Anti-nuclear proliferation Peace Vigil taken down after volunteer abandons post

White House Peace VigilFor 32 years, the “Peace Vigil”—a run down pair of yellow singing boards and a ramshackle tent—has been maintained on the north end of Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C. For 32 years, volunteers dedicated to the ideal of a world free of nuclear weapons have kept such proactive phraseology as “live by the bomb—die by the bomb” aimed at directly the White House, home to the keys to the world’s second-largest atomic arsenal.

On Sunday, however, tourists and locals alike awoke to the vigil’s conspicuous absence: a volunteer had deserted the protest during the night, creating a window of opportunity for The U.S. Park Police to seize it as abandoned property.

This incident marks the second time this year that the vigil has disappeared – thanks to, in both cases, volunteers walking away. In just a day, however, the Peace Vigil was back up. Activists from the Peace House, the non-profit backer of the vigil, could be soon carting the iconic signboards back to their familiar abode on Lafayette Square Monday morning, according to the DCist.

The Peace Vigil exists in something of a legal limbo apropos the First Amendment. For much of its early history, it was subjected to police raids and protracted court battles. Now, in its old age, the vigil and D.C.-area authorities have come to coexist, albeit warily. A 2006 Washington Post article reports that, “as long as [the vigil keepers] don’t ‘camp’ (dozing off on your stool is okay, but no sleeping in anything that resembles bedding’), stray more than three feet from their signs or construct overly large posters, the law leaves them alone.”

The Peace Vigil was founded by William Thomas Hallenback, an anti-nuclear protestor, in 1981. He was joined in august of that year by a Spanish immigrant by the name of Concepcion Picciotto, who stills keep watch over the vigil today.

Photo: Ben Schuman via Flickr

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