Protests in Denver Over Marilyn Manson Gig

ByABC News

D E N V E R, June 21, 2001 -- Marilyn Manson is to perform at Denver's Mile High Stadium today — an event that has not gone unnoticed by local parents who say the shock rocker influenced the two teens who carried out the 1999 massacre at nearby Columbine High School.

Citizens for Peace and Respect, an organization made up of local citizens, churches and Columbine families dedicated to preventing "the negative influence of Marilyn Manson," rallied Wednesday night to protest the performance.

In addition to organizing protests, the group is giving away tickets to a local amusement park to encourage kids to stay away from Manson's performance, scheduled for today as part of Ozzy Osbourne's "Ozzfest" rock festival at Mile High Stadium.

But it's hardly a city united in protest: the anti-Manson rally competed with one held in support of the singer, and a number of shooting victims and relatives have come forward in support of the show.

Columbine Families, Victims Divided Over Manson

Protest leader and youth pastor Jason Janz told local media several Columbine families have joined his cause. Like Mark Taylor Jr., who was injured in the shootings.

"Kids, when they go to these concerts, they look up to these people," Taylor told the Rocky Mountain News. "I admire the people I listen to."

"We need to stop worrying about what comes out of our children and we need to start worrying about what goes into them," Dale Todd, whose son Evan was injured in the shootings, told the paper.

But a spokesman for the family of one victim said the singer should be welcomed.

"I don't think it's up to Marilyn Manson to instill a values system in our children," Sam Riddle, spokesman for the family of victim Isaiah Shoels, told the Rocky Mountain News. "I think Marilyn Manson should be welcome to Denver and he ought to rock it."

And Angela Sanders, whose father was killed in the massacre, says she likes Manson's music.

"I will always listen to Marilyn Manson and I will continue to support him as long as I need to," Sanders told ABCNEWS. "It's very sad to me to see that Columbine had to be brought into this issue at all. Columbine and Marilyn Manson are completely, totally, separate issues."

But those who make up the Citizens for Peace and Respect say they are not separate issues. A message on the group's Web site accuses Manson of promoting "hate, violence, death, suicide, drug use and the attitudes and actions of the Columbine High School killers."

Manson Promises Bible Quotes

Manson said on his Web site he would address those accusations in his show, adding Bible quotes to "balance" his act and "examine the virtues of wonderful 'Christian' stories of disease, murder, adultery, suicide and child sacrifice."

He clarified those remarks in a recent interview with the Denver Post.

"I was being facetious to say that I could find more offensive material in the Bible than in my own lyrics," Manson told the newspaper. "I will make it a point to read some of those verses that are dark and overlooked. But I'm not going to make the show into a Sunday school lesson, I can assure you of that."

But Manson has in the past appeared at least a bit sensitive to local sentiment: he canceled a show scheduled a few days after the massacre, and issued a statement of sympathy for the victims.

He has not performed in the area since.

Placing Blame?

The Citizens for Peace and Respect insists that they do not blame Manson for the massacre, but says he "promotes the attitudes and actions of the killers." They say they would protest the show even if Columbine never happened.

"If his message of hate and violence is promoted in our community, we are afraid that we will see more people bleed, both physically and emotionally," the group says in its online FAQ.

Manson also addressed the massacre in an essay published by Rolling Stone a shortly after.

"When it comes down to who's to blame for the high school murders in Littleton, Colorado, throw a rock and you'll hit someone who's guilty," he wrote. "We're the people who sit back and tolerate children owning guns, and we're the ones who tune in and watch the up-to-the-minute details of what they do with them."

"The honest to God truth is, I really don't find the controversy something to be proud of, or to use to better my career," he said. "I'm not trying to be a lightning rod for all their hatred ... I just want to be someone who inspires other people to have an opinion, to be an individual, to maybe question things once in a while." ABCNEWS' Steve Walsh and's Edward Mazza contributed to this report.

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