The Utah Republican Party is asking its supporters to call Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and tell him they disapprove of his scheduled participation Wednesday in an anti-war rally preceding a visit by President Bush.
|Deseret Morning News graphicScheduled ralliesRequires Adobe Acrobat.|
Meanwhile, Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, and Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, said Monday that they both planned to greet the president and believed in showing respect for the office.
The party put out radio ads Monday asking people to call Anderson and "tell him to stop embarrassing Utah." The mayor's office had received 183 calls by late afternoon.
The office hired three temporary workers to staff the phone lines, and they took calls from throughout Utah and even some from out of state, one of the temporary workers said.
Jeff Hartley, executive director of the Utah Republican Party, hatched the idea as a way of telling the Salt Lake mayor that he thinks Anderson doesn't represent the majority of Utahns' opinions.
"We are being besieged by phone calls from people angry about Rocky's actions, asking us what we were going to do or what they could do as individuals to have a voice," Hartley said. "We decided we'd give them an education to make their voice heard in Rocky."
Anderson is slated to speak Wednesday at a rally that will also feature Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier who died in Iraq in 2004. The rally, which is being organized by a coalition of activists who oppose President Bush's actions and the Iraq war, is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Several other rallies with a variety of messages also are scheduled for Wednesday.
Hartley's radio ad tells listeners that Sheehan's beliefs are anti-American and that her "cut-and-run strategy" is an effort "to convince you that America should retreat."
Sheehan's spokeswoman did not return several requests for comment by phone and e-mail Monday.
Anderson and his spokesman Patrick Thronson also did not return phone and e-mail inquiries.
Hartley said he wasn't concerned about the extra cost to the mayor's office for hiring people to answer the phones.
"If that encumbers the city that he represents at all, I'd say that's Rocky's fault," Hartley said. "I have no sympathy for him if his office has to incur some financial responsibility to take all the phone calls from people who don't like what he's doing."
Speaking Monday to the Deseret Morning News editorial board, Bennett said he believes that everyone, including Anderson, should have respect for the office of the U.S. president.
He recalled that when President Bill Clinton came to town, Bennett and then-Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, rearranged their schedules to meet Clinton at the airport. "And Jim voted to impeach him, and I voted to convict him. But we still went to meet him."
"Rocky has made a serious mistake" by calling for protests against Bush during the president's visit, Bennett said.
Matheson was also at the editorial-board meeting with Bennett to talk about a Washington County land bill both are supporting.
Matheson said that as the host mayor of a major convention, such as the American Legion, one needs to "respect those obligations." Matheson will be at the Air National Guard base on Wednesday night to greet Bush, as will Bennett and the other Republican members of the Utah congressional delegation, as part of a rally held by the Utah Republican Party.
Asked if he was attending a Republican rally, Matheson sharply said no: "I am greeting the president, not going to a partisan rally."
White House spokesman Peter Watkins said tickets for that greeting rally are available on a first-come-first-served basis, although he didn't know how many would be distributed. People should contact their congressional representatives to request tickets, he said.
Spokesmen for Utah congressmen did not return phone calls seeking comment Monday evening on how many tickets would be available.
Meanwhile, the Utah Republican Party on Monday again moved the location of another large welcome rally for Bush that is open to the public. That rally, which had a brief sojourn at the Air National Guard base, is now back at Washington Square, where it was originally scheduled. Salt Lake City has already issued a permit for that gathering, which is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
"We're having entertainment, the speeches, all of that," said James Evans, an organizer of the event. "We just (are), from the feedback that we're getting, expecting thousands to be in attendance."Other rallies include a "Death to Israel" demonstration from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Washington Square sidewalks, an American Legion rally on the east side of the Salt Palace at 8:30 a.m., a "Freedom Rally" at Liberty Park from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., a "Rock Against Rumsfeld" party at Pioneer Park from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and an immigration rally at Liberty Park from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.