A group of women protesting the failure of the proposed Equal Rights Amendment drew blood from each other's arms with hypodermic needles and poured it over a copy of the Constitution yesterday.
Then they blocked traffic outside the Justice Department and poured red paint on the facade of the National Archives, law enforcement authorities said. Twenty-three were arrested.
Authorities said 12 women were charged with blocking traffic at 6th Street and Constitution Avenue NW and were fined $50 each and released. Eleven other women were charged with disorderly conduct and destruction of federal property and were being held last night in D.C. police custody.
The two groups, calling themselves "a group of women," carried signs and banners expressing "anger and rage over the nation's refusal to ratify" the ERA.
Among those arrested was a 39-year-old nun from Mt. Rainier, Md., Maureen Fiedler, who had been among those who last month staged a 37-day fast in favor of the ERA in the rotunda of the Illinois capitol.
A coalition of women's groups, long active in lobbying for the ERA, sponsored scores of events around the nation yesterday to proclaim "a new day beyond ERA."
The 40 groups reaffirmed their support for the ERA, but committed themselves to working on a broad agenda of other concerns to women, such as child care, electing women to office and getting access to military pensions for divorced wives.
Women held rallies, lobbied mayors and governors, released balloons and marched in demonstrations in 200 cities, from Chicago to Martha's Vineyard, Mass., to Hazard, Ky., according to event coordinators.
The events were held the day after a 10-year battle to enact the ERA ended in failure. Coalition leaders termed the amendment's defeat "a setback" but insisted they intend to redouble their efforts to fight for equal rights for women.
They were joined at a news conference in the Capitol by Rep. Margaret M. Heckler (R-Mass.) and Sens. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) and Paul E. Tsongas (D-Mass.), who plan to reintroduce the amendment July 14.
Round two, however, promises to be more difficult. Ten years ago, the amendment sailed through Congress, and within 14 months had been ratified by legislators in 22 states. During the next nine years, only 13 more states approved it, three short of the 38 needed for the amendment to become part of the Constitution.
ERA now has 46 cosponsors in the Senate, and 150 in the House, far short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage. And ERA leaders admit it may be another 10 or 20 years before they can marshal the majorities in legislatures around the country needed for approval.