Cases dropped against Columbus parade protesters

Prosecutors do an about-face after a third judge ends loitering charges against the defendants.

By Howard Pankratz
Denver Post Staff Writer

The city of Denver will not prosecute the remaining 230 people who blocked the Columbus Day parade route on Oct. 9, City Attorney Cole Finegan announced Monday.

On Thursday, eight leaders of the protest were acquitted by a jury.

Finegan said as late as Friday that he planned to proceed with the cases. But Monday morning, prosecutors received another setback when County Judge Kathleen Bowers dismissed the loitering charges against the defendants who were to go on trial in her courtroom.

By doing so, Bowers joined two other county judges - Aleene Ortiz-White and Doris Burd - who had dismissed the loitering charges. The cases were divided among the three for trial.

That left the city to prosecute the protesters on a charge of failing to obey a lawful police order.

"This is really the only fair conclusion that the city could come to," said lawyer David Lane, who represented some of the eight protest leaders. "It would just be grossly unfair if all the leadership was acquitted and to proceed against a bunch of juveniles and high school kids and basic rank-and-file people."

Finegan said Monday that it was a "tough" decision but he had to look at the entire picture - including last week's acquittals, three judges saying the city could not use the loitering charge and at least one judge refusing to allow key evidence: the booking photographs of the demonstrators taken at the arrest site.

Finegan added, however, that his office has begun work drafting ordinances, modeled on state law, that make it illegal to disrupt a lawful assembly and to obstruct a highway or passageway.

Glenn Spagnuolo, one of those acquitted Thursday, was elated by Finegan's decision.

Spagnuolo believes the parade is "an incitement to genocide" rather than legitimate free speech. He added that no matter what ordinances the city writes, the parade will still violate the state's ethnic-intimidation law and the Geneva Convention, which he claimed makes the celebration of genocide illegal.

But Norma Haggstrom, a Denver- area resident, said Monday that to block the parade is wrong. She also said that the protesters' claim they didn't hear the three orders to leave the parade route was a "crock."

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