G.A. Minutes 7-15-14

G.A. Minutes 7-15-14

We have been absent from the CJM Memorial for an entire week. We were seriously rained out last Tuesday and on Saturday we attended the FDL Veterans Pow Wow.

There’s no rain tonight as we arrive and no rain is expected. It’s one of those rare perfect evenings we long for during the rest of the year. Small scattered clouds, temps in the mid 70s and a gentle breeze create a tranquil atmosphere. For us anyway, most of the street folks have so many problems they rarely experience any type of serenity.

The first couple of Occupiers think they’ll just sit a while and enjoy the air. No such luck. The rest of the group arrives and we quickly set up the circle. We set up the fire also but we don’t light it. We’ll know when the time is right.

The street is pretty much empty of its regular inhabitants. There are quite a few people coming and going from the casino and a lot of vehicle traffic on the road.

An Occupier asks, “Does anyone know what went on with Israel and Palestine today?” Another answers, “Yeah, they had a seize fire for a couple of hours, then Hamas shot off a couple of rockets and Israel responded by starting up the bombardment again”. An additional Occupier says, “The Israeli government just doesn’t get it. Palestinians are never going to accept living the way they are being forced to live. They aren’t going to accept more of their land being stolen. The Israelis treat Palestinians just like the Nazis treated them.” We sadly shake our heads in agreement.

An Occupier reports the Respect Your Mother Earth Festival will be held this upcoming weekend on the outskirts of Duluth. She asks if we would like to get our vehicles together and go there on Saturday. She suggests maybe we could contact the Northwoods Wolf Alliance and see if they would like us to table for them. Another says, “I think that would be a good venue for NWA”. Everyone agrees; going to Respect Your Mother Earth is a good idea.

One of the Occupiers tells a story about his developmentally disabled sister. She has a job working in a thrift store where she is paid only 50 cents an hour. “Isn’t that against the law?” he asks.

“Actually it’s not”, says another. “I don’t know what the law exactly says but I know they have an entire industry here in Duluth. They force most disabled people to work in order to receive a pittance of financial aid. I had a client once who had cerebral palsy, was D.D. and in a wheelchair. He was forced to work 40 hours a week stuffing envelopes. I think he was paid $1.00 an hour. One day he said to me, ‘I don’t like having to work this much. It seems like I hardly have a life and I’m always tired’. I didn’t tell him about the capitalist system but I told him that everybody feels that way”.

Someone else says, “Oh yeah, the 1% has to make sure everyone is working all the time. If you have time to enjoy yourself then you’re slacking. If there are no jobs and you have to apply for government assistance they’ll put you to work first in order to get your benefits. If you ineligible for benefits they put you in jail”.

An additional Occupier arrives. He has just come from a Nail Pulling Party at CHUM. He says, “Everyone had hammers and they were pulling and pounding nails out of long used boards. It got pretty loud. They’re going to use all the boards to make raised beds in the yard of the Steve McNiell homeless apartment building that is under construction right now. We all think that is way cool.

Someone says, “I was at the Food Not Bombs dinner outside the City Council yesterday. A person said a city councilor was presenting a proposal to take a part of the DECC and turn it into a casino run by the City”. We all crack up. She continues, “Our friend the government official is really giving them hell. He thinks it’s a dumb idea”. We laugh some more.

An occasional street person rides up on a bike. We’ve known him a long time but haven’t seen him in over a year. He smudges and sits down. He has had a home for some time now and is making it into an art studio. He tells of us his plans and also about a Native pipe ceremony he has just attended. He speaks of peace, love, the Creator and how everyone is connected. Of course, we agree. He asks if we know where to find sage growing around the neighborhood. An Occupier tells him and they converse about the different varieties and their properties. The former street person says, “I just started riding over this way and I didn’t know why. Now I see. You guys are still here”.

A woman who manages a local art supply store also rides up on a bike. We all know her well. She tells the man she has saved all his art work and supplies that he left behind and they make arrangements to meet up tomorrow.

A much respected local metal and wood worker arrives. He tells us he has lived in his studio for 13 years. He has always paid half his rent at the beginning of the month and the other half in the middle of the month. His landlord is getting up in age so has recently hired a management company to take care of his properties. The management company insists he pay all the rent on the 1st of the month. No excuses, no exceptions. He says, “Now I can’t buy food until I get my 2nd check”. An Occupier says, “Oh I’m sure the property management company will starve to death if they don’t get all of your rent on the 1st of the month”.

It looks like the regular street people are back from wherever they were. Many call out to us. A group of regulars come up to smudge and get their refreshments. They all appear to be drunk. They tell a story of being locked up in Detox last Saturday.

They managed to distract a staff member and they all ran out the front door. It’s common knowledge that anyone locked up in Detox who can manage to escape is home(less) free until the next time they are captured. One of the women thinks she may have broken her foot.

She says, “I wonder if I should go back to Detox where they’ll take care of me?” She sits down and talks about how she misses her children.

An Occupier reports that we have been asked to give an endorsement of our good friends’ candidacy for the MN 8th CD. Of course we want to endorse him but we wonder if it is appropriate for an Occupy group to endorse a political candidate. Maybe we could each personally provide an endorsement. We’ll have to talk with him to see what we can work out.

A woman approaches our table and smudges. She is sobbing. A man who knows her arrives, helps her to smudge and puts his arm around her. They walk off.

We hear someone talking very loudly from somewhere nearby. We listen and look around. We realize it is a man reciting some type of hip hop poetry at the open mic in our friends club up the street.

The street lights come on and we realize it’s time to leave. It’s a shame to go in on such a perfect night but we need to rest and carry on another day. Looks like we won’t be back until next Tuesday.

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G.A. Minutes 7-5-14

G.A. Minutes 7-5-14

It’s almost 90 degrees and very humid as we roll up to CJM tonight. The sky is grey, looking possibly like rain. We decide to set up without starting a fire. In this heat it would be crazy to start a fire. However, the weather in this city can change in a minute. We’ll wait to see. The worst that will happen is that we’ll get wet.

The street is pretty quiet again, almost, but not quite empty. The 1st Occupiers to arrive are slowly bringing things into the space.

