G.A. Minutes 8-1-15

G.A. Minutes 8-1-15

When we drive up to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening we find a big Duluth Police Department SUV with all its lights flashing, parked in the entry way.
A female officer is down on her knees beside the back ledge. She’s taking many pictures of the ground and cement.

We decide to wait and see what’s going on. We park where we can and just watch her. After 5 minutes or so she gets up and drives away. Hmmmm………..

It’s another hot night with temperatures still in the 80s. There’s a strong cool breeze blowing so the weather feels close to perfect.

Our friend, the grey haired woman is waiting for us. She says, “I’m just returning from eating dinner at the Mission. It was so weird, usually the place is filled to capacity but tonight almost no one was there”.

This comment reminds us that it’s the 1st of the month. That means the street people who receive small government checks will have been paid today. If they use their little bit of money to get high, they’ll be broke again in a day or 2.

Some of the street folks hang on to their monthly pittance using it for essentials like toothpaste, shampoo, socks and underwear. Most just treat themselves to a couple of doses of their substance of choice.

As far as the Occupiers are concerned, the 1st of the month means things will be very quiet at the Memorial as everyone has gone off somewhere to get their groove on. It can also mean many people will do their partying right at CJM and the surrounding area. We’ll have to wait and see.

A woman who stayed in our homeless camp years ago enters our circle. She takes the smudge dish saying, “I’m going to show you how my people do this”. She breaks off some of the sage leaves, puts them in the dish, adds fire then takes the burning sage to every person present in the space and spreads the smoke across each person’s body. Then she puts the dish back on the table and leaves. We are grateful for her attention.

Someone down the street has a generator running. It’s very loud; we need to raise our voices in order to be heard.  A group of middle aged African American folks are sitting on the side ledge behind us. It seems they are all friends and are enjoying their interaction. We can hear their comments clearly so we think they must be talking very loud.

We notice many of our chairs have disappeared from the circle. The group behind us has been quietly taking them to sit on. That’s quite alright. They are all a little past the age where sitting on the ground is easy. It’s a good thing we have lots of chairs.

An Occupier reminds everyone, “Next Tuesday will be the CHUM National Night Out Picnic. I think we should all attend. Also, next weekend will be the annual Bayfront Blues Festival. We’ll probably be going to that also”.

Another Occupier reports, “After all these weeks of running around, I’m supposed to talk with the actual Fire Marshall on Monday. I hope we’ll be able to get things straightened out. However, it seems to me these government types enjoy dragging their feet”.

Another Occupier states, “Are you guys aware of that anti-drug campaign D.A.R.E. that has been propagandizing in the public school system for the last 40 or so years?” We all nod yes and he continues, “Well I just read that the people who run that program have come out in favor of legalizing marijuana”.

Another responds, “That makes a lot of sense. Most school children know at least a few adults who smoke marijuana and appear unharmed by it. If they want the kids to stay away from dangerous drugs then they’d better tell them the truth. Actually, the real truth is that alcohol is the most dangerous drug of all”.

The grey haired woman has been free store shopping again. She pulls a bunch of well-made clothes from her bag. Everyone takes a look. A female Occupier finds something she likes and tucks it away.

A street person questions, “Hey, did you see that cop taking pictures of the blood stains?”

We ask, “What blood stains?”

The person replies, “The ones on the back ledge”.

Of course we all have to go and take a look. There are some large splatter markings on the ledge and the floor beneath. They could be blood stains. The Occupiers have little expertise in these types of matters.

The man from Senegal arrives. We haven’t seen him in a long time. We look forward to talking with him.

However, he is immediately followed by at least a gazillion other people. The Memorial is jammed packed; folks are getting the last of the snacks and drinks. Everyone is friendly, in good spirits and yakking up a storm.

After the dust settles, we find the Senegalese guy is gone. The stylish older Native woman and the CHUM employment counselor are now in our circle.

So is that crazy white guy who worked for the evil landlord of our former homeless camp. We hardly recognize him. He looks and acts completely normal. As normal as anybody gets around here anyway.

One of the Occupiers notes, “Hey, the breeze is a little cool now. It would be o.k. to start up the fire but I suppose seeing as it’s 8:45pm, it’s too late to do so.?”

No sooner do the words come out of her mouth than the DPD cop makes an appearance. The officer gets out of her car and walks to about the middle of the site. She doesn’t speak to anyone, just turns, walks back to her car and drives off.

WTF? Was she sent to check and see if we had a fire going? Do the cops think we are a bunch of morons? Why would we have a fire going when the temperature is in the 80s? Somebody in this city is not playing with a full deck. It’s probably not the Occupiers.

Anyway, we start to clean up. An Occupier notices the stylish Native woman is not around but all of her gear is in the circle. The Occupier says, “Well I could take it with me and look for her tomorrow however, this is a lot of stuff. She might need it before I can find her”.

As luck would have it, the Spiritual Man shows up. He knows the Native woman so he and an Occupier gather the stuff together and take off down the street in search of the woman.
They find her passed out in a doorway. She is easily woken and very grateful her belongings have been rescued.  The Spiritual Man knows where the woman lives and he will watch over her and make sure she gets home safely.

The Occupier returns to the Memorial. Most everything is packed up. It looks like the street is gearing up for a party. We hope everyone has a good time and that no one gets hurt.

We won’t be able to make it back here for at least a week. We’ll probably be back on Tuesday August 11th.

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G.A. Minutes 7-28-15

G.A. Minutes 7-28-15

The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is filled with a large group of middle class white young people upon our arrival this evening. They are from the regular church school organization that brings young people to Duluth every summer.

We set out a few chairs and chat with one of the youth leaders for a bit. We’ve become used to these church folks being surprised by our presence at CJM. They usually ask us a lot of questions.

Tonight is different. No one appears to find us unusual. We chat about the big rainstorm that was supposed to hit the city today. Apparently it went somewhere else.

Many street folks are on the back ledge and lining the street. We can tell they are waiting for us. We don’t want to put out the snacks and drinks until the youth group is gone. If we put things out right away, we will have to offer them to the kids too.

We don’t have an enormous amount of goodies; if the young people dig in, they will put a big dent in the refreshments needed by the people of the street. The church group has plenty of food back at their headquarters. The kids will have to wait awhile. As soon as the church people leave, street folks descend upon the snack table. Everyone wants a big glass of homemade, ice cold lemonade.

That’s because it’s really hot outside. At 6:30 pm the temperature is in the high 80s without a breeze. Many are dehydrated. All our chairs are filled. We have the fire pit set up and we’d like to make a fire but to do so would be ridiculous. No one talks much; we just sit, sweltering in the heat.

Ms. Community Cleanup comes around the corner. She’s singing and acting her usual goofy self. Ms. Cleanup is originally from the Cass Lake Reservation.

Several women, with whom we are unfamiliar, come walking by. They spy Ms. Cleanup and come right over. They are also from Cass Lake. Hugs all around and then they take the smudge dish and solemnly smudge each other. It’s kind of a little family reunion.
Ms Cleanup tells us her father is back in prison again. This time it’s rather final. He won’t be eligible for parole until he’s 77 years old.

The Cleanup woman tells a few stories about some of the wild escapades she shared with her dad.

The main homeless outreach worker drives by. She’s looking for the Spiritual Man. No one has seen him in the last few days but we’ll be sure to let him know she’s looking if he comes by.

After sitting for a while, the Occupiers get their powers of speech and movement again. An Occupier reports there is going to be a Kurdish potluck picnic at the end of Park Point tomorrow around 5:30pm. She doesn’t know the details but seeing as she was clued in by some of the folks who work with the Rania/Duluth friendship organization she’s guessing some people from Rania, Kurdistan are in town.

