Archive for November, 2012

Resisting the cuts at the local level: The Alliance Against Poverty (AAP) presents to Waterloo Regional Council’s 2013 Budget Hearings

On November 21st, local anti-poverty group the Alliance Against Poverty (AAP), a group that works closely with Poverty Makes Us Sick, made the following submission to Waterloo Regional Council, calling on it to oppose the cuts to the CSUMB and Discretionary Benefits and to step up to fill the gap left by the province’s neglect.  While PMUS strongly supports the work of the AAP, the statement below reflects the values and priorities of the AAP.  Poverty Makes Us Sick will have our chance to contribute to the budget hearings on December 5th.  We will post our submission following our presentation.

Here is the AAP submission, in its entirety.  :

Chairman, Councillors, fellow citizens –

Two years ago, when you were a newly re-elected Council, and our Alliance Against Poverty was a relatively new community group, I spoke to you here about the Region’s budget for 2011.

The Alliance Against Poverty, you’ll recall, is a grassroots group that engages in political action for the eradication of poverty.  We do not seek or accept any form of government funding.

At that time we urged you to give priority to improving the lives of the one-in-ten residents of Waterloo Region – approximately 50,000 people – who live below the poverty line.  It was the year the province started uploading the cost of social assistance, which was a boon to this Region of – was it approximately $10 million?  We said to you that an obligation existed to use this new money for the needs of the poorest people – such as supportive housing.

Well, today our faces are more stern.  The same provincial goverment that gave with one hand has taken away with the other – and you and we and every agency in town are feeling shocked and even betrayed.

I understand that the net loss to Waterloo Region will be about $3.5 million from the capping of the Discretionary Benefits, and about $2 million from the CSUMB  – for a total of $5.5 million.  A huge loss from services that are ESSENTIAL.  Not one of them could afford to be cut – they were less than adequate already.

You people and your staff are wringing your hands, trying to decide: do we cut food hampers or dental care?  How do we keep the number of homeless from going up if we can no longer provide last month’s rent in advance so folks coming out of shelters can get a room or apartment?  These problems should not have been dumped on municipalities, and you have a right to feel helpless and angry.

Now I refuse to parse these benefits, and say let’s keep that one and get rid of this one and see where we can trim another.  They are all necessary, and none of them should be cut.  Whatever we do with our money, the people who lack basic necessities have got to come first.

But I’d like to suggest that we are not at all as helpless as we feel right now.  You as a Regional government are not helpless, and you don’t have to go through this agonizing over detailed benefits.  What you need to do is offer bold leadership.

You are not helpless politically.  And you are not helpless financially.

YOU ARE NOT HELPLESS POLITICALLY:

– Has the Region lodged any complaint with Minister Milloy and Premier McGuinty?  I was glad to see in the paper the other day that Mayor Zehr and Berry Vrbanovic in Kitchener are spearheading a call by cities across Canada for federal funds for infrastructure.  Good on them; it’s long overdue.  We can do the same with the province.  The Region of Waterloo should be in the lead.

– The city of Hamilton, the district of Nippissing, and Chatham-Kent and Lambton Counties, for example, have all sent letters of protest to Ontario leaders.  Why is Waterloo not even in the parade?

– The people will support you, if you set the case before them.  Especially at the Christmas season.  What do you think would happen if 47 municipalities with one voice demanded that Ontario take back these unjust cuts, and if they all told their people plainly what’s going on?  What might happen?

– Have you ever even passed a resolution calling on Ontario to RAISE the social assistance rates, so that so many discretionary benefits wouldn’t be sorely needed in the first place?  You are not helpless.

– There’s still time to convince Ontario to restore these 2 benefits.  We shouldn’t lie down in resignation.  The people will respect you if you show some spine over something that’s so clearly a just cause.

You are not helpless politically and you are not alone – we are all here.

MORE THAN THAT, YOU ARE NOT EVEN HELPLESS FINANCIALLY:

– Suppose we do have to adapt to the loss of the CSUMB and the slashing of the Discretionary Benefits.

