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S.L. Council addresses anti-war group

It issues letter on why it won't take a formal stand

Tired of the weekly barrage of anti-war protesters, the Salt Lake City Council has issued a letter explaining why it won't take a formal position on pending U.S. military action in Iraq.

Councilman Dale Lambert read the letter Tuesday to about three dozen peace advocates at City Hall, which was crawling with Salt Lake City police officers, there in case the anti-war advocates got aggressive.

"The Salt Lake City Council has made it a practice to decline to pass resolutions on issues outside our sphere of responsibilities, even though we are often called to do so," Lambert said. "We were not elected to represent the citizens of Salt Lake on national and international matters, nor were we elected to make formal public pronouncements for the city on issues clearly outside of our responsibilities."

The anti-war-with-Iraq protesters have been showing up en masse at City Council meetings for about a month now. Last week, one advocate became unruly and left the podium escorted by council security. Along with Mayor Rocky Anderson, the protesters want the council to make Salt Lake City one of about 130 cities nationwide that have passed a proclamation declaring their city a "City for Peace."

The council has declined to even debate the issue, so Anderson penned his own proclamation outlining his opposition to a unilateral U.S. military strike in Iraq and forwarded it to President Bush and Utah's congressional delegation. The persistent anti-war comments have begun to hinder the council's ability to conduct its normal business. For instance, council chairman Carlton Christensen Tuesday had to put off a scheduled agenda item because public comments went so long. Also, the council, because of anti-war comments and other recent issues, has changed the order of its meetings and now holds all set public hearings before it takes general public comment.

During public comments Tuesday Salt Lake City resident Douglas Cotant pleaded with the anti-war advocates to quit coming to the meetings because they were detracting from important local issues.

Despite the council's letter, many anti-war advocates asked the body to reconsider.

"I plead with you to change your collective mind and make us a city for peace," said Diana Lee Hirschi, who is organizing a march for peace on Saturday.

Another man said the council was acting like the historical Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who "washed his hands" of responsibility when he handed Jesus Christ over to be crucified.

"Don't be a Pontius Pilate," he said. "Be leaders."


E-mail: bsnyder@desnews.com