A soggy unwelcome mat was flopped out yesterday in downtown Washington for Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who arrives tomorrow for a summit with President Bush.
In a hint of things to come during Gorbachev's five-day visit, demonstrators at Lafayette Square across from the White House, at the Soviet Embassy on 16th Street NW and on several downtown sidewalks shouted their disapproval of Soviet policy.
For the most part, they are the strident minority in the United States whose views of the Soviet leader range from wariness to outright hatred.
"You can't trust him, it's all lies," said Katherine Grintalis, who came from Baltimore to wave the Lithuanian colors before the White House as a reminder, she said, that all is not well in the East.
Yesterday 1,100 supporters of independence for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia came out. So did 200 Palestinians wanting a homeland and a cessation of Soviet Jewish immigration to the occupied Israeli territories. So did 100 American and Soviet Jews advocating a permanent change in the Soviet law to guarantee continued emigration.
"Better it is how it is now than how it was before," said Henry Gerber of the number of Jews recently allowed to leave the Soviet Union. "But it could be better."
"We're trying to push our agenda with Bush and Gorbachev," said Abdulrahaman Khalid of the Islamic Association of Palestine, during a demonstration across from the White House.
Eighteen groups have requested permits to demonstrate during the summit and several plan protests for each day of Gorbachev's stay. Most groups will be promoting freedom to form sovereign governments and to live without Moscow's interference. That, said Soviet sociologist Ludmila Arutiunian at a news conference, is a painful process. "The new is never born without struggle," she said, referring to the deaths of at least 22 people Sunday in clashes between Soviet troops and nationalists in Armenia.