An Occupier who has been out of town for a while arrives and says, “Where is everybody?” “

Oh they’ll show up,” is the answer. Soon a young Occupier appears, bringing the Occudog with him. We haven’t seen this dog in over a year and she doesn’t remember us or the fact she had been christened the Occudog. She barks at everyone who shows up. She’ll need to get reacquainted.

As we’re settling in a woman from the street asks for something cold to drink. Most folks know the routine by now. We set the snack table slightly away from the circle so people can help themselves and not have to interact if they don’t want to. If they feel like sitting with us they are welcomed, if not, that’s o.k. too. In spite of this, everybody always asks before they take anything. Most are very careful not to take what they consider to be too much.

An Occupier reminds us that Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance will meet this upcoming Friday, 1pm at Randy’s. She also reminds us that we are planning to attend the Pow Wow out at Big Lake on the Fond du Lac reservation this upcoming Saturday. If possible, we will assist with tabling for the NWA.

2 older women from the street who we have known for years arrive. They are twin sisters and have been living the life for many years. They smudge; get their snacks and stay to chat. We ask them, “Where is everybody tonight?”

They answer, “Down at the carnival”.

We remember that this time every year a traveling amusement show comes to the Bayfront. Homeless people might go unnoticed in those surroundings.

As the women depart an Occupier mentions that Food Not Bombs will be having their feeding event in front of City Hall on Monday. They will attempt to hold a free food event every Monday before City Council meetings.

This leads into a discussion of city government and one Occupier says, “Remember that we had planned to go visit the mayor on the last Tuesday of July?”

The Occupier who has been out of town asks, “Oh, what’s up with that?”

She answers, “The mayor has open office hours the last Tuesday of each month from 5pm-7pm. I suppose we can talk to him about homeless issues, that’s what we know most about. Also I’m going to ask him why he didn’t appoint me to the Human Rights Commission”.

“Oh really?” says the other Occupier. “Why do you think he didn’t appoint you?”

Another says, “It might have something to do with not wanting an Occupier on his commission”.

She laughs and says, “Yeah, probably but I think it was really because of the comment I wrote on his Facebook page the day after he held that press conference in Superior announcing his support of Enbridge and all the environmental pollution they want to bring to our beautiful land and water. A lot of people were reaming him out and I was feeling particularly poetic that day so made a pretty good comment. I remember just before I pressed enter, I thought that it might cost me a seat on the commission. Oh well, I’ve known the mayor as just a regular person for years. I didn’t think he would be that petty. I guess he is. I think being in the current political system corrupts people. It’s probably for the best. I’ll do better just attending the meetings and working from the outside”.

Just then a cool eastern breeze blows across the Memorial. Everybody stops talking and says, “Whoa!” We just sit in silence for a few minutes to make sure what we’re feeling is actually happening. Then we start up the fire.

An African man from Senegal sits down. We had met him briefly last fall and we remember him. He starts talking and we listen. He expresses frustration over the fact that many white people don’t like his black skin.

He says, “If they don’t like it they need to keep that to themselves and at least be civil when working with or interacting with me. I mean, it’s just skin. What’s the big deal?” He speaks of his frustration dealing with African Americans from the neighborhood,

“They don’t like me much either. They want to intimidate me by saying they are gangsters from Chicago. So what? I’m from a country where there is civil war. A country where they slit your throat just because of your last name. I’m supposed to be afraid of a gangster? When they see that the so called gangsters leave”.

A female Occupier responds, “Well right here we’re pretty much about getting along. Pretty much about peace”.

The African visibly relaxes smiles and says, “Yeah, peace is so easy. Why does everyone want to fight?” He then begins talking about playing his drums.

One of the Occupiers is also a drummer so they carry on a conversation about the spirituality of drumming. The man also tells us a little about his travels throughout Europe.

An older African American man comes walking over. He looks drunk and angry. We gone through this routine so many times; we know what he is going to say and do before he even starts.

He yells and points to the sculptures of the 3 black men who were lynched here in Duluth in 1920. That lynching is the reason our Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial was created. The angry man says, “Those men were killed by white people! White people! You don’t belong here! You don’t have any blacks here!”

The African man jumps up, assumes a fighting stance and says, “Get out of here!”

We say, “Come sit down and talk with us about it”. Both of the black men stare each other down and the African American man stomps off.

The African man says, “That’s disgraceful. They bitch about you being here yet they come here and drink and smoke crack and stuff. This place is sacred. What do they think they are doing?”

He sits and talks a little more but begins to yawn. He states, “Tomorrow is Sunday. It sure is nice to wake up in the morning and know that you don’t have to go to work”. As he leaves, he promises to return another day and bring a couple of drums.

The street lights come on and the 2nd shift is arriving. As we are packing up an Occupier says, “Well that dude shot my stereotype all to hell. Because he’s from Africa I expected him to be very sexist but it appears that he’s not”. We all laugh and plan to meet here again on Tuesday.

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G.A. Minutes 7-1-14

G.A. Minutes 7-1-14

It’s one of those “it might rain and it might not” evenings. It’s been like that all day with various shades of white or grey clouds passing over. It didn’t actually rain all day so we’re gonna bet it won’t rain tonight either.

The Memorial is empty, the street is empty too as we set up our things. Seeing as it’s the 1st of the month we’d half way expected the place to be packed full with street dealers and customers. Seeing as the place is empty we think the people who get small government checks probably got paid yesterday and are off trying to enjoy a few days of relative comfort before returning to the street. An Occupier says, “Some people rent a motel room for a few days and take showers, sleep in an actual bed and just lay around for a few days. After that their money’s gone until the next month.

By now we’ve learned you never know what’s going to happen around here. We’ll just have to wait and see how the evening unfolds.

Someone says, “Hey, did you notice the no drinking, smoking etc. sign is gone from the fence?”

Another responds, “Maybe the members of the CJM BOD actually listened to what I said to them when I went to their meeting last week. However, the sign wasn’t put up there very securely so maybe somebody from the neighborhood just pulled it down”. The Occupier goes on to tell the story of his visit to a CJM BOD meeting. He told them the sign they had posted on the fence was offensive to street people. He also told them a sad story about the time he tried to find housing for a very pregnant homeless woman. Everything was full and he watched her walk off into the night; probably to sleep in a doorway or a bush. When he finished his story a BOD member asked primly, “Have you ever heard of the CHUM?”

