In what seemed like a rerun of the late 1960s, poor people in atleast 17 cities demonstrated this week to voice their complaints on such issues as welfare red tape lack of jobs, and high utility rates.
Bert DeLeeuw, coordinator of the Movement for Economic Justice (MEJ) here, which monitorred the demonstrations that occured Thurday, called them "encouraging" and said they marked "the first time in six or seven years that poor people's groups have done anything together."
MEJ, which was started in 1973 and is a successor to the now defunct National Welfare Rights Organization, plans other deomonstrations June 30, the 12th anniversary of he founding of the welfare rights group by the late George A. Wiley.
On Thursday about 200 people marched in front of the state capitol in Columbus Ohio, to protest the fact that Ohio has a surplus in its welfare budget but pays welfare families of four $260 a month, $100 less than similar families receive in eight surrounding states, DeLeeuw said.
The demonstrators also met with Kenneth Creasy, the state welfare director, who announced a huge cut in the number of unprocessed welfare applications. DeLeeuw, who took part in the demonstration, said Creasy was unwilling to endorse an increase in welfare payments but said he would inform the legislature that Ohio payments are low. Creasy could not be reached for comment.
In Grand Rapids, Mich., about 60 people picketed the county department of social services seeking more jobs and protesting a work incentive program that they say does not provide jobs or adequate training. DeLeeuw said the group successed in getting department officials to provide back rent money for a woman who was about to be evicted from her apartment.
In New York some 200 people marched on the main welfare office in lower Manhattan to protest red tape and cuts in welfare rolls.
In Madison, Wis., about 175 people staged a sit-in at the state welfare director's office and decorated it with red tape. In St. Louis, some 75 people held a night rally in the rain to protest lack of jobs and housing and alleged discrimination in a local hospital. DeLeeuw called the turnout "disappointing."
He also expressed disappointment at the turnout for a rally in Jackson, Miss., to protest the way welfare is administered. Fewer than 100 people showed up because a bus carrying more demonostrators broke down and they never arrived, he said. Similar demonstrations at the state capitol have been staged over the last month, DeLeeuw added.
Other rallies were held in Salt Lake City to protest a proposed 25 percent utility rate increase; in Providence, R.I., to protest the cutoff of gas heat to people unable to pay their bills; in four North Carolina cities in protest auto insurance rate increases; in Rapid City, S.D., to submit applications for food stamps; in Boise, Idaho, to protest welfare delays in San Jose, Calif., to seek emergency welfare aid and in Montgomery, Ala., to discuss state plans to take over the food stamp program.
In Baton Rouge, La., about 60 people met at the state capitol to oppose a bill providing that welfare mothers should work but not requiring that they be paid the minimum wage.
Here in Washington the Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law filed petitios with the Department of Health, Education and Welfare protesting welfare red tape in several localities.