White House Peace Vigil Taken Down After 32 Years

Police removed the encampment early Thursday morning after it was left unattended. But the activists restored the vigil later that day.

Concepcion Picciotto's 24- hour-a-day peace vigil against nuclear weapons.
National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
Sept. 12, 2013, 8:26 a.m.

Any­one who’s ever walked or rode a bike by the White House on Pennsylvania Av­en­ue has no­ticed an ad­di­tion to La­fay­ette Park that city de­sign­ers hadn’t en­vi­sioned: a small tent, sand­wiched between two yel­low signs call­ing for an end to nuc­le­ar pro­lif­er­a­tion.

“Live by the bomb die by the bomb” and “Ban all nuc­le­ar weapons or have a nice dooms­day” were painted on the signs.

It has stood there since 1981. But at around 1:45 a.m. Thursday, it was taken down.

Of­fi­cials are al­lowed to re­move these kinds of en­camp­ments that are left un­at­ten­ded. Early Thursday morn­ing, one of the people sit­ting in the tent walked away. No­ti­cing this, U.S. Park Po­lice dis­mantled the tent, end­ing three dec­ades of be­ing one of the pres­id­ent’s closest neigh­bors.

It’s un­clear why the man left.

In re­cent years, Con­cep­cion Pic­ci­otto, the Span­ish-born wo­man who star­ted the en­camp­ment, has had the help of vo­lun­teers to staff the tent and rep­res­ent her ideals. They all live in a home in North­w­est D.C. called the “Peace House.”

But later that day, the act­iv­ists were able to re­store the peace vi­gil back to its ori­gin­al loc­a­tion. Jef­frey Olson, a spokes­man for the Na­tion­al Park Ser­vice, con­firmed that the vi­gil had been re­stored and said the Park Ser­vice was jus­ti­fied in re­mov­ing the en­camp­ment in the first place.

“While a 24-hour vi­gil site gen­er­ally does not re­quire a per­mit, it must be con­tinu­ously at­ten­ded,” Olson said in a state­ment.

The ma­ter­i­als were taken to a Park Ser­vice sta­tion in Anacos­tia “for safe keep­ing.” Mem­bers of the Peace House re­trieved those items this morn­ing and brought them back to La­fay­ette Park.

(AP Photo/Charles Dhar­apak)
This post has been updated. contributed to this article.
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