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Utahns march for peace

Hundreds mark anniversary of start of Iraq war

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It's been a year since President Bush didn't listen to Ethel Hale. In the intervening 366 days there has been a declaration of war, a declaration of victory and an occupation or liberation, depending on your point of view. And now, on the anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, here was Hale again. Eighty-two years old and still not happy with Bush.

Hale was one of several hundred Utahns who rallied Saturday in Salt Lake City, joining protesters from Tokyo to New York in a "peace movement mobilization." In Salt Lake City, the demonstration began at the state Capitol and continued with a march down State Street and on to the City-County Building.

Hale herself was stationed in front of the Federal Building, next to two wheelchairs and a coffin that protesters hoped would remind passers-by of the soldiers who have died or been wounded in Iraq. The placard around her neck read "mourn," but when she turned around it quoted old-time Utah labor activist Joe Hill: "Don't mourn, organize!"

"And of course we do both," Hale explained.

Despite a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq, the protesters were cheerful and determined as they marched through town, building up steam when they were greeted with supportive honks. Even the man who muttered "war is good" as he got into his car on Main didn't dampen their enthusiasm. "Ain't no power like the power of the people, 'cause the power of the people don't stop," they chanted.

The protesters had spiky hair and gray hair and roller-skates and wheelchairs. There was a Polygamy Porter T-shirt, and there was a contingent from Mormons for Equality and Social Justice. The main sponsors of the event were the Green Party of Utah, People for Peace and Justice of Utah, and the Wasatch Coalition for Peace and Justice.

Picket signs reflected wider issues, such as universal health care, Palestinians, civil lib- erties, corporate greed, the plight of the Huntington miners, and the environment ("Draft SUV drivers 1st"). There were the anti-Bush signs ("Stop Mad Cowboy Disease") and the 2004 version of the 1960s' make-love-not-war slogan: "More chocolate less war."

At the City-County Building, Aaron Davis of Veterans for Peace and Military Families Speak Out, urged Bush to "bring our troops home now." Davis, who has two sons currently serving in Iraq, noted that the government is closing some V.A. hospitals just as the demand for those services is increasing.

Salt Lake pediatrician Louis Borgenicht told the crowd that the Bush administration "looks at the world through fear-colored glasses. We refuse to do so." Utah Valley State College professor Michael Minch argued that the Bush administration "is trying to criminalize dissent."

The first anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq was also Robinson Vought's 10th birthday. "This is basically the party," he said, adding that celebrating with several hundred people was fine with him. For his father, Michael Vought, this was his first-ever protest march. "I've become con- vinced," he says, "that the administration isn't leveling with us." And that also "some diplomacy and creativity could have circumvented this."

Ethel Hale, on the other hand, is a veteran marcher. In the 1960s she protested the war in Vietnam; at her very first march, she remembers, there were only four people. But eventually, she says, all that protesting helped end the war. She's hoping that her efforts now will make a difference in Iraq.

"No matter how cynical I might be, I can't kill my hope."

E-mail: jarvik@desnews.com