They stood in the rain on a frigid country road, waving sodden protest signs as water dripped from the hoods of their too-thin jackets. But the nine young men and women from Southeast Washington weren't about to go away, even if they didn't always agree about what they were protesting.
"Don't support the NRA and the Redskins!" yelled Ronald H. Moten, co-founder of Peaceoholics, a group that works with at-risk District youths.
"Hey!" a few of his friends hollered, clearly appalled by the notion of publicly withdrawing their allegiance from the Washington Redskins -- especially when they are winning.
Moten laughed. "I love 'em, too, but they're wrong right now."
Moten organized yesterday's protest at the Prince George's County Trap and Skeet Center, where the Redskins were holding a charity shooting competition in alliance with NRA Sports, a division of the National Rifle Association.
The Peaceoholics and members of another youth counseling group said they were outraged by the Redskins' decision to hook up with the NRA at a time when the nation's largest gun-rights organization is lobbying for repeal of the District's gun laws.
Legalizing handguns would put more of them on the street, the protesters argued, creating exponentially more opportunities for young African Americans like them to be shot.
"I don't support the NRA at all. They don't care about the residents of D.C. If they did, they wouldn't lobby for this bill," said James Ford, 27.
"We are losing our black youth at a rapid rate in the city. If our team is willing to support something that would kill the next generation of fans, then I need to protest."
The Redskins Charitable Foundation sponsored yesterday's competition to benefit children in the Washington region, charging participants as much as $25,000 to shoot clay targets with former and current players. The NRA acted as technical adviser, according to a group spokesman.
Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson said last week that the event was apolitical and that the Redskins do not support the NRA's political activities or its efforts to repeal D.C. gun laws.
Yesterday, Swanson declined to elaborate or to meet with reporters.
"Nobody wants to talk to you," said a large man in Redskins garb who stood guard outside the event. He would not give his name.
Down by the main road, the protesters waved their signs. "Pollin changed the Bullets. Snyder, get rid of NRA," said one, referring to Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder and the decision by Abe Pollin to rename his basketball team the Wizards. "Say NO to Gunz," said another. And: "Our peers are dying. Why would you support the NRA?"
But the group's vigil was lonely. A Redskins employee and a police officer placed their vehicles at the end of the shooting center's long, wooded lane. They refused to let the protesters pass, even after Moten warned that the NRA lobbies for the legalization of armor-piercing bullets.
"That'll go right through your vest!" he yelled to the officer. "C'mon, let us in."
Participants in the sporting clay competition sped by the protesters in Jeeps and luxury SUVs. In their haste, many took a wrong turn up the exit drive, so the police officer and the Redskins employee shouted and turned them back toward the entrance.
"Now they got to back up and hear it all again," said protester Daniel Bradley, 24.
While the activists chanted, several dozen Redskins guests enjoyed an autumnal buffet done up in burgundy and gold in a pavilion inside the shooting center. Men in green NRA vests mingled with men in burgundy jackets bearing Redskins logos.
Sam Brunelli, a former tackle for the Denver Broncos who now lives in Georgetown, was one of the celebrity shooters. Brunelli said he thinks Congress should repeal the D.C. gun laws.
"I think . . . the right to keep and bear arms should not be infringed," Brunelli said. "That is the law of the land, and it should be the law in D.C."
As for the protesters, their presence barely registered.
"I didn't understand it," said Jack Martin, a decorating contractor from Owings Mills, Md.
"About the time I noticed them, the police waved us on through."