Protesters call for investigation of U.S. torture allegations

Activism » Former Mayor Rocky Anderson's group rallies for the 'truth.'
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President Barack Obama has reinstated the ban on torture by American forces, saying abuses during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan hurt the nation.

But, a vocal group gathered outside the City-County Building on Thursday afternoon to say the president hasn't gone far enough.

Over 100 protesters shared their anger, rallying against torture and other alleged human rights abuses by the U.S. government.

Rebecca Browning traveled from Dallas to Salt Lake City this week to join in.

Why choose a rally about torture?

"This is the issue that makes me the maddest," Browning said.

High Road for Human Rights, a group founded by former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, coordinated the protest.

His organization is pressuring Utah's federal officials to push for an investigation into a wide range of what they see as violations of U.S. and international law.

"We need to thoroughly investigate and disclose the truth about what has happened," Anderson said. "In a democracy there should be utter transparency and accountability."

Anderson said even as mayor he spoke out against the invasion of Iraq and objected to the treatment of detainees.

Human rights groups, attendees of a Unitarian Universalist conference, veterans, and curious citizens stopped by to support the cause.

Browning, 39, came to Salt Lake with Amnesty International, and worked a table with Amnesty Coordinator Lydia Kalish from Ogden. Human rights violations like torture, Kalish said, have devalued our standards as Americans.

"If we don't want other countries torturing our troops, we have to lead by example," Kalish said.

The Unitarians, who are in town for a weeklong gathering, said their values overlapped with High Road for Human rights.

"Our first principle is the inherent worth and dignity of every person," Katrina Thralls said. "That's basically why I'm here."

Others expressed dissatisfaction with the Obama administration, saying they hoped for a more thorough investigation into torture as well as a quicker withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.

George Muller drove a truck to the rally displaying the number of casualties of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan, with a pair of boots for each of the 23 Utah troops who have died. Muller said he was "very pissed" that Obama wasn't withdrawing troops sooner.

Local human rights activist Chris Wade, 22, said he hoped for a bigger turnaround in the military after the Bush administration.

"So far we have a black guy in office and that's about the only change we've really seen," Wade said.

As speakers and musical artists took to the City-County Building steps, Anderson said he hoped to continue building grassroots momentum to, most immediately, push for federal investigation and accountability.

"What's at stake really are our most fundamental constitutional values," Anderson said.