D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy joined religious leaders and peace activists yesterday in asking the Sheraton-Washington Hotel to stop hosting what they called an "arms bazaar" for weapons manufacturers.
Protesting what they said is a current promotional gathering of 90 weapons manufacturing corporations, the group asked the hotel to stop letting its facilities be used for the event, which they argued contributes to the escalating arms race.
A hotel spokesman said yesterday the Sheraton-Washington permits any group to contract for the use of its facilities.
"We don't discriminate," said Penny Cummings, the Sheraton Corporation's area director of public relations. She described the gathering, sponsored by the Air Force Association, a private organization, and held annually at the hotel since 1970, as "a communications technology" event.
But Jim Rice, of the Sojourners Peace Ministry, said weapons manufacturers and U.S. military personnel consider the exhibition the primary promotional event of the year. He said many of the weapons being marketed this year are being touted as "battle-proven" in the trouble spots of the Middle East and Central America.
At a news conference in front of the hotel, Fauntroy said that the weapons race "is spending the sweat of our laborers, the genius of our scientists and the hope of our children." He called for passage of a nuclear freeze resolution in Congress and other legislation to curb defense spending and retrain arms manufacturing employes in defense plants--measures he said had been endorsed as part of the recent 20th anniversary March on Washington.
Fauntroy said a key problem leading to the Soviet's fatal attack on the Korean Airline passenger jet "has been the heightened paranoia" between the U.S. and Soviet governments, increasing the likelihood of precipitous nuclear war.
The Rev. Ernest R. Gibson, executive director of the Council of Churches of Greater Washington, said "the blatant display of militarism . . . is contrary to the gospel message of peace and justice." He criticized what he said was the administration's policy of "increasing funds for instruments of death and destruction while reducing funds for the basic needs of life."