Protest permit alarms Utah's Jews
Members of Utah's Jewish community are alarmed by a proposed demonstration that will call for "Death to Israel."
A man - whose name wasn't available Thursday - has applied for a free-speech permit from Salt Lake City to demonstrate on sidewalks near City Hall on Wednesday. The city is reviewing the application.
City officials cannot constitutionally deny it based on the content of the message.
Laura Green, director of the United Jewish Federation of Utah, said Thursday that she has received dozens of calls about the planned demonstration. Many fear the rally could incite violence against Jews.
"Based on freedom of speech, people have the right to say what they want to say. There has to be a line between saying what you want to say and preaching the genocide of a population," Green said.
She hopes the city denies the permit, saying the police will be busy enough with the other five demonstrations planned for Wednesday to coincide with President Bush's visit to Utah.
The president will speak to the American Legion's 88th national convention at the Salt Palace on Thursday. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are scheduled to speak on Tuesday.
"Our police force is going to be taxed to its limits," Green said.
But the police department has given its OK to the protest. Spokesman Joe Cyr said the group sponsoring the rally - listed as Center to Prevent Corporate Media Lying -has held demonstrations before. On average, about nine people show, he said. The permit application anticipates between nine and about 130 demonstrators.
"It's not like they're threatening to kill people," Cyr said. "They're just [expressing] their opinion."
Shawn McDonough, the city's special-events-coordinator, couldn't confirm the group had demonstrated before. She expects to decide today whether to grant the permit.
The city would only release the e-mail address of the organizer, who couldn't be reached late Thursday.
State Rep. David Litvack isn't calling for the city to deny the permit, noting the city may not have a choice but to grant it.
But the Salt Lake City Democrat is concerned.
''To say something like 'Death to Israel' - I have a very hard time believing that this does not cross the line of being anti-Semitic. It's one thing to disagree with a country's policies . . . [it's another thing] to actually call for a destruction of a people, the destruction of a country.
''It's scary, as someone who is Jewish; it's threatening.''
But Litvack said the message doesn't violate the state's hate-crimes law, which he sponsored. The law addresses criminal, not civil, actions.
"Hate speech, as threatening as it is, as detestable as it is, as violent as it is, is protected as a constitutional right."
Mayor Rocky Anderson, who will speak at an anti-Bush rally on Wednesday, said he doesn't know if the city will grant the Death to Israel permit.
''Do I agree with that sort of hateful expression? I don't. It's so reminiscent of the 'Death to America' slogans that we hear around so much of the militant Muslim world,'' Anderson said.
Earlier this month, The Associated Press reported thousands of Iraqi Shiites chanted "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" in Baghdad to show support for Hezbollah militants fighting Israeli troops in Lebanon.