Protesting farmers who arrived in Washington a week ago to support higher farm prices spent a quiet day yesterday, attending church, giving tractor rides to children and visiting area museums.
The only tense moment came in the afternoon when about 50 farmers considered refusing a U.S. Park Police order that 16 tractors parked since Feb. 5 at Independence Avenue and 14th Street NW rejoin the main group of tractors that have been barricaded on the Mall.
The farmers said their religious beliefs forbade them from moving their tractors on the Sabbath and they asked park police to allow them to remove the vehicles today, a plea police denied.
"Evidently we've come to a godless country," said one Kansas farmer.
Escorted by police motorcyclists, the small tractorcade set out north on 14th Street, preceded by farmers marching behind a Christian flag with a cross and breaking out in occasional strains of "Onward Christian Soldiers."
Turning east on Constitution Avenue, the group arrived without incident at the Mall and entered the barricades formed by more than 100 city buses, 50 trucks and a score of police cruisers.
Although many farmers reportedly have returned to their homes, more than 700 tractors and 300 trucks and trailers remain on the Mall.
A spokesman for the farmers said there were no plans to have tractorcades through the city either today or tomorrow. The farmers are preparing to testify before the House Agriculture Committee on Wednesday and Thursday, the spokesman said.