Protesting farmers settled into a routine of tractor parades and small rallies yesterday, restocking their campers for what they said would be a prolonged siege on the Mall.
Traffic disruptions were relatively minor despite the snow and were confined to downtown and nonrush hour periods.
"We're gonna be here for a while," said Greg Westmoreland, a Bay City, Tex., farmer, speaking for many of the farmers whose vehicles have been confined by police on the Mall near the foot of Capitol Hill. "We didn't drive no 1,900 miles to go home after a couple of days," he said.
A spokesman for U.S. Park Police said, however, the National Park Service is anxious to get the more than 920 tractors, trucks, and campers of the American Agriculture Movement off the Mall as soon as possible.
"We would be delighted if they left right away," said park police spokesman George Berklacy. "But we have to play it by ear. There is no set date that we are going to force them off the Mall."
Park police said they have no plans to force a confrontation with the farmers. Berklacy said a "rapport" was developing between the farmers and police officials and that he expected the farmers to leave willingly.
But Berklacy said he had no idea when the farmers, who are demanding higher farm prices, will leave.
Police yesterday allowed 16 portable toilets and a propane fuel truck inside the barricade of city buses, two trucks and police cruisers that has surrounded the farmers' vehicles since Monday when the farmers and police clashed after a massive traffic jam. Berklacy said the toilets were "not meant in any way to convenience the farmers, they are only for public health."
Shortly before the farmers set off yesterday at 10:30 a.m. for their third tractorcade in as many days, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry showed up at their encampment and told them, "I understand what you're here for. I'm one of you." Barry pinned an American Agriculture Movement button to his lapel, but declined an offer to ride a tractor up Constitution Avenue.
The farmers yesterday plowed snow off streets within the Mall with their tractors and offered to plow other city streets. Police Chief B. D. Crooke said he welcomed the farmers' offer, but city officials put off a decision on the proposal until this morning.
Police reported only one arrest yesterday, which brought to 22 the number of farmers who have been arrested in the three days of the protests.
"The spirit of cooperation is growing," said D.C. police spokesman Lawrence Soulsby. He said farmers, who on Monday and Tuesday accused the police of Gestapo tactics, "are coming to realize we want to help them."
Yesterday's tractorcade, which ended at 3:30 p.m., and protests in the Agriculture Department's administration building and the House Longworth Office Building occurred without any arrests, police said.
Tom Kersey, a farm leader from Georgia, told a rally of farmers yesterday in the Agriculture building that Agriculture Secretary Bob Bergland was a "liar" for his attacks on the protest. Farmers across the Mall yesterday continued to condemn Bergland, saying they were motivated not by greed, as the secretary suggested Tuesday, but by an instinct for survival.
In a camper parked near the Capitol's west front steps, Howard Baker, a farmer from Addison, Mich., cooked hamburgers and said he "just can't understand why Bergland is saying those things."
Baker and the four other Michigan farmers sharing the camper have nearly run out of the food they brought along for the protest; the camper's sewage tank is full, and their supply of propane fuel is running low.
"Don't give the impression that we're giving up," Baker said."They'll haul us out of here before we leave on our own."
The Michigan farmer said that although he and his friends are not accustomed to living in cramped quarters, they are willing to put up with the inconvenience because "there ain't no sense in going home unless something gets done."
To further their protest, Baker suggested, "maybe we'll have to dump our sewage in that pond out there." The pond is the reflecting pool in front of the Capitol.
D.C. Deputy Police Chief Robert W. Klotz said yesterday he was trying to arrange for a sanitation truck to drain toilet tanks in the campers.
In federal buildings around the Mall yesterday farmers kept out of the snow and buttonholed federal employes, explaining in detail their economic problems and appearing somewhat frustrated at the responses they often received.
"If we wanted to, we could bust out of that barricade out there," Wilfred Carlin, a farmer from Hays, Kan., told a federal worker who was eating lunch in the basement of the Longworth Building.
"But we're not kids," Carlin said. "That's the last thing we want to do. We want to educate people."