Bookman: Why was parade anti-war message OK in Old Town (‘06), but not in downtown (‘07)?

       Was the St. Patrick's Day Parade different when it was in Old Colorado City?
       Eric Verlo was pondering that question - along with a few bruises and legal issues - after being arrested with six other people at the St. Patty's Parade on its first year in downtown Colorado Springs March 17.
       The St. Patty's Seven were each charged with failure to desist or disperse, according to Colorado Springs Police spokesperson Lt. Rafael Cintron. Their scheduled court date is April 10.
       Verlo has owned the Bookman bookstore in the Red Rock shopping center since 1990.
       The report in the police blotter states, in part: “Officials at the St. Patrick's Day Parade notified CSPD Officers that a group was attempting to march in the parade without a permit, and that they had an anti-war message that was in violation even if they had a permit.”
       Verlo, who is active with the left-wing Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission, did not dispute the part about the anti-war message in an interview this week, but noted for the record that the Bookman did have a parade permit (entry number 21 of about 100 entries). The group had actually gone a block or so before police stepped in.
       Parade organizer John O'Donnell could not be reached for comment by the Westside Pioneer, but was quoted in the Gazette (the local daily newspaper) that “social issues” are taboo in the parade and all participants agree to that.
       However, the Pioneer has a photo showing a Bookman contingent in the 2006 parade through Old Colorado City (entry number 93 that year) dressed in peace-sign- emblazoned T-shirts and displaying the same sorts of generic anti-war banners as in this year's parade.
       As in 2006, “we made sure they (the signs) were non-confrontational, just about peace,” Verlo said. For instance, there was nothing about the Iraq war or impeaching the president. “All we meant to do was share our message with the people watching the parade.”
       The Gazette quoted O'Donnell as saying he did not know the Bookman had displayed anti-war signs in 2006.
       “Did he not watch the parade last year?” asked Bookman manager Patti Mulkey.
       The only noticeable difference appears to have been the number of people. Verlo said there were about 45 people in all, marching around the bright green Bookman van - roughly twice the group's number from '06. However, Verlo said O'Donnell had put no restriction on that.
       Asked if he thought there was a difference in the parade being downtown for the first time, Verlo replied, “I'd like to see the parade back on the Westside. It was a different thing when it was here. The atmosphere is different from the rodeo-parade kind of feel downtown.”
       Last year's parade, attended by about 20,000 people, went east on Colorado Avenue from 27th to 17th Street.
       This year's followed a course down Tejon Street through the downtown. The arrests occurred near Tejon and St. Vrain Street.
       Verlo and another arrestee, Elizabeth Fineron, said they suffered bruises during the arrest process. Police claim they repeatedly told the Bookman group (numbering more than 40 people, according to Verlo) to leave the parade route. All of them did, except the seven, who were arrested because “they refused, sitting on the street and being uncooperative with the officers. The seven had to be physically removed from the route,” the police report states.
       Verlo, corroborated by Mulkey, said he did not comply immediately because the police did not identify themselves or explain why their direction was being issued.
       Verlo was driving the van. He said he had stopped it when police pulled him from the van and handcuffed him.
       Cintron noted that police are conducting an internal investigation of what happened. People who witnessed the incident or took photos or videos are asked to step forward. The Westside's Gold Hill Substation can be reached at 385-2100.
       Verlo said he would have been willing to pull out of the parade if he had been approached beforehand by parade organizers. But even now, he said, O'Donnell has not spoken to him.
       Mulkey noted that there had been no attempt to hide the group's message: “We all had our T-shirts on” for at least a half-hour before the parade started, she said.

Westside Pioneer article