He may be bound for prison, but Mayor Marion Barry shed no tears yesterday. Instead, he had a parade for himself.
From morning to night, from Southeast to Northwest, a honking caravan rolled through Washington's crowded streets, with Barry, winking and waving from the sunroof of a car, in the lead.
It was billed as a campaign tour in his bid for an at-large seat on the D.C. Council. But Barry, who was sentenced Friday to six months in prison for possessing cocaine, looked to be as much in search of compassion as votes.
Most everywhere he went, the mayor got a sympathetic reception. Inside a coin-operated laundry on 14th Street NW, mothers yanked their sons from video games to meet Barry. Pedestrians flocked to him for autographs -- one teenager even had him sign a dollar. A florist gave him a balloon. It said "World's Greatest Mayor." Barry carried it for blocks.
On it went, so many cheers that Barry said he hardly noticed those who weren't so thrilled to see his motorcade. Such as a woman at a bus stop on Irving Street NW, who politely waved as Barry passed, then flashed an obscene hand gesture. Or the two men on an Adams-Morgan corner pretending to sniff cocaine as Barry waited for a green light. Or one boy, no more than 10, who chased Barry's car up Clifton Street NW, yelling, "You smoked crack, man!"
Barry spent little time yesterday talking about his sentence. At a luncheon for senior citizens at Trinity College in Northeast, Barry told the group he was a victim of "unequal justice," and he pleaded for their votes.
"I recognize that life is not fair, and people are not fair, but I'm not going to dwell on it," Barry said. "We're going full steam ahead with this council race." Then he had the group chant: "Vote Barry first!"
His tour took off in Southeast's Ward 8, home to the city's poorest residents. At midday, he drove the length and width of Northwest's Ward 1, rambling with bullhorns through the Georgia Avenue business district and Adams-Morgan. Later, he drove through Northeast's Ward 7.
He made dozens of stops, startling customers inside beauty shops, diners, carwashes and clothing stores. Barry began the day a bit sleepy and solemn; he had few words for reporters in Ward 8, and he spent most of the time cruising its streets sitting in the back seat of his car.
But in the afternoon he spent several hours atop his car, hands aloft, flashing a peace sign occasionally. He brought an elderly woman flowers. He bought $3 socks from a merchant. He watched intently as teenagers -- who didn't bother to say hello -- played a video game called "Pit-Bull Fighter."
All the while, he touted his bid for a council seat in the Nov. 6 general election, saying he believed the six-month prison term that U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson handed him will benefit his campaign.
"I think it heightens my support out there," Barry said while shaking hands on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE. "I'm seeing more enthusiasm for me today than I have in the last two weeks."
In that time, Barry's candidacy has been dealt many apparent blows. A majority of the D.C. Council has endorsed council incumbent Hilda H.M. Mason (Statehood-At Large), who many political observers believe is most vulnerable to Barry's campaign. Jesse L. Jackson also is endorsing Mason, a move that caught Barry by surprise. This week, he said Jackson "betrayed" him.
Though he has raised about $70,000, Barry has collected few prominent supporters. The Metropolitan Council AFL-CIO, a coalition of labor groups, is backing Mason, and many D.C. ministers -- who usually have rallied strongly behind him -- have been silent.
But Barry, 54, has dismissed all demands that he forsake his campaign to concentrate, as some close to him have suggested, on recovering from his addiction to alcohol and drugs. And yesterday's motorcades, Barry said, served to reassure him that his campaign is bound for victory.
"This is the final stretch, and my campaign is picking up," Barry said outside a produce market on 11th Street NW. "Isn't that obvious today? We're right on target."
Along the route, scores of people stopped to tell Barry he had their support. As Barry strode up Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, Alphonso Brown raced up to shake his hand. "Hang in there, baby; you'll be all right," Brown said. "They can't keep you down."
A block later, Barry encountered Darryl Thomas, who began cheerleading for the mayor by lifting a line from a popular tune by singer M.C. Hammer. "Can't touch you!" Thomas sang. "They can't touch you!"
"Can't touch me!" Barry replied, clapping.
At one point, a young pregnant woman ambled toward Barry and whispered that she wanted to give up drugs. "You know what I mean," she told him. "It's hard."
"You don't stop until you stop for good," Barry interjected.
"I will soon," she said.
"Got to get off now, you got a baby," the mayor said.
A few hours later, Barry made a campaign stop at the seniors luncheon at Trinity College, on Michigan Avenue NE. After a round of handshakes and kisses, and once the room was decorated with Barry's campaign green, the mayor bowed his head in silence as a minister, the Rev. Clyde Hargraves, had the group pray for Barry to win the council race. Then he added, "Have mercy on those who do not understand."