The European - January 28, 1993
Connie's Clinton VigilAngela Humphery
It is unlikely that Bill Clinton will trouble to make the acquaintance of his nearest neighbour at the White House, Concepcion Picciotto.
For the past 12 years, Spanish-born Concepcion has lived just outside the building, seeing out the administrations of both Reagan and Bush. She sits on an old plastic milk crate, between two brilliant yellow woodent signs proclaiming the evils of nuclear warfare, against a backdrop of the world's most famous executive mansion.
Her signs say: "Welcome to the madhouse. The White House Peace vigil. Don't be a lemming - save yourself and renounce genocidal weapons. Live by the Bomb, die by the Bomb."
Young Republicans and Marines have spat and urinated on her and she alleges that the police have gassed her, but she will not be moved. She sleeps spasmodically, sitting upright - if she lies down she is judged to be camping, and camping is not permitted in Lafayette Park.
Connie, 48, was born in Spain, emigrated to New York when she was 18 and worked as a secretary at the Spanish consulate. At 21 she married an Italian businessman. The couple had a daughter but within two years were divorced. She lost her child, job and home.
She spent the next seven years fighting for custody of her daughter in the courts of Manahattan and Madrid, coming to Washington to seek help from her Congressman, but to no avail. She found work as a part-time baby sitter and began spending her free time in front of the White House, with hand-painted signs calling for justice. One thing led to another and she soon began to embrace the anti-nuclear cause. In Regan's first year at the White House she arrived with her belongings, and has been its nearest neighbour ever since.
She joined forces with a William Thomas, and they spend their days in front of the White House and their nights across the street in Lafayette Park. The National Parks Service brought in restrictions on White House pavement demonstrations, forcing protesters to the edge of the park.
Connie and William merely increased the size and number of their signs - at one time they had 18 in all, the tallest was three metres high. Now no one is allowed more than two signs, none taller than 1.85 metres. A mere 1.54 metres tall, articulate and charming, she wears a hard hat under a thick black wig tied on with a headscarf, for protection against attacks.
In winter she freezes; in summer she sweats in the heatwaves. She hands out pamphlets and paints the dove of peace on flat stones which she gives to passersby. She likes the look of Bill Clinton, but raather doubts if he will be inviting her in.