to get redress [after a poor service] and that is the reason they are going for silent protests,” said Mr Sam Watasa, the executive director of Uganda Consumers Protection Association. But first, what are Watasa’s boycotts? “I don’t go to shops with imported textiles because most are factory rejects,” said Watasa, “yet if I go to Phenix Logistics and the cloth had a problem, I would return it.” Watasa doesn’t buy imported car batteries because they have no guarantee.
When the protest to save Mabira Forest went digital, with a call to boycott Lugazi sugar on the Internet and via SMS, the power of a boycott of a nation was unleashed on SCOUL and it proved that a business, perhaps even a government, could be brought to its knees.  Hussein Kyanjo, MP Makindye West, a big player in the Save Mabira Crusade says Ugandans are not consistent with their protests.
“The great majority of Ugandans live a subsistence life, they cannot prepare for a month ahead, they live by the day and tomorrow may be different,” he said. Ugandans will react in a demonstration massively today and tomorrow they will have got a job or a deal upcountry and they will abandon the cause to go and make money. “Demonstrations are successful in structured economies where people know how they will live at least for a month. That is how dictators are surviving,” said Kyanjo.
Kyanjo said that with the Lugazi sugar boycott, eventually people couldn’t tell the difference. “It was effective for a short time, about three weeks.” Kyanjo agrees that silent protests are on. “I heard people want to boycott Pepsi Cola products because of his [Amos Nzeyi] involvement in Temangalo, but the consistent ones are few.” 
Consistence is what the demonstration by Mr William Thomas and Ms Concepcion Picciotto is made of.  The two have been demonstrating in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. since 1981. They are protesting against the use of genocidal weapons like nuclear weapons.  The two have survived arrests, harassments, beatings, court battles, rain, snow, summer and winter. Presidents have come and gone but they remain and say they will push for their cause till they die. 
On silent boycotts, not only are some people boycotting but also encouraging everyone around them to do the same.  When Metro Cash & Carry Supermarket, Uganda’s premier store opened, shoppers had to carry membership/loyalty cards to be allowed to shop.  Ugandans long accustomed to dukas thought Metro was being snobbish. This forced many shoppers, most of whom only heard about the cards through word of mouth, to stay away even after the requirement was scrapped. Competition from other stores like Shoprite and Uchumi and a misunderstood marketing gimmick finished off Metro. 
A silent protest comes with many benefits, not to mention the satisfaction. To hold a demonstration, even a one – man demo, one needs police clearance.  “You have to inform the Inspector General of Police, involve us at the time of planning, we need to know the type of placard and the message on the placard,” said Ms Judith Nabakoba, the police spokesperson.  A silent protest on the other hand is free of any hassles. 

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pennsylvania Avenue's other famous couple

Pennsylvania Avenue's other famous couple

Last Updated: Friday, August 15, 2008 | 3:51 PM ET

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Concepcion Picciotto in front of her alternative White House on the edge of Lafayette Park, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the real one.Concepcion Picciotto in front of her alternative White House on the edge of Lafayette Park, across Pennsylvania Avenue from the real one. (Andrea Lee/CBC) It is 12:30 on a Thursday afternoon and it is hot, one of those searing, humid days that remind Washingtonians they live in the U.S. South.
In front of the White House, tourists are undeterred. They come in groups large and small, stopping to take pictures of the president's home or to peer through the wrought iron bars that keep them from it.
Across the street, on the edge of Lafayette Park, Concepcion Picciotto is protesting loudly.
"That man is crazy!" she cries, in a high-pitched, heavily-accented voice, pointing to the White House. "Destroy the people! Destroy the nation! No future for the children!"
Picciotto is by no means a threatening protester. She is about five feet tall. Her skin is darkly tanned and heavily creased. She is missing teeth. She wears a dark brown wig over a cap, covered by a purple and beige scarf.
On this day, she is wearing a peach-coloured blouse, white cotton pajama-style pants with pale yellow flowers, and brown sandals. She also wears a large, forest green fanny pack and has a set of keys around her neck.
Don't underestimate her, though. Picciotto is one of Washington's best-known protesters. She and a partner, William Thomas, have lived in a makeshift tent across the street from the White House since 1981.
They set up their "White House 24 Hours a Day Antinuclear Peace Vigil" 27 years ago and haven't left. In a perverse kind of way, they have become Pennsylvania Avenue's other famous couple