We all groan. We know the woman who the story was about so we know she worked as a maid in one of the big hotels and didn’t get off work until 6:30 pm. The CHUM requires everyone who sleeps there to be in the facility by 6pm on the 1st night they stay there. They make no exceptions, even for extremely pregnant women. A sizeable portion of our city’s homeless population is not allowed to stay at CHUM for a variety of reasons. Many Duluth citizens believe all any homeless person has to do is show up at CHUM and they will be welcomed with open arms. Everyone who has any clue at all what the life of the homeless is like knows this is far from the truth.

The street is still empty. The only passersby are musicians who are going up the street to an open mic at our friend’s recently opened club. We know most of these musicians and wave and exchange pleasantries. We lounge about, enjoying the warm weather and watching the clouds. Every once in a while we feel a raindrop or 2.

An occasional Occupier comes walking up. We haven’t seen her in months. She sits down and says, “So what’s the topic of discussion tonight?”

Someone comments, “The building kitty corner from here is for sale”.

She answers, “No kidding? Tell me more”. She’s blind so we describe the large, 3 story brick building to her. She’s also a founding member of CJM and has many connections with organizers and politicians in the city. She writes down the phone number from the For Sale sign and tells us, “I wonder if it would make a good multicultural center? I’m going to call and see what they have to say. Seeing as it’s in this neighborhood, I doubt they are asking a lot of money for it”.

Another Occupier remarks, “Yeah, especially seeing as how beat up the old Kozy is now. It looks really bad and it doesn’t seem Ringsred is going to do anything about it. If we could get African Americans and Natives to work together, we could tell the City that the casino was going to buy it, they would quickly sell it to the African Americans to prevent the casino from getting it. Then both groups could split the building and have a multicultural center”. Everyone laughs and then discusses the difficulties black and Native street folk sometimes have getting along with each other.

Someone says, “It’s so sad. If the 2 groups would work together, they would be so powerful”.

Another friend, former camper and neighborhood cab driver stops by. He grabs some lemonade and tells us about the actions he and others are planning re: Neonicotinoid poisoning of the world’s bee population. Then he has to go back to work.

A couple of women come over to get watermelon and a smudge. Another woman sits for a bit and tells us she is waiting for her mother to come out of the casino. She can’t go in to look for her because she had herself banned from the place. A serious gambling addiction forced her to apply for self-banishment. Now she has money to pay bills and buy the things she needs. However, Mom still likes to play the slot machines.

The topic of possible indoor meetings at our friends’ newly opened club is broached. An Occupier says, “Yeah, I’m gonna go talk with him but I want to wait until the World Cup is finished. It will be hard to talk with him when everyone’s eyes are glued to the TV set”. People talk a little about sports in general but mostly about the horrible mess the capitalist system has made of what were basically games that were fun to play and interesting to watch.

A middle aged man appears; he asks for watermelon and sits down with us. He says, “This is really good. He eats piece after piece, then starts in on the humus and crackers. Because there have been so few people out tonight, our snacks have barely been touched. We are happy to see someone making use of the food. As he eats he tells us, “You know you can’t fight City Hall. Nothing is gonna change”. We beg to differ and tell him about our battle to have our fire at CJM. He says, “You mean the mayor let you have this?” We say, “No, he didn’t let us have this. He found he really didn’t have much choice or maybe he didn’t want the headache of trying to enforce a law that didn’t exist”. As he leaves he tells us his name. An Occupier says, “He’s a member of a big African American church family in this town”.

As it’s getting dark and we are packing up, a young woman who it appears has been “working the street” for the last few hours and not having much luck, comes over saying, “I am so hungry. Do you have anything left?” We give her everything she can carry. She’s very grateful.

No rainfall tonight. We’ll be back to try our luck again on Saturday.

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G.A. Minutes 6-28-14

G.A. Minutes 6-28-14

We think we may be rained out tonight. At 6pm the temp is in the 70s and the sky is partly cloudy. The forecast is for strong and heavy rain expected to be arriving soon and lasting until sometime tomorrow. After a brief discussion it’s decided we’d better meet indoors. Seeing as this is a spur of the moment decision, we opt for the plan of last resort. Off to the Occupy couple’s house. They only live a few blocks away from the Memorial.

In a short time we are sitting around the kitchen table talking about the Idle No More Indian Taco Sale that some of us helped out at yesterday. The sale was held at the Red Lake Urban Office. The Red Lake Ojibwe Reservation is about 4 hours north of Duluth but there are many Red Lakers living in our city. The RLUO serves as a cultural center, a place to use a computer, cook and socialize.

Several Native folks from INM arrived very early to make frybread and start chopping all the vegetables. The Occupiers arrived a few hours later bringing more of the main taco ingredients and a vehicle to make deliveries. Quickly the orders started rolling in. We made and delivered tacos for about 3 hours and then ran out of food. People were still coming in and calling in but we had nothing more to give them. This was the first taco sale sponsored by INM. It was a success. They even made a small profit.

An Occupier reminds us that we have committed to helping the Northwoods Wolf Alliance table on July 12th at the Pow Wow at Big Lake on the Fond du Lac Reservation. We’ll have 2 vehicles that day so should be able take every one of our small group. Some of the Occupiers have attended this yearly Pow Wow in the past. They are looking forward to attending again.

Another Occupier says she believes that the mayor of Duluth holds an “open office” on the evening of the last Tuesday of each month. She asks if we would like to visit the mayor on the last Tuesday of July. Unanimous happy octopi.

We’ll have to decide beforehand what we want to talk to him about. We’ll need to remain focused. As we begin this discussion, we hear the rain come pouring down. Looks like we made the right decision.

We initiate a lengthy conversation covering many topics. Among the subjects covered are: the absurdity of various religions that profess doctrines of peace and love and then kill each other, the absurdity of allowing an individual to own a multitude of houses while others are homeless, the probable full legalization of marijuana in the foreseeable future, the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement and other dangerous agreements being negotiated behind closed doors by so called world leaders, the fact that Monsanto is suing the state of Vermont over its new law to require labeling of all GMOs in food, the scary fact that corporations actually believe human beings to not have the right to know what is in their food and the absurdity of the U.S. education system which spends 13 years forcing citizens to get up and be some place on time in preparation for a life of slavery.

