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  Denver Meets On Columbus Day Parade

By P. Solomon Banda
Associated Press Writer
Friday, Oct. 6, 2000; 9:00 p.m. EDT

DENVER –– Italian-Americans and American Indian and Hispanic activists met to try to ensure a peaceful Columbus Day parade – the city's first in nearly a decade – as police made contingency plans for possible violence.

Denver clergy brought the sides together in a series of meetings Thursday and Friday but won only vague pledges of nonviolence.

Members of the American Indian Movement were still vowing civil disobedience at Saturday's parade. Italian sponsors of the parade were going forward.

"We're having a parade and they are going to have a protest," said Joe Vendegnia, founder of the Denver chapter of the Sons of Italy/New Generation. "And it's going to be peaceful."

The city hasn't held the parade since 1991 because of concerns that marchers would clash with groups who believe Christopher Columbus was a killer and slave trader.

Russell Means of AIM did not rule out the possibility of protesters blocking the parade route.

"I learned from an elder that you cannot hate, you can only pity, and I pity those who think a loser like Columbus should be celebrated," Means said.

The groups did agree to meet next week to avoid similar controversy next year.

"It's hard to undo betrayal in a couple of days," said Leroy Lemos, executive director of the Hispanic activist group Poder Project. "We feel the honor of our signature has been betrayed."

Lemos was referring to a federally mediated pact, by which Denver's Italian community had agreed to call Saturday's celebration an Italian Pride parade and make no mention of Columbus. But that pact collapsed.

Some communities have withdrawn fire trucks from the parade, fearing damage and injuries. Mayor Wellington Webb has pleaded for calm, and the governor pledged state help to maintain the peace.

Denver's Columbus parades have been tumultuous. In 1989, Means and three others were arrested after throwing fake blood on a Columbus statue. The next year, protesters shouted anti-Columbus slogans as the parade went by.

The 1992 parade was canceled moments before it was to start because of concerns about violence.

Vendegnia said city officials discouraged his group from seeking parade permits after that, but the organization decided to apply this year after new people took over top city jobs.


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© Copyright 2000 The Associated Press

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