D.C. Mayor Marion Barry discounted yesterday the possibility of blacks' reacting violently if he is convicted in his drug conspiracy and perjury trial, saying, "We will not destroy that which we have worked so hard to build up."

Barry, speaking to reporters outside U.S. District Court late yesterday afternoon, said it would be a "setback" to the city if there were any acts of violence and questioned the assumption that it would be blacks who might initiate such incidents.

"I want to just say unequivocally that I've not heard, nor {has there been} serious considerations by anyone, of that kind of setback," Barry said. "When people in media talk of rioting or violence, they're usually talking about the African American community.

"Let me remind you that white people can riot too, but we're not talking about that among any community," the mayor added. "You obviously don't realize that we have grown as a people the last 20 years. We will not destroy that which we have worked so hard to build up."

Barry, who in nearly 12 years as mayor has built a substantial following, did not call directly on his supporters to refrain from reacting violently in the event he is not acquitted. But the mayor did repudiate violence himself, saying that "those who would even talk about that don't represent me, don't represent what I stand for."

"I try to do all I can not to divide this city," said Barry, some of whose comments over the years have been perceived by some as being racially tinged.

Some community leaders in Washington, whose population is nearly 70 percent black, have expressed concern that a verdict against Barry could incite some of his supporters to violence. Jesse L. Jackson, among others, recently warned that the climate existed where such violence could occur.

Most longtime observers of the city and its politics have discounted that possibility, saying while racial tensions are strained -- in part by the Barry trial -- they do not expect any violence on the scale of the civil disturbances that followed the 1968 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

On other issues, Barry said that if he had committed any wrongdoing, it should be considered a private matter. He also said he had made "just plain misjudgments," but noted he was not on trial for those.

"Obviously, I have gone through a lot in 54 years of life and, as some of you, I've made my share of mistakes, no question about that," Barry said, attributing some of those errors to chemical dependency problems.

"Whatever conduct, alleged conduct, I've engaged in, a lot of it was not criminal," Barry said. "I certainly have done some things I'm not very proud of, but that was private conduct. I've not looted the public treasury.

"Certainly, alleged criminal acts were not done in a public fashion," Barry said. "The city would not be going throught this trauma and drama -- and it's dramatic -- if it weren't for the zeal and the zest of the federal government. If you look at the whole array of crimes in America," the mayor continued, "most of them . . . are committed in private from time to time."

Barry also estimated the cost of the U.S. government investigation against him to be $50 million and said that figure was "not for me to prove, it's for {U.S. Attorney} Jay Stephens to disprove." Federal authorities have estimated the cost at $2 million to $3 million.

Asked what the jury should consider, the mayor replied: "I would like for them to -- those who are Christians -- to pray hard and to remember that God is a forgiving God . . . and also, I like to remember that people do lie under oath, in public and on the stand."

Staff writer Ben Iannotta contributed to this report.