Dracula, his black-caped arms out-stretched, stood beside the plain pine coffin. His cardboard face grinned menacingly above the sign that read "Developer." The sign on the coffin read "Tenant."
Though no tenant lay in the coffin yesterday, standing around the blue flatbed truck where Dracula perched were more than 200 tenants - Dupont Circle residents who had gathered to plead that they, as tenants, and their rental-unit buildings would not die.
The march and rally, sponsored by the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission, were organized to protest the increased frequency of condominium conversions that has been spreading through the area.
The tenants want to "make people realize that these isolated incidents of condominium conversion aren't just one incident," ANC Commissioner Madeline DeLisle said.
"Dupont Circle is a smorgasbord of all the housing problems in the city," said ANC Chairman George Wheeler. "We came out today to show that there are people who care."
Among those people were residents of Webster House at 1718 P St. NW, an eight-year-old building that was recently granted a "Certificate of Eligibility to Convert to Condominiums" by the city's Department of Housing and Community Development.
Webster House, which is owned by the Prudential Insurance Co., is soon to be sold to Brenneman Associates, a condominium development firm, according to Bruce Stokes, president of the Webster House Tenants Association.
"We own a piece of the rock and the rock owns a piece of us" Stokes said of the 183 tenants in the building.
"We are here to tell them 'No more,' said ANC Commissioner Sophia Menatos. "We are fighting mad and we are fighting back." The crowd, which included tenants of at least six buildings that have recently been granted Certificates of Eligibility, responded with loud cheers and applause.
"We want to keep this neighborhood what these signs and these T-shirts say," said Susan Meehan, another ANC Commissioner - "A neighborhood for the people."