Denver police arrest 245 for blocking Columbus Day Parade
Posted: October 14, 2004
by: Brenda Norrell / Indian Country Today
DENVER - Calling it a ''Convoy of Conquest,'' American Indian Movement members and their allies, including
Western Shoshone Carrie Dann, blocked the Columbus Day Parade in a protest of the Colorado holiday that
represents genocide and the theft of homelands for indigenous people in the Americas.
''America continues to fight the 'Indian wars' and one expression of that is Columbus Day,'' AIM organizer Glenn
Morris told Indian Country Today.
Protesters focused on exposing the root of genocide in America as they were arrested for blocking the path of
the Sons of Italy's Columbus Day Parade of bikers, limos and semi-trucks. Denver police arrested 245 people,
including 44 juveniles.
Morris said Indian children as young as seven and eight chose to be arrested because of the injustice they
face in U.S. schools.
''Every year they confront the silence of their ancestors' voices in their history classes.''
Further, Morris said when the 245 cases go to court, American Indians and their allies will not be the ones on
''We intend to put Columbus on trial, the city of Denver on trial and the state of Colorado and the United States
on trial for celebrating genocide.''
The protesters arrested included the event organizers, Morris, Osage professor Tink Tinker, activist Nita
Gonzales, professor Ward Churchill and activist TroyLynn Yellowwood. Charges included interference, failure
to comply, loitering and blocking a public street.
The protesters, led by Dann and Lakota from the ''Stop Lewis and Clark'' movement in South Dakota, first
gathered at the state capitol before blocking the parade route Oct. 9. Facing 600 Denver police, many armed
with riot gear and pepper spray, hundreds refused to move and were arrested without incident and booked.
They were released from jail in the afternoon at about 3 p.m.
Morris pointed out that Colorado is the perfect place to halt Columbus Day because Colorado was the first to
proclaim it as a state holiday in 1907. Far from being rhetoric, Morris said the bedrock of Columbus Day is the
Doctrine of Discovery of 1492, which is the basis of all federal Indian law.
Morris, professor and chair of the political science department at the University of Denver, said Indian lands
have been reduced from 2 billion to 50 million acres, based on this doctrine. Columbus advanced and
expanded the arrogant European Doctrine of Discovery, claiming that superior, civilized, Christian Europeans
had the right to seize and appropriate indigenous peoples territories and resources.
This legacy of Columbus continues today and allows the U.S. government to ''lose'' between $40 and $100
billion that the U.S. was to administer for the benefit of individual American Indians. The government has
admitted that it deliberately destroyed evidence in the case, and it appears that the U.S. has no intention of
finding or accounting for the money that it has stolen, he said.
This doctrine has been embedded into racist Federal Indian Law, and is apparent today in the case of the
Western Shoshone in Nevada and the Lakota in the Black Hills of South Dakota.
''We're not talking about a hypothetical theory to Native people.''
Morris said the result of the Doctrine of Discovery was the loss of land and lives for Indian people. Today, the
rhetoric of ''Indian wars'' is used in Iraq by the United States military as it seeks to take control of territory. ''All
hostile territory in Iraq is still called 'Indian country.' People who fraternize with Iraqi are said to be 'going
Columbus Day protesters followed the philosophy of Martin Luther King Jr., who expressed the hope that direct
action would lead to negotiations. In Denver, the Transform Columbus Day Alliance struggles to bring a halt to
the Colorado holiday. Other states, including South Dakota, have replaced Columbus Day with Native American
Western Shoshone Carrie Dann, struggling with other Western Shoshone to protect their homelands in
Nevada, and the Red Earth Women's Alliance helped organize and lead the marches, one in a local park on
Oct. 8 and the culminating protest in downtown Denver on Oct. 9.
''Our arrests are designed to expose a corrupt educational, legal and political system that refuses to describe
the destruction of millions of indigenous people at the hands of Columbus for what it is: Genocide,'' Colorado
AIM said in a statement after the arrests.
The action was to ''expose such moral and legal bankruptcy, and we actively refuse to cooperate with legalized
murder and theft.''
Morris pointed out the facts: Christopher Columbus was a slave trader. Columbus was involved in trading
African slaves prior to his voyage to the Americas in 1492. Columbus was personally responsible for
overseeing a colonial administration that directly led to the death of millions of indigenous people.
Father Bartolome de Las Casas, an eyewitness and a contemporary of Columbus, estimated that 15 million
indigenous people died in the Caribbean.
Prior to the march, American Indians urged a letter-writing campaign to local newspapers, including the Rocky
Mountain News and Denver Post, accusing both papers of failing to provide balanced coverage of the issues.
Italian-Americans wrote letters pointing out that not all Italians in this country support Columbus and many
stand with Indian protesters.
In preparation of a protest, Mohandas K. Gandhi was quoted: ''Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when
the state has become lawless or corrupt. And a citizen who barters with such a state shares in its corruption
In 2003, Colorado AIM and allies were led by the late American Indian elder Wallace Black Elk and Richard
Costaldo, a paralyzed Italian-American survivor of the Columbine massacre. They turned their backs on the
parade and walked away. However, this year, they said was a year for direct action.
''In that spirit, we commend the organizers of the Festival Italiano, which was held in Lakewood on Sept. 25 -
26,'' Colorado AIM said, pointing out that it is the type of festival that fosters unity and understanding.