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Nader may speak at Provo rally

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PROVO — Some graduating Brigham Young University students plan to listen to Vice President Dick Cheney's commencement speech on April 26 — and then march to an alternative off-campus commencement they hope will feature former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

Nader's agent has told the BYU students he is very interested in coming, said Ashley Sanders, one of the event organizers.

"His agent said our idea sounded like the '60s," Sanders said. His presence isn't yet guaranteed, but the group continues to negotiate with him.

Nader or no, the alternative commencement group is one of at least four rallies being planned for Cheney's visit to Provo.

One will be held on campus. On Wednesday, BYU's dean of students agreed to let the College Democrats stage a peace demonstration in front of the "Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve" sign at the entrance to campus on Canyon Road.

The demonstration's slogan will be "Go Forth, Establish Peace," said the rally's organizer, College Democrats president Diane Bailey.

Bailey said the rally will be positive and will stretch from noon to 2 p.m. It should be seen by thousands going to the Marriott Center for the commencement rites even though Cheney doesn't speak until 4 p.m.

"They're opening the doors of the Marriott Center at 1 p.m.," Bailey said. "We wanted seniors to be able to come, and they have to be in line by 2 p.m. because of the security clearance."

BYU policy prohibits campus demonstrations by off-campus groups, so organizers of the other rallies have contacted Provo hoping to reserve city parks, Mayor Lewis Billings said.

That's a problem: The city doesn't take park reservations until May 1.

"Until then, parks are available on a first-come, first-served basis," Billings said.

The policy makes planning more difficult for the alternative commencement and the other two rallies, which will try to lure Cheney supporters. One of the rallies is being spearheaded by a veteran's group and the other by local Republican leadership.

"We're inviting any citizen in Provo who wishes to support the vice president," Utah County Republican chair- woman Marian Monnahan said. "Republicans, Democrats, we don't care. We feel it's important to do that."

Monnahan hopes the bash will be a large one. She said her group will apply for a mass-gathering permit, required by city code for gatherings of more than 300 people.

She hadn't heard about the rally being considered by a veteran's group that Billings declined to name.

"Maybe they'll join us," Monnahan said.

The alternative commencement group hopes to draw 1,000 to 2,000.

"A lot of people from different groups in Salt Lake have said they're interested in coming down," Sanders said. "They've already chartered buses."

Sanders said the alternative commencement would begin at 6:30 p.m.

"It's going to be a commencement about alternatives, about people who have tried to find new solutions to old problems in a constructive, creative way," she said. "It's not so much anti-Cheney for me. He's done things I don't agree with, and I don't think it was the best move for BYU, but we're not saying we don't want to listen to this person because his views are different than ours but that we want to listen to people who are doing positive, humanitarian things in the world."

Provo and BYU police are coordinating with the Secret Service to prepare for the vice president's visit.

"We are going to be very active that day," Billings said. "We'll have a substantial number of officers back on overtime that day, helping us observe the nontypical activities of the day."

City Council member Cindy Clark has told Billings she is concerned about safety for schoolchildren, because 19 schools are adjacent to city parks.

"I would like to keep those parks closed that day until after school is out," Clark said.

The park most groups hoped to secure is Kiwanis Park, across the street from BYU's law school and adjacent to Wasatch Elementary School.

Billings doesn't want to rush into a new policy for Cheney's visit but agreed that city leadership should consider school impacts for future situations.

He said Provo police cars on every shift are equipped with decibel meters.

"If people with big, loud sound systems blasting out are disturbing people in homes or schools, we'll respond," he said.

He didn't know how much Cheney's visit would cost Provo in overtime and other expenses.

Billings doesn't anticipate any problems.

"If people are lawful when they come here," he said, "we believe they have a right to express what they feel."

E-mail: twalch@desnews.com