As we are talking, an Occupier has quietly been cooking and chopping in the background. He presents us a delicious pot of “real” wild rice and vegetables. We stop talking to notice the hour is quite late and we are all very hungry. There is plenty of food and we have 2nd and 3rdhelpings.

Then it’s time to call it a night. The rain continues. One of the Occupiers packs those on foot into his vehicle and drives everyone to their homes.

The weather promises to be warm and dry for at least the next week. We’ll attempt to have our next meeting at CJM on Tuesday.

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G.A. Minutes 6-24-14

G.A. Minutes 6-24-14

It appears that summer is over. We had a couple of really nice days a few weeks ago and yesterday it was really hot for a couple of hours. That’s been about it. Mostly it’s been raining with temps in the 50s. There’s a fine mist in the air and a strong east wind when we arrive at the CJM Memorial. It feels very cold and the place is empty.
We know how to remedy that. We have the fire roaring in record time, coffee and homemade lemonade put out; we all snuggle up close to the warmth.

An Occupier questions whether we should hold all our outdoor weather meetings at CJM. She says, “Here there are so many disruptions, it might be a good idea to hold some meetings in a different, calmer space”. Another Occupier says, “Actually, according to some of my readings, this issue is a major debate among Occupy groups all across the nation. Some say the most important thing to do right now is to discuss political issues, theory and strategy. Others believe it’s more important to meet and work amongst ‘the people’. Personally I think we should do both. Our friend up the street has just opened a new neighborhood music club. He has a back room that could be used to meet in. We should go and talk with him”. The 1st Occupier agrees and just as they begin to discuss the particulars, the 1st “distraction” appears.

A middle aged, rather attractive, well dressed blonde woman comes walking down the street and heads toward us. She is not wearing a coat; only a short sleeved shirt. She is yelling loudly as she tells us all how much she loves us and gives hugs all around. Her behavior is manic; she bounces from chair to chair as she yells and goes from one story, midstream, into another. We ask her to try and calm down. She stops, says, “I don’t even know why I do this!” and bursts into tears. She then starts up again, yelling and running around.

A small man wearing a leather jacket with Native designs arrives and asks for a cup of coffee. He sits down and joins us in our attempt to calm the woman. An Occupier asks, in an aside to him, “What is she on anyway?” He says, “Oh that’s psychic pain you’re seeing. She’s probably been drinking but mostly she has a bad spirit. There’s not much you can do for her right now”.

The woman suddenly jumps up and runs into the middle of the street. She continues with the yelling and hopping around. There are many cars in the street. Some have to swerve to avoid hitting her. Many are beeping their horns.

An Occupier remarks, “We have to call for help. We can’t just leave her like this.” A quick consensus of all present, says yes to calling for help. The Occupier takes a cell phone off to the empty back ledge and calls the Chief of the Bike Patrol. She gets an answering machine. She calls the main homeless outreach worker and gets an answering machine again. She leaves a message and calls the number she has for generic homeless outreach and a man answers. He says, “Oh, I know who she is. The only thing you can do with her when she gets like this is to call 911”. The man agrees to call 911 for her. The Occupier returns to the group and says, “They’re on their way”.
The infamous street woman, who we know well, arrives with 2 other women. The crazy acting woman comes to the sidewalk and she and one of the other women begin a round of “bitch this and bitch that”. We call to the infamous woman and ask her to please give us a break as the crazy woman is “toast”. Her friend immediately ceases the insults. The wild acting woman runs to a cab that is sitting on the corner, jumps in and the cab drives off.
Just as she leaves, the main homeless outreach worker pulls up. The Occupier explains what has been going on and gives the outreach worker the number of the cab. The outreach worker calls the cab company and explains the situation. It’s now up to the cab company and the 911 people to deal with the problem.

“Oh I know the crazy woman well,” says the worker. “When she gets like this all you can do is call 911. They’ll take her to Detox and when she wakes up in the morning she’ll be talking normal again”. She then tells her usual story about the refusal of social workers and the police to notify her when there are problems with her clients. She says, “So many issues could be taken care of at the very beginning if they would just contact outreach”. The Occupiers says, “Sounds like it may be a problem of them not wanting anyone else to get credit or operate in their territory”. The worker says, “You know, you may be right”.

While they have been talking, the infamous woman and several others have been waiting, appearing to want to talk to the main worker. The Occupier walks back to the fire and the others go up to the workers’ car.
When they are finished, the outreach worker drives off to the next crisis and the infamous woman walks over, makes a point of looking the Occupiers in the eye and says, “Thank you.” This is surprising, as that same woman had verbally attacked us many times last year. Someone says, “She told me she was trying to quit drinking and is looking for treatment”.

A large Native man comes to the fire, smudges himself and sits down. He tells us he is a Lakota sun dancer and that our fire and burning sage remind him of home. He graces us with a song. While the large man is singing, the small leather jacketed man begins flirting with one of the female Occupiers. The singing man addresses the small man saying, “I’m going to stop now. You were using vulgar language and disrespecting the song”. The small man says, “Don’t accuse me of being disrespectful”. They begin arguing. The Lakota man says,”You were disrespecting our grandmothers and our traditions”. The man with the leather jacket responds, “You’re right, I shouldn’t have done that. I apologize”. The Lakota man continues to lecture the other man and an Occupier says, “He apologized to you. A lot of men are not able to do that”. The Lakota states, “I agree. I’m sorry to be arrogant and to have a bad attitude”. Both men shake hands several times and depart, each going his separate way.

The Occupiers are alone at the fire; everything is quiet. One of the group returns and says, “Did you see the new sign on the fence? It says there is to be no drinking, smoking or fighting here. I’m sure it’s the work of the CJM Memorial BOD member who doesn’t like us. I guess she thinks all it takes is a sign to change people’s behavior”. We all laugh.

A late Occupier arrives and we say, “You missed a lot of drama”. He begins a discourse about the minimum wage issue and tells us Wisconsin has just passed a minimum wage of $10.10/hr. He says, “That’s just enough for a person to lose their food stamps, subsidized health care and any other benefits but not enough to support a family. One needs a minimum wage of at least $15 to survive”.

