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Anti-pesticide protesters rally at Brainerd McDonald's

Protesters Bruce Sundberg (left), Christine Kokesh, John Ciminski, Barb Kaufman and Nancy Palmer hold signs outside of the McDonald's on West Washington in Brainerd Tuesday. The group was protesting the use of pesticides on potatoes which are grown as close as Pillager, Minnesota. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls) Video and Gallery2 / 2

About 10-15 protesters in solidarity with environmentalist group Toxic Taters rallied at the Brainerd McDonald's on Tuesday.

Calloway-based Toxic Taters oppose the way pesticides are used by McDonald's potato suppliers, including midwest supplier R.D. Offutt, saying it causes serious health issues to nearby people.

Before they took up positions on the public sidewalk on Highway 210, also known as Washington Street, protesters walked into McDonald's itself - toting protest signs - in order to deliver a letter to management.

There were only a handful of patrons in the restaurant at about 5:30 p.m. They either ignored the protesters or smiled amicably. A manager told Dispatch photographer Steve Kohls he would be asked to leave if he took photos.

The Brainerd protest was organized by Stephanie Porter of the Minnesota-based Land Stewardship Project. Porter said the event was in support of a Toxic Taters protest campaign at McDonald's locations nationwide, timed to coincide with McDonald's debut of the all-day breakfast menu. The protest aimed to pressure McDonald's to reform their suppliers' use of pesticides and raise awareness of a problem that doesn't get much public attention, she said.

"The average person doesn't realize that the fries that they're purchasing are causing someone 20 minutes away to get cancer, or someone to lose their sheep to poisoning," she said. "The issue's not really out there."

McDonald's committed in 2009 to improving supplier practices but had yet to follow through, Porter said.

Despite the frosty reception inside the McDonald's, Porter said the protest was a success.

"I think that was to be expected, we weren't expecting a friendly reception," she said. "But, we got the letter in, and a couple people saw what we were doing, and that's really what we hoped to accomplish."

ZACH KAYSER may be reached at 218-855-5860 or Follow him on Twitter at