– The figures mentioned above seem huge:  a loss of $3.5 million from the Discretionary Benefit and $2 million from the CSUMB – a total loss of $5.5 million.

– Let’s try looking at this another way.  I believe the Region’s total budget is in the neighbourhood of $1.2 billion a year?  If we scale these numbers down to what’s comprehensible to ordinary people, it’s like saying: I have $1200 in the bank and a thief makes off with my wallet containing $5.50.  I was planning to buy bread and milk on the way home with that $5.50.  And the $1200 is needed to pay bills.  What would I do?  Am I going to stop buying bread and milk?  Of course not.  I’m indignant about the money being taken, but I’ll adjust something else to keep the essentials on the table.  It’s only a CRISIS if you think that all the other budget items are unyielding.

– There must be other areas where a little can be saved.  2 people around my table at Opportunities Waterloo yesterday mentioned that needless road work had been done on their streets.  Are we holding up every expenditure to the light of the needs of the hungry and homeless?  This has to become central to all of our thinking.  Could some expenditures be spread over more years, for example, so that there’s enough each year to replace the money for the poor that’s been taken away?

– I also want to return to the money that was saved when Ontario uploaded the cost of the disability program 2 years ago.  [Ask for answers from Councillors.] 
— Was it a gain of approximately $10 million? 
— Is this an ONGOING saving? 
— Most of it hasn’t been spent has it?  Just allocated for Light Rail Transit (LRT)-related costs?  It can be reallocated. 

You must wish you had this money now.  There was an implicit obligation to the people, to use this for poverty reduction.  If you took it away from the poor before, you can give it back to them now.  What if the LRT had to be rolled out over 5 years instead of 4?  Would it be a disaster?
We wouldn’t like it – I wouldn’t like it – but it wouldn’t be a disaster.  Not taking care of the hungry and homeless – that’s a disaster.

– We in the Alliance Against Poverty say, INCREASE funding for social welfare in times of restraint.  This would be bold and innovative.  Maintain the existing programmes and expand them to include bus passes and higher quality food hampers.  Extend dental benefits to the working poor.  Fly in the face of the austerity demon.  You know why?  Not only is the need greater during times of austerity, as we all know – BUT taking care of the base supports all of society.  It saves you on shelters, hospital beds, and policing, we all know this – and it also improves the quality of the whole community.  Businesses don’t want to locate where there’s a lot of homelessness and destitution.   They want consumers who can buy, and people they can hire who have stable lives.  Nothing destabilizes family life and mental health like poverty. 

So invest in the poor – it pays off.  Call it the trickle-up theory.  We’ve tried the trickle-down theory for 25 years, but food banks and church basements are only getting fuller.  It’s time for a bold new approach.

Don’t be helpless and don’t be resigned.  You do have choices.  You can BE more bold politically and join other regions in challenging the province’s policies.  You can be more bold financially and make a firm commitment that the poor come first,  because it helps everybody.

You can show the determination, the innovativeness, and the progressive values that Waterloo Region is known for.  You can be the leaders we elected you to be.

—– Alliance Against Poverty

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SEVEN CONCRETE WAYS TO SAVE THE COMMUNITY START-UP AND MAINTENANCE BENEFIT

Poverty Makes Us Sick has been busy working to stop the cancellation of the Community  Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB).  Our work is broad, with diverse elements.  Our well-received series of actions disrupting Minister of Community and Social Services John Milloy’s office is only one of the important strategies we are using to stop the cuts.

We’d like to take a moment to update the community on some of the other work that we’re doing.

We want everyone to understand that we can all act to stop these cuts.  There are many important ways to achieve success.  Which ways work for you?

Here’s just a few ways to fight to save the CSUMB:

1-    Email the Ministers right now!

2-    Sign-up clinics for the CSUMB.  Invite us to host one in your community!

3-    Organize an info night.