Another Occupier reminds us about the CHUM picnic on August 4th at 6pm.

It’s still early in the evening but the lemonade is gone and the water jugs are warm. An Occupier walks down the street to the liquor store to get a bag of ice. She returns and dumps the whole thing into the big lemonade jug. Everyone fills their glasses…….. Ah…..perfect.

A few young men who were with us at our 4th of July meeting and were able to watch the entertainment provided by the DPD and DFD arrive. The tallest of the young men says, “Hey, you’re back! So what happened?”

We tell them about filing complaints with both the DPD and DFD and about the long, stupid process we’ll have to endure. We assure them we will continue with the fire and meetings.

Only 1 squad car has driven by CJM so far and he didn’t appear to be paying any attention to us. Maybe they have something else to do.

The grey haired woman is with us tonight. She has noticed the camera in the next door pawnshop window that points down on the Memorial. The camera has been there for some time but she’s seeing it for the first time. It bothers her.

We tell her we know it’s there and that there are probably a few others hidden around. We believe every city in most of the world has cameras focused on the inhabitants these days.

A conversation about drones and other creepy stuff ensues.

The stylish, Native, older homeless woman comments, “I think cops are the ones who actually make the trouble. People will be sitting around just talking or resting and the cops come up and start yelling at everyone. They go through our belongings and throw stuff around. They act like they’re looking for a fight”.

An Occupier exclaims, “Hey look! I just noticed the magic marker scribbling is gone from the Memorial back wall. You can’t even tell it was there”.

Another Occupier answers, “Yeah, they probably sandblasted it. It’s probably not the first time they’ve had to remove stuff from these walls either”.

The grey haired woman says, “I wonder why the City does things the way they do around here. She glances over at the old, burned out Kozy apartment building and continues, “I mean, look at that mess. Why do they leave that eyesore sitting there when it’s right in the center of the city and right in the faces of all the tourists?”

One of the Occupiers replies, “They’re probably still afraid of all the ghosts around here”. The grey haired woman looks confused; the Occupier continues, “Well, you know those 3 innocent black men were dragged out of the City Jail and hauled up here to be lynched. There were some so called prominent people involved in the murder but no one except one poor man who drove a horse cart ever spent any time in prison”.

Another adds, “See that building across the alley from our old homeless camp? That’s where the KKK used to meet. There probably are some ghosts around here but they’re not looking for people like us. It could explain why City official types don’t come around here much”.

The grey haired woman is aghast. “I never knew any of this” she says. The grey haired woman is very forgetful. We don’t worry about giving her scary nightmares and such. She will have forgotten our whole conversation by the time she gets home.

A group of young and middle aged African American men are getting pretty loud over on the east end of CJM. However, they’re just laughing, joking and enjoying themselves. A few of them were over visiting with us earlier.

DPD officers on horse patrol appear. There are 3 officers on 3 horses. The horses are very beautiful; the officers…… not so much. They ride over to the group of laughing men. The officers don’t say anything; they just look at the men. The men become quiet; a few of them leave. The officers ride away.

The CHUM employment counselor is among the crowd. He comes to sit with us for a while. We talk about the Respect Your Mother Earth Festival we attended over the weekend.

A breeze suddenly passes through from a cool direction. It feels very good.

The sun is down. Everyone is tired. Time to get some sleep. We should be back here again on Saturday.

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G.A. Minutes 7-21-15

G.A. Minutes 7-21-15

The atmosphere at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening can be described in one word…… Hot.

Temperatures are in the mid-80s with no breeze. One can start to sweat without even moving. We’re not complaining though. It’s not winter.

Several community organizer friends are waiting for us when we arrive. Everyone scurries to set up the circle, fill their glasses with homemade lemonade and then, wordlessly, we plunk down in the chairs. Whew!

A street friend arrives and directs our attention to a particular spot in the center of the wall. WTF? Someone taken purple magic marker and actually written right across the Memorial wall. This is unbelievable; we are speechless.

The writing appears to be that of an adolescent. It says something like so and so plus so and so forever. More street folks arrive. It sounds like everybody on the street is really pissed off about this.

They tell us the name of the young woman who created the sacrilege; it’s someone we don’t know. The street folks say that when they confronted the woman she didn’t understand why what she had done was so terrible. They say the woman is about 25 years old. We think she may be developmentally disabled. Anyone who would disgrace the Memorial wall can’t possibly be in their right mind.

The woman from Mississippi sits down. It appears she’s been drinking a little. She sits next to the Occupier who likes to talk about the Bible. The Occupier attempts to engage her in conversation but it’s not happening. The Mississippi is on a roll. She’s talking about the difference between the Bible and Holy Bible. Her story is hard to follow, it sounds like something she has memorized and it’s kinda boring.

We make several attempts to distract her. Nothing works until Ms. Community Cleanup arrives.

Ms. Cleanup is hooping, hollering and a dancing, as per usual. A young man in an electric wheel chair accompanies her. She tells us he’s her new boyfriend. It quickly becomes apparent they have met for the first time a few hours ago.

Ms. Cleanup takes the stage from the Mississippi woman but she’s not much of an improvement. Her speech doesn’t make a lot of sense either. Must be the heat.

As Ms. Cleanup goofs around, the Occupiers carry on a quick side conversation. On Friday, July 24th, some Native folks are holding a water ceremony in memory of the 10 year anniversary of the huge Endbridge/Kalamazo tars sands oil spill. The ceremony will take place in Canal Park at 3:30pm. All Occupiers who are able will be attending.

The vigil for the woman who was recently murdered is not going to happen this upcoming Saturday. We will meet at 2pm this Saturday July 25th and drive out to spend the whole day at the Respect Your Mother Earth Festival.

The Occupier tasked with conversing with the DPD and the DFD reports, “I’ve been emailing back and forth with a DPD administrative lieutenant concerning the police and fire people harassment we experienced at our last 2 meetings. Today she sent me an email stating the police department was completely aware the Clayton Jackson McGhie was under the jurisdiction of the City. She said she’d send official notification to all the police supervisors reiterating this fact and asking the supervisors to make sure all the beat cops were aware.

“Then of course, she went on to say that the police and fire departments don’t interpret the city ordinances and state codes the same way that we do. Personally, I don’t see what other way they could be interpreted; they’re pretty straight forward.

“Oh well, at least we may get the CJM BOD off our backs. We’ll have to keep fighting for the people’s rights. I don’t expect we’ll ever get anything even resembling an apology. I just want them to leave us alone”.

More and more people are arriving. A very large group of Native folks, male and female, young and not young come storming across the street and into CJM. It looks like they’re marching instep. The young ones are doing the gangsta walk. Anger and much pain are evident in their faces.

Not to worry…….. We know them all. They’re part of a large extended family from White Earth. Something has happened, we don’t know what. They look at the defaced Memorial wall. That doesn’t help their mood any.

One of the men from White Earth takes the sage bundle and smudges everyone down real good. That helps. The Spiritual Man arrives. He reminds the group about the need for calmness and respect. That helps too.

The CHUM employment counselor walks up. People are now in small groups all around the space. The CHUM man visits for a while in each group. He has much experience with construction and tells us the words on the wall can be sandblasted off.

An Occupier reads a few poems. One of the men in the White Earth group takes the book and reads also.

Everything is pleasant and peaceful……..Then Ms. Cleanup returns. Her eyes are flashing; she grabs chairs and throws them around. No one has a clue what brought on her sudden change of behavior. Street folks are trying to calm her but it’s not working.
As a last resort, we start packing our things. That works. Someone hustles Ms. Cleanup off the sight. Everyone regroups to the circle.

