- 13 September 2004
- Reality of Peace vs. Treats of Violence in Columbus Day
Since 1992, the media has consistently described the reason
for the cancellation of that year’s “convoy of conquest” (I
watched it last year, bikers, limos and semi-trucks do not
constitute a parade or an ethnic celebration) as due to the
“threats of violence” or “intimidation” by demonstrators or
Native Americans. While these alleged threats are continually
repeated when giving the history of the resistance to state
sponsored hate speech, there has never been an act of violence
or intimidation in the fifteen years since Colorado AIM has
initiated the resistance to the Columbus Holiday in this area.
There has been some civil resistance in protesting the convoy,
but these have consistently been peaceful demonstrations.
In 1989, when AIM
initiated the protest in this area, there was a rally to protest
the holiday and Russell Means was given a ticket for pouring fake
blood over the Columbus statue in Civic Park.
The next year AIM was set to protest the convoy of
conquest, but took the invitation from the organizers of the event
to lead the event, because the FIAO promised to discuss the
possibility of a name change.
In 1991 the same invitation was offered to AIM, but the
invitation was declined because the FIAO failed to follow through
with their promise to discuss the name change, about 50 people
stopped the convoy, and 4 were arrested peaceably.
In 1992 there of course was not a convoy, the organizers of
the event cancelled the procession due to “fear of violence”, yet
no threats were ever issued, except to demonstrate peaceably.
From 1993 to 1999 there were only individual celebrations
marking the Columbus Holiday, none of which came against any
significant resistance, and certainly was not subject to any
violence. When the
convoy was resurrected in 2000, the rhetoric of “threats of
violence” once again dominated the coverage.
However, with thousands of protesters and a media build up
of potential disaster, 147 people were arrested (with out
incident) for civil resistance.
The next year a new tactic was started, that of role
modeling an inclusive cultural celebration with the Four
Directions March. There
was a demonstration ready to confront the convoy peacefully , but
there was a split in the Italian community that year and the
convoy people kept the Columbus name out of the parade.
2001 also marked the beginning of the Transform Columbus
Day Alliance, an association of many different groups who are
willing to confront racism and envision a better future for
Denver. This Alliance is
made up of groups of different ethnic, religious and racially
backgrounds, including Italian Americans.
In 2002 the convoy was again confronted, there was a couple
of arrests for resistance, but again, no violence.
Last year the Transform Columbus Day Alliance met the
convoy, this time with two emissaries, offering an agreement to
change the name of the convoy, but the convoy leaders ridiculed it
in the street. The
demonstrators then turned their backs on the convoy and walked
So where do the
“threats of violence” or “intimidation” come from? The only talk of any violence has been from statements
discussing the right to protect ourselves from the people in the
convoy. In 2000, Russell
Means was quoted as saying, “If they lay a hand on my children
when I’m protesting, then it’s war.” (RM News, 3 Oct. 2000, 4A)
This was given a front page quote next to his name as well
as a large font above the article, no doubt to promote the idea of
potential violence by the editorial board.
However, similar quotes are given from the convoy goers and
they are without the large font headline.
George Vendegnia was quoted as saying, “These people have
a right to protest, but we are not going to stand by and take it.”
(RM News, 26 Sept. 2000, Internet)
It is time for the
media to be honest about this subject and quit the unbalanced
stereotyping that is prevalent in the press.
The only group of people that is guilty of intimidation is
the editorial boards promoting the idea of potential violence in
their papers. The people
of this area deserve a realistic coverage of the topic at hand,
not sensationalized stereotypes of the “violent Indians”.
The people of Denver deserve better.
©2004 Transform Columbus Day Alliance