4-    Outreach to agencies, unions, front-line social service workers, faith groups, etc

5-    Address Regional Council at budget hearings.  Get others to do the same.

6-    Attend the Free Market.  Donate to the Free Market. Tell others.

7-    Participate in the call-in day to demand to your MPP to save the CSUMB.  __________________________________________________________________

1- EMAIL THE MINISTERS RIGHT NOW!

send an email – automatically! – to the Ministers urging them to restore the CSUMB. Your email will also be sent to Opposition critics. Then FORWARD THE LINK to your friends, colleagues, clients, and get them to send an email too.

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2- SIGN-UP CLINICS.  INVITE US TO HOST ONE! SPREAD THE WORD!

Folks have to get signed up for this benefit before its scheduled cancellation, January 1st, 2013! We are hosting weekly CSUMB sign-up clinics at:

Queen Street Commons Café (43 Queen South, Kitchener)
Tuesdays, 6-7pm.
Clinics run now through December 18th

We are also open to hosting sign-up clinics in other neighbourhoods if invited to do so. PMUS and other trained volunteers are available to assist in navigating the application process.  We will also offer advocacy if people desire it.  Additionally, we encourage people to include their applications in an upcoming ‘mass drop-off’.  Using duplicates of everyone’s application forms, we will publicly deliver the forms both to John Milloy and the Waterloo Region’s Social Services.  With media present we will demonstrate how needed this benefit is.

Invite us to host a sign up clinic in a community that you’re connected to! Spread the word about the free sign-up clinics!

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3- ORGANIZE AN INFO NIGHT

PMUS has hosted a number of information nights, including two presentations by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty – one of those at a town hall meeting with representatives from CUPE Ontario. We have continued building relationships with representatives from the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) and other communities, creating a widespread mobilization in our region. Our most recent community mobilization forum was Tuesday November 13th.  Help us to build new networks to strengthen this movement. Host an info night. We’ll help you put it together and you can even invite us to come present!

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4- OUTREACH TO AGENCIES, FRONT LINE WORKERS, UNIONS, GROUPS

PMUS has created resource packages for use in outreach to mainstream agencies, faith groups, frontline workers, unions, and the like. The packages are also a good way for individuals to get up to speed and active. We are doing some of our own outreach and we are facilitating outreach that might have less likelihood of success with our name attached to it (given our reputation for direct action).  Please get in touch with us to get these resources and find out more about building alliances with professionals to oppose these cuts.

Email us at forspecialdiet@gmail.com.

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5- SIGN UP TO SPEAK AT REGIONAL BUDGET HEARINGS

The Region is holding public budget hearings and we all need to have our voices heard!

The Provincial Government is downloading the responsibility of housing people onto the Regions.  The Regions, however, do not have the ability to fund this responsibility.

David Dirks, director of social services, employment and income support with the Region of Waterloo, said the cuts mean a massive shortfall.

Our friends and allies in the Alliance Against Poverty are presenting at the first of two hearings, on November 21st.  PMUS is presenting at the second hearing on December 5.

You should present at these hearings!  We can help you prepare.  Please join with us in encouraging people to present and speak against the cuts.  Tell the Region to take steps to resist the Province and to fully fund a replacement program, if need be.  Email us to learn more about what other Regions have done and what our Region is planning.

You can register to speak on December 5th, at the second meeting.  You must register by noon of November 28th. To register to address the hearing, please call the Council & Administrative Services Office, 519-575-4420

or visit: http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/regionalgovernment/budget.asp

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6- FREE MARKET.  ATTEND.  DONATE.  SPREAD THE WORD.

We host Free Markets at least once a month.  We redistribute clothes, winter gear, books, toys, housewares, baby needs, etc.  The Free Market is an ideal meeting place for community. We try to build an atmosphere that encourages connection and conversation.  The Free Market builds community – and healthy community is resistance!  The next Free Market is:

Saturday November 24th
Kitchener City Hall Courtyard (or nearby depending on available space).
1-3pm, in conjunction with a hot meal served by Food Not Bombs.

