About three dozen people angered by the slayings of Latvians in Riga shouted at Soviet diplomats entering and leaving the embassy here yesterday, and several of the protesters struck two embassy cars as they departed down 16th Street NW.
Although many of the daily protests against Soviet military actions in the Baltic states have drawn larger crowds during the last 10 days, yesterday's group was the first to strike Soviet Embassy property. The demonstrators beat on the cars with their fists and open hands.
The Secret Service responded with reinforcements of a dozen uniformed officers who forced the protesters back onto the sidewalk across from the embassy. There were no arrests.
Some of the protesters held signs urging passing motorists to honk in support of the Baltic states, and there appeared to be a steady sound of car horns in response. One woman in the group said she expected a much larger crowd, and she attributed the small turnout to the federal holiday and the single-digit wind chill. Previous protests outside the embassy have drawn several hundred.
Inside the embassy, there were few diplomats to hear the protesters' chants. An embassy official said many diplomats had taken the day off, while others were away from the building enjoying the traditional 2 1/2-hour lunch break.
Gunta Eglitis, a Baltimore woman who came to the United States 40 years ago, waved a large white-and-red Latvian flag and led the protesters in a chant, "Nyet, nyet, Soviet." Eglitis said her cousin, Juris Ozols, was killed in Latvia three days ago by Soviet forces.
Others in the group waved Lithuanian and Estonian flags.
Mari-Ann Rikken, of Arlington, public affairs director of the Estonian American National Council, said she was enraged by the latest violence in Latvia, where at least four people were reported killed Sunday night when Soviet soldiers attacked the Latvian Interior Ministry.
Another Latvian native, Ulvis Grinvalds, of Falls Church, said President Bush should move quickly to establish diplomatic relations with the Baltic states, which the United States has never recognized as a part of the Soviet Union.