A neighborhood woman who is a personal friend of several Occupiers drives up. This is the 1st Occupy meeting she has attended. She brings a load of wood, a freezbie and her dog. The dog does tricks with the freezbie.

Suddenly many street people arrive at the fire. There are too many to count. All our chairs are full and many are standing. The coffee has all been drunk and the lemonade is on its way out too. People are socializing in small groups. The vibe is friendly. The Lakota man returns. Unasked, an Occupier gives him her seat. He sits close to the flames and sings a few songs. His voice is strong and deep. All are quiet. We share the time in unity and meditation.

When he finishes, an Occupier says, “Crap. Look at the time”. We quickly pack up. The street people help us. Someone asks when we will return and we tell them it we’ll be back on Saturday.

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G.A. Minutes 6-17-14

G.A. Minutes 6-17-14

It would have been a very warm day today except for a light east wind which pleasantly cooled things down. Funny how one freezes one’s butt off for much of the year; then when summer arrives we worry about being too hot.

The Memorial is full of people upon our arrival tonight. Folks appear boisterous and happy. It’s a special night for us too. Tonight we bring the first of the years’ big container of homemade lemonade. Everyone loves it. Simple pleasures are a big deal to those on the street.

It seems everyone in the space wants to spend time at our fire this evening. They quickly fill up all our chairs; some remain standing.

Some Occupiers remind us that this upcoming Saturday is the Summer Solstice. They ask if we all would like to attend a Solstice celebration to be held out in the country. Unanimous happy octopi.

An Occupier asks another, “Will you be willing to ride shotgun in the delivery car for the Idle No More Indian Taco Sale on Friday, June 27th 11am-3pm? The other Occupier answers, “Sure, if you remind me”.

Seeing as our meeting is filled with street folks tonight, we don’t expect to discuss much business. The first topic of conversation is sex trafficking. We think the major point of debate these days is whether it should be made completely legal or if it should be made illegal with the stipulation that the criminals be considered to be the pimps and the johns while the trafficked people are acknowledged to be victims of coercion. Everybody agrees trafficked people are victims and that legalization benefits the pimps and johns while making life even more difficult for the victims.

A street person leaves the Memorial saying something about an abortion clinic. This triggers a brief discussion of the abortion issue.

An Occupier says, “I’ve been told that sometimes when a trafficked woman becomes pregnant she is forced to give birth to the child and then the traffickers take the child and use it as a sex slave just about from birth on. They don’t get a birth certificate so there is no record of that baby/person ever existing”.

Another says, “Whoa! That’s too creepy to even think about”. The 1st Occupier answers, “Yeah, that’s what I thought too but it is actually a reality”.

An Occupier has a cabin deep in the woods outside of the city. He speaks of a housing development that was started in the same area. Development was stopped when the economic crash happened. The rumor is that a major renovation of all the dirt roads was planned. The Occupier investigated further and discovered that the area was found to contain the only source of palladium (an important rare earth mineral) in the U.S. He thinks some corporation is planning on creating a mine in this beautiful wilderness. The Occupier owns the mineral rights to his property but is unsure if other residents own theirs.

As we are talking, a couple of men in green uniforms walk up. It says Park Ranger on their shirts. They say, “Oh we just wanted to see how everybody is doing”. We make small talk with them and as it appears they are questioning our legal right to be there, an Occupier says, “Believe it or not, we actually have a letter from the DPD Chief that says we are cool to be here”. The Rangers leave.

However, during the rest of our meeting we notice squad cars circling much more often than usual. Coincidence?

Someone brings up the topic of container homes. Apparently, New York City is investing largely in these homes.

An Occupier asks, “Do they have bathrooms and running water and stuff?”

Another answers, “Yup, they have everything just like a regular home”.

An Occupier who has been attending city commission meetings says, “Our main homeless advocacy group suggested investigating the use of container homes but was told if they attempted to use these homes the City would sue them”.

The street people have gone off to their sleeping places and CJM is empty except for the Occupiers. Then, who should come around the corner……….. but our good friend the older grey haired woman. We all laugh and call her name. She comes to sit and she and an Occupier exchange stories about their time spent living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

It’s getting dark, so considering the time of year; we know it’s quite late. As we pack up, our grey haired friend says, “I need to start getting here at 6pm. I’m never ready for these gatherings to end”.

As we are leaving we see one last squad car watching from the intersection. Once we are all in our vehicles, it drives off. The DPD will have to wait until next Tuesday if they want to attempt to intimidate us again.

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G.A. Minutes 6-10-14

G.A. Minutes 6-10-14

Bright sunshine and clear skies greet us this evening. Unfortunately there’s a cold wind which makes it feel more like October than the beginning of June. Oh well, at least there’s no snow.

The first Occupiers to arrive set things up quickly as we need to get the fire going right away. Once the flames are dancing, everyone feels a lot better.

Several Occupiers attended last night’s City Council meeting. They give a report. It was an unusually long meeting. It started at 7pm and it wasn’t until a little after 11pm that the subject of the CJM Memorial was introduced. There were 6 or 7 speakers; all spoke in favor of granting the Memorial local historical site status. The CJM BOD member, who has been insisting the Occupiers remove themselves from CJM, spoke but made no mention of Occupy.

The Occupier speaker was the last to speak. She narrated in some detail the activities of the Occupier meetings at CJM over the last 3 years. Her presentation was well received and several city counselors took the time to assure the Occupiers that the meetings at CJM were considered a valuable contribution to the Central Hillside neighborhood. The counselors specifically stated they would not allow others to harass or attempt to intimidate the Occupy meetings.

The Occupier reporting on the council meeting stated, “The CJMM BOD member who has been harassing us was sitting right there as the counselors were saying all that stuff. I would think she will back off now”. Everyone is delighted with this news.

One of the items on last night’s City Council agenda was rank choice voting. All the Occupiers who were present at the meeting say the discussion of the issue was very heated and confusing. They think at the end of a very long debate the council voted to completely reject the rank choice voting concept. They also voted against allowing an appointed group of experts to study the concept and issue their findings. The Occupiers don’t understand why a study was not allowed. Someone says, “Maybe they would have to pay for the study and the City can’t afford to do so?”

