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Residents fight for rights group

One by one, several local residents shared reasons why they are interested in human rights. Phyllis Emmel, a mother of two American Indian children, believes human rights "have always been in my blood." "I always noticed how differently I was tre...

One by one, several local residents shared reasons why they are interested in human rights.

Phyllis Emmel, a mother of two American Indian children, believes human rights "have always been in my blood."

"I always noticed how differently I was treated when I was with them," said the former Moorhead Human Rights commissioner.

She referred to a 1980s road trip as an example during a Moorhead Human Rights Commission meeting Friday night in Moorhead.

They stopped to eat in a small-town restaurant during a trip to Bismarck. "The guy who waited on us said, 'Hurry up and eat and get out!' " Emmel told a crowd of about 22.

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Cinthia Forster, a Minnesota State University Moorhead social work student, said she was arrested on nonviolent drug charges in 2003 and that arrest has made life difficult in finishing her degree, amid her five years of sobriety.

"I think it's really important that we take a look at some of these issues," Forster said. "I know that obviously I broke the law, but how long do I have to pay for that?"

Recollections of gender, race, income, handicap and other forms of discrimination filled the air during a meeting aimed at helping the board develop and strengthen a strategic plan for the future.

Board member Tammie Yak said input from the meeting will help other members in making the strategic plan when they meet at 9 today in City Hall.

Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, director of the University of Minnesota Human Rights Center, facilitated Friday's public forum, which invited community members and past board members to garner planning input.

Questions asked of the participants included "Why should Moorhead have a Human Rights Commission?" and "How should (the board) promote human rights through education and/or advocacy?"

Suggestions and reasons why the board should remain include:

- Keeping transparency at the government level and holding its officials accountable.

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- Have a law enforcement officer act as a liaison between the board and authorities.

- Increased presence of human rights discussions in local schools.

- Have more communication between the board and the state's Department of Human Rights.

If you go

- What: Moorhead Human Rights Commission meeting

- When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today

- Where: Moorhead City Council Chambers in City Hall, 500 Center Ave.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Benny Polacca at (701) 241-5504

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