St. Paul, MN - “We are here today on opening day of the legislature to let the politicians know this is the day of reckoning for the poor! This is day of reckoning for the children! This is the day of reckoning for the homeless!” declared Angella Khan as she read the opening statement at the Welfare Rights Committee’s protest at the Minnesota state capitol, here, Jan. 3.
Around 30 people braved frigid temperatures, high winds and a hard layer of slick ice coating roads and sidewalks throughout the metro area to send their message to the Minnesota state legislature. The statement continued, “Today, we are here to demand that this is the year pass our GAAIN Bill - Give Aid to All In Need! We demand to raise the welfare grants! We are sick of our people being homeless and suffering with next to nothing to live on. Lots of us that are in need can't get any help at all. We are sick of government ‘of the rich, by the rich and for the rich!’”
At the 2017 legislative session, the Welfare Rights Committee (WRC) will be pushing two bills. One will double the family and individual welfare grants. Welfare grants in the state have not seen an across-the-board increase in 31 years. Their other bill is called the GAAIN Bill, for Give Aid to All in Need. It will give cash assistance to people who people who, under current law, don’t qualify for anything, even though they have no income. It will cover people whose unemployment has run out and families that have hit the five-year limit on welfare.
Before the noon rally, an advance crew of WRC members marched to every state representative’s office and delivered flyers - printed on blown-up copies of dollar bills and which stated the WRC’s 2017 demands on the back. Then, outside on the steps of the representatives’ State Office Building, members chanted in the cold and also heard speeches from supporting organizations including the Anti-War Committee, the Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar Clark, and MICAH (Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing) among others.
Mick Kelly of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization told the crowd, “Poor bashing politicians are waging a war on the poor and we are here today to make sure that war is not one sided. We are here to fight back and resist. We want the welfare grants doubled and we insist on the passage of the GAAIN bill.”
Emcee Angel Buechner led the crowd through the classic chant, “Hey politicians, we’re at your door! Stop the war on the poor!” along with many other chants old and new.
After the noon rally, the crowd made its way on the ice-coated walks to the main state capitol building, where new legislators were getting sworn in. Protesters lined up in formation and snaked upstairs and down throughout the building, chanting, “Pass the GAAIN! Double the grants!” passing both the house and senate chambers and through the capitol rotunda. After that, the protest marched to the new Minnesota Senate Building across University Avenue to distribute flyers to all the state senators’ offices.
Darnella Wade of the Welfare Rights Committee finished the rally by stating, “After the election, we are facing a Republican-controlled Senate and House. It will be an uphill battle but we, the Welfare Rights Committee, will be ready to fight against every anti-poor, racist, sexist and disrespectful attack on our families. We know that some backwards idiots are all hyped by Trump's election. We will fiercely stand up to each and every attack that these right-wing jerks try to throw at us. This is a time of reckoning!”