Judge won't dismiss cases in Columbus Day protest

The city says police officers monitoring the parade felt they had to ensure the route was open to participants.

By Howard Pankratz
Denver Post Staff Writer

Lawyers for eight leaders of a Columbus Day parade protest failed Wednesday to have their cases dismissed, although they argued the protesters were exercising their constitutional rights.

More than 200 people took part in the Oct. 9 protest. The parade was held up for more than an hour when the protesters linked arms and knelt in the middle of the parade route at 19th and Blake streets.

The parade was sponsored by Sons of Italy-New Generation, and the protesters were led by several people, some closely associated with the American Indian Movement.

Defense attorneys Jim Castle and David Lane argued that Denver police Cmdr. Rudolph Sandoval's repeated order for the protesters to "disperse" violated their constitutional rights to demonstrate peacefully.

Denver has no statute or ordinance saying that blocking a parade route is unlawful, Castle argued.

Lane said that Sandoval's order to disperse was not an order "to get out of the road" but that "they just needed to move it."

The eight leaders are charged with failure to obey a lawful order.

But Assistant City Attorney Bob Reynolds said that 200 people were blocking a parade that had been approved by the city of Denver.

"The right to hold a parade is well-established," Reynolds said. He said that others, such as the protesters, can tell the parade participants how reprehensible their ideas are but can easily do so from behind the barricades erected along the parade route.

What they can't do, Reynolds said, is gather in the street and block the parade.

In refusing to dismiss the cases, Judge Doris Burd said she had to view the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution.

And here, Burd said, the police felt they had to ensure the parade was open to parade participants who had received a parade permit.

Earlier Wednesday, Denver police Division Chief Steven Cooper said there had been a high level of cooperation between the police and the demonstrators. He said that protest leader Glenn Morris had told police officials in advance the protesters would cross the barricades in defiance of police orders and block the route. But Morris assured police that the protesters would not resist arrest.

Cooper said he did refuse one of Morris' requests - to be handcuffed when arrested.

Staff writer Howard Pankratz can be reached at 303-820-1939 or hpankratz@denverpost.com.