ProtestWhiteHouse01

The White House Peace Vigil

The national capital city routinely hosts a variety of protests.  Some are one-time events, while others are ongoing.  And they range in size from hundreds of thousands to just a few.  From marches down Pennsylvania Avenue to crowds gathered in front of the U.S. Supreme Court Building, there is almost always multiple protests taking place in D.C. on any given day.  Currently the longest-running protest in the city, and perhaps the longest-running protest in United States history, is the White House Peace Vigil.

Located in Lafayette Square Park (MAP) across from the northern portico of the executive mansion, the White House Peace Vigil, also sometimes referred to as 1601 Pennsylvania Avenue, is an anti-nuclear weapons peace vigil started by William Thomas Hallenback Jr., better known simply as Thomas, in June of 1981.   Concepción Picciotto, known as Connie, joined Thomas in the protest in August of the same year.  At times over the years, various other activists have helped man the vigil.  And despite Thomas’ death in 2009, the vigil still continues to be maintained around-the-clock by the tiny and weather-worn 77-year-old Conchita, along with other volunteers.

Over the last 33 years the protest display has been a fixture outside the White House, but there have been two incidents when the anti-war protest display that is a fixture outside the White House has been temporarily removed.  It is routinely moved back from the White House and further into Lafayette Park during Presidential inaugural parades, as well as during times of heightened security and other limited occasions.  But it was actually shut down twice last fall after volunteers abandoned the watch during the night and the display was left unattended in violation of the laws that regulate protest efforts on Federal land.  U.S. Park Police dismantled the small, makeshift encampment and seized the protest materials after the volunteers walked away during the night.  When other volunteers arrived to man it during the morning shifts, the vigil was gone.  Both times the materials were retrieved from the Park Police, which had placed them in a Park Police storage facility for safekeeping, and he vigil was continued.

And it still does today.

UPDATE (1/26/2016):  Sadly, Connie passed away at the aged of 80 on January 25, 2016, at N Street Village, a non-profit organization that supports homeless women in D.C.  However, others have vowed that the White House Peace Vigil will go on.

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