CSUMB sign-up assistance is available at Free Markets.  This month’s Free Market will transition into a rally and march with speakers and musicians demanding that the Province not cancel the CSUMB. Hope to see you there!

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7- CALL-IN DAYS.  PARTICIPATE NOVEMBER 23rd.  ORGANIZE YOUR OWN. CALL YOUR MPP.  SAY ‘DON’T CUT THE CSUMB.’

PMUS is organizing a call-in day to John Milloy’s office on November 23rd. Call in and tell them not to cut the CSUMB. There have been many such days across the province and we hosted one October 24th.  We will circulate phone numbers, talking points, FAQs and a step-by-step guide for the call in. Participate in the call-in on November 23rd and/or organize your own call-in day! Ask your networks to take part.

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We look forward to hearing from you.  We are here to support your work to save the CSUMB!  Please let us know if there are other local steps that folks are taking to stop the cuts.

See Income Security Advocacy Centre for additional analysis, info and other ways to stop the cancellation of the CSUMB. Also check out the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

PMUS has rallies planned for November 23rd, 24th and December 7th.
Sign up for our mailing list to receive call-outs!
Email forspecialdiet@gmail.com with subject line “add me to list”

Milloy’s Office Shut Down… Again! November 15th Action Recap

November 15, 2012; Kitchener—Poverty Makes Us Sick, with the SPOT Collective and the Alliance Against Poverty (AAP) were joined by the community for another disruptive action at the constituency office of John Milloy, Minister of Community and Social Services.   Twenty-two people took part in the day’s actions to stop the cancellation of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB).  John Milloy was there.  His back office was taken over and John was confronted for his assault on the poor.  Police arrived in large numbers, some of them had machine guns, yet the sergeant in charge was happy to hear us out and express her support of our cause while discussing concepts of justice and ethics vs. the written law.  Two catch-and-release arrests resulted from this successful shut down of the office.*  One of those arrested even made it back in time to the office to continue protesting, much to the staff’s surprise.  The office was unable to function from the moment the protesters arrived.

The office is now using controlled entrance, so a woman who had not recently participated in a protest at Milloy’s volunteered to gain entry – asking for assistance with a passport application.  She held the door for the rest of us.

Upon entry, speeches were delivered, with noteworthy eloquence from the person who held the door open for us.  The staff stated that they support the cuts.

Alison Murray of PMUS educates Milloy staffer on real costs of cuts to the CSUMB

Then it was brought to the group’s attention that John was in his back office!

The twelve folks who entered the office could hold space in three separate rooms, while Noel, and Stacey, led Ian of PMUS and Julian of the SPOT Collective in a disruption of Milloy’s meeting.

John was filmed as he was questioned and challenged about the cuts to the CSUMB.  John did not speak for the entire duration of our visit.  Julian and Ian also engaged, demanding answers from John and questioning his staff’s clear support of the cuts.

Disruption continued elsewhere in the office.

While filming John, and with two staff yelling at the group, Ian again managed to answer the office phone!  “Minister of Misery, we hate the poor.”

John was forced to adjourn his meeting and asked his guest to wait outside.  He was filmed the whole time and would not say a word to questions such as: “My Mom had to move us out of an abusive situation when I was little.  What’s she supposed to do now?”

John then decided to lock himself in another room.  His meeting guests left.  The first cop entered.  The cops stood by patiently as Ian, Julian and Stacey banged on the door and the group yelled “shame” in rhythm.

Numerous police engaged in a productive dialogue with protesters.  We discussed the official channels that police had to oppose these cuts among other important subjects.  We also informed them that they could leave.

Julian, Ian and Stacey were still sitting, arms linked, in front of the room the Milloy was hiding in.  Every now and then they would start banging on the door and the group would chant.  The cops would politely wait for us and then re-engage in offering their support for our cause.

