Controversial Speaker Talks Memorial Day During GJ Visit

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Controversy is a word that's been used a lot to describe Ward Churchill, a former CU professor best known for remarks he made comparing 9/11 victims to a Nazi officer. And it's a word that followed him to Grand Junction where he spoke on Memorial Day.

Churchill spoke to a crowd of about 60 or 70 at Sherwood Park Monday, mostly about Memorial Day -- which he points out was first established to commemorate fallen soldiers on both sides of the Civil War.

"The framing has been lost in other agendas over the years," said Churchill. "It's to the point where people no longer seem to have any more idea about Memorial Day than they do about Christmas."

During the better part of his two hour long talk, he raised questions about why Americans don't honor soldiers on both sides of other conflicts, particularly those involving Native Americans.

"I speak truth to people as best I can and try to stay consistent with that understanding and that obligation," said Churchill. "That's my concept of integrity."

The Confluence Media Collective, a local independent group invited Churchill to speak in Grand Junction.

"We know that we're out there, we know that we're on the fringes," said Eric Niderkruger, a spokesperson for the group. "But we wanted to be able to share some ideas with people that normally would not get them."

The group initially planned to host the event at the Unitarian Universalist Church, which backed out after members of its congregation expressed "dismay" about having Churchill speak during a weekend of remembrance.

Confluence Media Collective says it was while they were trying to work out dates where both Churchill and the church were available that Memorial Day was selected for him to speak.

"With a man like Ward Churchill, who's busy speaking all over the place, you snag him when you can," said Niederkruger. "So we were able to get him on the 30th without thinking it was Memorial Day. We didn't see that until afterward."

In addition to the church incident, a local tea party group organized what they called a "counter-rally" which took place at the same time as Churchill's event, but at a separate location. (for more on this event click on the link listed under "Related Stories.")

Churchill says he's glad he came to Grand Junction, but seemed surprised at some people's reactions to his visit.

"They're free to oppose me," said Churchill. "And I'm free to ignore them."

The Confluence Media Collective says it hopes to bring more speakers like Churchill to Grand Junction in the future.

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