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KSL Team CoverageThe nation today observed the end of the fourth year of combat in Iraq, and the beginning of the fifth year. Anti-war demonstrators marched to demand that the rest of the troops be brought home. The rally today in downtown Salt Lake was part of a nationwide effort to turn up the heat on President Bush.
The significance of the date on the calendar was pretty high for some of the people who marched today. Some have been protesting the entire four years and some for even longer. The turnout today was somewhat less than we've seen at earlier rallies. Apparently that's because it's a weekday, partly because the only big name today was mayor Rocky Anderson. By now, everyone knows where he stands, and almost everyone has an opinion.
"The president has disgraced our armed forces and our nation by prosecuting an illegal war in Iraq," Mayor Rocky Anderson told the crowd.
"I mean the poor soldiers think they're over in Iraq because of 9/11. And that's just not the case. It's for the corporations. It's for Halliburton," said Chuck Thomas of the Mother Earth Foundation.
"But we don't stand for genocide against other countries," said anti-war demonstrator Faran Garris. "We have no reason to be in Iraq. When we were lied to, President Bush should have been put in jail."
People started gathering at 11:00 this morning at Pioneer Park for an anti-war march. They marched until they arrived near the City County Building.
A loud group of people were chanting "bring them home." They were led by a group that was using a mock-casket draped in an American flag.
Mayor Anderson was among five speakers who spoke at the rally today. He was joined by a couple of ministers as well as a Vietnam and Iraq War veteran.
"We are at a moral and a patriotic fork in the road," said Anderson. "Each of us must choose. Either we say yes through active support or through complacency to an illegal, tragic, unconscionable war of aggression; to the kidnapping and torture of human beings and innumerous violations by our president and others in his administration of our domestic laws, our constitution, longtime treaty obligations and our international law, or as we are all doing here today, WE SAY NO!"
Among those who gathered in opposition to the war, many were promoting other causes as well, including environmentalism, 9/11 conspiracy theories, and opposition to school vouchers.
"We support the troops when we support and uphold righteousness, when we support and uphold what is truth and honors the Constitution," said protester Camile Olson.
Vietnam War veteran Robert Littlehale said that we have not learned anything from Vietnam and that the president is not paying attention to criticism. "Speak out, don't do nothing, do something!" he called out to the crowd.
Several hundred people turned out to express opposition to the war. There was only a handful supporting President Bush. Most demonstrators accused the President of misleading the American people.
"A soldier in the foxhole, when he sees this on CNN, he's got his own handheld blackberry, he sees this stuff, it's got to be disheartening," said retired sergeant major, Steve Hixon. "They welcome the soldiers home, but they protest the war. I mean, you can't do that. I mean, do it in your living room, do it in your home, but don't do it in public." He added, "If you got troops on the ground fighting, you gotta support the war. Period."
"I support Bush," said Bill Session, pro-Bush demonstrator. "All the way. All the way."
"I'm here to support the troops," said Richard Barnes, pro-Bush demonstrator. "When the bombs started falling, that ended the discussion."
Of course, it didn't end the discussion. The fierce national conversation continues even tonight. Demonstrators will gather again at the federal building before a quiet walk to City Creek Park at 7:00 as part of a national vigil, marking the fifth year of the war.
Mayor Anderson called for the impeachment and removal from office of President Bush and Vice President Cheney.
There were a few heated arguments, but the rally remained peaceful, and decidedly anti-Bush. Anderson has made himself the focus of the local anti-war movement, and that's made him a lightning rod for criticism as well.
Tonight at 10:00, we'll have results of an exclusive KSL poll on Rocky Anderson and the war.