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Columbus Day Parade Canceled to Avoid Protests

October 11, 1992|From Times Wire Services

DENVER — A Columbus Day parade was called off minutes before it was to begin Saturday to avoid a clash with hundreds of American Indian activists, an organizer said.

About 100 would-be marchers, many wearing Italian folk costumes, left their floats behind and instead walked a few blocks to the state Capitol, where a crowd of about 200 sang songs and listened to speeches.

After the cancellation, American Indian Movement leader Russell Means led his more than 500 supporters to a rally at Civic Center Park, where a mock, burned-out American Indian village had been erected.

Many of the parade participants did not show up at the downtown starting point, and there were few observers along the route.

Seven anti-parade protesters were arrested for disturbing the peace, a sheriff's deputy said, but police reported no confrontations.

Means had pledged to stop the parade unless organizers removed all references to Christopher Columbus, calling the Italian explorer a mass murderer who exploited American Indians.

The Federation of Italian-American Organizations, which organized the parade, refused. It invited American Indians to lead the parade, wearing armbands as a protest. The federation also offered to establish scholarships for American Indians and to help market their goods in Italy.

But despite weeks of negotiations, no compromise was reached.

Twenty minutes before the parade was to begin, federation President Philip Antonelli canceled it, saying the circumstances seemed dangerous.

"We've been concerned since AIM first made the threats, and we realized (Friday night) there was no compromise and their threats were more than words," he said.

Demonstrations against the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the Americas have been planned throughout the United States.

Colorado was the first state in 1907 to make Columbus Day an official holiday. Italians came to Colorado in the late 1800s, lured to the state by agents working for railroads and mines.

"It's a clear-cut victory. This is where Columbus Day began, and we stopped it here; the rest of the country has to follow suit," Means said.

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