SAN FRANCISCO — A group of about 4,000 protesters arrayed along the city's waterfront, supported by boats and kayaks that blocked off entrance to the harbor, prevented the re-enactment of Columbus' landing that was scheduled as part of a quincentennial Columbus Day celebration.
Egg-throwing demonstrators also provoked violence along the route of the annual parade through the city's heavily Italian North Beach district. Police arrested 40 protesters--some of whom threw Molotov cocktails and bottles at officers--mainly for disrupting the parade and inciting to riot, authorities said.
After several passes in front of the landing site at Aquatic Park, the boat bearing "Columbus" turned and sped away, delighting the chanting and hooting demonstrators onshore.
"We turned him back, we turned him back in the water!" said Judy Talaugon of the American Indian Movement, one of the leaders of the demonstration. "This is a victory for us."
The demonstrations were the centerpiece of activities sponsored by the Resistance 500 Coalition for Indigenous People's Month. Participants represented a cross-section of Bay Area activists, ranging from American Indians protesting what they term the genocide of their people, to anarchists and lesbians protesting the imperialism and patriarchy that they trace to Columbus' arrival in the Americas.
After the waterfront demonstration, most of the crowd marched to a rally at the Civic Center, while a few hundred protesters disrupted the annual Columbus Day Parade.
Shouting "Mass Murdering Pig!" and other epithets, demonstrators pelted the parade floats with raw eggs. Joseph Cervetto Jr., dressed as Columbus in full period costume, waved back from his float and taunted them with his sword.
"We'll do it every year--Columbus Day!" Cervetto shouted to the cheering, mainly Italian crowd.
Some demonstrators were struck by Italian-Americans who reacted violently to the criticism of Columbus, eyewitnesses said.
Sunday's protests had been expected after members of the Resistance 500 Coalition disrupted the mock coronation of Queen Isabella at City Hall last week.
"We tried to show them what our culture and traditions are all about," said John Legnitto, president of the Columbus Day Celebration Committee. While acknowledging that the protesters have the right to demonstrate, Legnitto added: "We also have our rights. We have a right to celebrate Columbus Day."
"Actually, it brings more attention to our celebration than if (the demonstrators) were not here," said Italian Consul General Marcello Griccioli before he was hit by two eggs. But, he added, the cancellation of Columbus' landing "sets an unfortunate precedent."