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Thousands protest Bush, Iraq war; vow support for troops, their families

SHARE Thousands protest Bush, Iraq war; vow support for troops, their families
Briawna Howard yells "This is what Democracy looks like" as she and dozens of others gathered at the Salt Palace to protest the War in Iraq Monday.

Briawna Howard yells “This is what Democracy looks like” as she and dozens of others gathered at the Salt Palace to protest the War in Iraq Monday.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News

With the message that people can protest a war while supporting troops and veterans, a handful of speakers — including a Gold Star mom — addressed an anti-war rally Monday, the same day President Bush was in town.

Bush spoke to more than 6,000 people at the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, while three blocks away about 2,000 people gathered to protest Bush administration policies and the war in Iraq.

Barbara Wright, 56, drove five hours from her home in St. George to attend the rally at Pioneer Park.

"There's a lot of reasons I'm unhappy. Predominantly due to the war, but also about the economy, Social Security," Wright said.

Her father, a World War II veteran, was unable to come with her, but she said he would have come along for the same reasons.

"So I'm here for him too," she said.

Several people attending the protest boasted that they were from military families or had served in the armed forces.

Salt Lake resident Hugh Musser, 74, said he was a Korean War veteran who came to the protest because of "the lies about this war and the reasons we went into it."

"I'm so opposed to our administration. I'm not politically motivated, I'm an independent. I think we have really lost our democracy," Musser said.

The featured speaker was Celeste Zappala, a co-founder of Gold Star Mothers for Peace with Cindy Sheehan, who made news camping outside Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch in hopes of meeting with the president.

Zappala's son, Spc. Sherwood Baker, 30, was killed in Baghdad on April 26, 2004. He was a member of the Pennsylvania National Guard which was deployed to help provide security for a survey group looking for evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, she said.

Zappala said she was overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up at Pioneer Park.

"I expected and hoped that 100 people would come out. This place is overflowing with patriotic Americans," she said.

She said she has traveled over the past 16 months speaking out about the war because of a promise she made at her son's funeral.

"My sweet and noble son was the 720th American soldier to die in the hideous miscalculation called the war in Iraq," Zappala said. "I vowed to him I will not be quiet."

Zappala and members of her family have spent the last week in Crawford, she said, hoping the president would take time to answer one question from families who have lost loved ones in the war.

"What noble cause is it? What noble cause is it that has taken the lives of our best Americans? What noble cause is it this month?" Zappala said. "Why do the architects of this war not risk the lives of their children?"

One of the event's organizers, Aaron Davis with a group called Veterans for Peace, said he filed a permit for a gathering of 1,000 people. Thirty minutes into the three-hour event Monday, he said he knew there would be that many and more.

"Not only is our message today support our troops and bring them home now, but treat them right when you bring them home," said Davis, who said he served as a Marine from 1972 to 1976.

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, who called for a strong showing from Utahns at the protest in an e-mail he sent last week to local activists, addressed both the VFW convention and the protest.

Anderson was booed in his speech to the veterans at the Salt Palace Convention Center about two hours before Bush's speech. After, he said challenging political leaders is being supportive of the troops.

"The message we want to send is that we are behind our troops, we care very much about our troops. That if their lives are going to be put on the line, they are going to be put in harm's way, that we're told the truth and our nation hasn't been told the truth," Anderson said.

Chants of "Rocky!" followed Anderson as he took the podium at the anti-war rally.

"Those who take a stand ... who stand up to deceit by our government. Those are true patriots. You are true patriots," Anderson said.