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Meet the President's Neighbor
One woman's unusual vigil in front of the White House
Joan Dawson (joanied40)     Print Article 
Published 2008-02-27 15:24 (KST)   
Concepcion Picciotto "at work"
©2008 Joan Dawson
Imagine a job that involves your devotion twenty-four hours a day for seven days a week. Rarely do you have a lunch break. There is no bathroom nearby. No on-site gym. In fact, no salary.

This would describe Concepcion Picciotto's job. No, make that her life.

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Mrs. Picciotto has led a life of protest in front of the White House since August 1981. Yep, that's right, since 1981.

She works and lives in a "cubicle" about 8' by 10'. Signs, not pictures, adorn the walls. "Live by the Bomb... Die by the Bomb," reads one.

Born in Spain, she immigrated to New York at age 18. Hers is hardly a life of pursuing the American dream, though. While she did marry a businessman and adopt a child, she lost it all: husband, daughter, job and home. Then, she went on to pursue an unusual career.

In 1980, having moved to Washington, DC, she started spending some of her time in front of the White House. What started out as a few hours a week soon turned into a full-time job. Her job title? Demonstrator. Primarily, her work involves protesting nuclear weapons, but she is against all forms of war. She says, "Stop building nuclear weapons, and let's use the money to eliminate poverty." This has been her "career" for nearly 28 years now.

Mrs. Picciotto's vigil is in front of the White House 24/7
©2008 Joan Dawson
Protesting in front of the White House
©2008 Joan Dawson
Her "co-worker" is Mr. William Thomas. He started protesting in front of the White House just one year prior to Mrs. Picciotto. Together, they co-founded the White House Anti-Nuclear Peace Vigil and surely must hold records in length of 'service.'

Both have lived and worked outdoors since 1981. Over the years, they've been pushed back further from the White House. They are now on the edge of Lafayette Park, which, until two centuries ago, used to be attached to the White House grounds. Today it is a public park. Neither Picciotto nor Thomas can leave their home office for very long. Under park rules, signs cannot be left unattended. So they cover for each other. Likewise, they can't legally sleep in the park, so they "sleep" sitting up.

While there is no salary per se, some kind folks and peaceful-minded individuals offer donations. Mrs. Picciotto also sells "Peace Rocks." This money helps cover the costs of making protest signs and copies of articles. Mrs. Picciotto has a variety of handouts, mostly of newspaper articles. She showed me one that was in Korean. It was from a Northern Virginia paper.

Indeed, her audience, tourists visiting the White House, is very international. While I was there, a group of Asian tourists talked with her and took her picture. I suppose that's a benefit of having your office located so close to the President of the United States.

She tells me the worst part of her job is the cold weather and the periodic harassment. She gets harassed by people who don't share her opinions or from the park police. As I talked to her, a woman walked by and proudly declared she loved Bush. She was, however, in the minority.

Peace Rocks!
©2008 Joan Dawson
Mrs. Picciotto holds up an article written in Korean about her
©2008 Joan Dawson
Mrs. Picciotto talks to tourists
©2008 Joan Dawson
Nearby was a group singing satirical songs about impeaching Bush and Cheney. They were dressed up, sang A capella and were quite entertaining. People seemed to be enjoying their singing and dancing, poking fun at a president who -- who knows? -- could've been looking right out the window at them!

Mrs. Picciotto has never met a president. (How un-neighborly!) The Reagans and Bushes have come and gone. Mrs. Picciotto has been most upset with George W -- how he talks about terrorism but "supports the real terrorists," as Mrs. Picciotto puts it. More people, she says, are agreeing with her these days.

That's certainly true here in Washington, DC. Many homes in the nation's capital have signs on their lawns or in their windows saying: "Impeach him" or "Impeach them." Although, these days, these signs are quickly being replaced with signs that support the new presidential candidates.

©2008 Joan Dawson
©2008 Joan Dawson
Despite another change in presidents, Mrs. Picciotto will continue her vigil. The only thing that will ever stop her will be disarmament or death.

Certainly, when I met her, I was astounded, like most people, that she has kept up her unusual vigil for so long. Twenty-eight years of round-the-clock vigilance -- outdoors at that -- is incredible! Whether one agrees with her philosophies or not, one has got to admire such dedication!

Obama, Clinton or McCain...are you ready to meet your neighbor?

©2008 Joan Dawson
For more information:
http://prop1.org/conchita/
©2008 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Joan Dawson

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