Police and protesters chatting about justice, ethics and the law

Ian had been issued a trespassing order by staff when he first arrived and the three copies he had ripped up, in succession, sat in a pile on the floor.  Milloy’s staff wanted punitive measures for this as well.  The Sergeant looked at Ian and said; “I don’t care that you did that.”

Staff continued belittling some of the protesters.  While the chat with the cops hit new heights of intellectual muster, Noel took out a dirty baby diaper, threw it on the pile of trespassing orders and told the staff: “this is you.” Noel then expressed her anger that she was not being engaged in her first language and continued addressing the staff in French.

Throughout this entire disruption all of the participants took their turns expressing themselves and outlining the devastation that this cut will create.  We all said: “This is too important.  We will not let the cut happen.”

Ian and Julian were arrested and others were removed.  Though Julian states that he was treated well by the cop who arrested him, it must be noted that Ian was not handcuffed while Julian was.  Julian walks with a cane.  Ian is more visibly able-bodied.

When the cop got in the cruiser, with Ian in the back he said: “where are ya going?”. Ian joked: “The Queen Street Commons Café”. The officer typed it into his GPS.  When he dropped Ian off at the café he did issue a ticket along with an apology for having to do so. Julian was dropped off at home.

Ian Stumpf of Poverty Makes Us Sick waiting to be chauffeured to the Queen Street Commons Cafe, his destination of choice, after being arrested and issued a trespass ticket.

Activists show their solidarity as two arrested protesters are driven away by police.

More protesters had arrived at Milloy’s office, so Ian went down to the cop shop to gather those who were doing arrest support.  The group went back to Milloy’s and while the AAP held their monthly meeting out front of Milloy’s office, the rest of us did some rush hour picketing and property beautification.  A sign that once read; John Milloy Kitchener Centre, now reads: John Milloy’s che centre.  A new sign was also left, replacing one of his signs.  It reads: John Milloy, Minister of Homelessness.

*The experience that we have had to date with members of the Waterloo Regional Police Services in our actions at Milloy’s have been relatively positive, bordering on cordial even.  However, we know that this same police force does not, and will not, hesitate to target and brutalize the poor, marginalized, racialized, homeless, and young people who live in our community today and who will be even more vulnerable to their abuses should the CSUMB cuts come into effect.  The individual compassion of these officers, and their acknowledgement of the negative impact that further cuts to the much-needed supports to the poor will have, do not change these truths.  Further, we stand in solidarity with our activist allies in Sudbury, whose treatment at the hands of Sudbury police should make absolutely clear the role of police in enforcing state brutality on those who dissent.

What the F@$% is that?! Just one of the many weapons brought to the scene by police in the face of this peaceful occupation.

November 9th Disruptive Action at Milloy’s: Voices of the People

November 9, 2012; Defiant, resilient, and determined, Kitchener-based anti-poverty activists facilitate another disruption at John Milloy’s office to stop the cancellation of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit. Organizers with the Alliance Against Poverty (AAP) hosted today’s disruptions along with friends from the community, including Len Carter, President of Waterloo Regional Labour Council.

Following a rousing disruption on November 2nd – where workstations were unplugged, phones were answered by protesters and the tactical unit showed up to chat with Poverty Makes Us Sick – the doors to the office were once again locked when the mobilization arrived on Friday.

Claire, who participated in the action to demand justice, noted Milloy’s staffers’ ongoing inability to work, even behind locked doors. She challenged their petty anxiety and “selfishness”, explaining: “If they cut these things people are going to be more desperate. Do they realize what they are doing to people’s health?!?  I deal with depression and if they cut these things everyone’s health is going to get much worse.  It just doesn’t make sense, but I think they do know – how can’t they know?”

While locked doors didn’t slow down the protesters one bit, Len Carter did express his disdain with Milloy’s aggressive attempt at silencing voices, saying: “The arrogance of Milloy for not opening the door and listening to us, to not receive us is just beyond unreasonable. John Milloy, as Minister of Community and Social Services, must be seen to be listening to people’s needs around social assistance and act accordingly [on those needs].”

