A demonstration against President Bush's wartime and domestic agendas Monday looked like a flashback to antiwar rallies of the Vietnam era, with a crowd estimated at more than 1,000 gathered in Pioneer Park.
The protest was going on while the president spoke at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention at the Salt Palace, and it continued more than two hours.
Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson was greeted with loud chants of "Rocky! Rocky! Rocky! Rocky!" A larger-than-life George W. Bush figure danced with a mean expression on its papier-mache face. Hand-lettered placards carried slogans ranging from "Mormons Against Bush" and "Exit Strategy Needed" to "Draft the Bush Twins."
While Rich Lyman performed on the keyboard, a character in a yellow chicken costume danced in front of the loudspeakers. A sign on the costume read, "George: Scared of Cindy?" referring to Bush's refusal to meet with Cindy Sheehan, the antiwar mother who wants to talk with the president about the death of her son in Iraq.
A youth who was apparently an adolescent rode on the shoulders of first one youth, then another. For a time the boy rose above the crowd, a red bandanna around his face, an obscenity about the United States painted in red letters on his bare chest and a statement that might be considered a threat against the president's life painted on his back.
Throughout the rally, drivers of cars and trucks passing Pioneer Park blared their horns. The loud honking sometimes triggered cheers from the crowd.
On a nearby street corner, half a dozen folks who supported the president held a counter-demonstration. Inside Pioneer Park, another pro-Bush activist jostled roughly through the crowd and confronted protesters.
While Lyman was playing and singing "Blowin' in the Wind," a veteran in a military cap talked with the Deseret Morning News. Hugh Musser, a West Valley man who served in Japan during the Korean War, said of the rally, "I love it. I love it. It's long overdue."
"We have an important message to deliver to a certain guest who is visiting our city today," said the Rev. Tom Goldsmith, minister at the First Unitarian Church, 569 S. 1300 East. "There is urgency for us to finally burst the bubble which protects George Bush from reality."
The Rev. Goldsmith said the American people are "waiting to hear why our sons and daughters are dying in a land that had never, ever produced terrorists before our invasion."
Iraq "had nothing to do with 9/11, never had weapons of mass destruction," he said.
"The war against Iraq is disastrous."
Anderson was announced as "one of the most liberal mayors in the United States." The crowd began chanting the mayor's nickname, but he called for them to change the slogan to "We're not going to take it anymore!"
"Even in the reddest of red states, where George W. Bush enjoyed the greatest margin of victory in both of his presidential elections (the crowd booed at this mention), there is now enormous concern about the dangerous, irresponsible and deceitful public policies being pursued by this president and his administration," he said.
"We'll continue to speak out with the growing ranks of people in this country finally willing to stand up and say, 'We're not going to take it anymore!' " Demonstrators joined in with the slogan.
Although several dozen protesters, as well as supporters of the president, gathered outside the Salt Palace, the main demonstration was held at Pioneer Park. Earlier, the mayor said that location was chosen out of respect for the veterans group.
"This is not a protest against this convention," Anderson said. "If he were here for the National Kool-Aid Society, we would be expressing our views in opposition to the president's policies."Comment on this story
Robert "Archie" Archuleta, activist with Utah's Hispanic community, said the protesters did not want to disparage the service personnel. "We cannot and we should have learned a long time ago that we cannot export our brand of democracy by force anywhere in this world," he said.At the Salt Palace, Ira Wilkerson, a veteran from Delaware, had a comment while people were chanting "Show me what democracy looks like." Turning to his friend John Stroud, a Nevadan, he said, "If they want to know what democracy looks like, they can go to any veterans' cemetery."
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche, Scott Winterton E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org