88 Arrested at Columbus Parade Protest

See a slide show of the parade and protest.

A reported 88 protesters were arrested at the Columbus Day Parade in downtown Denver earlier today. The demonstration brought the parade procession to a standstill for more than an hour.

The stand-off between police and the anti-Columbus group Transform Columbus Day began at around 10 a.m., when an estimated 600 to 700 demonstrators blocked the parade route at the intersection of 15th and Stout streets. Protest organizer Glenn Morris poured a bucket of fake blood and baby-doll parts on the street; he said the action was symbolic of the genocide that many Native Americans associate with Columbus. In recent years, Morris and others involved with the American Indian Movement of Colorado have chalked up several arrests during previous protests of the parade, which has resurrected in 1990 after a thirty-year hiatus. But this was the first year that the arrests were not “orchestrated” with police beforehand, meaning no agreements had been reached regarding the types of tactics used by both protesters and officers.

As police encircled the demonstration, tensions rose. About three dozen protesters then sat on the ground and locked arms while police pried them apart one-by-one using nightsticks and submission holds. They were loaded onto waiting Denver County Sheriff’s Department busses. Remaining protesters – ranging from Indian elders, to white hippie peaceniks, to mask-wearing anarchists – bypassed the police barricade by marching up the sidewalks along 15th to Welton Street, where the parade had been stopped. For the next thirty minutes, police kept the parade on hold while as many as forty more police in full riot gear showed up on the scene. When Morris and fellow organizer Glenn Spagnuolo entered the intersection, they were swiftly taken into custody. Ten minutes later, three females pushed into the street and were carried off by police as well.

Eventually the parade resumed, but it was temporarily halted several more times when other groups of protesters and Colorado AIM leader Russell Means attempted to block the convoy by sitting in the street. They were arrested and, like the others, taken to the Denver Police Department headquarters at 13th and Cherokee for processing. And, the parade, which featured several Italian American groups, Hummers, underage beauty queens and a Tancredo for President float, proceeded on without incident – marking the hundredth anniversary of Colorado becoming the first state to honor Columbus with a holiday, back in 1907. – Jared Jacang Maher

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Sean Cronin