Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News
PROVO Vice President Dick Cheney's visit to Brigham Young University on Thursday brought out those who wanted to rally and to protest.
On a popular corner of BYU's campus, where many graduates traditionally pause to take pictures of the school's "Enter to learn, go forth to serve" sign, members of the BYU College Democrats hosted a rally for peace that drew about 100 people, including non-students and veterans who came to protest Cheney's visit and the war in Iraq.
Down the street, in front of the Provo City Library at Academy Square, some 30 people attended a Republican-sponsored rally in support of Cheney, which was organized by a group calling itself the "We Support America Committee" and bedecked with American flags.
Only a couple dozen people stood on Washington Square in Salt Lake City, protesting Cheney's visit and asking for an end to war.
Aside from occasional shouts of derision and obscene hand gestures, most of the rallies in Provo concluded peacefully about 2:30 p.m. Participants said they appreciated the opportunity to voice their opinions.
"Part of the reason why we're out here is to raise awareness and have a dialogue," said Diana Smith, a member of the BYU College Democrats, as a car drove by, blasting its horn. "He just gave us the finger."
The BYU Democrats organized an initial protest of Cheney's visit on the school's campus on April 4. The students also received advance permission from the school to host the Thursday protest.
Those who were non-students were kept separate from the BYU College Democrats they stood on public property instead of the school's private property as per the school's request.
Aaron Davis, who organized the Veterans for Peace protest across the street, likened his protest to the rallies that occurred around the Vietnam War, saying he is on a mission to bring deployed U.S. troops home. He said that speaking out against the war was almost therapeutic for him and other veterans.
"In doing this (protest), our veterans are able to talk, they're able to march," Davis said. "The College Democrats have more people here than we do, but that's great because now we have a discourse. We're not hiding (our opposition). We have to do something. We can't stand idly by."
Although the rallies were all nonviolent, some harsh words were exchanged by both those who came out to support or oppose Cheney.
"We just keep our fingers crossed and our hopes up that we'll be able to do something to correct the corruption in our government," said protester Dan Kennelly of Sandy, who attended rallies in both Salt Lake City and Provo. "We protest all of the idiots from the top on down."
At the GOP-sponsored rally, Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem; Rep. Greg Curtis, R-Sandy; Provo Mayor Lewis Billings; and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff spoke.
Shurtleff defended the war in Iraq and called U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who recently publicly criticized Cheney, "Hezbollah Harry." He called Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, who regularly calls for the impeachment of President George W. Bush, "Iraqi Rocky."
Billings said he was glad to welcome one of the most "prominent and significant individuals in America" to Provo, and cautioned listeners against being too critical of the country's leaders.
"There's not one of us here that we couldn't put under a microscope and start picking off the faults and the flaws," Billings said. "As Americans, we tend to criticize, but I hope we don't get so caught up in (the negatives.) ... If any community can see through the fluff and chatter and rhetoric, it's this community."
Some graduates who posed near the protesters for their traditional portraits of the school's signature sign said they didn't mind the clamor the protests made, as shouts, bullhorns and car horns could regularly be heard, but that sentiment wasn't shared by all."Frankly, I'm annoyed by it," said Bradford Peck, who came to take pictures with his family. "Why are they protesting on my graduation day? If they want to protest they can go somewhere else. ... This isn't a political event."
Contributing: Wendy Leonard
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