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War anniversary draws protest

Published March 20, 2005 2:23 am

Names of dead read in SLC; West Jordan event thanks soldiers
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Several hundred protesters marched four blocks from the Federal Building to the City-County Building in downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday afternoon, waving banners, placards and chanting, "We want justice, we want peace, U.S. out of the Middle East."

Most carried colorful signs with slogans like: "Not in my house, not with my taxes, not with my sons" or "Put Bush on trial for Murder."

The protest was one of several events meant to commemorate the second anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war. Earlier in the day, religious leaders read the names of people killed, including 13 Utahns, and students at West Jordan High School put on a five-hour rally they called "Thank-A-Soldier Day."

Jason and Christine Maynard of Holladay brought their two young children, 4-year-old Jake and 8-year-old Breanna, to the protest as a kind of living education.

"It's important for them to understand what's happing in the world," Christine Maynard said. "We want them to know how their mom and dad feels about this war. To keep kids in the dark is not right."

For the foursome, it was "a fun alternative family activity," she said with a smile.

Speaker after speaker called for the United States to end military intervention in the Middle East, repeal the Patriot Act, discontinue support for Israel's occupation of Palestine and spend more money on jobs, education and health care than on war.

"I come from a military family and I think it's horrible that we've broken a covenant with our troops," said Joshua Kreek of Ogden. "We promised that we wouldn't send our troops to war unless it was absolutely necessary. It isn't."

And, of course, it wouldn't be a protest without satirical folk music. A singer calling himself "Slick Rock Slim" led the crowd in singing lyrics such as, "What're we fighting for? There's oil in that sand, Bush is an oil man."

This was clearly a different kind of commemoration than the one that had preceded it on the east side of Washington Square. That featured the slow, solemn reading of the names and ages of people killed in the Iraq war, alternating between American and Iraqi dead.

Flanked by American and Iraqi flags and surrounded by bouquets of flowers, 16 clergy from mostly mainstream Protestant and Catholic churches in the area took 30-minute turns reading the names.

The Rev. Daniel Webster of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah was one of the readers who teared up occasionally, especially at the mention of women and children who were victims of the war.

"Our teenage soldiers and Iraqi women and children, some as young as 1 year old, are united in death," Webster said. "I can't pass it off as just casualties of war. They are all innocent victims."

The mood was somber as some participants strolled along the sidewalk leading up to the City-County Building's east entrance. Positioned along the "prayer way," as they called it, were placards with quotes from Martin Luther King Jr., Lincoln, Einstein, Helen Keller, St. Francis of Assisi, Alice Walker, the Dalai Lama, Wordsworth, and Islamic, Sikh, Christian, Hindu and Jewish prayers for peace.

Some listeners stayed for the entire reading, which began at 9:30 a.m. and ended shortly before 1:30 p.m. Some came, left and returned, while others stayed only a few minutes.

Emotions also ran high at West Jordan High School, especially among those who have loved ones in the military. Susan Shanklin of Kaysville said it was nice to see people dressed in their military best. She wanted to go up and hug some of them, but couldn't. It was too close to home. Her son, Kasey McGugin, has finished his second round of duty in Iraq, but she fears he may sign up for another.

"He's a newlywed and his bride has been without him most of their married life," Shanklin said. "It's time for him to stay home."

Col. Ed Willis, a biology and physics teacher at the high school, just returned after 11 months in Iraq, where he worked as a construction engineer building roads, schools and police stations, sometimes wearing body armor in 130 degree weather.

His area wasn't as dangerous as nearer to Baghdad, he said. "Southern Iraq and Shiite Muslims are a lot more friendly to the U.S." His group got attacked by a rocket but it landed too far away to cause harm to the soldiers. "It did get our attention," he said.

The students gave Willis a plaque, expressing their appreciation "for sacrifices rendered on behalf of a grateful nation."





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