Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson has angered a few Republicans, and perhaps a few foreign war veterans, by calling for Utahns who oppose President Bush's environmental stands, the Iraq war and other Bush policies to protest when the president visits Utah's capital city next week.
Bush is scheduled to address the 15,000-member Veteran of Foreign Wars convention in the Salt Palace on Monday.
Anderson, a Democrat who serves in an officially nonpartisan office, sent an e-mail Friday to selected environmentalists, Democrats and a few of his top administrative staff. It said of Bush's visit: "Don't let him come to Utah and not see huge opposition, even in the reddest (most Republican) state. This would send such an important message. A tepid response will just send a message of apathy and resignation."
Anderson went on to write: "Let the Bush administration and the world hear from Salt Lake City!!! The advocacy community should be organizing the biggest demonstration this state has ever seen!"
Anderson's office provided a copy of the e-mail to the Deseret Morning News after it was leaked to the news media.
Anderson said in an interview that he welcomes the VFW to Salt Lake City. In fact, he will deliver a welcoming address to the convention at 8:45 a.m. Monday, just hours before Bush flies in for a keynote address.
Anderson said any number of Utahns, including Republicans, should be demonstrating against administration policies that are "harming our cities."
To name just one program, Section 8, Anderson said the cutbacks in housing program for the poor means, "In Salt Lake City, 120 fewer families will be able to find affordable housing in our city because of this president's housing policies."
Anderson said he wants to make it very clear he does not advocate protests against the VFW but against the president's policies only. "I'm extremely supportive of the VFW convention; I'm thrilled to have it in our city."
However, when he heard of the mayor's call for a protest, Jerry Newberry, communications director for the organization, based in Kansas City, Mo., said: "That's unfortunate." Anderson "is supposed to attend our opening ceremony. . . . Matter of fact, he accepted," he said.
"There he goes again," said city councilman Dave Buhler, a former state GOP senator, after hearing of Anderson's e-mail. "Never a dull moment with Rocky."
Seriously, Buhler said, it is unfortunate that the mayor "would encourage a demonstration of a major convention that potentially could disrupt that convention. I mean, do we want these big conventions in Salt Lake or not? It's not very hospitable of the mayor. We should welcome any president, no matter who he is.
"This convention is not a partisan convention. It's veterans who served our country. It is not appropriate for an elected official trying to stir up protests; it's counterproductive. The convention business is very important to us," Buhler said.
The VFW, whose 15,000 delegates will gather today through Thursdayin Salt Lake City, has 1.8 million members who served in the military overseas in some kind of U.S. conflict. The group is known for its patriotism and has roundly cheered former U.S. presidents when they addressed their conventions.
Protests at VFW conventions are nothing new, especially when the president speaks, Newberry said.
"The president has appeared at our convention before, and we've always had people protest for one reason or another. That's what happens when the president appears anywhere."
Usually, Newberry said, the protests do not involve officials from the host cities. Has that happened before?
"Not to my knowledge," he said. Still, the Salt Lake mayor's effort is not going to put a damper on the convention, he added.
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