Mayor Marion Barry, flanked by his police chief and city administrator, strode through the city's heroin-plagued heart at 7th and T streets yesterday, bringing home the message that his war against drug abuse is continuing.
There were fewer people than usual on 7th Street by the time the mayor arrived at 2:30 p.m. -- thanks to the swarms of police on foot and motorcyles who preceded him and the jostling television cameramen and reporters who heralded his imminent arrival -- but there were plenty of merchants to keep the mayor busy.
"It's part of my outreach program," said the mayor between handshakes and chats with passersby. "I wanted to congratulate the officers and wanted to see exactly what's happened. It's good for the mayor to show his personal concern."
For over an hour, Barry marched from store to store, first up one side of 7th Street and down the other, then along T Street and back, and finally to Florida Avenue and over to 9th.
"Hey, Mr. Mayor," called out a red-eyed man wearing a brown cap cocked to one side. "Remember me? We used to work together at Pride."
"Yeah," said the mayor, who shook the man's hand and then introduced him to D.C. Police Chief Maurice T. Turner and city administrator Elijah Rogers.
"He's doing his job," the man said as the mayor finally turned away. "People are pressuring him so he's pressuring us."
At Joe Caplan Wine and Liquor Store, near 7th and Florida, the mayor stopped to talk with owner Alfred Lewis. Behind the counter a large German shepherd named "Max" growled and barked, and Barry discreetly stepped back.
When Barry told Lewis that the police crackdown on drugs is an attempt "to make it a little easier for you," the store owner replied that, in fact, he had noticed fewer drug dealers and buyers on the street.
A few doors away at a shoe repair shop, Barry explained to owner Vondell McKethan that he wants to make the 7th Street corridor safe for businesses in the area. "Let us know if you have any problems," he said as he left.
"I appreciate you coming by," McKethan said as the mayor strolled out of the shop.
"If he can keep the people off the street and get them jobs, things will be all right," McKethan told a reporter.
Jobs -- or rather the lack of them -- were in fact a frequent topic of discussion wherever the mayor went yesterday.
"Who's that?" Denise Golden said to her friend as the entourage stopped at 7th and S streets NW.
"That's your mayor," the man answered. "Let's shake our mayor's hand."
"If he gives me a job, I'll get to know him," Golden said.
Another man walked with Barry for several blocks to complain that he couldn't find a job. Barry wrote a telephone number of one of his aides on a slip of paper, gave it to the man and told him to call it about a job.
There were other gripes, too.
At one stop, a man told the mayor that a police dog had bitten him when he was arrested for a burglary. The man pulled up his pants legs to show his scars. When he unbuttoned his shirt, apparently to show more scars, Chief Turner directed the man to report the incident to one of his police officials who was standing nearby.
"They don't want to listen to that," another man said.
"We don't want to be talking about no dog bites," said another man. "We want to get jobs."
In the Log Cabin Liquor store at 7th and S streets NW, ownerSamuel Ha told the mayor that he used to have to walk through a crowd of junkies and dealers to get inside his store. The crowd hasn't been there since the police crackdown, he said.
"Police are doing a good job," he said. A shotgun restedg against the counter nearby.
There was at least one resident, however, who saw other reasons behind the mayor's visit yesterday.
"Mr. Mayor," hollered 12-year-old Martin Newkirk as he watched the mayor busily shaking hands of passersby, "when's the election coming up?"
"The primary's in September. . . You want to work for me?" the mayor asked.