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Crossing the line on Rebel Hill...

Crossing the line
Thwarted several times in their attempts to turn Rebel Hill into a permanent shrine with thirteen giant crosses honoring the victims of the Columbine massacre, Steve Schweitzberger and Greg 'Road Warrior' Zanis were back in Clement Park on Friday to at least create a permanent record of their mission for Light Force TV, a Houston-based Christian network. But Foothills Park and Recreation District officials, who have had enough of the crosses -- and of Schweitzberger and Zanis -- stopped the reenactment cold and backed up its order with Jefferson County Sheriff's Department deputies.

"The plan was to set up the original thirteen crosses with a gap between them for the two that had been destroyed," says Schweitzberger, the outspoken father of a Columbine student and a former Denver mayoral candidate. Even at 8 a.m., there were park maintenance workers on hand preparing the area for Monday's school opening, and "I told Greg that we might as well get official permission," he continues. "So I asked, and they said, 'For now, the answer is no, but we'll get back to you in half an hour, after we talk to [Foothills Park and Recreation chief] Bob Easton.'" But then Easton also said no -- and soon after, one, then two Jeffco deputies showed up.

The first deputy "told us we could be arrested if we wanted to, and I said I didn't want to go there," Schweitzberger says. "My message to the kids has to be that when authority tells you to stop, you should and then go back and deal with the policy on another day." While he was showing his respect for the Man (not to be confused with the Man from Galilee), the crew from Light Force and several Columbine students were already on the hill filming -- without crosses and without Zanis (an Illinois carpenter who's put a lot of miles on his truck since April).

"The deputy told us it was like a mall, which has the right to refuse service to anyone," Schweitzberger adds. "But my question is, if the park was not closed to the public that day, why was it closed to Greg Zanis and Steve Schweitzberger?" After all, Gerry Schnackenberg, a reverend at St. Philip and St. James Episcopal Church, plans to sit -- or find volunteers who will sit -- on Rebel Hill every day this school year with his own giant cross, Schweitzberger points out. And in fact, a picture of Schnackenberg carrying his cross down Rebel Hill blessed the cover of the Rocky Mountain News on Monday.

The difference, explains Easton, is that Schnackenberg "didn't do any permanent placing of anything, was gone after a couple of hours and left quietly," while Schweitzberger and Zanis "create controversy and conflict." He adds, "My understanding is that they wanted to reinstall the crosses in the park, and we have had a degree of controversy over this issue. Our response was that, no, you do not have permission to do that." Not now, and certainly not then, when the park was already fully permitted for the entire weekend because of the crush of media and others expected at Columbine when students returned to school August 16. (Some portions of the park were off-limits to everyone, while US West installed more phone lines for the event.)

But even once the park is empty, Schweitzberger and Zanis won't be allowed to erect their crosses on Rebel Hill, says Jeffco sheriff's sergeant Phil Domenico. "At the last meeting I went to, Bob [Easton] mentioned that he doesn't want the crosses in the park at all. He said to me that if they get them in there somehow, like in the middle of the night, they will be torn down immediately the next morning."

"The whole saga of the crosses, quite frankly, we've gone through about five times already," Easton sighs. "They knew what the answer was going to be before they asked the question. Enough is enough."

Amen.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch
It's not that Gregory Bach doesn't like his neighborhood -- "I live in Highlands Ranch and I love it here," he says. It's just that he knows the inner-city dwellers he'd like to attract to his furniture store might make a joke or two about Denver's best-known symbol of sprawl, white flight and conformity, one that even rated its own photo spread in National Geographic a few years back. So when Bach recently placed an ad in the Rocky Mountain News and Westword touting his shop, Gregory's Contemporary Design Center, he used this slogan: "The only reason to visit Highlands Ranch!"

The ad attracted attention, all right...from Shea Homes, the owner of Highlands Ranch.

In an August 12 letter addressed to Gregory's -- and ominously copied to three Shea Homes executives and Glenn Beaton of the Gibson Dunn & Crutcher law firm -- company lawyer Jeffrey Donelson defended his client's good name: "Shea Homes is the successor to Mission Viejo Company, which together have owned and continuously used the 'Highlands Ranch' trademark since 1978," the letter begins. "The public associates this mark with Shea Homes' (and formerly Mission Viejo's) products and services and attendant good will.

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