We didn’t need to put out the fire because we never started one up. We may be crazy but we’re not so crazy as to start a warming fire when temperatures are still in the mid-70s.

People just sit, talking quietly. The CHUM man and an Occupier converse. The CHUM man states, “The street folks have so much pain and sorrow. There aren’t nearly enough houses to house all those who need them. It gets worse every year but the people with the resources to actually solve some of society’s problems won’t listen much less look. Don’t they realize the capitalist system is doomed? They’re dining on caviar or whatever while the world is being destroyed”.

The Occupier responds, “I agree with everything you’re saying man. I think the only thing we can do is to keep trying to do good work, to help anyone we can. The shit is gonna get seriously real, probably sooner rather than later. Do as much as you can to protect the planet and the people. Our children and grandchildren are the ones who will really carry the load. Try to lessen their burden as much as you can”.

On that note everyone says good night. We’ll be at Respect Your Mother Earth on Saturday. Weather permitting; we’ll be back at the Memorial next Tuesday.

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G.A. Minutes 7-14-15

G.A. Minutes 7-14-15
It’s unseasonably cool this evening. We’re at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial and there’s a cool breeze with temperatures in the high 60s.

The fire will be welcome once the sun goes down. We’ve decided to start having the fire again as we know we are within our legal rights. We’ve also contacted both the DPD and the Duluth Fire Department and are in the process of filling complaints concerning their illegal harassment of our fire.

Many neighborhood street folks are on the back ledge. A few are regulars; a few are former regulars and the rest are folks we haven’t met yet.

A Native man, who we don’t know, respectfully takes the sage bundle and individually smudges all the people in space, Occupiers included.

All our chairs fill immediately. An Occupier has brought a book of high quality poems. He reads a few. The neighborhood people appreciate these poems and ask him to read a few more.

Miss Community Cleanup arrives laughing and making her usual noise. She tells us she has been in a treatment center for a while. She looks above her head up in the sky and points “Look at that, she says.

We all look up. There is a strip of rainbow right above our heads. It’s very short.

No one has ever seen anything like that before. Even the Occupier who is a scientist hasn’t seen anything like that.
Ms. Cleanup says, “Now that is some kind of rainbow!” She spots a couple of park rangers passing by, goes to talk, and then leaves with them. The rainbow vanishes.

The sun is behind the buildings and the air is a little chilly so we start up the fire.

A heavyset, middle aged Native man we have seen around asks to speak. He tells us he is Lakota Sioux from South Dakota. He owns a few parcels of land in the Black Hills. He wonders if we know why the government is trying to buy his land.

We tell him about fracking and about the big corporate push to suck every drop of oil and gas out of the earth. We explain about the Native groups and multicultural coalitions that are fighting against the earth destroying corporations. We inform him (he probably already knows) that the government works for the corporations. We give him information about a local Lakota friend of ours who may be able to put him in touch with some of the groups fighting to save their lands.

The man tells us, “Land in the Black Hills is sacred. I will never sell it”.

An Occupier gives the latest “Fire Report”. She comments, “I’ve been talking with an assistant fire chief. He’s been trying to arrange a meeting between him, myself and the fire marshal. He’s had trouble contacting her. The last message I received from him said the fire marshal told him we need a permit to have these fires. Of course, that’s not true. The assistant chief is on vacation until next week so I can’t do anything until then. I plan to fill out the DPD complaint form tomorrow”.

She continues, “I went to the Human Rights Commission last week and when it was over I had an interesting conversation with the other co-chair of the CJM BOD. He was vaguely aware of what his co-chair (who likes to call himself the CJM president) had done to us on the 4th of July.

“I filled him in. He said he is completely aware that the CJM BOD has no legal jurisdiction over the Memorial space. He supports our fires in an odd sort of way. He’d rather we didn’t have to have them at CJM but he realizes poor and/or homeless people have nowhere else to go. He gave me a history of the previous downtown spaces where folks were able to go in the past. Apparently, they were not bothered by the police in those places.

“The City has now taken over all those spaces. CJM is the only public space left in the downtown area. The CJM co-chair thought if the City, BOD, whoever, wanted us to not have fires at CJM they would have to provide a public space in the immediate downtown area where people could meet and continue the activities we now enjoy at CJM.

“I told him it was my personal opinion that his idea could be doable providing that the space met all the necessary requirements and that it was legislated as a permanent space that could not be taken away. Anyway, that’s something that could happen years from now. Right now we have to deal with right now. It’s good to know we have some support from somebody from the BOD though”.

Another Occupier reports the INM/NWA NdN Taco Sale was a heck of a lot of work but very successful. There is going to be a big Workers Rights March in the Twin Cities tomorrow. Some people from Duluth are looking for someone who has a dependable vehicle and would be willing to drive down. There will be a Water Ceremony in Canal Park in memory of the anniversary of the huge Enbridge tar sands pipeline spill in Kalamazoo MI., Friday July 24th at 3:30pm and the vigil for the recently murdered woman and the Respect Your Mother Earth Festival will both be happening on Saturday July 25th.

The man from the long term homeless couple who fought a couple of weeks ago at our meeting arrives. He sits for a bit and then says, “I’m gonna go get my wife. She’s a little drunk though”. An Occupier jokes, “Oh no!” The homeless man laughs and replies, “She’s not that bad.”

He leaves but returns quickly. He’s shaking his head and looking frustrated. He rejoins the circle. After a while he says, “I served my country. I was in the Viet Nam war. I was a helicopter pilot and mechanic. During my time I crashed 3 helicopters. I still have terrible nightmares and flashbacks. I hate it when the medical helicopters fly over our neighborhood. I didn’t want to do a lot of the things I did over there. They made me do them. I served my country though”.

He packs up his things and states, “I’m gonna go off to bed now. I guess I’m gonna be cold tonight”.

Several of the regular people in the circle have wandered off but their backpacks and other belongings are still beside their empty chairs. An Occupier remarks, “Oh, oh. They forgot their stuff”.

Another replies, “Don’t worry. That just means they trust us. They know we’ll keep an eye on their things until they come back”.

Throughout the evening we’ve noticed quite a few squad cars driving by. We don’t know if they’re monitoring us or if they’re looking for someone. At approximately 9pm we get the answer. 2 squads pull up and 2 DPD officers get out and walk towards us. A big fire truck pulls up too.

These guys are more calm and polite than the cops who harassed us on the 4th of July. Unfortunately, they’ve got the same trip going on. Officer McShane (#420) remarks, “I suppose you know what this is about. You can’t have a fire here”.

An Occupier asks, “Why is that?” Officer McShane replies, “The owner of this space doesn’t want you to have a fire”.
The Occupier asks, “So who is the owner?”

Mr. McShane answers “The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Board”.

The Occupier responds, “Actually that’s not true. The owner of CJM is the City of Duluth”. Officer McShane looks perplexed.

Officer Hurst (#484) says, “We have a direct order from Deputy Chief Tuscan to put your fire out every time you have it. I’m going to look up the memo he sent us”. Officer Hurst pulls out his computer tablet and walks over to the wall.

When he returns an Occupier questions, “Did you find the memo?”

The officer says yes he did find it and the Occupier says, “May I see it please?” Officer Hurst looks questioningly at Officer McShane. Officer McShane states, “No, don’t show it to her”.

The Occupier then says, “Can you at least tell me when you received this memo?” After some conversing they agree that they received the memo about a week ago. The Occupiers exchange eye contact. They think that’s probably not true.

Captain Lattner of the Duluth Fire Department walks up. He has another guy with him. This time they are not dressed from head to toe in firefighting attire.

Officer McShane says, “So you guys can put out the fire yourselves if you want to or we can have these fire guys do it”. An Occupier replies, “Please have the fire guys do it”. So that’s what they do.

