Columbus Day Protesters Found Not Guilty

Jury Acquits First 8 Of 239 Protesters

Eight organizers of last year's Columbus Day parade protests in Denver were found not guilty Thursday, after a two-day trial.

The group faced charges of loitering and failure to obey a lawful order.

News of the not guilty verdicts came from Pavlos Spavropoulous, a spokesperson Transform Columbus Day Alliance.

In his opening statement Tuesday, defense attorney David Lane told the six-person jury that his clients chose to obstruct the parade because they saw it as a celebration of the destruction of the Native American culture.

Three of the defendants are Native Americans.

Lane said Denver's annual Columbus Day parade is "no different than if Nazis marched through a Jewish neighborhood."

The city prosecutor said the protesters didn't have a parade permit and police were authorized to remove them.

The jury delivered its verdict about 3 hours after it got the case.

The eight defendants found not guilty are: Ward Churchill, Glenn Morris, Troylynn Yellow Wood, Nita Gonzales, Reginald Holmes, Glenn Spagnuolo, Natsu Saito and LeRoy Lemos.

The eight are the first of 239 people arrested for forming a human blockade of during the Oct. 9, 2004, parade. The others are still awaiting jury trials.

The eight defendants could have been sentenced to up to 180 days in jail and fined as much as $999 if they had been found guilty.

If convicted on the municipal offense of failure to obey a lawful order, each defendant could be sentenced to up to 180 days in jail and fined as much as $999.