Almost 1,500 police officers in riot gear along Pennsylvania Avenue. Hymns and invocations to "stop racism now" at the Lincoln Memorial. Raucous demonstrators at Lafayette Square carrying signs and speaking out against the growth of white supremacist groups in the United States.

Everybody showed up yesterday. Except for the instigators: the American Nationalist Party, a k a the Knights of Freedom, a self-styled neo-Nazi group.

The group, which applied for the permits to march down Pennsylvania Avenue and to rally in front of the White House as part of an "anti-government protest," told D.C. police to expect 150 to 300 demonstrators. Only four showed up at a staging area prepared by police, and they decided to call off the march.

"I'm not surprised," said Hyman Greenbaum, the father of the group's leader, Davis Wolfgang Hawke, a 20-year-old South Carolina college student.

City officials weren't so blase.

Chief Charles H. Ramsey immediately announced he would urge the District to explore suing Hawke and his followers for the million-dollar-plus cost of deploying 1,450 D.C. police officers for the march in addition to 1,100 on regular duty.

About 300 U.S. Park Police officers also patrolled the area, backed by Secret Service and Federal Protective Service agents from as far away as New York. Police cordoned off a 20-square-block area around the White House and Lafayette Square in preparation for the march.

"They decided, at the location where we were going to pick them up and transport them down here by bus, to call off the march," Ramsey, dressed in a helmet and carrying a riot baton, told a crowd of reporters at 17th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. "Only a couple showed up. They immediately determined they weren't going to go through with it."

Police could not say whether Hawke was among the group. Attempts to reach Hawke yesterday by telephone were unsuccessful.

Jeff Krause, executive vice president of the American Nationalist Party, said the march was canceled because huge counter-demonstrations were planned and because "the media worked this thing up into a frenzy."

"We did not want any of our people hurt," he said.

Because the media was to blame, Krause said, a suit against the group would be unfair.

Nine years ago, a Ku Klux Klan march in the District erupted into violence when protesters pelted the marchers with rocks. Fourteen people, including eight police officers, were hurt, and 40 were arrested. In light of that incident, police officials said they had no regrets about the massive deployment of officers yesterday.

David C. Friedman, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the cancellation of the march was "in many ways, a predictable result."

"A group that has existed largely as a student-run operation out of a dorm room and a Web site--it's not surprising they did this," said Friedman, who helped organize a "respect rally" at the Lincoln Memorial for racial and religious tolerance. "I think the city should take a hard look at seeking to recover the costs expended in the police protection required."

The American Nationalist Party was founded in 1996 and has about 150 members, many recruited through Hawke's Web site, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors extremist groups.

Upon hearing of the cancellation of the march, a massing of anti-Nazi and anti-racist groups led by D.C. United to Stop the Nazis, gathered at the northern edge of Lafayette Square, turned spontaneously into a victory celebration.

"Ho, ho, ho, the Nazis didn't show!" a group of 200 college-aged students chanted, as some blew whistles and banged on tin drums and plastic barrels.

On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, about an hour before the neo-Nazi march was officially canceled, several hundred people gathered at the "respect rally" to the evoke the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who gave voice to the nation's civil rights movement.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) noted that yesterday's march was scheduled nearly 36 years to the month after the 1963 March on Washington when King told the world of his dream of an America free from the troubles of racial inequality.

"That dream cannot be reserved for those who live in opportunity," Williams said. "That dream belongs to everyone."

The mayor said he recently received an e-mail from someone saying he shouldn't describe the neo-Nazi organizers as ignorant. His response: "This is an ignorant, stupid, foolish group!"

"No ragtag band of pitiful, disconnected people can overwhelm the human rights unity our nation has finally, if painfully, achieved," Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) told the throng of people who gathered under a piercing sun. "We've worked too hard, come too far. Hatred is just plain un-American."

In the end, the marchers never even materialized. Williams said late yesterday: "I am not disappointed that the planned neo-Nazi march was called off in our city today. There is no place in the District of Columbia for the racist, antisemitic, hateful messages expounded by groups such as this."

In a telephone interview last week from her suburban Boston home, Hawke's mother, Peggy Greenbaum, predicted neither her son--who legally changed his name to Davis Wolfgang Hawke from Andrew Britt Greenbaum before he entered college three years ago--nor his group would follow through with the march.

"I can't imagine Britt going down there," she said, using her son's former nickname. "Number one, he is a chicken. I don't like to say that about my own son, but he is a chicken."

Staff writer Steven Gray and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

CAPTION: Barbara Hoyd holds hands with Todd Mosley, as they march along I Street NW to protest against neo-Nazis.

CAPTION: Police block access at 20th and K streets to where the neo-Nazis were to stage their march. A crowd gathered to show its opposition to the American Nationalist Party.

CAPTION: Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, in his riot gear, answers reporters' questions after announcing the cancellation of the march.

CAPTION: Crowds gather at Lincoln Memorial for a "respect rally." Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton were among the speakers.

CAPTION: Priscilla Gerry, of Washington, and Steven Kelly, of New York, do an impromptu victory dance within a circle of drummers in the middle of H street at Lafayette Square after getting word that the march had been scrubbed.

CAPTION: D.C. police march up the street carrying riot gear as they prepare to line the planned parade route near 18th and I streets.