Officer McShane comments, “You’re welcome to stay here, you just can’t have a fire”. They thank us for being so nice and polite and then they leave.

As soon as they all leave, all the street folks return. They’re pissed off. We sit around for a while to assure them that we are not going to give up.

As we are packing up, a well-known area reporter and media person pulls up. A few Occupiers go over to talk with him. He’s pissed off too.

Apparently he has been observing our meetings and fires from a distance for quite a while. He tells us, “I really wanted to come over while the cops were here but I was so mad I knew I would start ranting and quoting all the laws that make what they were doing illegal. There are fires in public spaces all over town all the time. The cops don’t bother them. You guys are being set up!”

We already know that. The reporter then gives us some good advice. We’ll have to keep his advice secret for now. It looks like this crap is going to go on for a while. We’ll try out the advice and let you know later.

We’ll be back at CJM on Saturday and of course, we’ll start up the fire.

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G.A. Minutes 7-7-15

G.A. Minutes 7-7-15

A group of middle aged African American women are sitting on the back ledge as we enter the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening.

We recognize most of them but don’t remember seeing them socialize in this space. Maybe it’s some type of special occasion.
The weather is warm; clear skies with a slight warm breeze. Hopefully it will stay this way for a while as we’ve decided to not light the fire tonight.

After the police and fire department antics on July 4th we figure it will take a few days to get them all back in line. We don’t plan to challenge them until we have all our ducks in a row.

The middle aged Native woman who stuck by us at our last meeting is waiting for us. She been taking care of government paperwork today so has done a lot of walking. She’s very tired and her feet hurt. She’s hoping we might have money for bus fare.
Fortunately we do and we happily give it to her. She sips a glass of lemonade and chats while waiting for the bus to arrive.

The man who is always laughing appears. We ask him how things are going with CPS and getting custody of his newborn baby.

He tells us, “I sold my car to pay for a lawyer and I’m doing everything they tell me to do, no matter how difficult or stupid the requirement. My lawyer says if I do everything they tell me to do, I’ll get to have my baby. This is hurting my heart really bad. I’ve never fathered a baby who was taken away. My own child and I can’t take her home? I’ve met a lot of other people recently who have had their children taken away. It’s awful what the government does to families.

An Occupier agrees and tells a few horror stories she knows of that were perpetrated by CPS.

An Occupier arrives. He’s carrying a carton of ice cream. He has fresh raspberries too. Wow! This brings the ladies on the ledge and everyone else over. In a short time, the ice cream is no more.

We’ve set up the fire pit and placed a large burning candle inside. If anyone wants to know if we have a fire going, they’ll have to come on over and look.

A squad drives by every so often but we can’t tell if they are looking at us or looking for someone else.

Many of the Occupiers present this evening were not at our July 4th meeting. They want to hear the whole story.

Another Occupier gives the all the gory details. She also says, “So I spent most of yesterday calling around. I spoke with 2 of our friends on the Citizen’s Review Board telling them what went down. They hooked me up with a DPD lieutenant who is in charge of dealing with citizen complaints. She emailed me the official complaint package which I will fill out and bring to her next week. I’ll get copies to our friends on the CRB and we’ll be sure to attend their next meeting.

“However, I’m thinking the real deal is the fire department. In the letter we received from Chief Ramsey about 2 years ago, he said he was passing the responsibility concerning our fires on to the fire department.

“I called the fire department yesterday and received a call back from a deputy fire chief right away. We chatted for a while. He told me the fire department had no idea the DPD had passed responsibility on to them. He said the DPD ordered them to put out the fire so that’s what they did. Government officials frequently lie so who knows? I always pretend that I believe them.

“Anyway, I told him about the city and state laws that support the legality of our fires. He asked me to bring him copies of those statutes and a copy of the letter from Chief Ramsey. I’ll do that tomorrow. After we get that package into the hands of the fire department I think we should start having fires again. We’ll probably get hassled but we can tell them who to contact”.

Another Occupier comments, “All this crap is directly attributable to the CJM BOD president. I wonder what the penalty for lying to the police is? For rich people…..probably not much”.

Moving right along, an additional Occupier reports that the Jefferson People’s House is closing up shop on July 12th. Apparently they didn’t get enough business to allow them to pay the basic bills.

Everyone gasps, “Oh, no!”

Someone suggests, “Maybe they would do better at a location closer to downtown”.

The Occupier continues, “The next Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NdN Taco Sale is this Friday. They’re going to be shorthanded so they really need our help. The FDL Veteran’s Pow Wow is this upcoming Saturday. We should be ready to leave by 2:30pm. The Human Rights Commission meeting is tomorrow at 5pm. If there’s an opening we should report about what was done to us on July 4th. Then on Saturday July 25th we’re gonna have 2 events we need to be at. Our friend the CHUM worker is holding a vigil for the Native woman and her dog who were murdered very recently and it’s also Respect Your Mother Earth weekend. I think we should go to the vigil and then go out to RYME. Everyone agrees to that plan.

A regular visitor, the older woman from Mississippi, joins the circle. She tells us the group of women is sitting on the back ledge because there has been an ongoing altercation between a husband and wife. It’s gone out into the street. They’re waiting to see what happens next.

An Occupier comments, “When one has nothing to do, it gets boring. One has to find excitement wherever one can”.

An acquaintance of ours walks up. He’s running for City Council and he’s practicing his politician skills. He makes the rounds of everyone at the Memorial, shakes their hand and gives them his card. It appears that most of the folks think he is crazy.

When he leaves we hear a man’s very loud yelling, “I stomped that N-word’s ass! Whoo Hooh! I stomped his ass!” We don’t know him. The women all run in his direction. He rounds the corner and heads for the casino. The women follow him.

The woman from Mississippi says,” I’m non-violent like Dr. King”. We tell her that we are too.

Our friend, the gay street man and Bird Man arrive. As usual, the gay man is singing. A young guy dressed in a security guard uniform walks past. The gay man calls, “Hello, can I have your phone number?” The young guy keeps walking and the gay man says, “Sometimes I just can’t help myself”.

A big fire truck pulls up on the side of CJM, a squad car does the same. We think, they’re gonna be so disappointed when they see it’s only a candle.

Turns out they’re going to the casino. An ambulance pulls up as an Occupier returns from using the casino bathroom. He says, “There’s a man lying on the floor and the first responders are surrounding him”.

We’re sorry to hear that but happy to know everything is not about us.

The Memorial is empty now except for Occupiers. One of the best bands in town happens to be rehearsing across the street. We share the pleasure of their music. When they come out for a break an Occupiers hollers over, “You’re my favorite band”.

As we’re packing up, 2 young white guys are limping down the sidewalk. They call out, “Do you have anything to eat?” Most of the food has been eaten but we do have 2 PB+J sandwiches and a bit of lemonade left. We give it to them.

They are grateful and tell us they are just now returning from walking from Lester Park. They’ve missed dinner at the Mission.

We say our goodbyes and plan to meet again on Saturday to go to the Pow Wow. We’ll be back here on Tuesday. If things go according to plan we’ll start up the fire.

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G.A. Minutes 7-4-15

G.A. Minutes 7-4-15

So we’re at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial again tonight. We have very few Occupiers; we don’t expect many more will show up as they have various 4th of July obligations.

Those of us who are unobligated have decided to observe what “The Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave” has to offer its homeless and/or poor citizens for today’s birthday celebration.

The sky is overcast; temperatures are in the low 70s with a slight east wind. The wind cools things a bit. The fire will be needed later.

