More than 1,500 people gathered Saturday morning on the Utah Capitol lawn to participate in a rally supporting the "912 Project," a movement promoted by conservative TV talk show host Glenn Beck that he says seeks to recreate the sense of unity that Americans felt the day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Despite claims to be a nonpartisan effort, speakers such as Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Gayle Ruzicka, president of the Utah Eagle Forum, spoke to a crowd that was loudly critical of President Barack Obama's administration and his allies in the Democrat-controlled Congress.
"This is one of the most American things you can do," Chaffetz, Utah 3rd District Republican, told the crowd as he spoke in front of a white bus emblazoned with the slogan "American Liberty Tour." "I'm as fired up as I've ever been."
Ruzicka told the crowd to "take back the Republican party ... [and] take back America by working together."
"I remember a country I would love to see again," said Rep. Carl Wimmer, R-Herriman, as he spoke about the day after 9/11, when he said Democrats and Republicans shared a sense of purpose and unity and all Americans were patriotic.
Saturday's assembly was tied to similar 912 events across the nation that included a march by tens of thousands of people on the nation's Capitol with Beck broadcasting live.
Craig Axford, deputy director of the Utah Democratic Party, was not at the rally but said afterward that these types of events are not unifying, but divisive.
"Simply bashing the president and pulling out red herrings like socialism is not constructive," he said. He added that Beck's attempts to call these events nonpartisan "insults everyone's intelligence."
Other speakers at Saturday's rally included Lew Uhler of the Calfornia-based National Tax-Limitation Committee and another man who recited the entire Declaration of Independence from memory. The convocation included a blessing for Beck.
Ken Pearson, of Riverton, said he came to the rally because he didn't agree with the direction the United States was going and that the government was encroaching on states' rights. "The government is now reaching into areas of commerce and the private sector that they don't belong," he said.
Some in the crowd wore patriotic hats and Constitutional Congress-era outfits, many waved banners that read "Don't Tread on Me," and signs that said:
» I disagree with Barack Obama because he's 100 percent Socialist ... Not because he's 50 percent black!
» Man made global warming is a hoax
» Abort Obama, not babies
» No New Spending -- No Cap & Trade -- No Government Health Care
Some of the speakers' comments were directed at the president's call for health care reform. The name of Rep. Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina, who yelled "You lie" during the president's speech before Congress Wednesday, drew cheers. "I know Joe Wilson," Chaffetz said. "Joe Wilson is a friend of mine."
Wimmer told the crowd he was drafting legislation that would allow Utah to "opt out" of government-supported health care if the president's reforms were enacted.