A young man who has visited our fire several times explains the mathematics involved in rank choice type of voting. He says the system would work well when only 3 candidates are in an election race. If there are more than 3 candidates running, things don’t work so well. We’ll just have to believe him, as none of us have the time or energy to figure it out.

Speaking of 3rd party candidates brings us to the subject our friend who is running against Rick Nolan for U.S. House of Representatives seat in the 8th congressional district. An Occupier states, “I just can’t support Nolan after he sold out about PolyMet. How can a person have a consistently good record on all environmental issues except for one? The one environmental issue he won’t support is a mine that is guaranteed to pollute all our fresh water and destroy our wild rice”.

Another replies, “Yeah, I know he wants to get reelected but so what? I’m sure he’s comfortable enough financially and he’ll get a pension even if he loses. I’m so sick of watching people sell their integrity for money and power”.

A couple of Occupiers arrive with a couple of bags. They tell us they have brought the ingredients for making s’mores. Cool. We find some sticks and everyone takes turns roasting marshmallows. We tell stories about the last time we each made a s’more.

An immaculately dressed young woman walks up. “What are you doing?” she asks. We tell her and invite her to join us. She says, “Oh cool. I haven’t done this in a long time”. As we chat she tells us she is working as a stripper at a place just down the street. She says pickings are pretty slim these days as other women in her business are willing to do extra things for the customers that she is not willing to do.

She generally moves around the country a lot but is thinking of staying in Duluth for a while. She asks if we know of motels that rent by the week. We offer suggestions and one Occupier exchanges phone numbers and offers to help her apply for whatever government help may be available.

An older Native man who has been visiting our fires regularly this year arrives. He is kind and has a good sense of humor. We’re happy to see him. He smudges and joins the conversation.

The street has been fairly quiet this evening but as evening turns into night people run by and grab a cup of coffee or juice, a cigarette, a smudge or just a few good words. This is a routine occurrence. They are heading off to their sleeping places.

The conversation has turned to a discussion about the incomprehensible manner of thinking that rich people employ. Someone says, “Oh, but remember, it’s easier for a camel to walk through a needle than for a rich person to go to heaven. Or something like that”.

Another says, “Well I wouldn’t mind trying to put a rich person through a needle”. We laugh and then someone else says, “Hey, I have an idea. We’ll do that next Saturday. Everyone bring one rich person…….” “I’ll bring the needles”, says someone else. We’re getting silly now. That’s generally a clue that we’re overly tired and need to go home.

It seems weird to be packing up when it is still light. However, it’s very close to summer solstice and still light at 9:30pm. We probably won’t be able to find any co-operative rich people but we’ll be back on Saturday anyway.

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G.A. Minutes 6-7-14

G.A. Minutes 6-7-14

It’s been raining since last night. A slow steady rain, perfect for helping all the green things grow. An hour or so before our meeting at CJM it stops drizzling. A good omen?

Everyone arrives on time this evening. Maybe that’s the reason the clouds part; allowing sunshine to beam down on us.

A couple of Occupiers have brought food to go with our usual coffee and juice. We have a pile of organic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with onions and potatoes wrapped in tin foil to be cooked on our fire.

It’s always a good idea to bring food on Saturday evenings because the Mission feeding station doesn’t serve dinner on Saturdays. Street folks are generally quite hungry on the last night of the week.

Our friend, the City official is joining us at our fire. We haven’t seen him in a while and are pleased he has found the time to be with us. There is new business with CJM that we need to discuss. An article in the DNT alerted us to news concerning a member of the CJM BOD.

Apparently this BOD member is planning on putting a resolution before the City Council. The BOD member will ask the council to issue a statement proclaiming the Memorial a local site of historical significance. If the council will agree to do this, the BOD member wants to then make an official “code of conduct” to be applied to all who set foot on the site.

We think it all sounds pretty silly, however we know what her real motive is. She has always been vehemently opposed to the Occupiers holding meetings at CJM. The moment, years ago, she found out she began complaining to the DPD and anyone else who would listen.

She says we are being disrespectful. She’s never attended even one of our meetings and we have no idea what she’s talking about. We hadn’t heard anything from her for at least 6 months but here she is again.

A few of us agree to attend the City Council meeting on Monday to try and counter some of her nonsense. Our friend the City official will be there too.

There’s some movement on the street tonight but not a lot. The people who do cruise through are happy to get a sandwich. A young man has been sitting on the back ledge with 2 women that we know. Eventually the women leave and the young man is left sitting alone. That’s when we notice he is so intoxicated he can barely walk. We assist him to a chair by the fire.

It’s hard to understand his very slurred speech. The most we can make out is that he’s real tough and he likes to fight. He also says “help me” and” pray for me” from time to time. We try to feed him but he’s not interested. He asks for a cigarette and then asks for the smudge pot to be handed to him.

An Occupier says, “You’re not supposed to smudge when you’re drunk”.

He says, “Hey, you’re not Native!”

The Occupier responds, “That’s true but that doesn’t mean I don’t know nothing”. For some unknown reason that response seems to settle him down.

As we continue our conversation, an Occupier reports there will be a demonstration at UWS at 11:30am on Monday. Idle No More will be having a meeting Friday 1:00pm at Randy’s. Also a well-known local artist, hipster and good friend is celebrating her 70th birthday on Friday.

A couple of somewhat older guys walk up. It is apparent they are friends of the drunken young man. They nod to us and go over to him. One guy takes a look at the back of the young man’s head and says. “So you still haven’t got that fixed, huh?”

Youngblood says, “No and I ain’t gonna. I’m gonna die next week”. Both of his older friends try to convince him he needs to go to the emergency room but he keeps refusing.

The City official says, “Maybe we should call homeless outreach”. An Occupier nods toward the boy’s 2 friends and says, “Looks like we already have homeless outreach”.

An Occupier who is a nurse goes to look at the large cut on the back of boy’s head and says, “Damn! That’s deep”. The friends tell her the young man got hit with a crow bar maybe 3 days ago at a notorious local Bar.

“No, was yesterday.” Fist loosely clenched he swings at the air and misses. “I knock you out.”