A few of the regular street people are on the back ledge. We assume they’ve all been drinking a little; most are happy and they wave to us. However, one couple appear to be completely wasted. We are acquainted with the long haired Native man. Whenever we come across him, he’s extremely intoxicated. This evening is no exception. He can barely walk. We don’t know the woman who he is with. She’s young, heavyset and appears Native. She’s sitting slumped over and nodded out.

We’ll have to keep an eye on those 2 so they don’t hurt themselves.

Things look pretty quiet all around so we set up just a few chairs. As we are finishing, the Spiritual Man arrives, greets us, smudges himself and dives into the hard boiled eggs. “I’m really hungry”, he says, “I have to apologize because I’m kinda drunk. I know that’s not right but I’m in a lot of emotional pain right now”.

When he sits down some of the ledge folks come over. We get more chairs. A middle aged woman who we have seen in the past is among these folks.

It appears she is a friend of the Spiritual Man. As they converse we discover they had been in a romantic relationship sometime in the past. It was during a time in their lives when they were involved in so called outlaw behavior.

The woman sounds bitter. She pulls up her sleeve to show the Spiritual Man’s name tattooed on her bicep. “Remember this?” she says. She waves her hands over her body and adds, “This used to be yours”.

The Spirit Man responds, “Those were some dangerous but exciting times. I was not a good person then. I’m very different now”.
We’re surprised they are having this very personal, painful conversation in front of us. Perhaps it’s the only way they can speak to each other at all.

They reminisce about some of their crazy escapades, then the woman asks, “Why did you leave me?” He tells her, “Because I thought money was more important than you. I’m not that guy anymore. It was a very long time ago but I was wrong and I’m sorry. I’m truly very sorry”.

The woman sits and thinks. Our friend, the city official, stops for a visit. He sits with us for just a few minutes. A big van containing many high school aged young people drives up. They have come to view the Memorial.

Our friend is one of the founders of CJM. He’s offers to take them on a tour. The kids are very lucky as our friend will be able to give them a complete history about everything concerning the space. After examining the wall, our friend takes them on a tour of the neighborhood.

All the people from the ledge and many others from the neighborhood are around the fire now. The drunk man with the long hair is passed out stone cold under the tree behind the ledge. We’ll keep an eye on him; we may have to call for medical assistance.
Another Occupier and our friends, a mother and son, whom we have worked with in many actions, arrive.

An Occupier points out that the president of the CJM BOD is standing across the street.

Almost immediately a fire truck pulls up. We assume someone has called about the passed out long haired man.

We are wrong. About 5 fire people jump out and come straight over to us. Several DPD squads arrive right behind them. CJM is filled with all kinds of people in uniforms with guns, fire extinguishers and who knows what else.
Much to our surprise, the majority of the peeps at the fire just stay put right where they are.

A big sized cop (#464) who we’ve seen before stomps over and barks, “By order of the police department, you have to put out this fire! The president of the CJM BOD is in charge of this place and he says he doesn’t want you having a fire!”

Of course, all of this is completely contrary to all the negotiations and nonsense we went through with the DPD for a year and a half. That was almost 3 years ago. Since then we have not been bothered by the police. On the rare occasions we have interacted with them, they have been most kind and polite.

An Occupier calmly tells the officer, “The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Board has absolutely no legal jurisdiction over this CJM space. I have plenty of paperwork that shows we do have a right to have a small, safe fire at CJM”.

She attempts to hand some of the paperwork to Officer #464. He refuses to take them and roars, “I have orders from my lieutenant to make you put out this fire! If you don’t like it you can call the police department on Monday. Right now, deal with the fire captain!”

The Occupier asks, “What is the name of your lieutenant, please?”

The officer who must think he is John Wayne, answers, “I’m not going to tell you that!”

The Occupier explains, “Well if I call the police department on Monday I’m going to need to tell them the name of the lieutenant.

Mr. #464 responds, “These orders come straight from Deputy Chief Tuscan!”

The Occupiers find this strange because Officer Tuscan (he wasn’t a deputy chief back then) was the main person we dealt with during the time we originally fought for our right to have our fires.

A fireman identifying himself as Fire Captain #233 says, “It’s against the law for you to have a fire here”.

The Occupier hands him a copy of a letter from DPD Chief Gordon. The letter says that DPD officers are being ordered to not disturb us at our fires. It says all issues from now on will be addressed to the Duluth Fire Department.

The Fire Captain says, “Yeah, so what?” The Occupier replies, “That’s just to show you what it says about these cops. Here are copies of all the City and State fire ordinances. As you can see, they state that a small, safe fire like ours is completely legal”.

So the captain reads the papers……… and you know what?…… He Doesn’t Care.

Several firemen surround our fire with fire extinguishers and put out our fire. The Spiritual Man picks up the sage and begins attempting to smudge the firemen. Officer #464’s head just about blows up.

He screams, “I’m gonna cuff you and take you in!” The Spiritual Man is no dummy. He sits right down and says, “You’ll have no further problems with me, officer”.

Once the fire is drowned, the firemen go to the back ledge to deal with the passed out dude.

Many of the neighborhood people around the fire are just furious. The place is crawling with cops. Some are trying to reason with these officers.

The Occupiers have seen this movie already. They just sit and watch. An Occupier takes pictures.

The girlfriend of the passed out guy who is pretty far gone herself, begins to scream and freakout. An Occupier counsels, “Honey, there are a lot of cops here. If you don’t calm down, they will haul you in too”. She doesn’t listen; they cuff her and take her off to Detox.

Another fire truck pulls up; they put the passed out dude on a stretcher and say they are just taking him home.

Cops are talking in cop talk to Officer 464. Basically they’re saying, “Hey, there’s a lotta shit going on out there right now. I have things to take care of”. #464 tells them to go ahead and leave.

Soon all the government employees disappear. Our friend, the city official returns. He looks around, confusion on his face.
Without the fire it’s chilly. Most of the street folks leave too. It’s just a few Occupiers, our friend and a few regular visitors.

We laugh and shake our heads. An Occupier sighs, “Oh great, now I’ll have to make lots of copies of all our evidence, then we can go through the stupid process of proving our case all over again”.

Actually, we have had our knowledge validated. The Land of the Fee, Home of the Slave, is operated solely for the benefit of the rich. When the rich man commands, all the soldiers fall in line.

Or not……… Guess we all have to make that choice?

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G.A. Minutes 6-30-15

The weather is in the “could be better but it sure could be a lot worse” category tonight. It’s mostly cloudy with little wind and temperatures in the low 60s. That will mean a fire won’t be mandatory but it’ll still be nice to have one.

Clayton Jackson McGhie is completely empty when we arrive. The streets are fairly empty also.

We’re thinking we may have one of those rare quiet evenings where we’re pretty much by ourselves and we can have serious political discussion.

However……. Not tonight. As soon as we have all the stuff set up, here comes this year’s regular CJM crew. We all exchange greetings in the accepted manner of the street. We hug or clasp hands; laughing and saying how happy we are to see each other.
One thing is a little different though. The feeling is actually genuine; we are pleased to see them and their vibe says the same.

A few friends from Socialist Action stop to say hello. More people arrive; an Occupier puts out every chair we have.

We were lucky enough over the weekend to be able to acquire a new load of firewood. It looks like it will burn well and last us for several months. We’ll start up the fire and see what happens.
As the flames rise up, we see that all the chairs are full. They are occupied by this year’s regular crew and also by some who have visited us off and on for many years.

The Spiritual Man is here, the pretty alcoholic woman who likes to act silly, a long-term homeless husband and wife couple, the very tall Native artist, his girlfriend and the neighborhood young woman who sometimes shows up at our various demonstrations.
There’s one man who we don’t know, a rather handsome middle aged Native man. He appears to be somewhat knowledgeable and wants to talk about history starting with the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the western hemisphere. He and an Occupier start a conversation that may prove to be interesting.

