Parade protesters cite abuse

Columbus Day demonstrators seek to have charges dismissed

By Howard Pankratz
Denver Post Staff Writer

Throwing candy into crowds gathered along a parade route is usually a gesture of goodwill.

But Thursday, three Denver judges - scheduled to preside over 240 trials of people arrested for disrupting last year's Columbus Day parade - heard that parade marchers angrily hurled rock candy into a crowd of protesters.

Other protesters said the marchers signaled their displeasure with obscene hand gestures and taunted the protesters to fight.

Glenn Morris, one of the protest organizers, said that for years he has received death threats and been shadowed by police trying to protect him.

The three judges - Kathleen Bowers, Doris Burd and Aleene Ortiz-White - listened Thursday as protesters and several civil-rights lawyers argued that the charges of loitering and disobeying orders against the protesters should be dismissed.

The trials are scheduled to start in two weeks.

In recent years, protesters, many associated with the American Indian Movement, have disrupted Denver's Columbus Day parade, sponsored in 2004 by the Sons of Italy-New Generation.

Last year's parade was held up for more than an hour when the protesters linked arms and knelt in the middle of the route at 19th and Blake streets.

The protesters believe that Columbus was a slave trader who participated in the genocide of American Indians.

"The bottom line is that the Columbus Day parade is nothing but a celebration of a holocaust that is not over but is continuing right now," David Miller, a lawyer representing the protesters, told the judges.

Miller claimed it wasn't the protesters who posed a threat, but the parade marchers.

Lawyers for the protesters say the cases should be dismissed because the arrests were made without probable cause that the protesters were committing a crime, and that demonstrators were exercising their free-speech rights.

Barbara Spagnuolo, from Longmont, whose husband was arrested, said girls on one float were hurling hard rock candy at the demonstrators "in a very angry, hurtful manner."

Assistant City Attorney Jim Thomas told the judges that the arrests were lawful.

"There was a general broadcast that 'You are breaking the law, get out of the streets or you will be arrested.' That broadcast was made three times," Thomas said.

Staff writer Howard Pankratz can be reached at 303-820-1939 or