Chanting "Not dope but hope," about 60 community activists, District officials and concerned citizens yesterday gathered in front of a small Northwest clothing and variety store and burned its supply of cigarette rolling papers, which drug abusers use to smoke marijuana and PCP.

The drug protest, organized by the Community Coalition for Social Responsibility, was meant to send a message to merchants that citizens want them to stop aiding drug abuse by selling drug paraphernalia.

The group, an example of several grass-roots efforts that have sprung up to combat the District's epidemic of drug abuse, trafficking and violence, has called on people to stop patronizing stores that sell such items.

"We want people to declare themselves to be part of the solution," said Don Freeman, a cochairman of the coalition.

"You cannot profit from the deaths of our children and keep your hands clean."

Mr. P His and Her Style Shop, at 709 Kennedy St. NW, is the first establishment to line up behind the effort.

Its owner, Gerald Pannill, watched as a trash can full of Top papers and other brands he sold were set afire.

Pannill said he had been selling the papers for at least 10 years to people of all ages. He does not sell loose tobacco.

People who would buy the papers often asked for other kinds of drug paraphernalia as well, Pannill said.

"They'd ask me for screens, pipes, you name it in the paraphernalia line," Pannill said.

"I just stopped and looked at it and I said, 'Wait a minute. This {the rolling paper} is paraphernalia.' It was just something I was doing that I shouldn't have been doing."

For his support, Pannill received a certificate from the coalition and a yellow sign saying "We do NOT sell items that support illegal drug abuse. We care." He posted the sign in his store window.

Public Health Commissioner Dr. Reed V. Tuckson, school board President Linda Cropp and Calvin Rolark, president of the United Black Fund, praised the coalition's campaign.

"There's no government that can solve this problem alone," Tuckson told the crowd.

"It is the empowerment of community, grass-roots organizations" that will help reclaim communities that have been overrun with drugs, he said.

The frustration in some areas is very high, said Baker E. Morten, another coalition cochairman.

"People don't know what to do, which direction to go in. Some people feel simply overwhelmed," he said. "Our coalition is here to say to people that this problem can be handled, to give people hope."

The coalition's protest is an extension of its campaign last month to pressure the Republic Tobacco Co. to remove billboards advertising its brand of rolling paper, Top, near Dunbar and McKinley high schools.

One sign has been removed.

Coalition leaders said yesterday's protest marked the beginning of a move to persuade as many merchants as possible to stop selling the papers.

"I have some merchants already committed," said Elaine Bush of the Carver Terrace Tenants and Civic Association in Northeast, who attended the protest with a busload of 34 people from her neighborhood.

"Our area's infested with drugs and we have a big concern because we have death up there, shootings every day. We have 18,000 people up there and 75 percent of them are seniors. We thought it was time to make a stand as a community."