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Vigil marks 2,000 war dead

By Jay Hamburger, OF THE RECORD STAFF

Craig Johnson’s neighborhood is normally quiet and Butch Cassidy Court, the Prospector cul-de-sac where he lives, does not attract many drivers.

Certainly, the cul-de-sac does not draw political demonstrations. But on Wednesday evening, Johnson, who has three family members in the armed forces, looked out his house’s windows and watched as his neighbors staged a vigil to mark the 2000th U.S. death in the Iraqi war.

Johnson was unhappy with the location the demonstrators picked. An attorney, Johnson said he supports the demonstrators’ free-speech rights but said the event should not have occurred in a neighborhood. He said he was not notified well enough of the demonstration. He called the event "personally affronting to me."

"They need to know people are behind them, behind them on their mission," Johnson said of the soldiers.

A military service flag and a red, white and blue flag hung on his front door.

But 12 people gathered for the candlelight event on Butch Cassidy Court. It was a solemn event and the demonstrators did not express anger. Instead they quietly stood in the roadway at about 6:30 p.m. They read the names of Utah soldiers who have died in the war and claimed that there were 1,300 similar demonstrations across the U.S. on Wednesday.

They held signs with slogans like "How many more" and "Support our troops, bring them home."

Kathleen Phillips, one of the demonstration’s organizers and a Butch Cassidy Court resident, said in an interview that the U.S. must make plans to leave Iraq.

"This war has killed 2,000 of our young people. There has to be some sort of exit strategy to bring our troops home," she said.

She described the Wednesday event as one that was to "pay tribute to those who died" and not an anti-war rally.

Phillips wants Congress to re-evaluate the war and said the campaign in Iraq has been "totally mismanaged."

"Life is no better for them and we are no safer," she said.

Park City Police Department Lt. Phil Kirk said the police did not receive complaints about the event.

The 2,000th death prompted the anti-war movement and peace demonstrators to renew their push against the Bush administration’s Iraqi policy.

Rich Wyman, a Park City musician and a longtime leader in the local anti-war movement, had considered holding a demonstration to mark the 2,000th death as well but said it did not occur.

He said on Thursday that it was too difficult to arrange an event on the day the 2,000th death was reported. Wyman said he plans to hold a memorial and intends to publicize the event.

"It’s depressing," he said. "This thing, there’s no end in sight and we’re over 2,000."

The Butch Cassidy Court event was the most recent in a series of peace vigils and anti-war demonstrations stretching since before the U.S launched the invasion of Iraq. Wyman has been instrumental in organizing some of the events.

None of the events drew substantial crowds, though, and they were held in a variety of locations, including Main Street and the Olympic Welcome Plaza at the intersection of Kearns Boulevard and Park Avenue.

Phillips acknowledged being a member of MoveOn, a political group especially linked to the political left.

"Somehow the American people aren’t getting this," she said.

Johnson, from the military family, criticizes the claim that bringing the forces back to the U.S. will protect them.

"That’s offensive to soldiers and soldiers’ families," he said.

He remains unconvinced that the U.S. should have invaded Iraq but said, with troops there now, America must stay in Iraq to stabilize the country.

"To leave now is to ensure absolute chaos and the deaths of many more people," he said.


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