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Denver Columbus Day Parade Is On, Despite Hoax

A Denver parade in honor of Christopher Columbus is on _ despite a phony e-mail that circulated Thursday saying the downtown celebration was canceled for lack of funds.

The Sons of Italy's Columbus Day Parade Committee in Denver was shocked to learn of the e-mail sent to the media, which was signed by Sons of Italy President Richard SaBell. The fake e-mail said protesters had "ruined" the event and tarnished the legacy of an Italian hero.

SaBell rushed to assure people the e-mail was a hoax after local media and The Associated Press started reporting Saturday's parade was off. He said he reported the phony e-mail to Denver police.

"I feel violated," said SaBell, adding he didn't know who was behind the hoax. "This whole thing is bogus. The parade was never off."

Denver police said its computer crimes unit is investigating.

Colorado has observed Columbus Day since 1907 and is credited with being first to make the day a state holiday. Columbus Day has since become a federal holiday.

SaBell said some 200 people are expected to participate in this year's parade, with thousands more likely to watch. He said the group spends up to $10,000 putting on the event each year, a tab underwritten in part by bocce tournaments.

"We do this every year. It's not going away," he said of the parade.

The event also has a history of confrontations between organizers and activists who believe Columbus was a slave trader whose explorations touched off centuries of oppression of American Indians. Parade supporters say he was a brave explorer who opened a new world.

About 240 people accused of disrupting the parade were arrested in 2004. They were acquitted or had their cases dismissed.

In 1992, the parade was canceled after four people were acquitted of blocking the parade the year before. The Sons of Italy-New Generation revived the event in 2000. That year, 139 protesters were arrested, but the cases against them were all dismissed.

Cold, wet weather dampened turnout at last year's parade, which was stopped briefly when a group of activists tried to present organizers with a "Treaty of Transformation."

This weekend, light snow is forecast for Denver, with highs only about 36.


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