200 protesters arrested at Columbus Day parade
600 cops keep order amid peaceful demonstration
By Karen Rouse and Monte Whaley
Denver Post Staff Writers
More than 200 protesters were arrested on charges of loitering and disobeying orders Saturday during a peaceful demonstration against the annual Columbus Day parade in downtown Denver.
The arrests of 205 adults and 25 juveniles was no surprise. Members of the American Indian Movement of Colorado, which organized the protest, had promised that members were prepared to be arrested.
"We're going in the street," AIM member Glenn Morris told protesters on the steps of the Capitol, where the rally kicked off Saturday morning. "Those of us prepared to go to jail will stay."
All those arrested were given citations and dates to appear in court, then were released.
About 500 marched against the Columbus Day parade, which was organized by the Sons of Italy-New Generation.
Protesters argue that Columbus was a rapist who orchestrated the genocide of thousands of Native American people through colonialism. His name should be removed from the parade, they said.
But members of the Sons of Italy-New Generation, which obtained a city permit to hold the parade, said they were within their right to continue using references to Columbus as they celebrated their Italian heritage.
Parade organizer and Sons of Italy-New Generation founder George Vendegnia said the protest would not thwart the annual showing of Italian pride.
"It will just get bigger and bigger," he said. "There ain't no stopping us now."
But he admitted there was frustration that protesters were able to stall the parade for more than an hour.
The protesters marched from the Capitol, through downtown, and stopped at 19th and Blake streets - the middle of the parade route.
The protesters linked arms and knelt in the street. When they refused orders to leave, police escorted them to Sheriff's Office buses parked along 19th Street. Other protesters cheered loudly for each arrest.
The Rev. Reginald Holmes, president of the Greater Denver Ministerial Alliance, a coalition of black churches, said he was standing alongside the American Indians because he realizes "there is not much difference between the reservation and the plantation."
Columbus "should be remembered, not celebrated," he said. "We can't (celebrate) one who committed genocide for your people and for mine."
Nearly 600 Denver police officers lined the route, many of them dressed in riot gear. Shortly after 11:30 a.m., with most of the protesters removed, the parade started.
Others who were not arrested remained along the route, many of them exchanging insults with participants in the Columbus Day parade.
Protesters blocked the parade route at 19th and Blake streets by linking arms and kneeling. When they refused police orders to leave, officers took them to Sheriff’s Office buses.
Vintage cars, motorcycles and silver-haired ladies carrying Italian flags made their way down Blake Street.
Several who came out to enjoy the parade said they were irritated.
"This is the only parade they pick on, and I'm just getting sick of it," said Mickie Lava-Clayton. "When I moved here in 1953 I thought Denver was a utopia. But not anymore, because Denver has become anti-Italian."
Steve Antonuccio called the protest a "scripted event."
Antonuccio said he supports the Indians' right to protest, "but when they interfere with our rights to have a parade, that's when I have a problem."
Buoyed by the strong police presence, the parade passed without incident.