October 6, 2006.

Transform Columbus Day weekend.

Under a dome covered with a precious metal,
symbolic of the resources
gleaned from many lands
stolen from indigenous peoples,
the spirit of many nations

The Transform Columbus Day Alliance received permits
to camp overnight in the heart of Denver's civic center
from the elders of the Northern Cheyenne Nation
and the Tetuwan Oglala Lakota Band.

Although in past years
hundreds have been arrested,
on this Columbus Day weekend
he city of Denver decided not to challenge
the solidarity and determination
of the Transform Columbus Day Alliance.

In an unprecedented decision,
campers on city property
daring to willfully violate
the laws of the city
will not be molested.

Why this camp?

Why are people of many nations
coming together on this night?

Every year a spectre from the past haunts Denver.

It is a legacy of plunder and conquest.
It is a legacy of pillage and death.
It is a legacy of colonialism, slavery,
imperialism, and foreign wars.

The U.S. cavalry celebrates the legacy of Columbus.

The U.S. cavalry is fighting in Iraq.

The spectre from the past lives in the present.

It is empire.

But not everyone supports empire.

On this night the evil will be symbolically cleansed.


The people of many nations march from the west,
from the south, the north, and the east.


All walk for miles as the sun begins to set.

This night, all converge on "liberated" land.

What the U.S. cavalry called (and what the U.S. Marines still call)

Indian country.

For however brief a time,
the very center
of Denver's civic government
is land under our control.

Under the control of the people.


The night is celebrated with music,
with speeches from honored guests.

The blessings are many, the medicine is good.

The ceremony ends with an invitation:
all are welcome to spend the night.
All will be safe. There will be food and water.
There will be friendship and family.

Morning sees many lodges in a liberated community.



Our friends from Food Not Bombs feed all at the Dragon Bus.

Our immediate goal is to spare the children
the lies about Columbus that were foisted upon us
when we were young.

But Columbus has become a symbol
of the larger society.
It is the legacy of Columbus
that must be stopped.

The protest crowd swells in anticipation.

An offer of breakfast at the barricades is accepted.

Drums steady our spirits for the coming confrontation.

Symbols of power
and monuments to soldiers
merge in the background,
a backdrop for
struggles yet to come.

A final discussion before the parade.

" This is how it will be..."

Banners have been attached to barricades
on both sides of the street.

The last autos see the message of all nations
before the parade route is secured.

The police line both sides of the parade route,
and another police line appears behind the protestors,
but there will be no arrests this year.

The U.S. cavalry leads the parade.

Notice the same blue cloth.

And that shade of yellow in the troopers' neckerchiefs?
Still used in our "support the troops" ribbons.

The symbols of empire persist.

The lead by the cavalry seems a provocation
calculated to insult the protestors,
and it brings some scattered cries of "Indian killers!"

In Denver,
where a cavalry unit once paraded
body parts of women and children
savaged in the Sand Creek Massacre
down the very same streets,
the scars remain fresh and deep.


Some parade participants are anticipated,
others are a surprise.


In such divisive times,
politicians win and lose votes
by the company they keep.
It is a cold calculation.

Military vehicles festooned with balloons
attest to the illusion of benign imperialism.


The Dragon Bus draws attention,
and two young protestors
with a Transform Columbus Day message
are featured on Fox News television.

Fairly or not,
we tend to associate
with pillage.
Is their presence
in the Columbus Day Parade
a coincidence?


A safe place to taunt the protestors-- behind a wall
of police and the state patrol.

The flags are Italian. But as
Columbus Day protestors,
our actions are never directed
at the Italian community.

One of the leaders
and numerous supporters
of the Transform Columbus Day Alliance
are Italian.

We should likewise be proud
of the heritage of the Sons of Italy,
who nearly a hundred years ago
were very strong union supporters
and did much for their communities.

However, it seems
that the Sons of Italy chapter
that sponsors the Columbus Day Parade
in Denver
has lost any progressive sensibilities
on issues of immigration, civil rights,
and the rights of working people.

In the AP photo above,
oblivious to the absurd irony of his gesture,
a scowling George Vendegnia,
one of the main organizers
behind the Columbus Day Parade,
gives a "thumbs down" to Hispanic immigrants
marching in their own parade
on May Day of 2006.

"We've already got ours,
you just go away."

Should anyone wonder
that such intolerance
inspires opposition
against the legacy
of selfishness and greed
represented by Columbus?

is the name of this parade.

For example, the messages
on the Columbus Day Parade float
pictured below


A wall of blue protects a message of hate
directed at gays, and at a woman's right to choose.


As the above photo was snapped,
the Sons of Italy abruptly dismounted their motorcycles
and stomped back along the parade route,
apparently in an attempt to intimidate protestors
vocally denouncing the anti-gay float
from both sides of the street.


Note that the cops are watching in both directions.

The symbolism of the Sons of Italy
agressively "defending" their anti-gay, anti-abortion floats
demonstrates the emptiness of the claim
that the Columbus Day Parade
is just a celebration
of Italian pride.

This annual ritual is really about
a clash of values
in a society that enshrines intolerance,
and defends privilege.

Jesus brings up the rear
of a parade that seems
shorter each year.

Perhaps the protest
is taking a toll.

In any event
Columbus the slave trader
once again
inspires our resistance.

Once again we redouble our determination
to make the truth about Columbus known.

Colonialism and conquest must not be allowed to rule the day.

We'll be back.

Next Transform Columbus Day!

all photography (except for the AP photo) by richard myers