Working: Protester Philipos Melaku-Bello on what it’s like to protest outside the White House.

What’s It Like to Protest Outside the White House?

What’s It Like to Protest Outside the White House?

What do you do all day?
Sept. 12 2016 4:57 PM

The “How Does a White House Protester Work?” Edition

Philipos Melaku-Bello is a protester who’s been sitting outside the White House for decades.

Philipos Melaku-Bello
Philipos Melaku-Bello.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Mickey Capper

For the most part, to work at the White House is to work for a single administration, meaning that relatively few employees stick around for more than one president’s tenure. But then there’s Philipos Melaku-Bello. For more than 30 years, Melaku-Bello has been helping maintain an anti–nuclear war vigil just outside the White House gates. He’s stayed there through blizzards, hurricanes, and beating sun, trying to spread a message of world peace to tourists, politicians, and simple passers-by.

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A regular volunteer at the long-standing vigil since shortly after it began, Melaku-Bello is now largely responsible for its day-to-day operations, coordinating volunteers and otherwise keeping it running. For this episode of Working, he talked to us about what that entails, telling us how he prepares for—and endures—days that sometimes stretch to 17 hours or more. We also discussed the more practical elements of his efforts, such as how he pays the bills when he’s relying almost exclusively on occasional donations from supporters.

And in a Slate Plus extra, Melaku-Bello discusses the history of the vigil he now manages, telling us about some of the big personalities who were responsible for it before he took over. If you’re a member, enjoy bonus segments and interview transcripts from Working, plus other great podcast exclusives. Start your two-week free trial at Slate.com/workingplus.

Podcast production by Mickey Capper.