The homeless couple isn’t having any of it. They tell him to shut up; he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It quickly becomes evident all three of them are from the same tribal reservation and have familial history running back a long time.

The wife chastises the middle aged man for using swear words in the fire circle. The man apologizes and tries to watch his language. Then the truth comes out. The husband says, “We’re sick of you and your friends hanging out in the park with your heroin, your meth and your synthetic”.

The wife says, “We’ve been just fine living in that park for years. We just drink and smoke a little weed. You guys take your crap, act stupid and bring the cops.” The man doesn’t have anything to say. He gets up and walks off. The homeless couple is now in a bad mood and they begin to take it out on each other.

An Occupier points to the biggest tree behind the back ledge and comments, “I don’t recall it was blooming last week. It’s very pretty. What kind of tree is it?”

Another Occupier answers, “Basswood, I think”. The wife smacks her husband on the arm and says, “It would be a lot prettier if you men wouldn’t pee on it!”

The husband stomps off in a huff. The wife looks very sad; she leaves with a friend.

An Occupier sighs, “That’s too bad. I wish we could have said something to help them.
Another Occupier replies, “Oh, that’s just the type of relationship they have. They’ve been together for years and they always act like that”. The rest of the folks at the fire nod in agreement.

An Occupier appears carrying big bags of hotdogs and fixings. He receives everyone’s immediate attention.

An additional Occupier brings a big backpack containing free books she found at today’s book giveaway at the public library.
Some folks begin cooking hotdogs and some look through the books.

The street peeps are not as ravenous as they sometimes are but everything gets eaten just the same. Somebody reaches for the tobacco pouch on the table and finds the tobacco is missing. Everyone is shocked. An Occupier states, “In all the years we have been having these fires, nothing like this has ever happened”.

Hmmmm……. The last person to use the pouch was the middle aged man. Oh well, not much we can or want to do about it now.

The older retired man from the neighborhood pays us a visit. He hasn’t visited for a month or more so wants to know the latest political gossip. He and an Occupier begin a conversation about the TPP.

Then……. This is where things get crazy. The president of the CJM Board of Directors pulls up in a fancy car, rolls down his window and glares at the folks in the circle.

An Occupier goes over to talk with Mr. President. The neighborhood retired man looks confused so an Occupier explains about the ongoing debate between the economically privileged people and their wannabees and the regular diverse coalition of everybody else.
The privileged people want the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial to be a place of death and complete silence. Anyone who enters there will be disgracing the space and the men to whom it is dedicated simply by their presence. Unless, of course, those who enter there are wealthy, escorted by a member of the BOD and capable of making a sizeable donation to the CJM Scholarship Fund.

The coalition people think the privileged people should look around and notice where the Memorial is located. It’s right plunk in the middle of a neighborhood populated with homeless people who have no other place where they can just sit and rest.

The men who were lynched and now have a Memorial weren’t privileged people. They may have been homeless. CJM has a lot of meaning to the people on the street, especially the African American people. But “those people” aren’t supposed to be there?

This issue has been debated for years. The Occupiers have become quite bored with it but apparently the privileged ones have not.

Anyway, the president leaves and the Occupier talking with him reports, “Oh he’s mad because we’re feeding folks and letting them smoke cigarettes”.

The street man who recently lost his baby’s momma to a heroin overdose is with us tonight. He has recently acquired a new running partner. She is young, pretty, pleasant acting and has almost no experience with street life.

She, the man and his friends having been doing a little drinking down the street. Everyone is fine but the young woman is so drunk that she has passed out. The man gets a chair from us, sits her under the tree by the back ledge and asks everyone to take care of her while he goes to get his phone.

She is well cared for, several street folks surround her and catch her every time she’s starts falling over.

Then a cop drives up. An Occupier walks over to greet him. Another goes over to the back ledge. The people are asking the girl to stand up but it’s not working.

The Occupier gets close to the drunk girl’s ear and says, “Honey, you need to stand up and act right now. The police are here and if they notice you, they will take you to Detox”.

The girl tries to stand; the man looking for his phone returns. He wraps his arms around the girl; she does the same to him. It looks romantic but is really a desperate attempt to remain hidden from eyes of the DPD.

After pleasantly chatting with the Occupier for a while, the cop leaves. Crisis averted.

The Occupier tells us, “The officer said he received a call from the wife of the Mr. BOD President so he had no choice but to come and check us out. The cop also said that he really likes it when we are here because everyone is so well behaved. That means he and the other cops don’t have to spend time down here”.

It’s 9pm but we know we can’t leave yet. An Occupier says to another Occupier, “The man who lost his baby’s momma says that his sister gets home from work at 9:30 pm. He can then take the girl to his sister’s house up the street and she’ll be safe. I think we’d better wait until then and if they can’t get her walking, I can drive them up to the sister’s house”.

The retired man has had quite an adventure this evening. When he says his goodbyes, he leaves a generous monetary donation. It will help with the purchase of food for the meeting table.

Bird Man is with the crowd again tonight. He stands at the edge of the Memorial wall and says, “Hey, look what’s here”. The bag of tobacco is tucked in between the bricks. We can’t say for sure but we think the middle aged man must have accidently taken it when he left. Not wanting to return and chance the wrath of the homeless couple again, he just tucked it in the wall. Sounds reasonable anyway.

We slowly pack things up. By 9:30 the peeps have the girl walking (sort of) so they hustle her off to sanctuary.

We will return on Saturday. It will be the 4th of July. That may be interesting.