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

YES: People We Love

   Conchita Picciotto has been a neighbor to presidents since 1981
Conchita Picciotto
FOR 25 YEARS Concepcion “Conchita” Picciotto has lived on the street in front of the White House, protesting nuclear arms. Hers may be the longest continuous vigil in history.
In 1981, when Picciotto took up residence in Lafayette Square, Jimmy Carter was president. She counts off the others on her fingers: “Ronald Reagan, two terms, then President Bush's father, then President Clinton, two terms too, and now the son of the father.”
But in all that time, she's never talked to any of her presidential neighbors.
Asked what one message she would give President Bush if she could, Picciotto says, “My goodness! The first thing, to come to his senses and stop killing.”
Conchita is regarded as a permanent fixture in D.C. She's been listed twice in the Berlitz guide to the city, and she appeared in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Washington Post - Vigil for peace marks 25th year

Vigil for peace marks 25th year

The Washington Post

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William Thomas has maintained a peace vigil in Lafayette Square across from the White House since June 3, 1981. "I never imagined I'd be sitting here for 25 years," he said.
WASHINGTON — William Thomas first introduced fanny to brick on the White House sidewalk on June 3, 1981. His sign said, "Wanted: Wisdom and Honesty." He's been there ever since, still squatting, still wanting.
A few months after he began, he was joined by Concepcion Picciotto, who has remained similarly steadfast.
War is not over, but the peace protesters have won. Sort of. Lafayette Square, the oasis of green across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, is theirs.
Get rid of the shelter made of a battered patio umbrella, a weathered plastic tarp and those faded anti-nuke signs erected by Thomas and Picciotto?
It wouldn't be the same park.
Tourists from such places as Beijing and Chicago no longer would flash peace signs for digital cameras. School groups would make one less stop. Tour-guide shticks would shrink by a sentence or two.
Anniversary celebrations are for institutions. The 25th Anniversary Speakout for the 24-7 peace vigil began at noon Saturday, hosted by peace and anti-nuke groups, with speakers and invitations to "sing, chant, recite, drum, dance your heartsong."
A quarter-century. Through rain and sleet and snow and summer. And police raids and lawyers and courtrooms. And jail. Thomas once was sentenced to 90 days for violating the elaborate (and ever-evolving) rules of expression.
But that's all been sorted out. As long as they don't "camp" (dozing off on your stool is OK, but no sleeping in anything that resembles "bedding"), stray more than 3 feet from their signs or construct overly large posters, the law leaves them alone.
The National Park Police and the Secret Service have learned to live with the protesters.

"We make it look like a free country," Thomas said. "We're an asset to the government. So they don't pay much attention and pretend we're not here." They have inspired legislation on Capitol Hill. Every session, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., introduces the Nuclear Disarmament and Economic Conversion Act, calling for nations to mutually agree to disarm. It's based on a ballot proposition that passed in the District of Columbia in 1993 that was inspired by the vigil keepers.
The bill never goes anywhere, but, Norton said, "The reason they have become a fixture is because they are there for the long haul for disarmament."
Colman McCarthy, a former Washington Post columnist who now teaches peace studies, said, "I take my high-school and college students regularly to the vigil. I'd rather they see a sermon on peace than hear one."
The fact that the nation is at war again, that nuclear fear again is in the air, does not take away from the vigil keepers, McCarthy said: "The basic philosophy of the peace movement is not to worry about being successful, but to worry about being faithful. For 25 years these people have carried on a commitment that goes back to Isaiah."
In the beginning, Thomas and Picciotto stationed themselves on the sidewalk next to the White House fence. New rules forced them to the sidewalk on the other side of Pennsylvania. Once every four years, during inaugural parades, they have to move. They also were displaced for the recent reconstruction of the avenue and then allowed back to the new brick sidewalk.
Since the early days, they have split up vigil duties, alternating six-hour shifts so someone is on duty 24 hours a day. Their schedule is at least as rigid as any of the bourgeois clock-punchers who sometimes sneer at their lifestyle. It takes discipline to last 25 years.
When not in the park, the two spend time in Peace House, a group house about 10 blocks away, a space purchased with a little money left by elderly friends several years ago. They do not solicit money. Thomas said he eats donated food and wears donated clothes.
Naturally, there is a Web site,, Thomas' wife, Ellen, who supports the vigil, posts online diary entries about the effort.
"I never imagined I'd be sitting here for 25 years," said Thomas, 60. "I've always been something of a nomad, and to think I would sit here for so long was something incomprehensible."
His fundamental hypothesis is that the government lies. These lies were used to justify the nuclear-arms race, and they are at the root of all the war-making since, he said.
"I'm not convinced absolutely that I'm not incorrect," he said. "So I sit here and I tell people what I believe, in the hope that if I am incorrect, somebody will come by and explain to me the error of my thinking. Unfortunately, it hasn't happened yet."
Picciotto won't talk to a reporter because she is sure the reporter will print lies. She has said she was born in Spain. Today, she will only say: "We got to stop this insanity. No more invasions."
The peacemakers sometimes get on each other's nerves.
"No pictures," Picciotto tells a news photographer even though tourists have been snapping her all day.
"What is wrong with you?" Thomas asks.
"You think I'm a fool?" Picciotto says.
"Yes, sometimes," Thomas says.

