Rocky to ‘highlight’ D.C. anti-war rally
Speech of SLC mayor is advertised as an example of how unpopular Bush policies are – even in Utah
By Heather May
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 01/19/2007 12:37:43 AM MST
He has made national news – twice – for protesting President Bush in Salt Lake City. Now, Rocky Anderson will have a national stage to castigate the commander in chief.
Salt Lake City’s mayor will speak at an anti-war rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 27, sharing the microphone with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, presidential hopeful Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and the father of a military officer who refuses to deploy to Iraq.
The demonstration – expected to draw hundreds of thousands in the largest anti-war protest since November’s elections – is being organized by the New York-based United for Peace and Justice in response to Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq.
The rally will call on Congress to “end Bush’s war and bring the troops home,” according to organizers.
Judith LeBlanc, national co-chairwoman of United for Peace and Justice, said she invited Anderson – the only mayor scheduled to speak – because of his headline-grabbing anti-Bush protest in Utah’s capital in August and because of the city he represents.
“The fact that people were marching and he spoke out in the reddest state in the country is what inspired us,” she said. “He is one of the highlights of the program.”
Anderson said he was pleased to take part and that the invitation “speaks well for our community.”
“The decision to commence the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the way in which this administration has carried out its policies ever since are completely contrary to the values underlying the Constitution and the values that most individual Americans share,” he said, mentioning torture, wiretapping and a war based on ”lies.” ”This is a much more dangerous world as a result of the Bush administration policies.”
The news release about the rally promotes Anderson before other noteworthy speakers, including Jackson, Kucinich and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. Actress Rhea Perlman from the TV show “Cheers” also will address the throngs, and singer Cher will appear on stage, though she is not scheduled to speak.
Anderson’s anti-Bush protest in summer – when the president was in town to speak at the American Legion convention – sparked outrage among Republicans. But don’t expect similar indignation this time, at least from the party.
“The biggest offense in the summer was he was the host mayor; he was representing our state. His actions were not appropriate then,” said Jeff Hartley, executive director of the Utah Republican Party. “A lot of people are upset about the war. A lot of Republicans are upset about what’s going on currently. If Rocky wants to protest, that’s fine.”
Still, Hartley would rather Anderson skip the rally.
So would Salt Lake City resident Dave Dungan. ”He’ll go back there as the mayor of Salt Lake City and stand up with Jesse Jackson and every anti-war kook . . . and he’ll be representing Salt Lake City and, as far as that goes, he’ll be representing Utah. But not me,” said the 72-year-old. ”It’s embarrassing. Having said that, he has every right in the world to do what he’s got to do.”
City Council Vice Chairwoman Jill Remington Love wasn’t aware of Anderson’s plans, but wasn’t surprised by them. While the mayor’s views aren’t shared by most Utahns, she believes he is representing most Salt Lake City residents, including herself.
“I’m troubled by [the Iraq war] and that’s probably why I’m not troubled by Rocky taking a stand and speaking out about it. Every day this war goes on is so disturbing.”
Bush announced earlier this month his plan to send more troops to Iraq. The surge has been attacked by Democrats and Republicans. Opponents in Congress are expected to debate a “no-confidence” resolution. Some U.S. senators may try to cap U.S. troop deployments or seek new congressional authorization of the war.
A new Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll released Thursday shows the public opposes Bush’s decision, 60 percent to 36 percent. In a poll taken for The Salt Lake Tribune before Bush’s speech, 44 percent of Utahns supported a short-term surge in troop levels and 42 percent opposed it.
“It’s the kind of movement in this country that Bush is saying he doesn’t have to listen to . . . when in fact it is the majority opinion,” LeBlanc said.
Hany Khalil, spokesman for United for Peace and Justice, wouldn’t release crowd projections, but he predicted “this is going to be one of the largest anti-war marches we’ve seen since the war began.”
The organization’s previous national rallies – in New York in 2004 and 2006 and in D.C. in 2005 – have attracted 300,000 to 500,000 participants, Khalil said.
For this month’s rally, buses and vans are expected to travel to Washington from 30 states and 111 cities. Organizations including the National Organization for Women, labor unions and MoveOn.org, a national political organization, are mobilizing people to attend.
Jake Skog, a University of Utah senior, had planned to carpool to D.C. for the rally, but can’t because of school. He was happy to know Anderson would be there, representing the city.
“It makes me pretty proud,” he said. “He’s kind of been a figure for liberal-thinking people in Utah for quite a while now. I’m really happy about that.”
In August’s protest – after which Anderson gained national attention including a cover story in the left-leaning weekly The Nation – the mayor delivered an indictment of the war and called Bush a “dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights-violating president.”
This month’s speech will likely sound similar themes, but it has to be shorter. LeBlanc said the rally would be condensed because of the cold. But the mayor – who will have more time than most for his message – is not known for concise speeches. His State of the City this week – in which he said the nation is regressing under Bush – lasted 100 minutes.
* Tribune wire services contributed to this story.