About 1,000 marchers from four directions Saturday converged at one of the city's busiest intersections and streamed up a hill to the steps of the state Capitol, where they called for
an end to Columbus Day.
American Indians and other activists organized the "Transform Columbus Day" rally to protest a holiday for someone they say was a slave trader whose explorations set off centuries of abuse for indigenous people in this hemisphere.
"We know the legacy of Columbus. The legacy of Columbus is something Indian people live with every day: the federal laws, the loss of 96 percent of our land base," said Glenn Morris of Denver, a college professor and member of the American Indian Movement.
The crowd of roughly 1,500 yelled "No more Columbus Day," and joined in songs and prayers, some in the Lakota language. Some beat drums and chanted. Others carried red, black, white and yellow flags and banners to represent the four directions and the spiritual power Plains Indians associate with them.
Hundreds of police, including SWAT officers, wary because of past clashes over Columbus Day, were on guard throughout downtown and on the Capitol grounds. Protests stopped Columbus Day parades in 1991, and 140 arrests were made during the event's revival last
Police Capt. Marco Vasquez said there had been no arrests by early afternoon Saturday. No counter-protesters were visible, although an elderly man was trying to sell U.S. and Italian flags to marchers. He waved away a reporter: "I'm not going to talk."
Police Sgt. Tony Lombard said there would be several hundred police on duty Monday during the Columbus Day parade in case of demonstrations. American Indian and Hispanic activists have said they will protest any event with Columbus in its name.
A parade is planned despite a decision by a committee of 10 Italian-American organizations to scrap it in place of a fund-raiser and candlelight vigil in a north-Denver park. Proceeds
will go to the victims of the terrorist attacks.
"After the Sept. 11 tragedy, the parade committee decided it was not appropriate to have a parade and further tax the police and fire departments," said David Sprecace, committee spokesman.
But committee member C.M. Mangiaracina plans to go ahead with a parade on his own and is calling it "Columbus Day 2001: A National Day of Mourning."
"We are completely committed to having a Columbus Day parade next year, to celebrating the good qualities of Columbus," Sprecace said. "The Transform Columbus Day group wants to protest all the bad qualities of Columbus. We can do all this on the same day and that's what makes this country great."
Colorado has recognized Columbus Day as a state holiday since 1905. Speakers, including some state legislators, said the state should drop it as a holiday.
"Columbus does not stand for honor and dignity, nor do those who honor him as a national hero," said the Rev. Gary Tinker of Denver.
For more information about the groups sponsoring Saturday's march, log on toTransform Columbus Day web site
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