Monday, April 4, 2005

Protesting for peace

Protesting for peace

Spanish immigrant calls sidewalk home in decades-long showdown with White House

by Jason Kane and Nicole Wetherell
Hatchet Reporters

Concepcion Picciotto has become a local and national celebrity in her 24 years of protest on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Media Credit: David Ediger
Concepcion Picciotto has become a local and national celebrity in her 24 years of protest on Pennsylvania Avenue.
In the early-morning light flooding the sidewalks of Lafayette Park, Concepcion Picciotto rises stiffly from her rustic encampment of protest. Peering intensely back at tourists who gawk at her from all angles of Pennsylvania Avenue, Picciotto, flyers in hand, braces for another day of heated controversy.

For nearly 25 years, Picciotto has enacted the same routine within the shadow of the White House, willingly subjecting herself to both scathing public criticism and the harsh Washington weather in support of peace and nuclear disarmament.

Having been labeled everything from a prophet to a public pest, she has resigned herself to the name-calling, basking instead in the notoriety attained from her short appearance in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" and the belief that many Americans find comfort in her unfaltering presence in the park.

Picciotto's six-foot-tall signs, which evolve in accordance with world affairs, tower over her small frame, ensuring that the message preached in her soft, heavily accented voice is clear to all who pass.

"Stay the course and this will happen to you," warns one sign bearing pictures of bloodied corpses. "Give peace a chance." The small, wrinkled woman stands defiantly under them, ready to preach about the need for better education in America ("Americans are ignorant people. They're lazy. They've never suffered."), or the dangers of nuclear war.

Shortly after the vigil's conception in 1981, massive versions of the current signs dominated the north gate of the White House, covering approximately three-fourths of the sidewalk along Pennsylvania Avenue. Laws enacted to prevent such behavior have since limited Picciotto to her current allotment, a process that has forced her across the street from her original location and subjected her to what she describes as a never-ending barrage of harassment, citations and legal trials.

"The government makes many rules which are in violation of the Constitution by limiting the size and number of my signs. I have been arrested a number of times, I have been beaten by marines, accosted by police. It's very difficult," she says in a low whisper.

Sunday, August 8, 2004

Una Mujer Contra El Sistema Americano, Los Domingos De La Voz (Spanish)



Moore da fama a la gallega de la Casa Blanca

El documental "Fahrenheit 9/11" muestra el rostro de la activista, que denuncia desde 1981 el "injusto y corrupto" sistema social de EE. UU.


A trav�s de los ojos curiosos y la c�mara al hombro de Michael Moore, millones de personas en todo el mundo est�n conociendo estos d�as interioridades sorprendentes de la Administraci�n Bush: los entramados empresariales que presionan al establishment, las amistades peligrosas de los hombres m�s poderosos del planeta... Aparte de esto y mucho m�s, Fahrenheit 9/11 tambi�n est� mostrando al mundo el rostro y la voz de la gallega que ostenta un r�cord extraofi cial de persistencia y fi delidad a un pu�ado de causas. Se llama Concepci�n Martin Picciotto (Conchita para los amigos, Connie en versi�n anglosajona), naci� en Santiago y se cri� en Vigo, tiene 59 a�os y lleva 23 apostada en una acera frente a la Casa Blanca. Su manifestaci�nvigilia no ha deca�do desde 1981 hasta la actualidad. Durante este periodo, en la poltrona del Despacho Oval se han sentado cuatro presidentes, a saber: Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton y George W. Bush.