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G.A. Minutes 6-23-15

G.A. Minutes 6-23-15
The air in the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is actually hot when we arrive. The sun is shining brightly; there’s a slight breeze and the temperature is in the low 80s.
Small groups of people are scattered up and down the street. They’re standing anywhere they can find a bit of shade.
We move slowly as we set up the things for the evening. A couple of regular street friends come over to help. We’ll wait to light the fire until the sun is behind all the buildings.
As soon as we set out the snacks, people descend on the table from all directions. We’ve brought several dozen hard boiled eggs and a big bucket of cookies; everything is gone in about 5 minutes. We recognize most of the folks who are eating but we don’t really know any of them.
Oh well, the Mission must have run out of food for dinner tonight. They serve 2 meals a day, 7 days a week. We’ve been told that the Mission’s food is not very flavorful or nutritious but seeing as they feed so very many people, it’s understandable.
We rarely are able to bring large quantities of food but we do bring the same quality of food that we feed ourselves.
We see one of the Occupiers who lives up the hill walking down. We don’t recognize him at first but as he gets closer real realize he has shaved off his full beard. We’ve never seen him without a beard. He looks good.
The employment councilor from CHUM arrives. As usual, many street folks crowd around him. When they are finished, he comes to sit with us in the circle.
As we begin to converse, the older woman from Mississippi settles in next to the CHUM worker. She is very talkative and takes his full attention.
When the CHUM man says goodbye, the Mississippi woman keeps talking. We think she may be telling her life story. In all the years we have known her, she has not talked with us like this.
The problem is, her voice is very soft, the other people in the Memorial are all talking and laughing and many cars are driving by. We can’t hear a word she says. So we just sit there smiling and nodding. She’s got a few years under her belt so the story takes a while.
After she leaves an Occupier says, “So I suppose you heard that Congress passed the TPP today? They passed it with just the 60 vote minimum they needed. I know they were bombarded by constituents telling them to vote no. Bummer”.
Another Occupiers answers, “Yeah, I heard. I’ve also heard that some of the rulers of the Asian countries don’t like it. Maybe in the end it won’t be agreed upon. I hope so. It sure does show that our congress people really don’t give a damn what we want”.
An Occupier who hasn’t been around for a week or so asks, “So what do we have coming up in the next weeks?”
One other Occupier responds, “Well, remember we have to go way out in the country to pick up a big load of firewood. We’ll be leaving at 11am on Saturday morning. It will probably take most of the day to get it all done.
“Homeless advocates are still working on the Homeless Bill of Rights Ordinance. I attended a meeting last week and the next meeting will be at the Human Rights Commission July 8th at 5pm.
“Loaves N Fishes is working on a survey which they want to get out to at least 100 real homeless people. They think they know what should be in the ordinance but they want to poll the people to be sure. I imagine we’ll be needed to help with the survey”.
“This month’s Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NdN Taco Sale is going to be on July 10th. Our help is definitely needed there.
“The annual Veteran’s Pow Wow is going to be July 10th – 12th out at Big Lake/Mash Ka Wisen. I really hope we can go out there on Saturday July 11th. It’s my favorite Pow Wow”.
An additional Occupier comments, “I’ve been reading the Pope’s Encyclical. I’m about 3/4s of the way through. It’s actually pretty good for a Pope. So far, most of what he’s been talking about is the environment and the need to care for it. It’s reads like a combination of a junior high science book and the traditional ways of Native Americans”.
The Native woman who tells good stories stops by to smudge, walk around the circle and give hugs. We don’t see her very often anymore. She’s partnered up with the crabby old African American man who gave us so much trouble during our first year at CJM. The crabby old man isn’t so crabby these days.
The space has been somewhat empty for a while but now all the people who were present at the start of our meeting plus a lot more people arrive. It’s standing room only.
We assume that most are drinking and/or drugging but their behavior doesn’t show it. Everyone is moving slow, talking softly and pleasantly and finding a seat wherever they can.
The main homeless outreach worker drives by, beeps loudly and waves. Everyone waves back.
Another Occupier arrives. He’s returning from his choir rehearsal and reminds everyone his choir and 2 other choirs will be giving a free concert this Sunday, June 28th 4pm at Leif Erickson Park.
The just arriving Occupier brings a tasty blueberry cake, sets it on the table and it disappears in minutes. The other Occupiers are the main culprits.
Our friend, the Central Hillside socialite and all around fun person, drops by. She tells us about her new house and all the things she’s been doing lately.
An Occupier remarks, “I see that a movie called “We Are Many” is going to be released in England soon. It’s about all the demonstrations held around the world before the start of the 2nd Iraq war. Maybe the Zinema will show it and we could go”.
Someone adds, “Yeah, I would like to do that. I remember I was living in another city during that time and we had a really big rally against that war”.
Someone else says, “Here in Duluth we had well over 1,000 people at the Civic Center rallying against it”.
The first Occupier continues, “The amount of people worldwide who got out in the streets to protest was huge! G.W. Bush and his cronies just didn’t care though. They went ahead and did whatever they wanted. Now that it’s supposedly over, it’s been proven without a doubt that we were right”.
Another answers, “Yeah, but the bunch of bozos trying to run this country don’t care about that either”.
It’s been dark for a while now. When someone checks the time, we find that it’s just about 10pm. The folks in the Memorial help us pack up.
One Occupier whispers to another, “I hope everyone stays this mellow after we leave”.
As we drive off, we observe several large groups of street peeps scattered on the sidewalks further down the street. They’re pretty loud and definitely “under the influence”.
Hopefully all will survive this first hot summer night without too much drama. If not, we’re sure to hear about before we come back next Tuesday.

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G.A. Minutes 6-13-15

G.A. Minutes 6-13-15
Upon our arrival at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening, we observe a very long line of motorcycles lined up in front of our friend’s club, located down the street. That part of the street is overflowing with bikers.
We find it rather odd but we know our friend welcomes all types of people in his club. We’ll wait to see how the presence of bikers affects our meeting.
The weather could be referred to as lukewarm. It’s overcast with a slight east wind; the temperature is in the low 50s. It might get cold and it might not. We’ll have to wait and see about that too.
A few street folks on the back ledge appear to be waiting for us. They tell us the bikers are from the Christian biker group that passes through Duluth every year.
The group is holding a rally in the old Christian Encounter building. They have a Christian rock band performing and a big picnic meal is being served outside. The event is open to everyone including all the people of the street. They are not serving alcohol.
We’re relieved to hear this. It means the bike rally won’t be creating any problems for us or anyone else.
As we’re getting things ready, the man who is always laughing drives up. He comes over to say hello. We see that his girlfriend is in the car.
An Occupier asks, “So did you guys have your baby yet?” He responds, “Yeah, we did but the State took it away from my girl. We’re going to court about it though and I think we’ll win”.
We don’t say anything but we know this is probably wishful thinking on his part. We know that his girlfriend has serious mental health issues, a history of serious drug abuse and she has had all the other children to whom she has given birth taken away by Child Protection.
We don’t know a lot about the laughing man but we suspect he hasn’t held down a slave job for many years and he is not legally married to the baby’s mama.
We do know he really wants to do the right thing and that he feels responsible to care for his child. We hope he can work things out.
A couple who are very well respected anti-nuclear and human rights activists have come to join us. They haven’t attended any of our meetings at CJM in the past but they immediately fit right in.
A large group of regular street folks come back from the biker event carrying plates full of food.
One of the activists is writing an article about real grassroots groups. As people sit and eat, she asks us a few questions.
She wants to know how we think our local Occupy group has changed since the beginning days at our first camp at the Civic Center.
An Occupier postulates, “In the beginning I think Occupy was sort of a fad for some. A number, especially the younger people, saw the camp and its meetings, rallies and such as sort of a game or fantasy.
“Some of the younger folks were also tricked by the idea that was called Black Bloc. My personal feeling is that Black Bloc was put into the Occupy Movement by the FBI, CIA, NSA or whoever else works security for the 1%. Major media then used the phony “mini movement” to convince the general public Occupy was a dangerous and violent group.
“Some of the young ones were really attracted to the clothes, scarves and tough talking offered by Black Bloc. The first time they got their heads beat in by the cops, most changed their minds.
“It’s not like that anymore. The people who have remained over the years are serious about what they are doing. They know the basic message the Occupy Movement introduced into the general public about 1% per cent of the human population controlling the majority of the wealth, natural resources, political systems and decision making power over the entire earth while 99% of the human population is subjected to various forms of servitude or slavery in order to survive is true.
“So now days we are a much smaller group of activists. As such, we ally with various likeminded activist groups and organizers, try to assist them in a good way and while doing so we remind people that the 1%/99% fact of life is central to progressive (some say radical) change.
“As far as we can tell, that’s pretty much what’s going on with all the Occupy groups across the country”.
The activist writer asks how we ended up at CJM and we tell her the story of how we politely (mostly) stood up to the DPD and showed them the actual City ordinances and fire codes which supported our meetings and recreational fires at the Memorial.
An Occupier states, “It took us about a year and a half but the cops finally backed off. This is the fourth year we’ve been here”.
“So what’s the point of you all having your meetings at CJM?” she wants to know.
Another Occupier tells her, “Well, the neighborhood street folks seem to appreciate us giving them snacks, a fire, conversation and treating them as the valuable human beings that they really are.
“We also are making the point to the City and to its citizens that people have the right to use of public space. The subject of the people’s loss of the “commons” is too big to go into now but the use of this space and others is the right of everyone. Not just the people who can afford to pay money for it”.
The Spiritual Man has been sitting in the circle for a while. Usually he has many good things to add to the conversation. Tonight he just listens. He probably hasn’t heard the Occupiers speak about these things previously.
We hear a male’s falsetto voice singing a Broadway show tune from across the street. We don’t have to look; we know who it is.
Our African American, gay street friend brings his plate and comes to sit. He shows us a new store purchased sewing pattern that he’s going to use to make a shirt.
One of the Occupiers jokes, “Man you are so intelligent and you have so many skills. If you ever put down that bottle you’d be a force to be reckoned with”.
The gay man responds, “Yeah, I know”. He then begins a conversation about animal factory farming, pollution, climate change and the possible destruction of our Mother Earth.
Shortly after the large group of regular street folks joined the fire, a big flock of seagulls descended upon the roofs of the surrounding buildings.
The man who always feeds the birds is in this group. He is laughing as he runs up to the table, grabs a few pieces of good whole grain bread and waves it up in the air. “Here you go guys!” he hollers.
We feign alarm, pretend to grab the bread away and say, “Oh no you don’t! That’s for us”.
One Occupier comments, “I swear those birds know who you are”. The bird man says, “They do”. He walks off down the street. Within seconds, all the birds fly off after him. We crack up.
The street lights come on. It will be dark soon. The activist couple say goodbye.
It’s time to pack up but we want to watch the fire die out.
The crowd has wandered off. Most Occupiers, the Spiritual Man and a street couple are all who remain.
A woman arrives; the Spiritual Man introduces her as his girlfriend. She is a different woman than the one he introduced us to last year.
He says, “We’ve been arguing for the last two days. I’ve been feeling bad and I’ve been taking it out on her. That’s not right. You know, when a man speaks hatefully to his woman, it’s the same as if he smacked her in the head”. He and his girlfriend say goodnight and go off together.
The bikers are leaving in groups of three and four. Their loud noise breaks our contemplations.
Time to go. If we don’t have to make a run for firewood, we’ll be back on Tuesday.

