Native News Online photo by Anthony Roy
One American Indian activist recounts his experience protesting the Columbus Day Parade in the Windy City
Published October 13, 2015
CHICAGO – This was one of the coolest solidarity entwined demonstrations that I’ve ever been a part of during this past Monday at a Columbus Day Parade in Chicago. Our organizer had brought several extra-large blank signs with a few pre-made ones that led to inspiring solidarity. I lost count of how many passers-by that raised their voices and thanked us for our work. This allowed for invitations of “Well join us! Make a sign!” And they did, the amount of Chicagoans that understand was beyond up lifting, the messages were made in solidarity and the intolerance of this celebration of genocide.
Some examples include “COLUMBUS WAS A RAPIST”, “COLUMBUS = KILLER” and “Don’t Celebrate Genocide.” We held our signs high and stood behind the lines as floats made out of replicas of the Niña, the Pinta and Santa Maria ships passed.
Our push for Indigenous People’s Day was a whole other beast. When confronted with the topic, the Italian community had seemingly sent a young mother pushing a stroller to address us, “If you do that to my community, you’re basically doing what Columbus did to the Native Americans to my community!”
We received several shouted profanities, looks of anger and confusion. The day’s celebration and parade were the likes of a White Supremacy rally of European pride, a celebration of why they are “here” and how far their communities have come. From bagpipes, marching bands, military honor marches, a float dedicated to the Chicago Blackhawks, to dressing as the explorers of 1492. I couldn’t help but thinking they were saying, “Hey Indian, we almost got you. You’re angry now, at least we had mercy enough to allow you see this joyous day!”
But the large signs chosen by our organizer were perfect, any smaller and we wouldn’t have been able to address the large floats celebrating and parting. Celebrating and parting on whose expense and what for? What I had noticed, quite like our earlier protest of the Chicago Blackhawks home opener, the signs and our presence shook the children, there will have to be a conversation of why we were there and why that matters.