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MN Politicians Told

Smash the Five-Year Limit Clock

by Michael Wood |
February 1, 2001
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St. Paul, MN - "We are here at the state capitol demanding that this government stop attacking the poor! We are here to demand an end to the 5-year lifetime limit on welfare for families in poverty!" declared Deedee Francis, of the Minnesota Welfare Rights Coalition.

Despite freezing temperatures, 200 people of all nationalities came to the Minnesota State Capitol Jan. 3 to protest against welfare time limits. Before moving inside the building, activists stood on the outside steps giving speeches and chanting, "Tick by tick and tock by tock! Stop the 5-year limit clock!"

"In this state, in less than a year and a half, 5000 families could be cut off welfare. In one criminal swoop, up to 15,000 children could be thrown into the streets! This government isn't ending corporate welfare. Instead they are harming poor families!" said Deb Konechne.

Deedee Francis and Deb Konechne are members of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul based Welfare Rights Committee, one of the groups in the Minnesota Welfare Rights Coalition. Other organizations that are part of the coalition include Low Income People Organizing for Power from Duluth, People Escaping Poverty Project (P.E.P.P.) from Moorhead, Minnesotans United for Social Justice from St.Cloud, Working Poor of Mankato, the Winona Chapter of Welfare Rights Coalition, and Miikana Bimaadiziwin of Virginia.

Duke Schempp of Moorhead's P.E.P.P. firmly said, "We will not allow this attack upon our lives to continue. We are going to fight against every attack on welfare every step of the way!" Joining him from Moorhead was 11-year-old Franky Martinez who was dressed in a chin-to-knee clock costume, and who was pursued by his brother wielding a large cardboard hammer. Martinez spoke over the loudspeaker, "They say that we, the children, are the future. I say, WHAT future?"

10,000 hand-cut paper dolls representing future homeless children were thrown from the second floor of the Capitol, and fluttered down over the crowd in the rotunda below. Capitol police tried to take a bag of paper dolls from some children, but the young protesters managed to empty the bag of dolls over the balcony rail.

"This government needs to end poverty instead of ending people's right to survive! We will smash the 5-year time limit clock!" Christina Hosmer told the rally. Then, a 9-foot tall papier-mâché hammer was raised to rip a clock banner. "Politicians! We're at your door! Stop the war on the poor!"

The protest coincided with the opening day of the state legislature, and it marked the beginning of a battle that will continue throughout the legislative session. "We're fighting for a clear, simple, and just set of demands," said Linden Gawboy of the Minnesota Welfare Rights Coalition. "We will not let reactionaries or poverty pimps set the agenda at the capitol," she added. Over the past several years, a handful of fake "advocates for the poor" have worked to undermine the fight of low-income Minnesotans.

Protesters also demanded that the state government make up for the federal cuts to immigrants, along with the abolition of "sanctions". Sanctions are grant cuts used against those who are supposedly not "in compliance" with the welfare program. Most of the sanctions are illegal and arbitrary. Sanctions mean hunger and homelessness.

The protest was attended and endorsed by many religious, youth and labor groups. Martin Goff, of the Minneapolis hotel workers' union H.E.R.E. Local 17, spoke strongly against corporate welfare and called for ending welfare time limits. According to Goff, the politicians need to "hear us or fear us."

Jane McDonald, of the Sisters of St. Joseph, demanded that lawmakers "Serve the needy, not the greedy." All the speakers stressed the importance of protesting. "Just because it's a law doesn't make it right. We learn from history that the only way to end injustice is to organize against it. That is what we are doing and will continue to do," vowed Marvella Davis of Duluth's L.I.P.O.P. "If there's no justice, we will give them no peace!"