Each month, BORDC recognizes an individual who has done outstanding work in support of civil liberties and the rule of law by honoring that person with our Patriot Award. This month, we recognize Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City, for his work promoting human rights.
Rocky began fighting injustice and defending the constitution as a lawyer in Salt Lake City. For 21 years, he worked on civil rights and consumer protection cases and advocated for civil liberties, family planning resources, and educational reform. He believed then, as he does now, that the only way to breathe life into the Constitution is to hold government accountable. After becoming fed up with elected officials’ disregard for human rights and the culture of complacency, Rocky ran for mayor of Salt Lake City.
He served as mayor from 2000 to 2008 and worked tirelessly to promote sustainability, immigrants’ rights, and equality. In 2006, Rocky made the bold decision to not run for reelection and instead dedicate his life to grassroots organizing. He made this decision after seeing so many people’s outrage and passion thwarted by lack of opportunities to take action. Rocky saw that atrocities like the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia could have been curtailed if people had forced their elected officials to take action; the responsibility lies with each of us to speak out against injustice and to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions.
Rocky started High Road for Human Rights (HRHR) to “organize people throughout the nation to make more noise—to take effective grassroots actions—so that elected officials are never again able to excuse their failures to act on the ground that they are not hearing from their constituents.” To do this, HRHR works to raise awareness of human rights issues ranging from global warming to torture. It provides people from all walks of life with tools to take effective grassroots action. HRHR supports teams of people across the country who work collaboratively to educate and mobilize their communities. In particular, HRHR has been mobilizing support for a seven-step solution to torture that includes accountability for violations of the law, limiting the “state secrets” doctrine, ending unconstitutional signing statements, and seeking transparency into torture.
According to Rocky, the numerous problems that interfere with the rule of law—torture, state secrets, signing statements—“spell out as imperial a presidency as this country’s ever known.” Widespread complacency, both in Congress and in the public, has enabled the Executive Branch to gain power and threatened our time-tested system of checks of balances. Rocky believes that increased awareness and grassroots organizing can solve this crisis and restore the rule of law.
Through this and all of his other work, Rocky continues to encourage and inspire others to “make more noise” and reminds us of that every individual holds the power to create change.