Lino Lakes parade attracts 'an act of civil obedience'

  • Article by: PATRICK KENNEDY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 21, 2010 - 7:32 PM

About 20 people marched with banners advocating a welcome for all, including those who don't speak English as a first language.

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Lino Lakes residents lined Lake Drive on Saturday for the town's seventh annual Grande Day Parade, part of its Blue Heron Days Festival. The parade lineup was dominated by typical small-town participants -- political candidates, civic groups and businesses. Near the end of the parade, however, marched an unusual contingent -- 20 people following a banner that read: "Lino Lakes: A Welcoming Community."

The group's presence constituted a protest to a controversial resolution passed July 26 by the Lino Lakes City Council barring the use of city money to provide translation of many city documents or to translate public meetings. The northeast Twin Cities suburb became the first Minnesota city to pass such a measure. Nationwide, at least 23 states have passed some form of pro-English-language legislation; in several, it is being challenged in court.

Proponents of the resolution argued that it was a prudent financial motion for a local government struggling with current budgets and planning future budgets.

Opponents viewed the measure as an unfriendly gesture toward newcomers or potential newcomers who don't speak English as their primary language, and one that would make it more difficult for them to participate in city life.

Led by Lino Lakes resident Rob Scarlett, Saturday's marchers held colorful signs that said "Welcome" in 20 languages, including Czech, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Danish, Hmong, Egyptian and Nepali.

Scarlett deliberately kept the message during the parade fun, categorizing the group's participation in the parade as "an act of civil obedience."

Brian Bohne, a teacher at Centennial High School in Circle Pines who is also the school's World Culture Club coordinator, gave his reason for marching as "I'd prefer to send a message of acceptance and inclusiveness."

Scarlett and others say they're not done with the issue. They plan to meet at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Circle Pines to talk about what steps would be needed to rescind the resolution and how to help all people feel welcome in Lino Lakes no matter what language they speak.

The Rev. Steve Sylvester, lead pastor at Our Savior's, whose congregation includes 700 to 800 residents of Lino Lakes, marched Saturday with his sons, Sam and Charlie.

Sylvester, a member of the Centennial Area Ministerial Association, a coalition of several ministry groups from Lino Lakes, Circle Pines, Lexington and Blaine, has invited council members to sit down for a conversation about the resolution. His goal, he said, is twofold -- to develop a relationship with the council and to reopen a discussion on the topic.

Ivy Cavegn of Lino Lakes, who followed the controversy closely, attending City Council meetings where the resolution was discussed, was one of Saturday's marchers.

"People need to know that this is what the City Council passed, but this is not what the majority of citizens support," she said.

Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926

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