Pasadena's Human Relations Commission voted Monday to recommend that the City Council ask Cristobal Colon, a direct descendant of Christopher Columbus, to withdraw as grand marshal of 103rd Rose Parade.
The panel, which advises the Pasadena council on issues relating to discrimination, took the 10-vote at a packed meeting at which opponents of Colon's selection vowed to disrupt the New Year's Day event.
"If they invite that man to insult us, we will be there to die like our ancestors," said Cuahetemoc Paztel, one of several speakers at the meeting who vehemently opposed Colon's appearance as grand marshal.
More than 100 people turned out for the commission meeting to voice their views, many contending that the choice of Spanish aristocrat Colon was insensitive to Indians. Commission Chairman James Lomake said Monday's meeting was the first to attract more than 15 people in his 1 1/2 years on the panel.
Many American Indian speakers compared the choice of Colon to selecting a descendant of Adolf Hitler for a prominent role at a celebration in European countries overrun by German troops in World War II.
British-born Roy Begley, a Republican Party activist, was the only speaker to defend the choice.
"I agree the Aztecs may have a complaint, but I have no complaint," he said. "I came here from an embittered continent, and I'm glad America was here. The attack on Colon is an attack on the concept of America."
He was roundly hissed and booed for his comments.
When Indian leaders were asked if they would agree to a compromise allowing Colon to ride with a prominent American Indian, Vera Rocha, chief of the Gabrielino Nation, declared: "No way. I wouldn't stand six feet away from him."
In a letter to the commission, Tournament of Roses President Robert L. Chaney said Colon was selected "to honor those persons and events that exemplified the concept of exploration leading to expanded human knowledge and the opening of new frontiers."
He added that the selection of Colon is symbolic of the parade's theme, "Voyages of Discovery."
Nonetheless, speakers denounced the Tournament of Roses for failing to consult Indians on Colon's selection.