Mayor's note heats Columbus Day spat
By Amy Herdy
Denver Post Staff Writer
Leslie Andrews, a member of the American Indian Movement, helps straighten a banner Tuesday as activists strategize at the Four Winds Indian Center in Denver on Columbus Day parade protests. (Post / Kathryn Scott Osler)
A reproving letter Mayor John Hickenlooper wrote to the leaders of the opposing sides regarding Columbus Day backfired Wednesday, angering both men instead of furthering dialogue between the groups and the city.
"Frankly, I am sick and tired of this entire costly, frustrating and potentially dangerous situation that does nothing but generate ill will," Hickenlooper wrote in part in an e-mail sent to both Glenn Morris of the American Indian Movement of Colorado and George Vendegnia, founder of the Sons of Italy-New Generation and a Columbus Day parade organizer.
"We're sick and tired that there's a national and state holiday celebrating the annihilation of Indian people," responded Morris, who called the letter "paternalistic."
In the letter, the mayor said the city began last year's first annual Festival
Click here to see the .pdf of the letter sent by Mayor Hickenlooper.
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Italiano in an effort to "replace the Columbus Day parade," a phrase that infuriated Vendegnia.
"He doesn't have the right to replace anybody's day," Vendeg nia said, calling the letter "very insulting."
Hickenlooper said he was surprised at the negative reactions. "I didn't intend to upset either side, much less both sides," the mayor said. "I intended to present a fair and balanced framing of the issue."
Meanwhile, Vendegnia said the parade will continue under the name of Columbus, and Morris and other activists promised to protest it, despite two new city ordinances designed to strengthen the law regarding opposing or blocking the parade, to be held Oct. 8 at 10 a.m.
"The city is fighting the last war with these ordinances," said Mark Cohen, a member of the Transform Columbus Day Alliance. "They passed these ordinances based on what we did last year, and what we plan on doing this year is different."
Cohen declined to elaborate, other than to say the protests would involve street theater. "It will be a creative way to make the parade organizers aware of what it is they're actually celebrating."
The ordinances were drafted by the city attorney's office after charges against protesters arrested last year were dropped for being unconstitutionally vague.
Passed in June, the ordinances were modeled after a state statute, City Attorney Cole Finegan said, calling them "very clear." One ordinance makes it illegal for protesters to physically or vocally disrupt lawful assemblies such as parades. The other prohibits obstruction of public passageways, such as streets or sidewalks.
David Sprecace, an attorney for parade organizers, said he is optim