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Minnesota: Hundreds rally for justice on legislature’s opening day

By staff

Protest to ‘raise welfare grants’ and Idle No More at State Capitol

Welfare Rights Committee in MN State Capitol.

St. Paul, MN – Hundreds of people filled the Minnesota State Capitol rotunda here, Jan. 8, the opening day of the state legislature, joining protests to demand justice. The Welfare Rights Committee put forward the demands: “Tax the rich; no more cuts; raise the welfare grants.” Idle No More, which brought together Native Americans and others, drummed and danced in the rotunda under the slogan: “Honor the women, water and land.” Then the North Star Energy Coalition rallied to say no to the planned tar sands oil pipeline.

Speaking to the protest on the capitol steps, Barb Bordner of the Welfare Rights Committee stated, “We are here, on the opening day of the 2013 legislative session, to say, ‘Justice for poor and working people! Undo the cuts! Tax the rich! Raise the welfare grants!’” Bordner added, “Welfare grants have not been increased since 1986 – 27 years ago. In 1986 the monthly cash grant for a family of two was...$437. Today, in 2013, the maximum cash grant is still...$437. This is an outrage. The cost of living has more than doubled since 1986, but the poorest of the poor in Minnesota are stuck living 70% below the poverty line. We say, ‘Double the welfare grants!’”

After rallying outside, the groups joined in the capitol rotunda. Capitol security had stopped the Native American drums of Idle No More. But then the drums started beating again and the crowd immediately surged forward, locking elbows and forming security circles around the drummers and singers, who continued on without any more police interference.

Later, members and supporters of the Welfare Rights Committee marched through the capitol, chanting loudly: “Hey politicians, take a stance! Raise the grants! Raise the grants!” and “Hey politicians, here’s the fix: Raise the grants! Tax the rich!” They went to the chambers of both the House and the Senate and then Governor Mark Dayton’s office, where they presented giant checks for $437 – the monthly amount for public assistance – and challenged politicians to live on that amount for a month.

The Welfare Rights Committee is working to introduce legislation to raise the grants this session. Capitol insiders say that a small group of reactionary ‘non-profits’ are working behind the scenes to block this effort.

The WRC protest was backed by a broad range of labor and community groups, including African Women in Politics, AFSCME Local 3800, Anti War Committee, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha, Children's Defense Fund, Communities United Against Police Brutality, JOBS Now Coalition, Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee, MN ADAPT, MPLS Street Medic, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Occupy Homes, Occupy Minneapolis, Occupy Minneapolis Events, Occupy St Paul, Occupy the Hood, Old Lesbians Organizing for Change, Pro-Choice Resources, Ricardo Levins Morales Art Studio, Student Association for the Advancement of Children as People, Students for a Democratic Society University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Peace Campaign, Twin Cities RISE!, Unite Here Local 17, Welfare Rights Committee, Women Against Military Madness and the Women's Student Activist Collective – University of Minnesota.

Cherrene Horazuk, President of AFSCME Local 3800, speaking in support of upping

Fight Back! readers and Welfare Rights Committee members Virginia Amy Weldon and

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