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American Indian Movement of Colorado

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Friday, October 01, 2004

2 letters in the Boulder Weekly.

These 2 letters to the editor appeared in this week's edition of the Boulder Weekly. The first (by Lauranna Johnson) offers and Irish perspective on the convoy of conquest and the next one (by Mark Freeland) addresses the issue of "violent protest" that the media brings up every year.

Real Irish legacy

Here comes yet another October when neo-Roman suburbanites will invade Denver with their convoy of conquest that celebrates Christopher Columbus, the slave-trading, Indian-killing founder of racist AmeriKKKa.

Now I wonder, will any of the thousands of celebrants who turn out every year for the St. Patrick’s Day parade join their American Indian neighbors in resistance to this blatant incitement to genocide? Should we not? Much of what has happened to Native Americans also happened to the Celts: colossal theft of land, genocidal butchery that murdered millions, destruction of social and national unity, colonial schools that forbade native languages, a diaspora that scattered us to the four directions and denial of the freedom to practice the earth-centered spirituality of our ancestors.

How brilliantly did that sea of Irish tricolors wave in the Colorado sun last March; the green bar of Catholicism and the orange bar of Protestantism united by the white bar of Peace to symbolize the hope for an end to the violence between the two. But unless the exiles of the Gaelic diaspora join with all people of conscience to stop Denver’s very own anti-Native Orange Parade, we will forever appear united only in the white-skin privilege of Euro-American colonialism.

Lauranna Johnson/Denver

Anti-Indian coverage

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 15 years since Colorado AIM 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 action 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 [Federation of Italian American Organizations] promised to discuss the possibility of a name change [for the parade]. 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 four were arrested peacefully.

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 peacefully. From 1993 to 1999 there were only individual celebrations marking the Columbus holiday, none of which came against any significant resistance and certainly were not subject to any violence.

When the convoy was resurrected in 2000, the rhetoric of "threats of violence" once again dominated the media coverage. However, with the thousands of protesters and a media buildup of potential disaster, 147 people were arrested (without 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 organizers of the convoy that year, and they kept Columbus’ name out of the parade.

The year 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 racial backgrounds, including Italian-Americans. In 2002, the convoy was again confronted, there were 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 away.

So where do the "threats of violence" or "intimidation" come from? The only talk of anything physical 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" (Rocky Mountain News, Oct. 3, 2000, Page 4A). This was given a front-page quote next to his name, as well as a large font above the article. However, similar quotes were given by the convoy-goers but without the large headline. George Vendegnia was quoted as saying, "These people have the right to protest, but we are not going to stand by and take it" (Rocky Mountain News, Sept. 26, 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 for promoting the idea of potential violence in their papers. The people of this area deserve realistic coverage of the topic at hand, not sensationalized stereotypes of the "violent Indians." The people of Denver deserve better.

Mark Freeland/via Internet

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