The Brainerd Dispatch Online

Web posted Friday, January 17, 2003

Fisk family

Gayle Nielsen (top left); her husband, Larry Fisk; and their three children, Abra (bottom left), 9; Golden, 11; and Lad, 13; are now traveling to Washington, D.C., with a group of about 20 Brainerd lakes area residents to protest Saturday in a national march to show their opposition to a war against Iraq. (Dispatch Photo by Steve Kohls)

Peace Movement Sprouting in Area


Staff Writer

A grassroots peace movement has slowly but steadily been growing in the Brainerd lakes area within the past year, and a strong contingent of area residents is now on its way to Washington to participate in a national anti-war rally on Saturday.

It was expected to be a long bus ride today and Saturday, but for a Fort Ripley family of five, traveling to D.C. to protest was something they felt they needed to do to make a difference.

"A million and a half people (in Iraq) have died because of sanctions," said Gayle Nielsen, who along with her husband, Larry Fisk, and three children are on their way to the national march. "There is no need for this war. We tried to be peaceful out here in the country but we couldn't just sit out here and not do anything anymore."

Nielsen, her husband; and their three children, Lad, 13; Golden, 11; and Abra, 9, today joined about 20 other Brainerd area residents on the trip to Washington. They expected to reach D.C. just in time for the march, then the bus would travel straight back to Minnesota by Sunday night. There were about 10 busloads of peace activists expected to travel east Saturday from Minnesota.

This is far from the first war protest the family has participated in. Lad was just a baby when Larry hoisted his eldest son on his shoulders for a Gulf War protest in Tucson, Ariz. The day the U.S. began bombing Afghanistan, Fisk and his children protested the bombing on the streets of Little Falls. Fisk and his son traveled to Washington last spring for an anti-war march. And the entire family joined other marchers at a protest in D.C. during President George Bush's inauguration. All are active members of the Brainerd Coalition for Peace, an anti-war group that Fisk and Nielsen helped organize in March.

Last spring, the couple said they were frustrated with political discussions that indicated the Bush administration was ready to move forward with a war against Iraq. They attended a Brainerd Green Party meeting and met others who felt the same way. Their first protest was held in April at the Crow Wing County Courthouse with about a dozen protesters. Since October group members have protested every Saturday afternoon at the Highways 210 and 371 intersection in Baxter.

Now the list of coalition members has grown to more than 50 members with a core group of about 20 people, said Fisk. A Web site is being planned at, and the group has purchased a billboard on Washington Street that will be erected at the end of the month. They even have performed road clean-ups in Baxter.

The Brainerd coalition is planning a Jan. 31 spaghetti dinner to raise funds for Afghan war victims at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. They also host monthly video presentations at the Brainerd Public Library.

The peace movement throughout the country continues to grow as talk of a war against Iraq appears to be likely. Fisk said when he and his children protested in Little Falls after the first bombs fell in Afghanistan, he felt alone in his cause. Now another peace group holds anti-war demonstrations every Friday in Little Falls and the Brainerd Coalition for Peace protests every Saturday.

"We know we're not alone and we feel good about that," said Fisk. "We feel there is a chance we can stop the war."

For Fisk and Nielsen, they said they are doing all this for their children. Abra, their youngest daughter, is the family's signmaker, said Fisk.

"We're doing this for the kids, really," said Fisk. "It's going to be their world. They have to find a different way."

"I don't want to be on my death bed and think that this happened in my lifetime and I didn't do a damned thing about it," said Nielsen.

For the Fisk children, protesting issues they believe in is as important to them as it is for their parents. They are all homeschooled and study global and political issues.

"I like talking to the people. The demonstrations are fun," said Abra Fisk, 9. "I don't think it's right to bomb a bunch of civilians just to remove their government."

"It makes me feel like I'm doing something worthwhile," added her brother, Lad Fisk.

Three Pine River-Backus High School students have joined the Fisk family and others on the national march bus trip this weekend.

Jason Holden, a Pine River-Backus senior, said he and his friends Andy Twiton and Courtney Butcher were interested in the anti-war movement and decided to go. It will be the trio's first big march. Butcher's father, David, also is on the bus.

"The more I looked into it the more I became interested in it," said Holden, of war against Iraq. "And the more I looked into it, the more I realized that it was wrong. I feel it (Saturday's march) could make a difference because it's supposed to be a lot of people."

"It's an issue that's important to me, it's an issue I believe in and it's a great experience," added Twiton, a junior. "I think it will both affirm my beliefs and I'll be able to express my beliefs."

An anti-war march has been planned for 2 p.m. Saturday near the fountain in Gregory Park in Brainerd. Marchers will walk down Washington Street to the stoplights near Walgreens then to the All Vets War Memorial near the Crow Wing County Courthouse and then back to the Fellowship Hall at First Congregational United Church of Christ for a "speak out" against the war. Participants are encouraged to bring signs.

The Saturday D.C. anti-war protest is one of many protests held throughout the country and the world that day.