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Memorial service honors ‘Connie,’ enduring White House protester

Late peace activist Concepcion Picciotto was memorialized during a service at Luther Place Memorial Church in D.C. on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2016. Picciotto kept a peace vigil outside the White House for more than 30 years. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

WASHINGTON — You might have seen Concepcion Picciotto by the White House, where she’s kept a peace vigil for more than 30 years on the sidewalk in Layette Square.

But last month this anti-nuclear protester died. On Saturday, Picciotto was honored during a memorial service at Luther Place Memorial Church in D.C. The church was filled with her friends who wanted to say goodbye to the woman they knew as “Connie.”

“It was the nuke issue that kept her going all these years,” says Malachy Kilbride, a peace and social justice activist. Picciotto, 80, kept up the vigil nearly up until her death. She died after taking a bad fall.

Kilbride says he remembers growing up in D.C. when the vigil first started. “Her number one issue was that all nuclear weapons need to be done away with, need to be banned,” he says.

He says Picciotto’s vigil operated 24 hours a day. “Every single day for over 30-something years,” Kilbride says.

Picciotto’s nuke vigil became a permanent fixture across from the White House for five consecutive presidents, including President Barack Obama, but not one of the presidents ever spoke to her.

Ann Wilcox, a lawyer who works with the National Lawyers Guild, says she supported Picciotto’s presence at the vigil and dealt with any legal issues that came up. She says that other protesters are currently carrying on with her vigil across from the White House. And she says the hope is that it will continue for a long time to come. Kilbride also says the vigil will go on.

“There are people who are there now,” Wilcox says.

Concepcion was born in Spain and was raised by her grandmother after being orphaned. She moved to New York in 1960 and became a citizen. She moved to D.C. in 1981.

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