White House Peace Vigil
  • Petitioned District Of Columbia Governor

This petition was delivered to:

District Of Columbia Governor
President of the United States
District Of Columbia State Senate
District Of Columbia State House
U.S. Senate
U.S. House of Representatives

White House Peace Vigil

    1. Charles Holsopple
    2. Petition by

      Charles Holsopple

      DC

The placement of a Peace Memorial and Meditation site across the street from the White House, where the final descion to wage war is made, will serve as a constant reminder of the needs of the people, the futility of Nuclear War.

 

 

The Original Occupier   It’s cold and dark and she’s there. It’s rainy and windy and she’s there. It’s hot and sweaty and she’s there. Winter, summer, spring and fall, she is there, occupying her spot on the sidewalk across the street from the White House. The original occupier, Concepcion Picciotto, the spiritual mother of the Occupation Movement, is still there maintaining her continuous peace vigil after 30 years.   She began her vigil with her colleague William Thomas in 1981. William was an ardent peace activist who swam across the Suez Canal and walked across the Sinai Desert to halt the arms race. One day, he was deposited on the sidewalk across from the White House by police after he was arrested for his protests and released. It was William who finally prevailed in his free speech case before the Supreme Court which allowed the peace vigil to continue. Although some conditions were imposed such as a limiting the size and number of signs, the 24 hour a day vigil continued unabated. Mr. Thomas passed away in 2009, so Connie, as she likes to be called, has carried on alone. Huddled in a plastic hut that wouldn’t qualify as a tent, at 74 Connie is still passionate about her commitment to peace. She loves to stand in front of her hut talking to visitors about the dangers of nuclear war. Young people seem to be especially spell bound by her words as she points at the large wooden signs that flank her. The signs are crammed with newspaper articles, information and photos depicting the carnage caused by nuclear weapons.   Like most people, I was amazed that she could survive in a small, fragile hut consisting of nothing more than a few sticks carefully placed into concrete blocks that support the large plastic sheet. It kind of looks like an igloo except for the ice. There is no door, just a small entrance way which she seals up with large binder clips when she sleeps. Somehow, she fits a small chair, a pallet with a sleeping mat, a couple of milk crates filled with her papers and her bicycle in there. The only heat source is a candle.   During the three months I spent at Occupy Washington D.C. on Freedom Plaza, I often visited Connie and got to know a little about her life. She is a pretty private person and is reluctant to talk about herself. However, over time, she told me a couple of stories that she gave me permission to share.   Last winter, she told me she fell asleep in her chair in the doorway of her little hut. It started to snow. When she woke up she was buried up to her neck in the snow. She couldn't move. Snow plows passed by and created a huge mound in front of her. People walked by on the street, the Secret Service continued their watch across the street. She couldn't move, she struggled to get up but couldn't. She tried to shout for help but no one heard her. She wiggled and twisted in her seat. She kicked with her feet, eventually poking a whole through the snow bank. Finally, she slid out on to the street through the tunnel she dug with her feet.   This past fall, Hurricane Irene hit Washington, DC. The trees around Connie twisted and groaned. As the wind howled, Connie sat in her hut buffeted by the winds. But she didn't move. A large tree fell to her right taking out a wrought iron fence. On her left a big branch cracked and broke landing just yards away. Connie stayed put, praying in her chair. As she prayed, the guards across the street dived for cover. The winds picked up the metal barriers and flung them around the street in front of her. She prayed some more. Although the winds swirled around her, they did not move her hut, they hardly ruffled the plastic sheet she clutched around her. The miracle she prayed for wrapped her in its love and the hurricane passed by.   The weather is not the only trial that Connie has endured in her 30 year vigil. Insensitive, insulting people have harassed her and tried to frighten her during the night, someone poisoned the little dog that kept her company and even the Secret Service sometimes finds nothing better to do than tell Connie not to accept the small donations that people throw in her can and force her to put the can away.   Several D.C. occupiers have taken on maintaining the vigil while Connie takes a break. That is how I became acquainted with her. So, at least for now, she can go get warm, eat and take care of her personal business. However, if the National Park Service shuts the occupations in D.C. as they have threatened to do, Connie’s occupy support team may vanish.   Although a frail figure bent by the weight of time, the spiritual power that emanates from her outshines all the bright lights and brilliant chandeliers that glow in the White House across the street. It is sad that not one president or any of their family has ever bothered to walk out the front door and meet her, or even wave from the grandiose foyer that stares down at her a hundred yards away. Maybe they would have learned something if they did. Something that will never be found anywhere else but in the heart of an occupier.

Bob Ballard

Recent signatures

    News

    1. Connie was involved in an accident and broke her shoulder.

      Charles Holsopple
      Petition Organizer

      She is recovering and the vigil is being maintained by a team of volunteers as it often has been since Occupy has been in town

    2. wamu 88.5 segment

      Charles Holsopple
      Petition Organizer

      this short segment covers the petition and various views from visitors to the vigil.

    3. upcoming radio segment on WAMU 88.5 to feature Vigil Petition

      Charles Holsopple
      Petition Organizer

      American University in Washington DC
      Produced by Marc Adams

    4. Searching for an appropriate archival arrangement

      Charles Holsopple
      Petition Organizer

      This is a remarkable collection of artifacts amassed during three decades of continual 24 hour a day protest in front of the White House.
      The vigil was first started by William Thomas, who passed away January, 2009. Concepcion, now in her seventies, and Thomas’s widow Ellen Thomas are interested in preserving the works of Mr. Thomas.

      Partial list of material...
      • A collection of artifacts, papers and audiovisual materials documenting the protest vigil kept in Lafayette Square for 31 years (1981-present), by anti-nuclear protester Concepcion Picciotto. Included in the collection are 50 – 100 protest signs and posters,
      • 100+ political buttons, trinkets, and gifts given to her by tourists and admirers. The papers include voluminous court records documenting court case(s) [there were so many court papers I wasn’t sure how many cases were involved] in which she and other activists’ right to keep vigil in Lafayette Square were challenged.
      • Also included are: correspondence; flye

    5. Reached 250 signatures
    6. Connie and the Vigil are under constant pressure, Three decades of 24/7

      Charles Holsopple
      Petition Organizer

      Volunteers from Occupations from across the country, working as a squad, have stepped up to spell her in rotating shifts.

      This allows Connie, at least a little time away from the historic signs, to attend to what is in itself a complex and challenging tapestry of woven intrigue.

      The recognition of the White House Peace Vigil as a place of meditation and will allow Connie to pass by the National Park, where she sits on a cold windy sidewalk and know that the we have awoken to the call for Peace, and that we echo that Voice of Wisdom and Honor.

    7. International call for Nuclear Disarmament

      Charles Holsopple
      Petition Organizer

      Petition echos calls for a world free of Nuclear Weapons. How many billions of dollars do we spend on our 4,000 nuclear war heads each year? I believe I heard over 50 billion. This money is better spent on human needs.

    8. Reached 100 signatures
    9. The Peace House is Connie's refuge when she is on break

      Charles Holsopple
      Petition Organizer

      A group of Occupiers and friends have leased Peace House and arranged for Connie to have a safe haven while not at the Vigil. For more on the mission and upcoming events visit the www.occupypeacehouse.org
      Please contribute in any way you can.

    10. Reached 25 signatures
    11. Vigil Temp tonight expect wind chill of 12 degrees F.

      Charles Holsopple
      Petition Organizer

      Connie will spend the night there tonight, as she has nearly every night for the past 31 years.

      By signing the petition and sharing it with others we will allow her to rest in comfort knowing that she and her late colleague Thomas have finally been heard.

    12. Reached 10 signatures

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