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32-Year Vigil in Front of the White House Informs and Inspires Generations

Connie Picciotto has kept vigil near the White House for 32 years. Why, and at what cost?

____ The historic vigil began officially on June 3, 1981, when Connie joined William Thomas, a protester who had positioned himself outside the White House gates with a hand-lettered sign: “Wanted — Wisdom and Honesty.”

Connie, a former embassy secretary in New York who was working as a part-time nanny for a local family, had come to Washington to plead for the government’s help with a family crisis. Thomas (he was known to everyone by his last name) was a self-described philosopher, a wanderer who had dropped out of high school, pilgrimaged overseas and held odd jobs in New York and New Jersey before winding up in Washington . . .

She sat down beside him. Within hours, they were arrested for illegally camping in Lafayette Square. When they were released, Thomas told her, “Since we are both seeking peace and justice, we should become a team.” So they did.

William Thomas in 2006. (Kevin Clark)

Connie had read about nuclear issues and had been horrified by photographs of the aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. She adopted Thomas’s message as her own: They were pro-peace, anti-nuclear proliferation and anti-government deception. They dedicated their lives to their cause, which mostly meant that they would sit across the street from one of the most powerful buildings in the free world and talk to the visitors who came by, hand out literature and display their signs. They would do this night and day, in freezing cold and scorching heat, through rains that soaked their clothes and winds that scattered their pamphlets across the pavement. They had only their flimsy umbrella-shelter for protection; actual tents had been banned in the park___

Connie and Thomas believed that changing even a handful of minds through their signs, their words was enough. Their endurance alone would be a powerful testament, an ever-pre­sent symbol of the need for change . . .

read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/feature/wp/2013/05/02/connie-picciotto-has-kept-vigil-near-the-white-house-for-32-years-why-and-at-what-cost/?tid=ts_carousel

Connie in her basement apartment at Peace House. (Bill O’Leary)

( . . . I was just a naive and idealistic teen when I first saw Connie out in front of the WH waking up protestors who, at that time, had their protest signs arranged as a lean-to shelter against the White House gates - offering them coffee and food that she had brought. I was in awe of this incredible lady then; in awe of her throughout every WH protest that I bothered to go down and attend; and very proud to see her still standing there. Thanks, Connie, for all you do!)
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