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Democrats failed them on Columbus Day 5-8-07

By STEVEN K. PAULSON
DENVER (AP) - Protesters who say Columbus introduced genocide to the
Americas accused Democratic state lawmakers Tuesday of letting them
down when they refused to repeal Columbus Day in Colorado.

Glenn Morris, a member of the American Indian Movement leadership
council, said AIM's leaders were rebuffed when they asked legislative
leaders to pass a bill revoking the commemoration, now in its 100th
year in Colorado.

He said AIM felt the recent turnover that put Democrats in charge of
the House, the Senate and the governor's office for the first time in
42 years was a good opportunity after Republicans rejected previous
attempts.

Morris said Indian leaders were stunned when they were told by
Democratic leaders and Gov. Bill Ritter that the time wasn't right
because it would be too divisive.

“It's not divisive to have a racist holiday?” Morris asked on the
steps of the Capitol.

Morris said AIM members told Ritter they expected greater moral
leadership from him.

Ritter's spokesman, Evan Dreyer, said the administration is working
on issues important to American Indians.

“We're focusing on improving health care and education as well as
protecting civil rights, improving public safety and fighting racial
discrimination,” he said. “The governor and lieutenant governor
feel very strongly about doing all we can in these areas, and we
are,” Dreyer said.

House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, D-Denver, said no one talked to him
about the issue, He said he's willing to meet with both sides to see
if there is common ground.

“I know it's an issue where people have very strong feelings,” Romanoff said.

Tom Satriano, a member of Progressive Italians to Transform Columbus
Holiday, said he was ashamed at the annual holiday, which is marked
by a parade in Denver in early October. He said Columbus is not even
honored in Italy, his native country.

“I'm embarrassed to be an Italian today,” he said.

Morris said if Denver goes ahead with the parade, AIM members will
turn out in protest.

Denver's parade has a troubled history of arrests and confrontations
between Columbus supporters and detractors.

Protesters have called him a slave trader who touched off centuries
of genocide and oppression against native people. Parade supporters
say he was a brave explorer who opened a new world.

Colorado is credited with being the first to make Columbus Day a state holiday.
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