Bush stinks, protesting Parkites say
Rich Wyman stepped to his piano’s keyboard a few minutes before noon on Wednesday, seating himself in front of a microphone and surveying the crowd of approximately 1,500 Bush administration critics who gathered at Washington Square to rip the president and his lieutenants.
Wyman, one of Park City’s most successful musicians and a leader in the local peace movement, began his 13-minute set with an original song, "Gonna Get Em, Daddy," a barb-filled indictment of President George W. Bush. He dedicated the song to anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.
Wyman then delivered an impassioned performance, stomping his right foot and bobbing his head as he stood up, pounded his keyboard and screamed into the microphone "Someone tell me it’s over."
"The rich stay home, they send the poor," Wyman sang in another tune.
A roster of noted speakers like Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson headlined the largest of the demonstrations in the capital city to mark Bush’s Utah visit to address the national convention of the American Legion, a veterans group. Other groups rallied in Salt Lake City for American troops and immigration reform.
The number of Parkites and others from Summit County attending the demonstrations is not known but it appeared that the event at Washington Square attracted the largest bloc of local people.
"It’s just pure guilt of doing nothing but complaining," Jim Doilney, a developer and onetime candidate for Park City mayor, said, explaining why he joined the demonstration. "So sad, we’re creating enemies faster than we can kill them."
He said he was ambivalent when Bush launched the U.S.-led war in 2003 but has since become "totally anti-this war." Doilney, however, said that he supports the U.S. troops serving in Iraq.
The demonstration took on a carnival atmosphere, with some donning oversized masks depicting administration officials like Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney. Others carried signs blasting Bush and the war. "Stop Mad Cowboy Disease," one sign said. Another claimed "Quagmire Accomplished." A person wore a T-shirt reading "Iraq is Arabic for Vietnam."
"Everyone is so focused here, the intensity. These people are amped," Wyman said in an interview.
He organized a series of smaller demonstrations in Park City in the period before the Iraqi war started, normally drawing, at most, a few dozen people.
"I got a jolt of adrenaline. It’s a communal thing, creating music in front of thousands of energized people," Wyman said.
Laura Bonham, a Coalville Democrat running for the state House of Representatives, handed out green circle-shaped stickers demanding "End the occupation of Iraq." She said she gave out about 1,200 stickers in 25 minutes.
Bonham charges that money the administration spent on the war could have been put toward schools.
"This war is very, very costly. We need to develop a strategy to get out of Iraq," Bonham said.
Elsewhere in Salt Lake City, about 200 people rallied at Liberty Park in support of U.S. troops and about 100 people gathered in an immigration demonstration, Salt Lake police said. A ‘Death to Israel’ protest also was held.
The Liberty Park event, less raucous than the one at Washington Square, was emotional nonetheless. One person held a sign reading "Rocky is a jackass" and another sign read "Bush is right. Right war right time right place." Speakers criticized Anderson and spoke about the battle against Al Qaeda. An Iraqi woman told the crowd that the U.S. has made true a dream of ousting Saddam Hussein. Yellow ‘Support Our Troops’ tape decorated the event.
Richard Fisher, the state commander of the American Legion in Utah, said in an interview that the event countered the demonstration at Washington Square. He said, in the Vietnam War era, the morale of soldiers sunk as the anti-war movement widened and he hopes that does not happen to the U.S. soldiers in Iraq.
"We feel, as veterans, that our commander in chief needs the support of the nation," he said.
Fisher also said that Iraqi war veterans are being treated well when they return.
"That makes me feel very good inside, to see people thanking them, greeting them at the airport," he said.
At the ‘Death to Israel’ protest, on a downtown corner, former Parkite Michael Pack disputed the message of the demonstrators. Pack, who belongs to Temple Har Shalom, the Park City synagogue, said the organizers of the protest were not convincing.
"I think it was very hateful. Now I see the man can’t think for himself," Pack said. "It’s not about an event. He’s talking about death to a people."
Pack said that one of the Death to Israel protesters "can’t explain his message. He resorted to calling me names."
Robert Breeze, a Salt Lake City resident who demonstrated against Israel, became agitated with the media, saying that the journalists should be ashamed of the coverage of the Iraq war.
"I’m not going to play stupid," he told reporters.
Israel supporters held a rally across the street.
At the Washington Square demonstration, meanwhile, Brian Harlig, a Jeremy Ranch resident, slammed Bush in an interview for what he described as a "litany of offenses," including the war, the federal response to Hurricane Katrina and immigration.
"The only thing we can accomplish is to show that Utah is not as solidly behind President Bush as the majority feel they are," Harlig said. "This was too (important) for me not to come and express my displeasure of the mismanagement of the last six years."
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The Park City Ice Arena is expected to temporarily close later in 2021 to allow crews to replace the ice surface and perform other maintenance work, one of a series of projects City Hall plans to outline at an upcoming open house. It will be an in-person event.