Concepcion Picciotto

Concepcion Picciotto (known as Connie) maintained a protest for peace and against nuclear war in a plastic makeshift tent outside the White House in Washington DC. Her vigil, lasting 30 years until her death in January 2016, is considered to be the longest political protest in American history.

She is believed to have been a Spanish immigrant who arrived in New York in the 1960s. In 1981 she took up residence on the sidewalk by the White House fence, with fellow activist William Thomas who began the peace vigil. They were moved to a site across the road where she lived, alongside one of the most powerful leaders in the world. Five presidents of the US ignored her. I read that not one of them crossed the road from the White House to listen to her appeals for peace and justice. She appeared in Michael Moore’s documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11, which was scathingly critical of President George W. Bush’s war on terror.

In 2007 I made a portrait of Ms Picciotto, giving me the V-sign of peace, as she sat facing the White House, clad in her trademark hat and helmet. This image will be shown in the touring Poppies: Women and War exhibition, as it enters its second phase.

Meanwhile, as I head back to Washington in the next few weeks, and take a walk to the White House, I wonder if this, her home for three decades, will be gone without a trace.

Or whether it will be occupied.

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