By MATT ERICKSON. Staff Writer
A year after being denied entrance into Brainerd's Fourth of July parade, the Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace indicated Wednesday it is ready to be out in full force for this year's event.
Steve Long, BACP member, has made about 30 signs for use in the parade. BACP's entry also will include flag carriers and drummers.
But the piece that will grab the most attention is BACP's float. It will feature two coffins, one draped with an American flag, with a sign beside it that reads, "Over 800 American dead." Behind that will be a second coffin, draped with an Iraqi flag, with a sign that reads, "10,000 civilian dead." Long said maybe a child's coffin also will be placed on the float.
"It will be somber," said Long.
BACP's parade entry will have a four-part theme, he said -- support the troops by bringing them home, war and violence are the cause not the answers to the world's problems, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq are crimes against humanity and dissent is patriotic.
Long said BACP is hoping to have a good turnout of people to hold signs in the parade, though he would understand if some people might be a little shy.
"It's not like walking down Washington Street and people are driving by," Long said. "This is a little different. It takes some guts to do this."
The peace group was barred from the 2003 July Fourth parade when Brainerd Community Action officials cited concerns about security for the group.
In a settlement reached in March, Brainerd Community Action acknowledged constitutional violations may have occurred and Community Action and the city recognize that in order to protect free speech rights the procedures used to determine parade participation must be content-neutral.
In addition, a public symposium on free speech issues will be conducted this year with expenses borne by the League of Minnesota Cities or the league's insurance trust.
Although Long is upset the city hasn't fulfilled its end of the agreement by holding the symposium, he said BACP felt vindicated by the settlement and that's why the group is putting so much effort into this year's parade.
"We're not only marching for peace but the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. This is a fundamental right," Long said. "We feel very good about that settlement. They were wrong."
Nancy Cross, Brainerd Community Action executive director, could not be reached for comment.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.