Protesters crowded the hallway outside of the office and, with irate staffers looking out through the window in the door, began panhandling towards housing costs from visitors to Milloy’s office.  The visitors, who staffers whisked in and out of the office while forcefully keeping protestors out, “were as greedy as John Milloy”, says AAP’s Oz Cole-Arnal, adding “We didn’t get anything from them either. We told them all about the cancellation of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit, though.”

Outside, picketing took place along the busy road. Protesters at both locations got creative and began to sing. “We sat outside singing ‘no more poverty, no more homelessness!’”, explains a member of AAP. The lyrics were linked to melodies and themes of classic protest anthems. She continues:  “I’m a small landlord and the people I rent to are vulnerable. I’m worried about what is going to happen to them, and to me, if this fund is gone.”

Milloy and his staff have called police in to use force against the poor in his community – who dare to demand basics means for health and shelter – at least 3 times in the past week.  This time, representatives from Allstate, who have offices down the hall from Milloy made the threats.  They were again met with shrugs. We will not back down. These cuts will not happen.

AAP’s Nadine Quehl reflects: “Disappointing as it was to be locked out, it’s even more disappointing that Milloy wants to do yet another study. But the people who are being directly affected aren’t being welcomed at the table – he’s talked about bringing in local business people (to discuss the local fallout from the cancellation of the CSUMB)! We’ve got enough studies. We’ve got studies coming out the wazoo! Locking us out reflects the fact that they are intentionally blocking out the reality. It’s shameful. We need to restore the CSUMB.” Referencing Marget Mead’s famous quote about small groups changing the world, and citing the swelling numbers fighting back against these cuts, Nadine continued; “soon he won’t even have a choice.  He’ll have to listen to us!”

Claire refused to be silenced, so when she got home she called the office and had a nice long talk with them. Oh, if we could have the transcripts to that conversation!  When asked if she’d be back to protest, she said: “oh yeah, as much as it takes! This is for my safety.  This is for my health. I also want them to pay for my vacation.  My brother says no government will ever pay for a vacation.  I say ‘why not, they get paid for their own?’  Everyone else gets one.”

Oz wants people to understand that this tactic is viable and vital: “As far as I’m concerned with Milloy being the Minister of Community and Social Services, we have to be there constantly, we have to be there all the time to make him understand that we’re not going to stop until the CSUMB is restored and until the special diet is restored to its initial rate and that OW and ODSP rates are restored to pre-Harris levels and pegged to inflation – then we may pause for a while.”

Fighting to win in Kitchener!

Play-by-play of November 2nd action: a humble offering for broader tactical analysis

Friday November 2, 2012.  Poverty Makes Us Sick facilitated a community mobilization at Minister of Community and Social Services John Milloy’s office.  PMUS was joined by a number of folks who attended the Kitchener Town Hall to Save the CSUMB, with OCAP and CUPE, last week.  It was satisfyingly disruptive and there were even some good laughs.

The office was evidently still weary from our last encounter, this past Tuesday, when PMUS and allies set up an emergency storm shelter.  The door was locked when we arrived, which hadn’t been the norm here.  We were later informed that this was a new ‘security feature’.

As some of his staff mocked us through the window from behind the locked door, another staff member appeared beside us.  You see, Milloy’s office doesn’t have its own washrooms.  We came just at the right time, as one of his staffers needed to get back in after a washroom break. Imagine that!  So we entered along with them.

Upon our entry, Debbie, a member of the Alliance Against Poverty, gave an articulate overview of the troubling realities relating to the proposed cancellation of the CSUMB: “…and to do this in January as the cold of winter sets in.  It’s just so unreasonable and cruel”.

Next, Bella, whom we met at the town hall, told the staff how it is!  She spoke with the passion expected of a savvy activist, whose life is also situated in the reality offered by social assistance.

Our friend Shereen shared some of her story and day-to-day struggles.  She rightly challenged the staff’s willingness to participate in this government’s anti-poor agenda. Shereen wanted answers, but staff responded with paternalism.

