A coalition of community groups has scheduled a demonstration Saturday to protest District of Columbia budget cuts and job layoffs, reflecting a growing discontent with steps taken by Mayor Marion Barry to deal with the city's financial crisis.
While organizers of the 3 1/2-hour march and rally insisted it is not aimed personally at the mayor, several announced speakers said they would call for reversal of his job reductions and a more aggressive push for increased financial, support for the city.
Speakers at the event will include Barry's minister, the Rev. David Eaton of All Souls Unitarian Church, along with leaders of municipal unions and community activists.
Eaton said he would not fault Barry's handling of the crisis -- but, like many other rally participants, would support cuts in the city's high-ranking administrative ranks instead of among rank-and-file workers who deliver services to the public. His main interest, Eaton said, is gaining a full federal payment to the city of $300 million from Congress.
"There is a lot of disenchantment by a lot of people who supported Marion Barry," said Petey Greene, an exconvict and radio commentator who also is expected to speak. "It seems Marion could do more [for the people] as a street activist than he's doing in office."
The Rev. G. H. (Jack) Woodard, rector of St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church, which serves the poverty-racked upper 14th Street area, said cuts ordered by Barry in social and health services along with reductions in federal food programs are creating desperation. "People are down to the bone now . . . To cut programs that are life-sustaining is to decide how many people are going to starve," Woodard said.
Barry "ought to be leading the charge on Capitol Hill" for more federal money instead of cutting public services, Joslyn (Josh) Williams of the Greater Washington Central Labor Council, a scheduled speaker, declared.
The rally was organized by a group calling itself the D.C. Coalition for Human Dignity, which was recently formed to combat the budget cuts. It will be the first broadly based public demonstration against the belt-tightening part of the program announced by Barry to avert a deficit projected as high as $174 million.
The coalition claims endorsements from at least 43 community groups and individuals, ranging from the Afro-American Police Association and the Citywide Housing Coalition to the Gray Panthers, a senior citizen group and the Central Labor Council.
The rally will come during a season of renewed public assemblies on the streets of Washington, most of them aimed at U.S. rather than local policies. Yesterday, demonstrators protested nuclear proliferation, today a "Washington for Jesus" religious service will be held on the Mall, and on May 17 civil rights leader Jesse Jackson will lead a march seeking more jobs, chiefly for youth.
Barry will not see Saturday's rally because he has accepted free tickets from an airline for a promotional flight to Europe, and is scheduled to depart Thursday with his wife and a group of city officials and civic leaders. d
"It's just sad when the mayor and "(City Council Chairman) Arrington Dixon and Ivanhoe (Donaldson, the mayor's top staff aide and political advisor) are picking up to go to Paris while the city is in turmoil," said Petey Greene.
Bishop Edward H. Moore, an organizer and master of ceremonies for the rally, said he hopes as many as 4,000 to 5,000 persons will assemble at 9:30 a.m. outside the District Building, 14th and E streets NW. Another organizer, Bernard Demczuk, a shop steward in the union representing Corrections Department employes, who face sharp job layoffs they are challenging in court, said he expects an uncertain smaller number of participants.
Moore, who heads a group of storefront and nondenominational churches called the United Fellowship of Churches, was among several scheduled speakers who said they will seek cuts of administrative personnel to permit the retention of prison guards and service workers on the payroll.
"We want the mayor to look back and prioritize," Moore said. "We feel his advisors are giving him the wrong figures."
Barry, through his press office, said he had no immediate comment on the rally plans. He said an aide will give his views to rally organizers later this week.
Rally organizer Demczuk said this Saturday was chosen for the event because it precedes next Tuesday's pressidential primary election. He noted that the rally comes at a time when Congress is considering both the city's budget for the next fiscal year and a requested supplemental apropriation for this year that would increase the federal payment by $61.8 million, bringing it to the authorized $300 million for the year.
Barry is banking on getting the full federal payment, and claims the city would end the year in the red without it. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the D.C. Appropriations subcommittee, told Barry last week that full funding is unlikely. Leahy's House counterpart, Rep. Julian C. Dixon (D-Calif.) has indicated a more liberal position, but not committed himself to the full sum.
Among other scheduled speakers at the Saturday rally are Willie Lynch, chairman of the Coalition for Financial Accountability, which opposes curtailment of social programs, and three labor leaders whose members would be affected by job cuts -- William Simons of the Washington Teachers Union, Geraldine Boykin of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and Donald MacIntyre of the American Federal of Government Employees.