A small group of war protesters with candles that has stood quietly in front of the Homewood Friends Meeting House three evenings a week since August grew to about 200 vocal demonstrators last night during the homebound rush hour -- on what many believed to be the eve of tragedy in the Persian Gulf.
"Negotiate Peace in the Middle East," exhorted their large black and white sign, illuminated by spotlights at the end of an electric cord strung from the meeting house at 3107 N. Charles St., opposite the Johns Hopkins University campus.
The drivers of about one out of 20 passing cars tooted their horns in support of the sign's message. A youth with a bullhorn urged, "Honk for peace!"
All ages and a cross-section of religious faiths were represented. The organizers were Quakers, but many of the candle-holders had come from Roman Catholic and main-line Protestant churches.
There was non-religious participation, too. Among those handing out leaflets under the watchful eyes of a contingent of Baltimore police officers were members of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade. Their literature asked, "What kind of an evil system would send hundreds of thousands of youth to die and murder for world domination?"
They were a minority. More typical was Lawrence Irvine, an 18-year-old student at the Baltimore School for the Arts, who said, "I've no idea who organized this; I just see it as something worthwhile. There is a lot of fear of the draft. Personally, I feel we need more drastic action -- but not violent -- to keep a war from happening. There should be more time for negotiations.
"I think Saddam Hussein should be put in a maximum-security prison for the rest of his life. It's not just a 'blood bath for oil' -- it's more complex than that."
Mr. Irvine helped hold up a large hand-printed sign that read, "Stop the U.S. War Machine. No matter want it takes. U.S. out of the Gulf now! Hell no, we won't go. Support all G.I. resistance."
With a smaller sign that said simply "Remember Vietnam" was another School for the Arts student, Emily Berger, 15. She said she was one of nine people who attracted a police response by obstructing traffic at York Road and Northern Parkway during an anti-war demonstration Friday afternoon.
"I don't think they'll take any action against me," she said. "I don't think I did anything wrong."
Andre Howard, 14, a Robert Poole Middle School eighth-grader, happened by last night and was handed a candle. "I think we shouldn't have a war over oil," he said.
Wanda Garcia said, "I'm a mother. My son won't fight." To which Mike Lowry, a City College sophomore, added, "Nobody here wants to fight in the desert for oil."
Eric Whitehair, 17, a City College senior, said sadly, "Among the people who care there's plenty of resistance, but not enough people care."
Meanwhile, on Druid Hill Avenue in West Baltimore the Rev. Daki Napata, a Vietnam veteran and associate minister of Union Baptist Church, was organizing an all-night vigil at the church's coffeehouse. It was intended as a reminder that today's deadline for Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait coincides with the birth date of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
"One of the things that has to happen is that folks who believe they can make a difference come together," he said.