Fifteen animal rights demonstrators protesting a Woodward & Lothrop fur sale at the Mayflower Hotel were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct yesterday when they sat down and refused to move from the hotel's Connecticut Avenue NW entrance.
"There is a Christmas sale inside which we think is totally inappropriate," said Ingrid Newkirk of the Kensington-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, shortly before her arrest outside the hotel. "At this time of year, people are supposed to show compassion."
The protest here was part of a nationwide day of civil disobedience and demonstrations in 24 cities conducted to highlight what the demonstrators called "cruelty behind the glamor of fur."
About 60 midday marchers carried signs saying, "Shame," "Say No to Torture -- Don't Buy Furs," "Fashion Doesn't Justify Cruelty" and "Nam-Vets for Animal Rights," while the one-day sale proceeded in the hotel's State Room.
Neal Barnard, who identified himself as a George Washington University Hospital doctor and chairman of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, wore a Santa Claus suit for the protest. He said several shoppers had "guilty looks" as they entered the hotel to chants of "Shame, shame, don't buy furs; fur is murder, don't buy furs. What do you want? Animal rights. When do you want it? Now."
"I think they're right," said Robert DeBerardinis, a lawyer who lives in Seabrook, standing in the room where furs were for sale. "I'm just here out of curiosity, and we're just waiting for Raleigh's next door to open up."
A Woodies official, who declined to be quoted by name, said he thought the protest had had some impact on sales. "We have nothing to say," said another store official inside the fur-filled showroom, where prices were slashed in several instances from $10,000 to $4,999.99.
Shoppers were treated to coffee and pastries as they perused the merchandise hanging in racks around the room.
"It has a nice collar to keep the back of your neck warm," a salesman who said his name was Michael told a shopper trying on a full-length black coat selling for $2,999. "Black outsells every color," he said. "We sell at least twice as many. Black is classic. It's good for night or day."
"My husband said if I see something that's not extravagant and affordable, to go ahead. But I won't spend more than $1,200, because I'm more practical," said the woman.
At least one woman expressed mixed feelings about her presence there. "I feel sorry for that animal killing," she said. "I have a pet cat, and I can't think about it. My sister has two minks. She's like a bear walking, but if you are older and can afford it, why not enjoy a little luxury?"