Ely's got plenty of people in need, as you might expect from a boomed-and-busted mining town on the Iron Range.
Its poverty rate of 16 percent as of 2016 was just under the St. Louis County-wide count, and the median income of $37,500 certainly means anyone with kids, health problems, or unforseen financial impacts could probably use some help.
Try telling that to Andronico Luksic, a born-rich Chilean billionaire whose holdings include the Twin Metals mining concern and a house he's rented to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. The place was big, 7,000-plus square feet, more than enough space for one or several of those impoverished Iron Range families to live in, but was still a disappointment to the Trump/Kushner clan. (To be fair, consider how far you want to be away from Jared Kushner.)
If Luksic chose to make any mansions available to poverty-stricken residents of Washington, D.C. or northern Minnesota, that information never went public. What is out, as of a story that appeared in the Intercept last week, is how Twin Metals shuffled more than 10 grand through a strange little Christians-love-cops charity called Shield616.
The intended target was the police department of Ely, which, by totally random sheer coincidence, is right near the proposed copper-nickel mine favored by Luksic, Ivanka's moronic and monstrous father, and absolutely no one who cares one bit about the vast and beloved Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA).
Twin Metals donated money for Shield616 to provide seven suits of body armor and riot gear to the Ely Police Department, which is, we must infer, bracing for environmental protesters of the kind who showed up in North Dakota to protest a proposed oil pipeline.
Twin Metals CEO Kelly Osborne was photographed posing with Ely cops, per the Intercept, though that picture has apparently been deleted from Facebook. Radley Balko, a writer and expert on the militarization of American police forces, notes to the Intercept that this donation is focused on defensive gear, rather than weapons of violence.
But there's a troubling implication when a private, heavily interested trans-national company teams up with a nonprofit that brags about its "vision of having local individuals, churches, bible study groups, businesses and foundations" getting involved in police funding. Is this kind of donation lobbying? Maybe not by definition.
But it sure doesn't look random.
As Balko told the Intercept:
“If police are called out to a protest against the company and the company has bought them this gear, where do their loyalties lie? You have to ask whether the gift impacts the policies.”
The mine polls poorly among people who actually live here and aren't Chilean moguls, but certain elected officials have expressed an interest in seeing it come to life, despite concerns its operation jeopardizes the one-of-a-kind wonders of the Boundary Waters.
Twin Metals' generosity extends well beyond the Ely cop shop -- the company's shelled out "Shield616 doesn't just take some billionaire's money and launder it to local police departments. No, it is multi-purpose, and also pledges to "to provide a support group for that first responder who will pray for the first responder and his or her family on a daily basis and shower the first responder with support and encouragement throughout the year."
Cool, cool. Guess the rest of us can just focus on praying for the Boundary Waters? 'Cuz God knows people aren't gonna do anything like show up and protest the opening of a potentially ruinous mine in one of the last pristine natural locales in this country. Nah, no way. Hippies and environmentalists have never protested anything in the past, and now's no time to start sticking their necks out. Did they not hear about these fancy new approved helmets the Ely Police Department's gonna be rocking? Besides, if you've got God, a Chilean billionaire, and Jared "The Only Jew My In-Laws Care About is Jesus" Kushner on your side, who would dare stand against you?
Please turn to page 44 in your hymnal, and let's all sing that song about the time Jesus suited up in riot gear to pound on protesters.