Word of the gathering had been on the radio. Fliers had urged District workers to request time off to attend. It had even gotten a live plug during Mayor Marion Barry's historic hour on television Wednesday night.

But under a summer-like sun on the day after Barry closed the door on a fourth term, a rally in his name yesterday lured only a few hundred supporters to a park adjacent to the U.S. District Court building, where the mayor is on trial on 14 drug-related charges.

"Should have been bigger," said Keith Williams, 31, as he sat on the rally's fringe at John Marshall Park, a terraced rectangle on Pennsylvania Avenue between the Canadian Embassy and the courthouse. "Should have been much bigger."

Neither the U.S. Park Police nor the D.C. police department had an estimate of the crowd, with each saying that the other was responsible for the park. But Peb Ali, one of the gathering's organizers, said "several hundred people would be an honest estimate."

"I would have liked to have had more representation," Ali said.

Some Barry lieutenants at the event blamed the turnout on the heat and insufficient publicity, the radio and television notices notwithstanding. They also suggested that interest in the mayor might have dropped now that the end of the Barry era is within sight.

"I already know what the 'spin' on this is going to be," said one Barry organizer, shaking his head.

" 'Look at that. Two hundred people showed up for the mayor.' "

Another rally organizer, Roscoe Grant, of the labor council that represents 7,000 District workers, said Barry's announcement on Wednesday might have discouraged some of his supporters. Grant also said Barry partisans might not have understood the rally's purpose.

"No, I'm not disappointed," Grant said. "I think it was a good rally."

Sponsored by the Coalition For Equal Justice Under The Law, the rally was intended to link Barry's indictment and trial to what organizers said is an extensive government campaign to prosecute black elected officials. Ali said the rally had been planned for three weeks and was unrelated to Barry's decision not to run again.

"When they come in the morning, it could be for you. Or you. Or you," attorney Faye Williams told the overwhelmingly black crowd, which carried hand-lettered signs that in some cases said "Acquittal! Acquittal!" or castigated U.S. Attorney Jay B. Stephens.

"If you have not yet been falsely accused, indicted, tried, convicted or harassed in any way, just wait," she said, "As the Rev. Jesse Jackson has said, I cannot show you the plan in writing. But we all know the unwritten, often-denied policies and practices of our government, to stop the progress of our people."

As the rally began with a processional past the courthouse, Barry put in an appearance, waving from the window of his passing Lincoln Town Car as he sped away during his trial's recess for lunch.

"He's done nothing wrong compared to the good that he's done for this city," said Gladys Mitchell as she sat on a bench beneath a tree to escape the sun. She said she believed there was a conspiracy to prosecute black officials because "when they reach a certain plateau, {then} they have come down."

The rally's closing prayer was disrupted when a man appeared near the podium with a sign that read, "Barry lied to the kids and under oath about drugs." The man scampered behind the podium as several members of the crowd began to chase him, eventually catching him and ripping up his sign as police arrived. The man, who identified himself as Nelson Pumphrey, was hustled into an unmarked police car. It could not be determined whether he had been arrested.