On October 6th, 2007 Denver Colorado celebrated(?) it's 100th anniversary of the Columbus Day parade. For about 20 years, since the parade was revived by local Italian Americans, American Indians have protested the event. They contend that Christopher Columbus was a slave trader and the catalyst to the genocide of their people.
Italian Americans view this as a day to celebrate their heritage. I saw only a few references to Columbus. Mostly folks in nice cars or on cool motorcycles waving U.S. and Italian flags.
The American Indians want the name changed.
Some states have changed the name of the day to Indigenous Peoples Day but I'm not sure that would work here because the Italian Americans have been having this parade for years.
So this is how it all went down. The protesters showed up at the Denver capital building several hours before the parade. Protesting and drumming, some in traditional American Indian clothing. Amazing workmanship and detail.
In the past, protesters and police had spoken beforehand about "how things would go", trying to keep things peaceful.
Going as far as planning arrests. Not this year.
Interestingly enough the leader of the anti Columbus Day group "Transform Columbus Day Alliance" is Glenn Spagnuolo, that's right Spagnuolo.
When confronted with the permits needed, Glenn stated
"We don't need a permit, because we are on native land."
"Asking an illegal colonizer for permission to be on land that doesn't belong to them doesn't work for us,"
Another group well represented was the American Indian Movement of Colorado. Ex and current Colorado University professors Ward Churchill and Glenn Morris are leaders of this group. Well known Russel Means is also a member, having left the main chapter of AIM.
The American Indian Movement of Colorado is not affiliated with the American Indian Movement. View their stance here
So they followed their own route, from the capital through downtown Denver, on their way to come head to head with the Italians and their parade. They have always been peaceful and they vowed that today would be the same.
However, they had grown tired of years of words and seeing no actions.
When the protest met the parade, emotions ran deep and blood spilled through the streets. Not real blood however, but fake blood spilled by the protesters along with dismembered dolls. Many protesters sat in the street, stopping the parade from starting. Russell Means and Glenn Morris included. All were arrested. Nobody fought, but they did resist their arrests.
After this initial push by the protesters, the parade went on....a little off schedule. At this point it was lots of yelling and verbal abuse. Protesters yelling at cops and Italians. Italians, including 80 year old ladies and teenage kids, cursing and flipping the bird at protesters. Police officers, staring through mirrored sunglasses with rubber bullet guns, flashing dirty looks at everyone.
After the parade had traveled a few blocks, a group of young American Indians wearing bandannas over their faces made their stand and sat in the middle of the road. About 20 cops jumped on top of them and promptly pulled them apart and arrested them. The protesters didn't fight, but they did use each other as weight, locking their arms together. One of them came up bloody.
After this, the parade continued and the protesters headed back to the capital to spread the word. 83 protesters taken away on police buses by the time the parade was over.
Personally, I have no vested interest here. I'm not American Indian or Italian American. I do believe that what happened to the native people of this land is horrible. If I was Native American, after years of persecution of my people, I would probably be tired of words and lies too. However I don't have anything against Italian Americans either and I doubt their ancestors had more to do with Indian genocide than any of the other European countries that settled in the United States.
I think the city of Denver needs to get off their butts and do something about it. How hard is it to change the name of the parade to Italian Heritage Day or whatever and out of respect to the American Indians, have another day for them. How hard is that? 20 years, really?
I also realize the city is planning for the Democratic National Convention but was the show of force necessary, for a group that has maintained their peaceful approach?
A little overkill if you ask me, but then again this is a post 9/11 world, and everyone could be a terrorist.
I think it's interesting that a woman and black man helped arrest this man. 3 groups who have seen their share of persecution in the United States.