The Washington Post

Landmark peace vigil outside the White House removed, again

Connie Picciotto, foreground, walks away from her tent in Lafayette square on April 3, 2013. The anti-war protest display was removed early Sunday morning after a volunteer abandoned watch during the night. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

An anti-war protest display that has been a fixture outside the White House for more than three decades was removed early Sunday morning after a volunteer abandoned watch during the night.

Activist Concepcion Picciotto, 77, and volunteers from the Peace House, an area group dedicated to peace efforts in the District, spent the morning hours trying to figure out how to quickly recover and rebuild the display.

Attorney Ann Wilcox, who represents Picciotto and works with the Peace House, said the U.S. Park Police apparently seized the protest materials after the volunteer walked away. When another volunteer showed up to work the morning shift, the vigil was gone.

“It has to be continually attended. Someone has to be there. Otherwise it can be seized,” said Wilcox, referring to the laws that regulate protest efforts. “We will see what we can do. Obviously we want to reclaim it, recover it and have a better support system.”

A similar situation happened last month when another volunteer abandoned the protest, Wilcox said.

A spokesman from the U.S. Park Police did not immediately return a request for comment.

Last month, the vigil’s disappearance swiftly gained attention from the White House press corps, and stories about the missing display made national news.

Picciotto, who goes by Connie, is well known to passersby and White House staffers for her efforts to promote peace and warn against the danger of nuclear arms. She started the vigil in 1981.

“Connie is devastated, because it’s really her life work,” Wilcox said.

Picciotto typically staffs the protest from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. most days, but she relies on other volunteers to take over the night shifts, Wilcox said. Picciotto sleeps at the Peace House, a home on 12th Street N.W. that supports peaceful activism in the District.

Representatives from the Peace House took to Facebook and Twitter early Sunday to spread word about the vigil’s absence. The volunteer who abandoned the protest was not associated with the group, according to the social media posts.

Amy Brittain is a reporter for The Post's investigative team.

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