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Sons of Italy® Protests Denver Verdict

Press Contact: Kylie Cafiero, (202) 547-2900 kcafiero@osia.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. - February 1, 2005

OFFICIAL STATEMENT ATTRIBUTE TO:

The recent jury verdict in Denver which acquitted 8 political activists who disrupted the 2004 Columbus Day parade in that city is irresponsible in its total disregard for the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

The Italian Americans who organized and marched in that parade had a legal right to do so. They obtained a parade permit and had a right to march.

The activists who blocked the parade, however, violated the rights of their fellow citizens and broke the law when they ignored police orders to disband.

Given these facts, we are bewildered by the jury's verdict of not guilty.

We found the defense of "ethnic intimidation" ridiculous and so should have the jury. Columbus Day does not constitute hate speech. It is a celebration of one of our country's oldest patriotic holidays. What's next? Protesting the Fourth of July or Thanksgiving?

Clearly, these activists are using Columbus as the straw man for their own political and social agendas—agendas which, apparently, do not include respecting the rights of others or the Constitution.

This miscarriage of justice will have serious repercussions not only for future Columbus Day parades but for the right of Americans everywhere to exercise free speech.