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Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson called for "the biggest demonstration this state has ever seen" to protest President Bush's appearance Monday before a national veterans convention.
"This administration has been disastrous to the country," Anderson said Friday. "If people could organize and speak out in an effective manner from the reddest state in the country, that would garner a lot of attention."
In an e-mail Wednesday to about 10 activist leaders, the maverick mayor of Utah's capital called for a diverse demonstration to greet Bush when he speaks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars at the Salt Palace Convention Center. The mayor plans to join the protesters.
"There should be a collaboration of health-care-provision advocates, seniors, the [gay, lesbian and bisexual and transsexual] community, anti-Patriot Act advocates and other civil libertarians, anti-war folks, pro-Social Security advocates, environmental advocates, anti-nuclear-testing advocates, and anti-nuclear-waste-shipment-and-storage advocates," the mayor wrote in the e-mail.
The mayor's message drew a howl of outrage from Mike Parkin, senior vice commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Atomic Post 4355 in Salt Lake City.
''Excuse my French, but - that son of a bitch!'' he said. "It makes the mayor look very, very unpatriotic. It makes him look despicable."
Parkin said such demonstrations, particularly against the Iraq war, give comfort to America's enemies and will be particularly offensive to the 13,000 to 14,000 veterans gathering at the convention.
"I voted for the son of a bitch and I'll never vote for him again," said the Vietnam War veteran.
Anderson disagrees with that measure of patriotism.
"Patriotism," the mayor said, "demands that people speak out when we see our government officials acting in such anti-democratic and deceitful ways to the people of our country."
He also said: "I don't understand people simply blindly going along with the sort of deceit and utter cruelty of this administration. It's not just we have the right to speak out, but we have the obligation to speak out when we see misconduct on the part of the government. The most patriotic thing we can do is stand up against the misuse of governmental power."
Craig Axford, co-chairman of the Utah Democratic Progressive Caucus, said Anderson's encouragement of demonstrations is appropriate.
"I don't think there's anything untoward or radical about that," said Axford, an organizer of a peace rally planned for Pioneer Park, three blocks from the convention center. "For people who appreciate the mayor and appreciate his politics, obviously it will boost our event."
But Joe Cannon, chairman of the Utah Republican Party, said Anderson's encouragement of protests against the president was improper, though typical of the mayor.
"What do you expect? It's Rocky. Clearly it's intended to smack the president. As the mayor of the host city, it's at best untoward."
Cannon thinks the e-mail will only help the Utah Republican Party.
"It's not the worst thing that can happen to remind the people of Utah the kind of things Democrats nationally stand for."
Salt Lake City Councilman Dave Buhler, a Republican, also said the mayor's action was in poor taste.
''I'm disappointed he would do this and use his office to promote his political views, which do not involve the city directly.''
Other city officials can do little, Buhler said, except "apologize for him again, as we are getting pretty good at doing."
Anderson, who is scheduled to make welcoming remarks to the conventioneers, says veterans will understand. "The veterans of foreign wars are heroes in my view. To stand up against government misconduct is in no way expressing a lack of support for those who defend our country."
Even though Utah gave Bush his largest margin of victory of any state in the 2000 and 2004 elections, Anderson, a Democrat, wrote in this e-mail: "Don't let him come to Utah and not see huge opposition, even in the reddest state! This would send such an important message."
"A tepid response will just send a message of apathy and resignation. Let the Bush administration - and the world - hear from Salt Lake City!"
Meanwhile, peace activists already were gearing up for the president's visit. Erin Davis, a veteran who opposes the war in Iraq, predicted at least 1,000 anti-war activists would begin gathering in Pioneer Park early Monday. The demonstration will be joined by a national group of military families who oppose the war.
Anderson plans to participate at Pioneer Park demonstration against the war and is scheduled to speak.
Axford described the rally at Pioneer Park, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., as a "pro-peace rally." It isn't being held near the Salt Palace, where the president will speak, because organizers didn't want to make the convention attendees feel unwelcome, the mayor said.
"We didn't want to invite any kind of confrontation. We wanted to focus on our positive message."
That message, Axford says, is: "We'd just like [the president] to explain and justify this war in light of the fact so much of what we were told we were fighting for clearly we weren't fighting for."
Reporter Heather May contributed to this story.