The farmers of the American Agriculture Movement didn't get what they wanted in Washington but they did win the admiration of at least one group of Washingtonians: the police.
During the four months that the farmers were in and out of Washington lobbying for increased farm prices, they dealt with the police often. And by the time their brief rally in front of the White House broke up Wednesday night, farmers and police were standing around swapping stories like old pals.
"These are a good group of people," said Assistant Chief Bernie Crooke as the farmers stood outside the White House shouting "We Want Carter, We Want Carter!" "They're honest, they're straightforward and they aren't looking for trouble. We've tried to cooperate with them."
The farmers however have not always been cooperative. In December, they blocked I-66 with their tractors for several hours. On consecutive days in march, they let 50 goats loose on Capitol Hill and then staged a sit-in at the Agriculture building, forcing Agriculture Secretary Bob Bergland to leave.
But most of the time, the farmers have tried to cooperate with the police. When their parade bogged down at 9th St. and Pennsylvania Ave. Wednesday, angry motorists, their path blocked, began yelling at the farmers.
When things began to get ugly, the police moved in. But the fight never materialized. "We're not going to hassle you guys," one farmer said to a policeman. "Come on guys. This ain't the way to do it." The farmers moved on.
Later, as the farmers milled around Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, Crooke was asked how long he would get them remain. "It's a warm night, why bother them?" Crooke answered with a smile.
A few feet away, Deputy Chief Robert Klotz was exchanging jokes with a group of about eight farmers. The mood was closer to that of a lodge meeting than a protest against the president.
The police have been fantastic since we got here," said Stanley DeBoer, one of the spokesmen for the farmers. "If the damn Congress was anything like the police, we wouldn't have to be here."
Klotz summed up the feelings of most police: "How can you knock a group that salutes the flag, says a prayer and THEN marches on the White House?"