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Posted: 3:05 PM- WASHINGTON - Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson demanded an end to the war in Iraq and rallied tens of thousands of protesters to scream "No More" on Saturday at one of the largest anti-war rallies in the nearly four-year-old conflict.
Anderson, who joined other politicians and celebrities in addressing a sprawling crowd on the National Mall, called the protesters "true patriots" who are outraged at President Bush, a "complacent" Congress and a "dismal" news media that have caused millions of people to suffer pain and tragedy.
"That is not what we, as Americans, stand for," Anderson said, sharing the stage with a flag-draped coffin topped with combat boots for a fallen Massachusetts Marine. "That is not what our country stands for. And we want the world to know it. Blind obedience to bad leadership is not patriotism."
The mayor, a vocal Democratic activist who emerged onto the national anti-war scene during protests against Bush's two visits to Utah in the last two years, blasted a litany of government actions from "unconstitutional wiretapping" to torture of human beings.
"No more Iraq war," Anderson belted out to an audience quickly willing to recite "no more" with him.
"No more God-is-on-our-side religious nonsense to justify this immoral, illegal war."
Organizers expected more than 100,000 people to attend the rally, which stretched from near the Capitol several blocks toward the White House. Police declined to give a crowd estimate, but the Washington Post and the Associated Press estimated that the crowd was under 100,000.
Protesters came from across the country to speak out against the war and also against Bush's planned increase of 20,000 troops to help curtail the escalating violence in Iraq. Anti-war luminaries, from presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich to The Rev. Jesse Jackson to the Vietnam War's anti-war poster child, Jane Fonda, took a turn at the microphone to rally supporters. Hollywood elite, including Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn and Rhea Perlman, also made appearances.
Many hoisted signs bashing the president, calling for an end to the Iraq occupation or other causes. Several flew U.S. flags with a peace sign replacing the 50 stars. "No more lambs to the slaughter," said one poster.
A handful of Utahns joined in the protest, including 17-year-old Tess Harper, who held a sign emblazoned with a drawing of Utah and the words, "We the people have spoken, bring our heroes home."
"This war will be affecting my generation," said Harper, a Salt Lake City resident and East High graduate whose father, Steve, brought her to the rally. "My generation will have to pay for this. We'll have to deal with all the consequences they created."
A bit away in the crowd, Dick Devlin, a Vietnam War veteran and retired engineer from Sandy, condemned the administration and Congress and charged that the country has gone downhill.
"This war is wrong," Devlin said. "This war is immoral."
U.S. House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., echoed that sentiment in his speech to the crowd, calling on Congress to use its authority over the budget to end the Iraq war.
"Not only is it in our power to stop Bush, but it is our obligation to stop Bush," Conyers said.
A short distance away from the massive rally, a few dozen people protested the protesters and sought support for the troops serving overseas. That event was organized by FreeRepublic.com, a conservative Web site on which commenters were blasting Fonda's appearance and dismissing the anti-war rally organizers' crowd estimates.
Bush, who has been frequently away during the large anti-war demonstrations, took a bike ride in nearby Maryland early Saturday but his motorcade didn't travel near the protests.
Anderson, in his staple dark suit, blue shirt and red tie, said before his speech that it was important to show that even in Utah, a Republican haven that has given Bush his largest margin of victory in 2000 and 2004, there are voices against the war. A recent Salt Lake Tribune poll showed a majority of Utahns did not support the president's handling of Iraq.
"I don't think Osama Bin Laden could have a better recruiting tool than George Bush," Anderson said.
By odd coincidence, Anderson earlier in the day had come across former Utahn and now White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove at a hotel near the Capitol. The two chatted briefly about Salt Lake City, according to Anderson's spokesman.
On stage later, Anderson followed Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., who declared Bush is "not the decider; he's the liar."
Anderson grabbed six minutes in the spotlight and ignored organizers' several prompts to end his speech because his time was up.
Didn't matter much to 21-year-old Jessice Tregeagle of Salt Lake City, who is interning in Washington this semester. "There's nothing more patriotic than coming out and voicing your opinion," she said.