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Women arrested at Chasco parade

Four women with the American Indian Movement step in front of a float in protest.

By JAMIE JONES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 23, 2003

NEW PORT RICHEY -- As their supporters chanted and cheered, four women with the American Indian Movement stepped in front of the Krewe of Chasco float in protest Saturday afternoon.

The women were quickly arrested by police, and the float, filled with men and women wearing headdresses and feathers, continued along with barely a pause.

The women were part of a group of about 40 AIM members from Florida and other states who stood at the corner of Wyoming Avenue and Grand Boulevard holding signs and chanting as the parade passed by about 1:30 p.m.

AIM has long said elements of the annual Chasco Fiesta offer racist portrayals of American Indians. This year, the group asked for an injunction to stop the Krewe of Chasco, which dons American Indian clothing while riding through town on a float. When AIM's legal efforts failed, it vowed to disrupt the parade.

City leaders say the event, a major fundraiser for local nonprofit agencies, is not racist and is meant to educate people about American Indians. For the first time, American Indians will participate for the duration of the 11-day event, organizers said.

Sheridan Murphy, AIM state director, said the four women had volunteered for arrest. Police did not name the women immediately, but two identified themselves as Rosie Brown of Northport and Cynthia Narcomey of Jacksonville.

"This is racism in its most blatant form," Brown said shortly before her arrest. 'We're not here for violence; we're here for peace." Brown said she is not a Native American but wanted to show her support.

The women's arrests were carefully planned with police, and officers signaled to the women when it was time for them to step in front of the Krewe float.

The four women walked into the street, and at least two tried to fall on the ground in front of the float. Police quickly scooped up the women and escorted them to a waiting car.

Those on the float barely seemed to notice as they continued smiling and waving to the crowd.

Police said the women would be cited for disorderly conduct and released from custody after the parade was finished.

Murphy said the group wanted to do something dramatic to highlight its thoughts about the parade, but not something violent or too disruptive.

He vowed continued efforts to change the annual event.

"We're not going away," he said.

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