Several Occupiers are questioning if someone should call an ambulance. Another Occupier says, “We need to ask his friends”.

They ask and the friends says, “Well, he’s not gonna go by himself and he definitely needs to see a Dr.”

An Occupier calls 911 and we all sit down to make small talk and wait.

After about 20 minutes, 3 squad cars roll up; a cop gets out of one of them and comes over to the circle. We don’t have to point out the injured party; the cops spots him right away. The boy turns and notices the DPD has arrived. He responds with belligerence to the first cop and immediately 2 other officers appear.

One stands the boy up and the other cuffs him. The boy lunges aggressively at the cop in front of him. He says “I’m goin hit you.” The cop steps back and says, “Come on man, you can’t hit me. You’re in handcuffs!”

We tell the officers that Youngblood wasn’t causing any problems; he just really needs to go to the ER. It’s always a dilemma for us when we’re faced with these situations.

When you call the DPD you never know if they’ll help or if they’ll make the situation worse. With all the Occupiers standing around watching, they’re treating the boy very gently. Once they’re out of our sight, we have no idea what they will do.

A few more of our friends show up including one who has had his own battles with the police. He is a major permaculturalist and has spent years trying to establish his right to plant food in public spaces. We talk about how there are so many groups of people working on different parts of the system. We hope to all be able to come together for mutual survival when the system crashes once and for all.

It’s still light outside but we notice a few of the “2nd shift” folks appearing. That means it’s time to go home. As we’re cleaning up, a man comes by saying he and his children are hungry. We give him all the food that we have left.

We plan to be back here on Tuesday.

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G.A. Minutes 6-3-14

G.A. Minutes 6-3-14
It’s summer time now. Finally. The official beginning of summer won’t be for another 2 ½ weeks but tonight it is definitely summer.
We are all in shirt sleeves as we arrive at CJM. The Memorial is full of street folks and quite a few little children are also running around and having fun. There’s a festive feeling in the air. At first we think this is due to the beautiful weather but then we remember, it’s the beginning of the month. This means that people who receive small government checks have just been paid. They’ll be buying alcohol and/or drugs. Everyone appears very happy now. We know from experience things will go downhill as the night goes on.
We set up and prepare the fire but we don’t light it right away. It’s still pretty warm outside so we’ll wait awhile.
An Occupier asks about the latest news from the Northwoods Wolf Alliance. Another Occupier says, “Well you know the NWA founder has moved on to other things so they have to regroup. They’re having another Indian Taco Sale on June 27th”. The Occupier also reports some NWA members have brought up the subject of getting a Stop The Wolf Hunt referendum on the MN ballot. The majority of MN voters do not support a wolf hunt. There is some discussion about the process and feasibility of doing this. An Occupier comments, “I wonder if that would fit into Anishinaabe principles? You know the members of NWA need to consult with their Anishinaabe elders before beginning major project.
Someone reports that several of our Native friends took a trip to Rosebud Lakota Reservation last week. They went to observe a Lakota school that uses the Walden method to teach Lakota language and culture as well subjects commonly taught in the U.S. public schools. Our friends were very impressed and excited. They are planning on opening an Ojibwe school in Duluth. The Lakota teachers told them they were specifically teaching their grandchildren because theirs is the generation that will fight the final battles for the air, earth and water.
The subject of defending our Mother Earth segues into discussion of the Polymet mine. Some of the people at the Memorial are getting really loud. A young woman is getting up in the faces of many of the African American men and yelling at them, using racist terms. The men try to ignore her. She doesn’t stop so some of the men begin yelling back at her. Somebody says something and she goes stomping off in embarrassment. The men laugh at her. The whole interchange was earsplitting but we have absolutely no idea what it was about.
An Occupier asks how things are going with our good friend who is running on the Green Party ticket for the 8th CD seat against Nolan. Another says our friend was able to get enough signatures from residents of the 8th CD to allow him to have his name on the November ballot. The next meeting of our friend’s campaign organizers will be in the Lincoln Park pavilion this Thursday at 6:30pm.
Someone mentions the City of Superior is planning to hire a consultant to create a wage and benefit recommendation in regard to all City employees. This consultant will cost $30,000. “Oh great,” says an Occupier, “Instead of using that money to pay the workers, they’ll hire someone to make a plan for them to pay the workers less”. We shake our heads in disgust.
Somebody also mentions that last weekend at the state DFL convention they voted to table any resolution on the PolyMet mine. An Occupier says, “Cowards”.
We begin a conversation about Guantanamo but the voices of the street people are so loud that we can’t hear each other. Mothers and children are at our table pouring glasses of apple juice. The littlest ones are crying. The original loud woman is back and still loud, a group behind the wall appears to be selling something, 4 or 5 older men are walking around as if they were zombies and there’s lots of laughter coming from the back ledge. A man we have been acquainted for several years comes over to visit. He always has a great sense of humor and he gets us laughing too.
Just then, a woman who has been to our fire a few times stumbles over and plunks herself down. A couple of Occupiers look at each other and mouth “Oh no”. All visits we have had from this woman in the past have been disastrous. Her speech is unintelligible and she also has a zombie like quality about her. Everyone seems to know and watch out for her. No one wants to talk with her so she’s stuck with us. Or is it the other way around? She seems to be enjoying the warmth of the fire, then opens her big purse and begins throwing things into the flames. It’s mostly paper but we have to watch her closely as there’s no telling what she’ll do next. She takes out a bottle of alcohol, gulps some down and quick as a flash throws the rest of the bottle in the fire. Yikes! An Occupier runs to get the grabber thing, but too late……. We hear ssssssssssss….BOOM! Fortunately that’s all that happened. No damage, no one hurt. Then after 2 or 3 tries, she stands up and leaves. Many of the people in the space also leave.
Huh? An Occupier says, “Everyone is probably hurrying to get to CHUM before curfew”. Another Occupier says, “Well how can they do that? They’re all so messed up they won’t be let in”. The 1st Occupier answers, “Oh they’ll be let in. There’s only 1 staff member on the night shift and people get a break at the 1st of the month”. The 2nd Occupier says, “Oh great, a person must feel real safe sleeping at the CHUM under those conditions”. The 1st Occupier nods knowingly and says, “Yeah”.
One more Occupier says, “Why do they live that way? Why don’t they take personal responsibility and straighten up? “Another says, “Well what if you came from a horrible family, were abused and ignored? What if you were an orphan? What if you had little education, no family, no prospects, no options and no hope? If somebody offered you a little substance to change your perspective for a bit, what would you do?” The 1st Occupier is silent.
We decide to pack up early as all the ruckus can be draining. As we are doing so, a large older man we haven’t met before comes off the back ledge and walks over to us. In the earlier ruckus he had been attempting to calm people down. He says, “I’d like to apologize for everyone’s behavior here tonight”. We smile and say, “Oh man, we’ve been coming here for years. It’s really no big deal”. The man shakes everyone’s hands and goes back to the ledge. When we return on Saturday, we expect it will be quieter.

