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The empty spot where Picciotto’s tent once stood.Veteran protestor-of-all-causes Connie Picciotto stayed on message Thursday, hours after the U.S. Park Police tore down her tent, a mainstay in front of the White House since the Reagan era.
“No more droning the innocent, stop the killing… Don’t foreclose houses… corporations… tariffs… education,” she said Thursday, shelter-less, in the open air of Lafayette Park.
At 1:30 p.m., the Park Police confirmed that the activists had picked up the tent again, and their vigil would be allowed to resume. But its removal caused some ripples in the District’s activist community, in which Picciotto, 77, who lives in the Peace House near Logan Circle, is actively involved. (The Washington Post reported on the removal earlier Thursday.)
In order for the shelter to stay in its prime spot across Pennsylvania Avenue NW from the White House, someone must be manning it at all times. (They can leave for quick bathroom and water jaunts.) But the man working the overnight shift Thursday left for a little bit. When he returned, a cop was already at the tent starting to take it down, according to Tighe Barry, a member of the anti-war group Code Pink who was one of the people who helped Picciotto work with police and other officials.
Barry says the man on duty is an Iraq War veteran who suffers from PTSD. When he saw the police officer and had trouble negotiating with him, he reportedly had a breakdown and started yelling at the officer to just tear the whole thing down, which he apparently did.
In a statement, Park Police officials say an officer interviewed two people on the scene early Thursday morning, and once it was determined that the site was abandoned, “the officer collected the materials and placed them in a U.S. Park Police storage facility for safe keeping until they could be retrieved by the owner.”
Both Barry and Picciotto say this isn’t the first time the police have removed the tent in the more than three decades Picciotto has been keeping the vigil. It’s always returned.
Photos by Darrow Montgomery