Arts and Culture

Columbus Day Parade Tomorrow Could Lack the Traditional Protests

Colorado was the first state to make Columbus Day an official holiday, in 1907. The federal government soon followed suit, and on Monday, state and federal offices will be closed to to mark the day, which will be celebrated with a Columbus Day Parade tomorrow. But while that parade was marked by rancorous protests over the past two decades, the last two years have been quiet -- and this year seems positively sleepy. The organizers have been quiet about pushing the parade; the "announcement" page of the site is blank, although there is a map of the parade route. But then, the protesters have been quiet, too: The Transform Columbus Day site hasn't been updated since 2011.

See also: War of the Word -- Denver's Columbus Day Parade Rhetoric Spells Out the Same Bumpy Route

The big protests started in the early '90s, when plans to resurrect the parade were protested by Native American groups and other activists who considered Columbus Day a celebration of genocide -- and the Italian organizers fought back. "This isn't your country anymore," one told Colorado AIM's Glenn Morris in 1992. "This is our country now, so get with the program."

Instead, the opponents got with the protests, and Columbus Day confrontations became annual sights in Denver, with protesters regularly shutting down the parade and then getting arrested -- only to have the charges later dropped.

In 2011, Columbus Day seemed on a particular collision course. While the annual Columbus Day Parade was gearing up downtown, the anti-Columbus Day protesters were gathering outside the Capitol -- right by Occupy Denver. And Occupy Denver had planned its own march through downtown at noon, right as the parade, and the protests it eternally inspires, wound down. But somehow, it all came off without a hitch... or an arrest.

The 2014 parade will kick off downtown at 10 a.m.; find the route map here.

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun