About 150 demonstrators gathered outside a courthouse Monday to support an art gallery and its director facing obscenity charges for showing an exhibit of Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs.

Jury selection began Monday morning in the trial of the Contemporary Arts Center and Dennis Barrie.Municipal Judge David Albanese rejected the defense's request to question potential jurors individually.

The case has become a rallying point for artists, First Amendment activists and those who believe the indictments are part of a wider effort to intimidate homosexuals.

"We think the prosecution is motivated by homophobia," said Scott MacLarty, spokesman for the Gay-Lesbian March Activists. "We think it is motivated by hatred for artists."

MacLarty was among those who gathered outside the Hamilton County Courthouse to demonstrate against prosecution of the gallery. About 50 police officers patrolled on foot, on horseback and on motorcycles.

Demonstrators shouted "Who's our Hero, Dennis Barrie; Who's the Crook, Simon Leis." Leis, Hamilton County sheriff, stood on the courthouse steps with other police officers and smiled.

MacLarty told the crowd that Leis was on "a personal crusade above and beyond the law in a personal vendetta against gay and lesbian people and artists."

Frank Weikel, spokesman for the sheriff, said, "We're not surprised. Leis-bashing is nothing to him or us."