In Cleveland this week about 400 mostly black high school seniors marched to the Board of Education building to register to vote.

In Washington next week hundreds of blacks and whites are expected to participate in a prayer vigil sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to protest a proposed constitutional amendment that would outlaw busing as a school desegregation tool.

For the past two years, in Deep South cities and towns like Miami, Nashville, Decatur, Ala., and Tupelo, Miss., blacks - often joined by white sympathizers - have been using mass demonstrations to voice social, economic and racial concerns.

Many black leaders are predicting that as the U.S. economy declines and the perception grows that the nation is leaning more to the political right, such demonstrations are likely to increase.

"There is a growing feeling that there's been a little too much politeness in the way minorities have been trying to put their case in recent years," said Carl Holman, executive secretary of the Black Leadership Forum and cochairman of the National Committee on Hispanic and Black Concerns.

"The issue of using more direct action protests is a very live one in civil rights circles. It's being discussed a great deal, not only in regard to domestic concerns, but also in connection with international concern such as the treatment of blacks in South Africa," said Holman, reached at his office in Washington, D.C.

Here at the eightt annual convention of Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity), the youngest of the black civil rights groups, the matter of direct action protest has moved well beyond discussion.

That was the purpose of the student voter registration march - an unabashed media event produced and directed by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, PUSH's founder and national president.

"You have a chance to show the nation that you care about your future," Jackson told a rally of 2,000 students, whose numbers included the seniors who were eligible for voter registration.

"I want all of you high school seniors to move out of the auditorium to the Board of Education with dignity. The media is watching. You have a chance to make an impact," Jackson said.

Earlier this week, Jackson grabbed headlines by calling for a renewal of the selective economic boycotts and the mass protests that marked the civil rights movements of the '60s. In doing so, he joined a growing group of other civil rights leaders - Benjamin Hooks, executive director of the NAACP, and Southern Christian Leadership Conference president Joseph Lowery, to name two - who have issued similar calls in the past year.

Jackson's charisma and expert use of the media drew more attention to his appeal. But the thinking among other civil rights leaders is that neither of those qualities will be enough to produce and sustain the organized mass protests they feel may be needed in the near future.

"The media love Jesse because he makes a lot of noise. But he doesn't have the necessary troops to follow through," a ranking NAACP official said today.

"These things will come about as the need arises. They will involve a high degree of participation and coordination. We have always been able to provide those things," the NAACP official said.

However, the NAACP official said Jackson's group and other smaller civil rights organizations may be better able to effect economic boycotts because they have fewer financial assets and less chance of being sued than does the NAACP.

The NAACP has 450,000 dues-paying members and an annual operating budget of $6 million. PUSH has far fewer members - 25 chapters as opposed to the NAACP's 1,700 chapters, for example. Other groups such as the United League of Mississippi, which has been leading boycotts and demonstrations in Tupelo, also have smaller membership rolls. CAPTION: Picture, JESSE JACKSON. . . led student voter march in Cleveland