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G.A. Minutes 5-24-14

G.A. Minutes 5-24-14

The first arrival at the CJM Memorial this evening is a solitary Occupier. As she drives up one of the regular African American businessmen of the street walks over to her car. “You fixin to set up?” he asks. She says yes, he answers, “All right then” and walks back to his post.

It’s been a pleasant, sunny day with a slight east wind. Once the sun goes behind the buildings a fire will feel good. The Occupier sets down a chair and sits to wait for others to arrive. One by one folks roll up. As we start to get things together several men sitting on the back ledge join in. They grab armfuls of chairs and put them in a circle. Things are ready to go in no time. Then all the street people leave. We are alone in the Memorial and the street is empty. What happened? Even though we have been meeting here for 3 years, some things are still a mystery.

Somebody says,” Did you hear that the Veterans for Peace are not being allowed to march in Duluth’s Memorial Parade this year? That really sucks”. Another says, “Yeah it does suck but it’s great publicity. They’re having a Memorial Day ceremony at 3pm by the bell above the Lakewalk instead. I bet a lot of people will come”. The 1st Occupier answers, “Yeah, I’m going to go just to offer support”. Someone asks if there was a March Against Monsanto in Duluth today and is told probably not but there was one in the Twin Cities and many all over the world.

We hear a beautiful melody nearby. It’s coming from a hippie guy who sells handmade wooden flutes on the street. We’ve known him for years. He comes over and says, “Are you guys going to make a fire?” We nod yes and he says, “I’ll come on through later” and goes off towards the downtown area. He goes looking for tourists that he can charm. Maybe he can sell them one of his flutes.

Along comes a skinny Native guy. He’s wearing a very strange looking set of headphones and staggering as he walks. He asks us what we are about but before we can explain much he tells he is a member of the Native Pride and his title is that of Chief of Central Hillside. He recognizes some of the Occupiers as he has seen them around the hood. He notices the smudge pot and says, “You guys smudge? You are alright!” He smudges himself. We have been told people are not supposed to smudge if they’ve been drinking. We don’t think it’s our place to remind him of this. Now he appears comfortable, sits down and begins to tell his story. Apparently, we have found our “new best friend”. The first thing out of his mouth makes us cringe. “See those 3 black guys up on the wall? What about Natives? Do you know how many Natives were killed? Why didn’t they make a memorial for Natives?” Most Native people we meet don’t say things like this but we have heard this idea expressed so many times it makes us want to scream. We start to contradict him but he doesn’t appear to be hearing anything but himself talking. He then tells us about all the fights and other things he’s experienced and all the bodily injuries he has. Then there’s a list of all his children and grandchildren. He pours some coffee and starts over again. Same stories with slight alterations. An Occupier attempts to join his conversation, but no luck. The Chief just doesn’t stop. As he goes on and on and on…….. and on, his stories change enough that they contradict the original. We look at each other and groan. We can’t ask him to leave; this is public space after all. We’re not going to leave but he’s driving us crazy. We are at our wits end.

Another guy comes walking down the hill and over to our fire. He doesn’t speak, pours himself some apple juice, sees the smudge pot and says, “Oh you smudge, thank you very much”. He sits down next to the Chief and gets an earful. He begins to calmly disagree with the Chief. Mr. Bigmouth doesn’t actually listen but he calms down a bit. He continues his rant but it’s softer now so we can hear the new guy as he tells about his brother who has just returned home from many tours as a Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the guy who calmed the Chief leaves, 2 women who look like middle class homemakers come walking around the corner. They are quite friendly and want to know what we are doing. We explain a bit and tell them what the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is all about. They are out of town tourists staying with their families in a nearby hotel. They decided to take a walk around and see what they could see. The Chief says to them, “You know you women don’t look like you belong around here. You need to be very careful and be sure to get off the street before dark”. He points to the Occupiers and says, “These guys are hippies and everybody know them. They’ll be o.k.”. The women laugh and say, “We’ll back with our husbands before then. They only let us leave them with the children for short periods of time”.

The Chief then says, “I’ve been in lots of fights. Wanna see my scars?” He pulls up his shirt. The women look and say, “Oh my!” When the women leave they have big smiles on their faces. One Occupier says to another, “They’ll be telling the story of this experience to their friends for years”.

As the sun sets many people arrive. The flute seller is back, the Ho Chunk elder arrives, an older woman we have known for years appears and a black street regular man who is well known to us joins us. He brings a friend. The street regular’s friend seems hesitant to become a member of the circle and the man says to him, “If we sit here the police won’t bother us”. We were getting ready to let the fire burn out but throw on a couple more pieces of wood so the new arrivals can enjoy the flames.

The smudge pot goes around again and the Ho Chunk elder sings an Honor Song. The Chief yammers on but nobody is listening. An Occupier whispers to the street man, “We were waiting for you all to come and save us”. It seems many of the new arrivals know the Chief but no one appears happy to see him. We sit and chat and then the fire is dying. As we are packing up a former camper arrives. The woman he is with apparently is related to the Chief. She angrily chastises him saying, “What is wrong with you?!? You know you’re not supposed to be smudging when you’re drinking! You’ll bring bad energy on everyone!” Now we know we weren’t imagining things. He did have a slightly bad vibe about him.

We say good night to folks and remind them we won’t be at CJM next Tuesday. We’re going to Winona LaDuke’s “Love Water, Not Oil” 7pm at Clyde Iron. We’ll be back at the Memorial next Saturday.

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