�Y cu�l es el motivo que llev� a Concepci�n a esta protesta sin fin? En realidad, son muchos. Conchita emprendi� su vigilia por un asunto personal, pero con el tiempo fue abrazando el credo de los activistas movilizados contra la carrera armament�stica. Hoy, la gente de Pennsylvania Avenue la reconoce como una vecina m�s. Y los espectadores de Fahrenheit 9/11 atisban por un instante su cara curtida y su gesto guerrero durante un encuentro con una se�ora que pide explicaciones ante la Casa Blanca despu�s de haber perdido un hijo en Irak.

La g�nesis, una odisea

La historia de Concepci�n tiene su origen en la odisea que le supuso la separaci�n de su marido italoamericano cuando todav�a no hab�a cumplido los 30 a�os. Tras un tormentoso divorcio, un tribunal dictamin� que la custodia de la �nica hija del matrimonio deb�a ser para el padre, lo que frustr� los planes de Conchita, que pretend�a regresar con la ni�a a su tierra. No abdic�, sin embargo: recurri� a organizaciones defensoras de los derechos humanos, visit� despachos y administraciones de todo pelaje en Nueva York y Washington; apel� incluso al ministerio espa�ol de Asuntos Exteriores... Todo fue en vano.

Por eso decidi�, en 1981, plantarse delante de la Casa Blanca para expresar su rechazo por "la corrupci�n y la injusticia del sistema social norteamericano". Fue entonces cuando se sum� a Thomas Doubting, un activista que hab�a iniciado dos meses antes una protesta contra la proliferaci�n de armas nucleares.

Al igual que Concepci�n, Thomas no se ha dado por vencido en su protesta permanente. En un correo electr�nico remitido a La Voz, respondi� a las preguntas sobre la pel�cula de Michael Moore: "En realidad, ni Concepci�n ni yo hemos visto la pel�cula. Pero mucha gente nos ha contado que Concepci�n, y tambi�n nuestras pancartas, aparecen en un momento dado hacia el fi nal", explic� Thomas, el pionero de una de las vigilias m�s largas que se recuerdan.

Vivir a la intemperie

Hoy, como cada d�a de los �ltimos 8.400, la acera de Lafayette Park, a la altura del c�lebre n�mero 1.600 de la avenida Pennsylvania, es el hogar de la viguesa Connie. Durante m�s de dos d�cadas, su historia ha protagonizado decenas de reportajes en peri�dicos de todo el mundo. En ellos, adem�s de confesar repetidamente que le gustar�a regresar un d�a a Galicia, ha ido desgranando las complicadas condiciones de vida que ha asumido a cambio de perpetuar su rechazo manifi esto al sistema. Concepci�n vive a la intemperie. Subsiste a base de limosnas y donativos efectuados por simpatizantes de sus causas. Tambi�n vende peque�as piedras pintadas en las que expresa las causas que la mueven a continuar con su vigilia.

Su actitud cr�tica tambi�n le ha granjeado la correspondiente dosis de acritud de las autoridades. Uno de los momentos m�s complicados de la vigilia sin fi n de Concepci�n tuvo lugar el 8 de diciembre de 1982. Ese d�a, la polic�a dispar� y mat� al activista anti-nuclear Norman Mayer, que hab�a amenazado con hacer volar por los aires el monumento al primer presidente de los Estados Unidos, George Washington.

Para Conchita, los enfrentamientos con los agentes no han llegado tan lejos, aunque s� ha padecido su acoso. Le han prohibido dormir en un saco de dormir o colocar sillas en la acera; incluso han llegado a estipular unas medidas m�ximas para sus pancartas de denuncia y una determinada distancia de separaci�n de Thomas, su compa�ero de fatigas. Tambi�n ha denunciado amenazas policiales. Todos los presidentes que han pasado por la Casa Blanca desde 1981 han tratado de deshacerse de su inc�moda presencia. Pero Conchita lo ha resistido todo, conservando lucidez sobre el contenido de sus denuncias y sobre la identidad del enemigo, como revela su respuesta al periodista del Washington Times que le pregunt� en una ocasi�n si no tem�a los eventuales peligros nocturnos en Lafayette Park, con la presencia de alg�n individuo indeseable. Ella se�al� con el dedo la residencia ofi cial del presidente: "Lo m�s peligroso est� ah� dentro. �sa es la verdadera amenaza".