Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.) wasn't home. But that didn't stop an estimated 600 demonstrators -- about 400 of whom had journeyed from Washington in a bus caravan -- from picketing outside his house today, protesting Faircloth's role in legislation that stripped D.C. Mayor Marion Barry (D) and other elected D.C. officials of much of their power.
"We want to repeat history and unseat Lauch Faircloth, just like we did John McMillan in '72," said D.C. statehood activist Mark Thompson, one of the organizers of today's demonstration. He was referring to former representative John L. McMillan, who died in 1979. The South Carolina Democrat was regarded as a major congressional obstacle to home rule for the District.
"Lauch Faircloth is securing his place in history alongside McMillan as an enemy of democracy," Thompson declared.
As local and state law-enforcement officers monitored the protesters' every move -- and as the senator's bemused neighbors looked on -- the demonstrators marched in the late afternoon sun outside Faircloth's sprawling estate, chanting: "Hey, hey! Ho, ho! Un-Faircloth has to go!"
Police said the demonstration was orderly. It could not be determined where Faircloth was today.
Opponents of the recently enacted federal legislation for the District consider Faircloth, chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the District, to be the villain in a scheme to rob D.C. voters of what limited self-determination they had. The law provides massive federal financial relief for the city but hands much of Barry's management authority to the presidentially appointed D.C. financial control board.
Thompson said Faircloth inserted language into the D.C. Revitalization Act that "stripped District residents of any legal voice in the running of their local government."
In Falls Church, meanwhile, about 30 protesters marched outside the sprawling, red-brick home of Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Oversight subcommittee on the District. But Davis was in the Lake Tahoe area with his family.
The demonstrators marched 2 1/2 miles from the East Falls Church Metrorail station, carrying D.C. and U.S. flags and placards and chanting slogans. "Down with Davis! Up with democracy!" they shouted.
In Clinton, Mary Morris, who lives across the street from Faircloth, wondered what all the fuss was about.
"I think they're trying to turn the black residents here against Lauch, but I don't think they'll have much luck," Morris said. "I respect their right to protest, but it doesn't change the way I feel about him. He's a man of strong principles."
The bus caravan to southeast North Carolina left Washington shortly before 4:30 a.m. today after a rally at the Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast Washington, where ministers roused hundreds of sleepy-eyed protesters with speeches, gospel songs and prayer.
There were mothers with small children, professionals from the suburbs and veterans of the civil rights movement, such as former D.C. school board member Barbara Lett Simmons, who said she wanted to be part "of history" by joining the demonstration. "Oh, Lord, we are going to claim North Carolina. Send a caravan of guardian angels to protect all of the buses," Thompson prayed at Union Temple.
"This movement is long overdue," said Kathryn A. Pearson-West, a member of the D.C. Democratic State Committee. She had her two small children with her. "They missed the civil rights movement. They needed to be part of this." For Eric Kareem, a minister at Union Temple, the event was much more than symbolism. "I am a District homeowner, I have a son about to be born, and I have three daughters," he said. "I came so my children can have representation for their taxation." Outside Faircloth's house, Bob Bailey, of Prince George's County, said he worked in Washington for 34 years and joined today's protest as a matter of principle. "I love D.C., and it's just horrendous that the federal government kicked aside elected officials," he said. Staff writers Hamil R. Harris, Eric Lipton and Peter Pae, in Washington, contributed to this report. CAPTION: In Falls Church, another set of protesters marches outside the home of Rep. Thomas M. Davis III.