Summit Protesters Draw Little Notice
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Afghans, Koreans and other protesters trying to get messages through to Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev aren’t making much headway, and so far have been outnumbered by tourists, office-workers and police at their assembly site across from the White House.
For Thursday’s opening summit session between Gorbachev and President Bush, the demonstrators in Lafayette Park filled only a tiny portion of the city- block-sized greenery. Including onlookers and a number of homeless people who normally inhabit the park, the crowd peaked at no more than 400.
Police reported no violent incidents or arrests.
During Gorbachev’s two trips to the White House during the day, officers kept the protesters behind snow fences at least 100 yards from the fenced perimeter of the mansion’s grounds.
At the end of the day, no more than 60 demonstrators remained in the park. Although two of them blared their protestations into electronic speakers, most stood quietly and politely, holding hand-lettered signs and answering questions from reporters.
″I’ve been handing out leaflets and talking to the press,″ said James Amshoff, a New York City salesman and a member of the New Testament Church, which believes only Jesus Christ - not world leaders - can bring peace. ″We also took a break to pray.″
Evening rush hour traffic inched along Pennsylvania Avenue between the park and the White House during the afternoon session between the two presidents.
Back in the park, Michail Makarenko sported a gas mask while contending that any help or support the U.S. government gives Gorbachev is hurting the Soviet people. Makarenko said he was a political prisoner for 11 years in the Soviet Union.
″It’s not Gorbachev who is giving something,″ the 59-year-old Makarenko said through a translator, Gregory Burnside. ″It is the people who are resisting who are tearing it from his throat.″
A half-dozen members of the Committee for Peace, Disarmament and Reunification of Korea urged an end to Cold War tensions there.
″The message is that in this recent atmosphere of easing international tensions, Korea still remains an island of Cold War,″ said spokeswoman Chung Hong. ″The two leaders have a special responsibility because the division and the militarization of Korea is a byproduct of the U.S.-Soviet relations forged after World War II.″
Seventy-five Cuban exiles seeking freedom for their homeland were redirected from Lafayette Park to the Ellipse on the other side of the White House, where they had their permit to demonstrate, said Maj. Carl Holmberg of the U.S. Park Police.
Six Buddhists who favor total disarmament pounded Japanese Buddhist prayer drums and chanted a prayer for world peace as they burned incense and sat cross-legged on the ground facing a small statue of Buddha.
″We’re offering our prayer in support of Bush and Gorbachev,″ said Jerry Talandis of Amherst, Mass., a 26-year-old social worker. ″We don’t want them to stop until they have total nuclear disarmament.″
Earlier in the day, the Moscow rock group Gaza played for the second consecutive day to call attention to the devastation of AIDS, and gathering the largest crowd.