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Political protest has a lively history in Denver

Be thankful to your ancestors that got on that boat, landed here, and created the life you have today." Those are the words of Mickie Lava Clayton, a longtime leader in Denver's Italian community who passed away last November, less than a month after the 2010 Columbus Day Parade and all its attendant controversy. But those could be the words of a leader of almost any group in this country — any group whose ancestors came to this country by boat, that is.

In 1907, Colorado became the first state in the nation to make Columbus Day an official holiday. It was a major coup for a nationality that had suffered much oppression in this country — but also a cynical legislative move designed as much to secure a bloc of votes as to salute Italian heritage. "Italians were below the blacks and the Irish in the local pecking order," explained Tom Noel, a professor of history at the University of Colorado Denver, during one of the regular flare-ups over the holiday. "They were at the bottom of the immigrant ladder, doing the most dangerous and least-paid work. If a mule's leg was injured, they'd fix it, but if an Italian was injured, they'd just fire him."

In the ensuing decades, Coloradans didn't just celebrate Columbus Day; they celebrated it big, with parades and festivals. Although those had faded away by the middle of the twentieth century, in 1990 the Federation of Italian American Organizations announced plans to revive the parade. They recognized that Columbus had become an increasingly controversial figure over the years, and even tried to involve the American Indian Movement of Colorado — offering to let protesters march at the front of the parade, carrying anti-Columbus banners. But that deal fell through, setting the Columbus Day Parade on its two-decade collision course with anti-Columbus protesters: with the descendants of the group that was already here when Columbus sailed from Europe.

In 1991, four AIM members — including Ward Churchill, then an instructor at the University of Colorado; Glenn Morris, an instructor at the University of Colorado at Denver; and national AIM leader Russell Means — were arrested after blocking the route; they were later acquitted. In 1992, the 500th anniversary of Columbus's first voyage to America, the Italian Federation canceled the parade after a half-dozen mediation sessions involving everyone from then-mayor Wellington Webb to the U.S. Department of Justice failed to find a compromise. After an eight-year hiatus, the parade returned in October 2000, with a new generation of Italian leaders in charge; this time, 150 protesters were arrested after blockading the route. Parades were held regularly through the next decade, and just as regularly, protesters were arrested — and the charges later dropped. In 2007, on the hundredth anniversary of the holiday, then-mayor John Hickenlooper sent a note to both sides, noting that he was "sick and tired of this entire costly, frustrating and potentially dangerous situation that does nothing but generate ill will." Eighty-eight protesters were arrested that year.

This past Saturday had even more potential for a mash-up of parades and protests. While the Columbus Day Parade participants were lining up in LoDo that morning, the anti-Columbus Day protesters were gathering outside the Capitol, right by Occupy Denver, which was planning its own march through downtown at noon. An emissary from Colorado AIM had already stopped off to see if Occupy Denver, which has been slow to define itself, would sign off on AIM's platform. But while the group declined to do so, many Occupy Denver protesters "did participate with us in our protest of the Columbus Hate Speech Parade," reports Morris, the protest's lead spokesman in the absence of Churchill, the lightning rod who is now spending much of his time out of state, and Means, who is gravely ill. And somehow, it all came off without a hitch...or an arrest.

Morris was back at the camp Sunday, to again ask the group to sign off on the Colorado AIM-initiated indigenous platform. "As indigenous peoples, we welcome the awakening of those who are relatively new to our homeland," it begins. "We are thankful, and rejoice, for the emergence of a movement that is mindful of its place in the environment, that seeks economic and social justice, that strives for an end to oppression in all its forms, that demands an adequate standard of food, employment, shelter and health care for all, and that calls for envisioning a new, respectful and honorable society. We have been waiting for 519 years for such a movement, ever since that fateful day in October 1492 when a different worldview arrived — one of greed, hierarchy, destruction and genocide." And after an hour of discussion and debate, the Occupy Denver General Assembly unanimously endorsed all ten points, which range from freeing Leonard Peltier to "a repeal of the Columbus Day holiday as a Colorado and United States holiday."

On Monday, Occupy Denver was finally working on its own list of demands. At the same time, New York City's Occupy Wall Street General Assembly was considering an endorsement of indigenous rights, borrowed liberally from the AIM Colorado proposal. Another Colorado first, executed peacefully.

Where's Ward Churchill when you don't need him?

