Several hundred District cabdrivers abandoned their work for two hours last night to meet near the Lincoln Memorial and organize a public protest against newly instituted fines for civil infractions that they say are too high.

The drivers cheered speakers who called for a refusal to work during several unspecified rush hours in order to get the attention of the District government and legislators on Capitol Hill. The fines, instituted by the D.C. Taxicab Commission on June 1, range from $25 for "improper dress" to $500 for failure to display an insurance sticker.

But it was the $250 fine for refusing to pick up a passenger that most concerned the drivers, who said they have a right to pass by any customer who they feel might be dangerous. The taxicab commission and the city's human rights office have put undercover employees on the street to try to catch drivers refusing to pick up passengers.

"A brother is no longer with us because he picked up the wrong person," said Eli Williams Sr., as he held aloft a picture of driver William Bamicle, who was slain while working recently. "No way will I jeopardize my life for some asinine rule like that."

Williams and others contend that the new fines force drivers to pick up every customer for fear of getting fined. The drivers, who come from a dozen countries, were eager to tell of hack inspectors who had fined them for dust on their cars and for not wearing socks.

Ossei K. Prempeh, a driver for five years, said he was stopped by an inspector a week ago.

"He told me pull up my pants so I did," he said. "The inspector says, 'You are not wearing socks,' and I say 'That's right, it's hot today.' He gave me a $25 ticket."

Williams, who said he is the chairman of the newly formed group, asked the drivers to contribute $5 each so they can hire a lawyer to help them win an injunction against the new fines. Drivers, some holding the hands of small children, immediately lined up to donate money.

As the meeting broke up, Anthony Johnson said he thought the commissioners were conspiring to put foreign drivers out of business.

"We are 90 percent foreigners," he said. "They think they can just kick us out of the cab business with these high fines. If that happens, it will create a shortage {of drivers} . . . . They may get rid of us, but then who will drive the taxis?"