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American Indian Movement of Colorado

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Monday, October 11, 2004

Native Times-Mass arrests at Columbus Day protest

This column appears in today's web edition of the Native Times. You'll notice a marked difference in the coverage by a Native Newspaper in comparison with that of the "mainstream media." The Native Times actually quotes from our Press Release, which explained our reasons for going out into the streets.

Mass arrests at Columbus Day protest
Event organized by American Indian Movement

Sam Lewin 10/11/2004
Several hundred people, Indian and non-Indian alike, were arrested over the weekend in Denver during a protest against Columbus Day. The arrest total represents about two-thirds of the people who showed up to rally against the event, a parade that wound through the streets of the city’s downtown.

“Our arrests are designed to expose a corrupt educational, legal and political system that refuses to describe the destruction of millions of indigenous people at the hands of Columbus for what it is: genocide. In a legal and political system that rationalizes and justifies the murder, theft, and ongoing betrayal of our peoples and nations, we, as the victims of such a system are under an obligation to expose such moral and legal bankruptcy, and we actively refuse to cooperate with legalized murder and theft,” read a statement from the Colorado American Indian Movement.

AIM says they continue to target Colorado over Columbus Day with special vigor because in 1907, Colorado became the first U.S. state to make Oct. 12 a holiday, later changed to celebrating the holiday during the second Monday of every October. Since then, the states of South Dakota and Wyoming have changed Columbus Day to Native American Day.

The protestors said they want Denver to follow suit. There are some obstacles: Many Italian-Americans regard Columbus as a hero and are loath to attempts to abolish the holiday. Italians in New York celebrated the first incarnation of Columbus Day in 1866. Many non-Italians likely join them in their support. Schoolchildren are taught at a young age to recite the poem about Columbus sailing the ocean blue. Some modern-day Americans believe Thanksgiving already honors Indians, although some vehemently disagree

The AIM protestors say their protest was not designed to be anti-Italian. They also say they will use their arrests to bring across a political message.

“With our arrest and our prosecution by the City of Denver, we intend to go on the offensive, to put Columbus on trial, to put his legacy on trial, to put the City of Denver, the state of Colorado, and the U.S. itself on trial. We will defend ourselves with an unapologetic political defense in court, and, just as we did in 1992, and in 2001, we will prevail,” the statement read. “Colorado AIM and our allies do not risk our liberty as a political ploy, or merely as a tactic, we believe that the time is overdue to challenge the most pervasive, and the most deeply seated source of racism in the world: the oppression of indigenous peoples. Columbus Day continues to operate as a justification of racial superiority, and it, in fact, creates demonstrable and verifiable harm to our children, and to their children.” LINK

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