- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2000

An international gathering yesterday commemorated Columbus' landing in America with a celebration at Union Station that lacked the protests that marred a similar celebration in Denver over the weekend.

Spanish, Italian and Bahamian dignitaries, along with historians and patriotic onlookers, endured an unseasonable chill outside the train station to celebrate Christopher Columbus as a "man of courage" and a "genius."

One by one, representatives of the Order Sons of Italy in America and nearly 50 other civic chapters and delegations carried wreaths through two rows of purple-dressed, sword-bearing members of the Knights of Columbus.

American standards performed by the U.S. Navy Band wafted throughout Columbus Plaza in front of Union Station, where a statue of the sea explorer stands staring toward the Capitol.

A glossy program described him as "Man of the Millennium," while speakers like Spanish Ambassador Javier Ruperez referred to Columbus as a "man who changed the course of history."

"As a consequence of his adventurism, all Americans have joined people throughout the world in a grand endeavor of exploration," said Craig L. Bucki, 18, of New York, reading from the essay that earned him an award by the National Columbus Celebration Association.

"His voyage represented a rejection of the fear and timidity that had restrained society during the Middle Ages."

Columbus Day was first celebrated officially in Colorado in 1905, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared it a national holiday in 1937 at the urging of Italian-Americans. It is celebrated on the second Monday of October.

Although Columbus made his initial voyage to the Americas under the Spanish flag, he was Italian-born. He landed 508 years ago in the Bahamas.

No protesters made their presence known at the District's celebration, a distinct contrast to Saturday's Columbus Day parade in Denver.

There, police in riot gear arrested 147 demonstrators after they set up a roadblock, bringing the parade to a halt about five minutes after it had begun.

The nonviolent protest, led by American Indian Movement activists Russell Means and Glenn Morris, delayed the event for almost an hour before officers could clear the parade route.

The parade, the first held in Denver since 1991, drew national attention after Italian-American organizers agreed to ban Columbus' name from the festivities in an accord negotiated by the Justice Department. A week later, they changed their minds.

Protesters argued that, contrary to American lore, Columbus didn't discover America because the Indians were already here. They also accused Columbus and his men of killing and enslaving Indians, as well as setting into motion the forces that would ultimately crush the Indian nations.

In an interview after yesterday's ceremony, David R. Curfman, president of the National Columbus Celebration Association, accused the Colorado protesters of pushing "historical revision."

"There is room for everyone to hold their opinion … but I think we need to remember the history," he said. "What Columbus did was make it possible for this country to be the greatest republic this world has ever seen."

Said James Goodman, 78, an observer from Springfield: "We need to appreciate the past. Where would we be if our forefathers didn't come and express themselves?"

Ann Woyle of Dublin happened upon the ceremony during her weekend vacation. She said Columbus' first landing "wasn't a high point for America when he arrived, [but] he brought the East and West together."

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