D E N V E R, Oct. 7 -- More than 500 American Indian activists lined city streets today in a peaceful protest against references to the Italian explorer Christopher Columbus during an Italian pride parade, the city’s first since 1991.
The activists say Columbus, a navigator from Genoa, Italy, credited with discovering the New World in 1492, was a slave trader who committed genocide against their ancestors.
To make their point, they poured a line of red liquid across the parade route to represent their ancestors’ blood.
“Columbus symbolizes the genocide of almost an entire race of people and I think its time people stand up against him,” said Owen McGaff, a Plains Indian.
To accommodate protesters, police cut down a section of a fence put up earlier in the morning to block protests, and permitted protestors to stand in spots along the street being used for the parade.
Later they asked activists whether they preferred to leave or face arrest, and took into custody those who asked to be arrested. Following the arrests the parade continued without incident.
Police arrested 147 people on misdemeanor charges, including loitering and failure to obey lawful orders, but there was no violence and no one resisted arrest, police spokeswoman Mary Thomas said.
‘Sitting Bull Would be Proud’
Many activists said Columbus has drawn so much attention and controversy largely because he has a holiday named after him. Columbus Day has been a national holiday since 1971. It takes place on the second Monday of every October.
Activists carried signs with slogans such as “Sitting Bull would be proud of us” and “1492: disgrace called discovery.”
“They were selfish and took everything we had our land, our food, and they poisoned us with small pox. Why do people have to treat Columbus like a god?” said Chuntay Her Many Horses, a pre-law student at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “We don’t have our own day and we were here first.”