SECTION SEVEN

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COLUMN EIGHTY-TWO, JANUARY 1, 2003
(Copyright 2003 The Blacklisted Journalist)

COLUMBUS HAS LEFT THE BUILDING--- HE DOES NOT LIVE HERE

The sound system crackled to life, the cold, gray, man-made cloud of sulfur oxides and unknown chemicals hung over Denver like a nasty, cold, wet, chemical blanket. Helicopters circled, coming in low under the miasma that was the sky, protecting us, the people from us, the people.

The streets were barricaded off, police massing, police vehicles parked on footpaths: America in the Twenty-First Century. I was standing on the West steps of the Colorado State Capitol, looking at the statue of Colonel Chivington, famous for leading his thug militia in raiding an Indian village and massacring its unarmed inhabitants. The local Network T.V. crews were nailing their cameras to the ground for their usual ten-second analyses, but talking heads can't capture the spirit of this demonstration in the shadow of the statue of the Indian killer. This demonstration was about Italians, Indians and conquest.

The Native American march came from the four directions. Drummers, the stronger tribal members, carried the drum's message: "follow your heart, follow your heart."

A.I.M. (American Indian Movement) Security was there to protect the marchers. While the Lakota have no word for "warrior," they do have the word "protector." The Lakota listened to protectors because the marchers were taunting police and armed thugs. All through this day, the well-organized Denver Street Medics were there in enough numbers to cover anything short of a major battle.

Because the Indian is a spiritual person, prayer is part of the day. Professor Glen Morris of Denver University, the host and organizer of the event, led the marchers in reflection while


The less said
about Columbus,
the better


standing on the Capitol steps looking toward to the statue of the Indian killer. The main speaker, Russell Means, was absent because of car trouble, but that proved no problem

Many speakers expressed the belief that the less said about Columbus, the better. To them, this event was not about that mythic figure but rather about Columbus the raider and slaver who helped start an ongoing genocide. Sixty million Native Americans died in the first hundred years and, five and a half centuries later, more are dying every day.

Ward Churchill, who replaced Russell Means, was the speaker-teacher of the day. Indian speakers traditionally confront how we define ourselves and Churchill said, "A man is only what he can imagine himself to be." Part of the Libertarian Left, Churchill protested Native American grievances at the buildings where the genocide was generated.

The crowd had grown to more than two thousand as the microphone made the rounds of the Indian dignitaries. I wandered off to talk to Italian-Americans nearby. The Italian-Americans? march consisted of motorcyclists, marching bands and people in limousines. But the Native Americans did not express any fear.

Over lunch with some Italian-Americans, I found people who think that free speech is a right wing-talk show host poisoning the airwaves. Spouting talk of Indians stealing the culture of conquest from the American people, they quoted a Pope of long ago who told them they could own land, chattel and slaves.

At the Indian encampment at the State House, Food for Peace fed the marchers.            Ward Churchill returned after lunch to organize marches to the streets before other sites of injustice, including the Methodist Church that ordained Reverend Chivington. The church now refuses to discuss Chivington's legacy. Churchill next led the marchers to the Rocky Mountain News building. One hundred and forty years ago, The Rocky Mountain News was among those exhibiting Indian parts---sex organs, scalps, breasts, fingers, all collected by American heroes of the time.

Churchill and about 80 followers arrived at the News Building without security. Petty rights granted by the Constitution can be ungranted by the state, Ward said.  When a woman reporter asked what are petty rights, Churchill reminded her that the City of Denver has better military armament than many Latin American countries.

I moved out with the Black Bloc, anarchists wearing masks. Their drum differed from the Indian drum. The Black Bloc's drum had a fast quirky bit of rock beat to it. The Black Bloc arrived at the Brown Palace Hotel ahead of their police escort at the same time as the Italian-American marchers and the Black Bloc tested the barricades. Unable to get through, the Black Bloc moved out swiftly. Freespeech TV and I kept up with the action but the rest of the press was left behind. The Black Bloc moved south on Broadway five blocks, then backtracked four blocks North, then ran three blocks West. The cops were left behind.

Rushing though the streets, the Black Bloc came to grief at Fourteenth and Court Place. I came upon them being led into a parking garage for the ritual beating or worse by the motorcycle cops, who like to play rough. Some uniformed police without badges pushed me back away from the action. When cops are anonymous they get mean.

The cops without ranking officers closed the street to reporters and legal observers and continued questioning the Black Bloc. I could hear their screams. 'this is what a police state looks like," I could hear the beaten men saying. I remembered similar beatings in Oaxaca, Mexico City, London, Belfast and Paris. In Chile, I've been told, our government sponsored the rape, shooting and kicking deaths of folk singers, students and reporters in the sports stadium.

A short, mean cop with a pee-pee problem who had just roughed up a woman reporter and was working over the legal observer confronted me. I maintained a distance from him.

A helicopter passed overhead with the door gunner's door shut. A visiting college professor from the East interrupted me to ask softly if this was an annual event. We laughed; I could have hugged him.

About the same time the paddy wagon pulled up, Ward Churchill started cooling the situation. Somehow, he crossed the police lines and was negotiating with the police. The screaming stopped and police with badge numbers appeared. There were five P.O.W.s taken away including a lawyer.

The cops without badges vanished and were replaced by regulars, enabling the local media to proclaim that the police behaved well. As an eyewitness, I'd say no, the militarized police did exactly as they were told.  

I went back to Lincoln Park, overlooked by Colonel Chivington's statue. There was music coming from an impromptu stage. The Indians prepared for an honoring ceremony. Four 14-year-old girls sat down in front of the large gang of bikers doing security for the Italian Americans. Although the children offered no resistance, the bikers manhandled the girls out of their way. The bikers claimed to be Knights of Columbus, not ordinary men, but to me they were child abusers. The girls remained brave and resolute though this treatment.  ##

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