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G.A. Minutes 6-9-15

G.A. Minutes 6-9-15
The weather is excellent (low 80s, clear skies and little wind) when we arrive at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening.
A few of the regular street folks are basking in the sun on the back ledge. The young man, who is generally in charge of throwing chunks of old white bread to the seagulls, is doing just that.
Once the bread is gone, the folks on the ledge wave and nod our way then wander off up the hill.
We slowly set everything up. It’s much too warm for a fire so we just set the fire pit up and plan to light the fire later.
The space is empty except for the Occupiers. A group of just blossoming adolescents accompanied by a few adults come walking down the hill and in to the Memorial.
We think they may be from the church youth group program that has been bringing small town kids into Duluth each summer for some years. The kids get the chance to see life in the “big city” and are then expected to help out in various City community projects.
We ask the adults if they are part of that church program. They answer that yes they are. They appear surprised we know of their program.
The young people with their clean clothes and freshly scrubbed pink faces noticeably stand out in this neighborhood.
Besides, we met people from this project at CJM last year. We are in the loop.
The kids are wide eyed as they look at the sculptures and read the writings on the wall. The adults…..not so much. The adults appear unhappy and attempt to hurry the kids along. They tell us they are from Avon, MN.
When they leave, the space is empty again. A few walk through on their way to somewhere else.
Another youth church group arrives. They all look about the same as the last group but the adults are more relaxed. They say they are from Grand Forks MN.
It looks like we’ll be having visits from these church folks for most of the summer. At least when we hold meetings on Tuesdays.
We’re alone again and then the minister who has the storefront church down the street joins us. This is a first. He doesn’t say much but gets juice and a sandwich. He sits for a while, leaves and comes back with a large half-filled box of frosted commercial bakery sweet rolls for our table.
If any of the street folks ever show up, they’re really gonna love them.
The main CHUM employment counselor appears. We ask him, “So where is everybody?” He answers, “I was hoping you were gonna tell me”.
We find it strange that, given the absolutely gorgeous weather after a week of fog, cold and rain, the street is not hopping with cavorting people. Apparently we are out of the loop on this one.
We light a small fire and someone starts a conversation concerning the fact that Barry Saunders has announced his candidacy for U.S. president.
This topic barely gets a yawn out of anyone. Although most of us do vote, we know the 2 party=1 party system is a waste of our time. Everything will need to be completely restructured before we have any chance at peace and justice.
An Occupier reminds us that this upcoming Friday, June 12th will be the yearly anniversary of the opening of the CJM Memorial. The NAACP and friends will be having a ceremony at noon.
She also comments the Superior African Heritage Community is sponsoring its 1st annual Juneteenth Celebration on Saturday June 20th from 1pm-7pm in Kelly Park, across the bridge in Superior WI.
The Occupier says, “I think we should attend. Several people we work with will be among the organizers and it’s important they have a successful event”.
Only one of the Occupiers, who attended last Saturday’s Tar Sands Resistance March in St. Paul, is present at tonight’s meeting. He tells us, “There were so many people that I can only tell you about my own section. The march was successful and even received some press coverage”. We hope that this is just the beginning of a serious battle on the part of our side.
A couple of young African American guys are pushing a baby in a stroller. They are watching us from across the street; they decide to come over.
One of the young men is the father of the approximately 2 year old boy child. The child is immediately friendly and talkative. The young men are nervous at first but quickly relax.
Tonight our table contains coffee, apple juice, PB+J sandwiches and animal crackers. Everything is organic. We think the child will be in for a real treat however, he prefers a frosted sweet roll. His Dad hands one to him.
After we assure the very thin young men they would be helping us by eating our food, they chow down. They appear to be quite hungry.
Over the past hour or so, several men, each traveling in a different direction, have been passing by on the sidewalk. They are each carrying on an animated conversation, presumably with themselves. We imagine these men have passed by on other nights but because of all the usual activity around the circle, we had failed to notice them.
One of the men comes to sit in the circle. This spooks the young men with the child. They shake our hands and say goodbye.
We can’t really make out what the guy’s continuous speech is about, but as long as he doesn’t get threatening or violent we might as well just let him roll.
The next guest at the circle is one of Duluth’s premier elder musicians. He is a friend of one of the Occupiers. He glances towards the talking man and gives a questioning look to the Occupier. The Occupier says, “I have no idea”. They laugh without malice.
The musician is trying to find a person skilled in hand drumming and percussion. The Occupier who is also a drummer explains, “I don’t play much anymore; I’m just too old and beat up”. She gives him the contact information for someone she thinks will work real well with him and he goes off to find that person.
Then out of the blue, the Spiritual Man appears. This is a pleasant surprise. An Occupier yells, “He lives! He lives!” Another says, “I put out tobacco for you, man”.
The Spiritual Man looks like hell but he is alive. We know he was in a coma and on life support for 4 days. He tells us that during that time he was talking with his mother. His mother passed from this world many years ago.
A group of regular Native street young men arrive. They are all friends of the Spiritual Man and there is more conversation able his latest ordeal. The man’s phone rings and he limps off to another destination.
The Occupiers are almost alone again. Remaining in the circle are 3 middle aged men, the first talking man and now there are 2 more.
Each man is talking rapidly to himself. An Occupier whispers, “Is this the Incoherent Olympics?” Several of the older Occupiers have had previous experience working in various mental hospitals. They quietly comment on the similarity between what is going on right now and what it looked like in the patient lobbies of the mental hospitals.
Another Occupier points to the sky. A big black cloud is rapidly rolling towards CJM. We feel the first drops of rain.
Everyone jumps up, begins packing up and putting out the fire. The 3 men all feel the raindrops and appear to be somewhat aware of their surroundings. We say, “A big storm is coming, better find shelter”. The men run off.
We know it will be only a brief shower but find it a perfect excuse to call it a night.
The weather is supposed to be good for a while. We plan to be back on Saturday.

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