A ceremonial boat carrying an elaborately costumed modern-day Columbus made several passes at a landing site in San Francisco before motoring off to derisive cheers from the 4,000 people gathered along the water's edge, supported by kayaks and other small craft.
San Francisco may be home to many Italians, proud of Columbus's memory, but it also has plenty of American Indians and other activists who regard the Genoese explorer as nothing more than a plundering, genocidal imperialist on a par with Adolf Hitler.
At the city's Columbus Day parade this weekend, floats were pelted with eggs by a mob bellowing 'Mass-murdering pig]' An undaunted Joseph Cervetto, dressed in period costume and riding in a replica of the explorer's ship, flourished his sword in reply. There were reports of fisticuffs between Italian-Americans and protesters. Molotov cocktails and bottles were hurled at the police, who made 40 arrests. The Italian consul-general was hit by two eggs.
In general, it has been a rough year for Columbus.
At Berkeley near by, the city renamed yesterday's Columbus Day as 'Indigenous Peoples Day', and laid on performances of an opera by the Indian composer White Cloud Wolfhawk, called Get Lost (Again) Columbus. In Denver, Colorado, a parade was cancelled after threats of disruption. Even the film Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, has been disappointing at the box office.
One American Indian activist summed up the revisionists' position thus: 'We cannot countenance a parade dedicated to a despot, a man who didn't know where he was going, didn't know where he was when he got there, and didn't know where he had been when he got back to Spain.'
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