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Spaniard who camped outside White House for 35 years dies
Concepción Picciotto. Photo: AFP

Spaniard who camped outside White House for 35 years dies

Jessica Jones · 26 Jan 2016, 14:49

Published: 26 Jan 2016 14:49 GMT+01:00

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The Spanish women who is believed to have staged the longest protest in United States history has died.

Concepción Picciotto, known as Connie or Conchita, died on January 25th in a housing facility that supports homeless women in Washington DC. She was believed to be 70 years old.

Picciotto has been a mainstay outside the gates of the White House since 1981, when she joined an anti-nuclear proliferation demonstration.

Connie's tent, opposite the White House. Photo: AFP

She inhabited a tent on Lafayette Square, directly opposite the home of the President of the United States for 35 years. 

The Galician native had suffered a fall but it is not clear if this contributed to her death, N Street Village, which operates the shelter where she was staying, told the Washington Post.

Picciotto was a distinctive sight: barely five feet tall, she would hand out flyers and call for world peace dressed in a helmet and headscarf which, she claimed, kept out radio waves sent at night by the CIA, who were intent on turning her brain to mush.

For many years, Picciotto protested alongside William Thomas, a peace activist who died in 2009.

Picciotto rarely left her post at the poster-covered tent, leaving just twice a day to wash and go to the bathroom. She had protested less and less since 2012, when she was knocked over by a car.

Photo: AFP

Little is known of Picciotto’s early years, although it is believed she was born in Vigo, Galicia in 1945 and emigrated to New York City when she was 18. 

"Above all I’m Spanish and Galician one hundred percent," she told regional newspaper La Voz de Galicia in the run up to the 2004 presidential election.

She worked as a receptionist in the Spanish Embassy, married an Italian and had a daughter. She lost custody of her child in an acrimonious legal battle following her divorce, which is when she began protesting.

What started as a mission to win back her own child turned into a protest calling for safety for all the world’s children. 

She told The Washington Post in 2013 that through her presence, she hoped to remind others to take whatever action they could, however small, to help end wars and stop violence, particularly against children. 

"She spoke like a lomomotive," wrote La Voz de Galicia on Tuesday.

Story continues below…

Before bidding her goodbye in 2004, the Galician newspaper asked if she would like to die there, at her post, or maybe one day return to Galicia.

"I have to continue, because my moral principles do not allow me to leave this. It would be very selfish. God has put me here for a reason."

"But, even if it were just my bones, I would like to return there, to Galicia. I don’t want to be buried here."

Concepción Picciotto: 1945 - 2016

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Jessica Jones (jessica.jones@thelocal.com)

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