Thursday, November 8, 2007


DENVER—The annual Columbus Day parade protest seemed to have it all—fake blood on the street, colorful banners, drums and eagle staffs, Hummers and Harleys, robocops, a float with Queen Isabella and some guy in faux ermine, 1950s-era swing bands, even a police sniper atop a nearby building.

What it did not have was violence, with one exception—Denver police behavior, according to some arrestees who were in the street to protest the 100th commemoration of Columbus in Colorado, the first state to recognize the holiday. They and other Indian people object to what they regard as a holiday honoring genocide and white supremacy.

It turns out the blood on the street wasn’t all fake.

Some protesters were roughed up during arrest, with injuries, documented on film, that for one Native man included dark neck bruises from a baton choke-hold and a cut and bloodied mouth. For others, there was tendon, joint, and muscle pain and swelling from the striking, twisting, and contorting of various submission methods used by Denver police, including the SWAT team. An older Native woman in a wheelchair was among those arrested.

The offenses that triggered the police behavior?

Protesters had gone into the street as a parade was taking place and thereby committed misdemeanors under the municipal code—loitering-level offenses, on the whole. Some, who tried to fend off forcible arrest, were charged with resisting.

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper “did drop by (the parade) to check in with police and get an update on how the parade and protest were progressing,” his communications director said. “The Columbus Day parade is a challenging event for our law enforcement operations.”

“We are committed to upholding the right to free speech and the freedom to assemble. At the same time, protecting public safety is paramount. This extends to the safety of the parade participants, the protesters and the general public.

“Assessing whether safety is being threatened or about to be threatened is very difficult in the midst of an event that becomes increasingly chaotic and during which some protesters are ignoring police orders to disperse from the parade route. Of those who did ignore police orders, some were arrested peacefully, while others resisted arrest,” the spokesperson said.

“Fact: In nearly 20 years of protesting the Columbus Day parade in Denver, no one has been charged with a violent offense and no one has been convicted of anything,” said one of the arrestees, who declined to give his name. “We’ll repeat it as often as we can—no charges of violence, and no convictions, period.

“Only Indians are ever expected to be ‘violent.’ Every year they ask us, basically, ‘Are you going to be violent?’ They don’t ask that of the Italians, let alone the cops.

“It’s part of the prevailing American myth of marauding Indians and peaceful white settlers. It’s part of a need to reinforce the dominance of white invaders without acknowledging their own use of violence or the reality that Natives who were ‘violent’ in defense of their homeland were actually patriots.”

Unintended irony: Parade protesters from families indigenous to this continent were greeted by a sign on one of the floats: America. . .Love It or Leave It.”


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