Thousands Protest Bush, Iraq War In Salt Lake City
Barbara Wright, 56, drove five hours from her home in St. George to attend the rally at Pioneer Park.
"There's a lot of reasons I'm unhappy. Predominantly due to the war, but also about the economy, Social Security," Wright said.
Her father, a World War II veteran, was unable to come with her, but she said he would have come along for the same reasons.
"So I'm here for him too," she said.
Several people attending the protest boasted that they were from military families or had served in the armed forces.
Salt Lake resident Hugh Musser, 74, said he was a Korean War veteran who came to the protest because of "the lies about this war and the reasons we went into it."
"I'm so opposed to our administration. I'm not politically motivated, I'm an independent. I think we have really lost our democracy," Musser said.
The featured speaker was Celeste Zappala, a co-founder of Gold Star Mothers for Peace with Cindy Sheehan, who made news camping outside Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch in hopes of meeting with the president.
Zappala's son, Spc. Sherwood Baker, 30, was killed in Baghdad on April 26, 2004. He was a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard which was deployed to help provide security for a survey group looking for evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, she said.
Zappala said she was overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up at Pioneer Park.
"I expected and hoped that 100 people would come out. This place is overflowing with patriotic Americans," she said.
She said she has traveled over the past 16 months speaking out about the war because of a promise she made at her son's funeral.
"My sweet and noble son was the 720th American soldier to die in the hideous miscalculation called the war in Iraq," Zappala said. "I vowed to him I will not be quiet."
Zappala and members of her family have spent the last week in Crawford, she said, hoping the president would take time to answer one question from families who have lost loved ones in the war.
"What noble cause is it? What noble cause is it that has taken the lives of our best Americans? What noble cause is it this month?" Zappala said. "Why do the architects of this war not risk the lives of their children?"
One of the event's organizers, Aaron Davis with a group called Veterans for Peace, said he filed a permit for a gathering of 1,000 people. Thirty minutes into the three-hour event Monday, he said he knew there would be that many and more.
"Not only is our message today support our troops and bring them home now, but treat them right when you bring them home," said Davis, who said he served as a Marine from 1972 to 1976.
Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, who called for a strong showing from Utahns at the protest in an e-mail he sent last week to local activists, addressed both the VFW convention and the protest.
Anderson was booed in his speech to the veterans at the Salt Palace Convention Center about two hours before Bush's speech. After, he said challenging political leaders is being supportive of the troops.
"The message we want to send is that we are behind our troops, we care very much about our troops. That if their lives are going to be put on the line, they are going to be put in harm's way, that we're told the truth and our nation hasn't been told the truth," Anderson said.
Chants of "Rocky!" followed Anderson as he took the podium at the anti-war rally.
"Those who take a stand ... who stand up to deceit by our government. Those are true patriots. You are true patriots," Anderson said.
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Protests Greet President Bush on Arrival in Salt Lake City
By Glen Warchol
The Salt Lake Tribune
Tuesday 23 August 2005
A confrontation in front of the Salt Palace Convention Center Monday between pro-Bush veterans and war protesters started out with jeers and competing chants, only to end with both groups singing "God Bless America."
The incident, in the conservative bastion of Utah, supported activists' claim that a new and stronger anti-Iraq war movement has begun. This peace movement has made patriotism, flag-waving and support for the troops part of its rhetoric.
Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, who called for demonstrations against President Bush when he visited the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention, picked up the theme, both in his welcoming speech to the veterans and to peace activists two blocks away in Pioneer Park.
"We can debate, as we should in a free country, the decisions of our political leaders," Anderson told the VFW conventioneers, many who booed him. "But we must always support without wavering, and be grateful toward, our men and women in the armed forces."
After that, Anderson's comments received nothing but cheers, even as he defended his right to protest.
At the peace rally, Anderson told about 2,000 activists, "We are grateful for what [veterans] have sacrificed for our country and our freedom."
But, "Our nation was lied into war," he said.
"You are true patriots for being here today," he said, referring to the criticism of his call for protests of the president's visit.
Activists were overjoyed at the turnout in Pioneer Park, around the convention center and along the president's motorcade route. It was the largest Utah demonstration against the war since an estimated 2,500 gathered at the Capitol before the Iraq invasion.
"This is a turning point for our nation - here today in Salt Lake City," Anderson said.
Still, not everyone was impressed by the protests or Anderson.
"They have the right to protest," said Bruno Dyszczakowski, a VFW conventioneer from Wisconsin gesturing toward the pickets. "But for a public official to call for demonstrations-that's wrong. It's a slap in the face to all vets. Impeach Rocky Anderson!"
George Coles, a Korean War vet from Illinois, mused: "They couldn't do that if we hadn't fought for their rights. They make me ashamed."
Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who accompanied the president, said the president saw the protesters along the motorcade route.
"[Bush] got a chuckle. He said 'Look, look at all the middle fingers.' Frankly, we ought to show respect to the office and the person regardless of what party they come from."
Dyszczakowski said the visiting vets would not hold the demonstrators or the mayor against the city, which has hosted the VFW national convention three times. "You can't condemn a city because [of its] mayor."
The climax of the anti-war rally was the appearance of Gold Star Families for Peace.
Philadelphia resident Celeste Zappala's son Pennsylvania National Guard Sgt. Sherwood Baker was killed in Iraq in 2004. "When he finally made it home, I knelt down by his grave and I vowed to him I would not be quiet. If I save another family from from what my family has been through, I will have been successful."
Supporting the troops while opposing the war can be a difficult balance. Debbie Johnson, of West Valley City, is the mother of a soldier who served eight months in Iraq. She and her son disagree on her stand on the war and she would not divulge his name or unit for fear of retaliation against him.
"It broke my heart that he thought I was taking a stand against him- I couldn't make him understand the difference," Johnson said of her anti-war activities.
Sheryl Ginsberg, an activist with Democracy for Utah, has a nephew who is a Marine serving in Iraq.
"We're proud of him," Ginsberg said. "He's a warrior, but he's being used for political reasons. It's a tragedy."
In his welcome to the VFW, Anderson criticized Washington, D.C., politicians for not providing U.S. soldiers better equipment and for contemplating cuts in veterans health benefits.
"You honor us by your presence," Anderson told the vets, and, while not receiving the standing ovation that the other speakers enjoyed, the mayor received 10 seconds of applause, this time without boos.