 
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6 comments
Colsif
Colsif

We all need to get together and stop oppression where ever it rises it's ugly head. We all need to show all people respect and love,understanding our differences.AIM has a very bad reputation, after the wounded knee incident.I mean no disresect to any of you, but not only did AIM take up weapons, it brutally beat a man tied to a cross for no reason,and it started to accuse it's own members of being informants which led to several deaths.Aim did not bring peace, it brought violence.Maybe since that time AIM has changed, i do not know, but truth speaks for itself.The only thing i can say is our hearts and souls need to be healed, we must bring peace and let old grudges lie dormant.Change begins with us, we must speak out with patience,love, and understanding of all people.We must stand together as one people,one tribe, and seek justice.We must sing and raise our voices to be heard,and when no one listens, get louder.Change begins with those who seek peaceful solutions to unjust situations.

Wndr303
Wndr303

What would Ward Churchill say if he knew the University of Colorado Boulder is allowing select employees a method to increase their salaries despite a classified employee pay increase freeze? If you want to know how follow this discussion. The University of Colorado Boulder is allowing select employees to reclassify from the state system of classified employees to a classification of Professional Exempt employees. Under the Professional Exempt employee classification select employees are receiving up to a 130% increase in salary. To steal more tax payer money, and more student fee funds, few of the Professional Exempt employees meet minimum job skill and education requirements. Supervisors, who are in the Professional Exempt classification, write job descriptions few, if any, potential job seekers match other than the individual they seek to move from a State Classified position and reward them with a huge salary increase under the Professional Exempt classification. If you are not aware where your tax dollars go or, if you are a parent paying student fees at the University of Colorado Boulder, now you know how you are swindled out of your taxes and tuition/fees under the current corrupt system of Professional Exempt employee classification at the University of Colorado Boulder. The Denver Post and the Boulder Camera, once alerted to this scandal, refused to follow up with investigative reporting of this ongoing corruption.

rdl114
rdl114

No group anywhere on Earth is free of the taint of oppression, violence and misdeeds. It is part of the human condition. Native Americans are no exception. Native Americans' own treatment of related or neighboring tribes has been obscured through victimization-by-European propaganda. What AIM attempts to do is conflate and confuse the human-wide penchant for violence with the collision of Stone Age peoples with relatively advanced technological peoples. No one is without stain when it comes to huge, millennial migrations. In fact, settled southern and western European areas experienced enormous disruptions via the barbarian invasions, the chaos created by Vikings, and the Muslim occupation. There were also the threats and incursions by the Mongols. Some of those experiences were only a few hundred years prior to Columbus' landing in the Caribbean.

All history is one. Here are some examples among hundreds of Indian on Indian violence in Pre-Columbian times.

For instance, "archaeology yields evidence of prehistoric massacres more severe than any recounted in ethnography. For example, at Crow Creek in South Dakota, archaeologists found a mass grave containing the remains of more than 500 men, women, and children who had been slaughtered, scalped, and mutilated during an attack on their village a century and a half before Columbus's arrival (ca. A.D. 1325)." --- http://webcache.googleusercont...

and

"Originally presented at an American Anthropological Association symposium, findings construct a convincing case that bloodshed and killing have been woven into the fabric of indigenous life in North America for many centuries." --- http://www.uapress.arizona.edu...

and

"This foe [of the Iroquois-Hurons] was the nation, or perhaps the confederacy, of the Alligewi or Talligewi, the semi-civilized "Mound-builders" of the Ohio Valley, who have left their name to the Allegheny river and mountains, and whose vast earthworks are still, after half-a-century of study, the perplexity of archaeologists.

A desperate warfare ensued, which lasted about a hundred years, and ended in the complete overthrow and destruction, or expulsion, of the Alligewi. The survivors of the conquered people fled southward, and are supposed to have mingled with the tribes which occupied the region extending from the Gulf of Mexico northward to the Tennessee river and the southern spurs of the Alleghenies."---http://webcache.googleusercont...

Samuel Stray
Samuel Stray

For the past decade the attack on Westword newspaper boxes have been relentless.Attack on Westword newspaper boxes by anarchists and vandals that can't stand anything americana.Attack on RTD bus shelters, Denver Post newspaper boxes, Westword newspaper boxes and they refuse to follow park rules.Vandals.Where's the Ranger?

Guest
Guest

As long as no one is actually demanding indigenous land back, these groups can have anything else they want. Civil Rights and electoral politics make a great diversion to keep land in the hands of the whites.

Colsif
Colsif

Yes, what you say is correct. No nation,tribe,or people are without bloodshed. I will not argue that point with you, but what i will say is, that we need to focus on today forward. we should unite, using our past experiences and those of all our ancestors, to create a better world for all people.A world full of understanding,compassion,patience and love for all people.If an organization has proven itself to be violent and untrustworthy, then we as groups should not align ourselves with that organization.We need to heal as a people and forget past, let's focus on the future and stop blaming each other for past cruelities. Bloodshed and destruction happened on all sides, let's move on with love and understanding,trying not to make the same mistakes.

 
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