Salt Lake City is preparing for at least five demonstrations the afternoon and evening of Aug. 30, but all five may miss their mark if President Bush doesn't come until later in the day.
The White House said Tuesday that Bush will spend the night of Aug. 30 in Salt Lake City and then "on Thursday, Aug. 31, the president will have events in Salt Lake City" before traveling to Camp David for the Labor Day weekend. It is not known when he will arrive in Salt Lake City on Aug. 30, and rallies are scheduled beginning at 11 a.m.
The city's special-events coordinator has received applications for five gatherings spread among Pioneer Park, Liberty Park and Washington Square downtown, with rally cries ranging from anti-Bush to pro-president to "support the troops."
The permit process requires demonstrators to pay $5 and give the city notice of the size, location and time of their demonstrations. Protests last year when the president spoke to a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars were on the day of his visit.
Terry Schow, vice president of the local branch of the American Legion convention corporation, said Tuesday that he's not sure whether the president will address the convention Wednesday, Aug. 30, or Thursday, Aug. 31.
"I guess that's within their prerogative to set it," Schow said. "It would be kind of crazy to invite him and then say, 'I'm sorry, you're five minutes later than what we'd like, and we have Joe Smith from Brigham City, Utah, that we'd like to put on instead.'"
Sen. Orrin Hatch's office said that the president is to speak at a fund-raiser for Hatch at noon on Aug. 31, and Bush is also expected to meet with leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that day.
To Crystal Young-Otterstrom, one of the organizers of a rally on Washington Square against Bush, the possibility of not speaking at the same time the president does is an acceptable hazard of staging the protest.
"If it's a welcome gift or at the same time he's speaking, then we're fine with both," Young-Otterstrom said. "It really doesn't matter the day that it's on. He's here he'll see the papers and see the response, and that's what we're gearing for."
Young-Otterstrom is working with an ad hoc group, We the People for Peace and Justice. The group has invited Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier who died in Iraq, and Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson to speak. The group estimates 5,000 participants at a rally from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Washington Square on Aug. 30.
The group is scheduled to march from the square to the federal building at State Street and 100 South from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Young-Otterstrom's group also has applied to hold a rally that evening at Pioneer Park from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Paul Holton, better known as Chief Wiggles, has applied for a permit for 500 people to hold a rally at Liberty Park from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Holton, who served in Iraq for 14 months, said his rally will be in support of military personnel.
"This is a peace rally around supporting the troops, just getting anybody, regardless of their political affiliation," Holton said. "This is a nonpartisan, non-political rally for people to join together in support of the troops."
James Evans, chairman of the Salt Lake County Republican Party, has applied for a permit for 400 people at Washington Square from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 30. And Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, has applied to hold a rally and march with an estimated 450 people at Liberty Park about immigration issues from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., also on Aug. 30.
The Salt Lake City Police Department is planning to staff 100 officers for 12-hour shifts on Aug. 30, spokesman Joe Cyr said. Protests in Utah have traditionally been tame affairs, he added, with few people who cause trouble for police and other demonstrators.
The maximum it would cost the police department to pay those officers for Aug. 30 would be around $38,000, Cyr said. But that number may be less, depending on how many of the 100 officers dedicated to covering the rallies were scheduled for shifts that day anyway.
When groups apply for permits to hold rallies or protests, they are supposed to give the city as much notice as possible. Shawn McDonough, who issues the permits for both "free expression events," as she calls them, and commercial events, said that the more advance notice she gets from a group, the easier it is to coordinate all the city departments that must review the request.
McDonough did not know Tuesday how quickly groups could change the date of their gatherings if they wanted to coincide with Bush's convention speech.
But the city departments that usually review permits include police, fire, transportation, public services and the city attorney's office. Additionally, the Utah Department of Transportation must examine permits that use state roads such as State Street, and the Utah Transit Authority usually looks at the requests to determine impact on public transit, she said.The city cannot deny permit requests based on the message of the rally and would try to accommodate as quickly as possible any permit requests made in the days before Bush's visit. The city does review the permit to make sure that the proposed rally does not conflict with one already planned and that essential services fire, police and so forth can operate unimpeded.