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Minnesota welfare rights activists protest at Governor’s Mansion

By Kim DeFranco |
January 12, 2016
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Protesters outside the Minnesota Governor's Mansion.
Protesters outside the Minnesota Governor's Mansion. Photo credit: Kim DeFranco
Protesters outside the Minnesota Governor's Mansion.
Protesters outside the Minnesota Governor's Mansion.

St. Paul, MN - Members of the Welfare Rights Committee (WRC) and their supporters “occupied” the Minnesota Governor’s Mansion on Jan. 8. The protest demanded Democratic Governor Dayton give aid to all people in need.

Angella Khan of WRC opened the protest: “We are here to send him a message that we are sick of our people being homeless and suffering with nothing. Lots of us in need can’t get any help at all!”

Khan fired up the crowd by shouting, “So what can the governor do?” The lively crowd responded with, “Plenty!” Khan continued, “The numbers are in and his state will have another surplus. He can help all families, people, workers and children that need help now! We can’t wait another day!”

The WRC’s statement noted that the state of Minnesota is forecasted to have another surplus: “This brings the forecast balance to $1.871 billion, up from $865 million at the end-of-session (in 2015).”

Last Minnesota legislative session, WRC wrote a proposal, “Give Aid to All In Need,” that was introduced as the GAAIN bill, (SF1426 & HF1533) by Sen. Chris Eaton and Rep. Susan Allen. The GAAIN bill instructs the state to give cash grants to people who have no income and are still looking for work. When the 2016 session starts in March, the welfare rights activists will again be marching to the State Capitol to advance the bill until it becomes law.

Khan proclaimed, “The Governor should pass our bill. Together we can push the politicians to pass it so it can be signed by him!”

Then the energetic crowd responded by chanting, “Hey Governor Dayton, we are at your door – Give Aid to All in Need!”

Darnella Wade, a 16-year WRC member, spoke to the crowd: “Enough of the blatant disregard for the quality of life of more than 70,000 children in Minnesota.”

She continued, saying, “The GAAIN bill will stop the financial terrorism committed by our local government since 1986. For 30 years, the Minnesota Family Investment Plan and the General Assistance grants have not been raised. Let this sink in – 30 years, families, children and single people have been getting the same grant amount. This is criminal!”

Wade ended, saying, “Let us be an example to the nation! Minnesota is a state that cares!”

Later in the day as the governor, along with the legislative leadership, was meeting inside the mansion, WRC members ran into the governor’s press secretary. The activists conveyed their concerns about the governor ignoring poor peoples’ issues by refusing to meet with them directly. They handed the press secretary the WRC statement and demanded the governor be given the information. Later that day, the group received confirmation that it was in the governor’s hands.  

As the workday ended, the House Speaker Kurt Daudt, a Republican, spoke at a press conference outside the mansion. The WRC confronted him before he left about how he and his party also refuse to help the poor in Minnesota.

At the evening welfare rights rally, Loretta Van Pelt spoke, saying, “They say that Minnesota is the number one state for everything, but what they don’t tell you it is number one for is people doing alright. But for those of us that don’t have jobs, work for minimum wage or get assistance, it’s not that great. This bill needs to pass.”

As the protest at the Governor’s Mansion came to an end, the crowd demanded, “What do we want? GAAIN! When do we want it? Now!”

For organizations and individuals that want to endorse the GAAIN campaign email the Welfare Rights Committee: [email protected]; or visit their website: http://welfarerightsmn.com.

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