Then we sang everyone’s favorite protest anthem: “We’re not going to take it! No we ain’t gonna take it!” We did this primarily as an icebreaker, as many of us didn’t know one another.  At this point some went outside to picket on the busy street.

Those inside took to disruption.  We asked staff questions, even as they were on the phone.  We had  loud conversations amongst ourselves.  No one was able to work.

We inquired about the locked door and became aware of a ‘buzzer thing’ that let one of the staff open the locked door from their desk.  So, we unplugged it.  Then we thought, ‘why stop there?’ so, we unplugged an entire workstation – computer, photocopier, gadgets.  When the staffer came back to their desk they got mad at their colleague, saying:  “what did they do?  Were you here the whole time?!?”  The co-worker hadn’t seen us do it, but nevertheless, actually apologized.  They then struggled for some time to figure out how to get everything back up and running.

Disruptions continued.  We were told that police were called, but we didn’t believe them and it turns out that we were right.  The police weren’t actually called until later.

At this point a desk again became available and PMUS member Ian Stumpf took the receptionist chair.  Then the phone rang.  “Hello, Minister of Misery’s office” answered Ian.  The caller laughed and laughed saying, “it really is that bad isn’t it?!?”

“Hello, Ministry of Misery….”

Ian continued on: “I don’t think anyone here can take your call – too many cuts.  Oh, wait are you poor?  Then no, they don’t want to speak with you.” Ian tried to pass the phone to the overwhelmed staff but they just kept yelling: “hang up!” So, he did.  The laughter never stopped on the other end.

Then, a senior Milloy staffer came in.  She had been called in specifically to deal with us.  She scolded the group and grabbed Ian by the arm, shaking him while she yelled (she also pushed and grabbed Ian at the emergency storm shelter). Oddly, moments later the staff started making contrived statements about them feeling threatened. They even did so in a tone that made clear that they were ‘acting’. We sat there with our florescent posters in hand. She then slammed a door in rage –angrier now that we weren’t doing anything.  We took this opportunity to point out that we are demanding that the CSUMB not be cut so that people can flee genuinely threatening conditions.

Pierre, also with our action team, calmly went about presenting a more thorough explanation of how these cuts will prevent people from fleeing actual danger.  He was cut off with Shelly reappearing to yell: “We don’t care!”

Police were actually called at this point and the team went over how folks were feeling.  Several people wanted to stay and we communicated our situations to one another.  Some of us decided to position ourselves right in front of the office of the staffer who made the call.  We wanted them to see us being brutalized.  We wanted them to rethink why they would have us taken away from our loved ones just because we are saying not to cut a vital benefit.

The police arrived with the tactical unit.  Only one rep from the tact unit accompanied the three cops to enter the office.  Bella, our police liaison, met them outside and laughed when she saw the tact unit.  We held our ground for sometime, until Ian was left as the last protester in the office.  The cops finally forced the conversation to a close with Ian suggesting that it was silly for them to believe that they wouldn’t have to “talk politics” with him as this was a political action at a constituency office.  Ian stated that he couldn’t in good conscience leave the office and was ready to let police do their thing.  They descended on him and three officers had him stand.  They told him to walk forward towards the fourth officer.  The cops followed him, guiding him with their hands.  Then they opened the door and pushed him out.  Then they came out and said: “we appreciate what you’re doing.  We see the effects of what you’re speaking to everyday.  Having to do that (throw you out) doesn’t mean that we have a particular stance on the important issues that you’re acting out on. Keep up the good work.”  We took some pictures of them with our placards, leaning a cardboard Poverty Makes Us Sick banner against their cruiser.

Out of the office and into the streets!!!

Next time we will have even more female-identified people there.  We believe that the staffers declared ‘anxiety’ may be alleviated by this.  Today our action team’s ratio was 3 women to four cis-males.  **All names of non-PMUS members have been changed.

P.S.  Thanks to Julian Ichim for introducing us to the term “Minister of Misery”.

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