Protest expected at Columbus Day parade
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OCTOBER 3, 2000

In response to the failure of an agreement over an upcoming Columbus Day parade in Denver, Colorado, Native American and Hispanic activists on Monday promised to hold a peaceful protest of the event.

Originally, members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) in Colorado and Hispanic leaders promised not to protest the parade if event organizers renamed it the "March for Italian Pride." But the agreement, brokered by the US Department of Justice, fell through last week.

Glenn Morris, a local AIM leader, lamented the breakdown of the deal.

"We entered into this agreement in the spirit of hope, that this would be an historic moment that would begin a period of mutual respect and cooperation within our various communities," said Morris. "To Indian people, our word is sacred."

But members of the Italian-American group Sons of Italy-New Generation had a different view of the negotiations. They claimed they were coerced into signing the agreement which led to the name change, a charge one local leader who attended the meetings denied.

"At no time was there any attempt at 'coercion' of the parade organizers," said Nita Gonzales, who helped negotiate the deal. "They need to release those tapes to the media, and they will show who was trying to intimidate who."

Under the agreement signed September 19, the Sons of Italy group said they would drop all references to explorer Christopher Columbus. Local Indian and Hispanic leaders object to the use of the name because they say it glorifies genocide.

But last Friday, Italian-American leaders announced that they planned to continue to use Columbus' name for the parade, which is scheduled for October 7. They said they were being denied the right to celebrate their heritage.

The city of Denver, vowing not to restrict any citizen's First Amendment rights, said they would uphold the group's already issued permit. They declared the agreement null and void.

The upcoming Saturday parade will be the first Columbus Day parade organized in the city since 1992. That year, the parade was called off after American Indian activists and supporters said they would protest it.

This year, leaders said protest would be vigorous but peaceful. Actor Russell Means said he expected a massive protest.

Related Stories:
Columbus parade approved (The Talking Circle 10/2)
Colorado group to keep Columbus name (The Talking Circle 9/29)