G.A. Minutes 8-23-16

G.A. Minutes 8-20-16

G.A. Minutes 8-20-16
It’s raining this evening; actually it’s just kind of raining.  It’s spitting and misting; the sky is covered with dark, angry looking clouds.  It looks like a downpour will commence any minute.  It’s been looking like this all day but nothing much has actually happened.
There’s just enough rain coming down to make it uncomfortable to meet at People’s Plaza so we’re at Coney Island instead.  The streets of eastern downtown Duluth are crawling with tourists.  We’ve heard that our city is expecting about 300,000 tourists to visit from last Thursday through this upcoming Sunday.
The tourists are coming to tour a group of replicas of 17th century ocean going sailing ships.  These ships are accompanied by a gigantic rubber duck.  Go figure. Our downtown and bay front area have been taken over by gawking people with money to spend.  They are looking for entertainment. 
Apparently, we Central Hillside residents are supposed to be happy about this because it’s bringing money into town.  The problem is that it’s not bringing money to people who actually need it.  The Goldfines and other 1% business owners are raking in the bucks.  The people who do the actual work in the hotels, restaurants, bars and such are still being paid slightly above minimum wage.  Many of their jobs are seasonal.
Central Hillside folks are expected to stay away from the Lakewalk and lakeside parks during tourist season.  We can see why tourists might enjoy our downtown area.  Unlike many other cities, Duluth hasn’t been completely taken over by corporate cookie cutter businesses that are the same all over the country.  We still have some unique, local businesses, gardens and parks.  However, we like them too and summer time is the best time to frequent these places.  Maybe we could convince the Chamber of Commerce and the City to kick some of the tourist tax back to the locals who lose out during tourist season. 
As we enter Coney Island, we find that there are tourists in most of the booths. The usual regular hipsters who generally work at least 12 hour shifts have the night off for once.  The alternate regular hipster is working with 2 new (to us at least) folks.  They appear to be hipsters too.  The 3 of them are really hustling their butts off.  We give a quick wave and head towards the back booth.  It has people already in it so we take the middle and slightly smaller booth.
The middle aged office worker is waiting for us.  This is good.  She starts up a conversation about the concept of rugged individualism that is so prevalent in this country.  This concept has been nurtured by the 1% since the beginnings of colonization, genocide and/or enslavement of indigenous North Americans, Africans and European indentured servants of the so called USA.
We discuss how people are made to feel that their so called success or failure is completely the result of their own competence and actions.  The 1% are well aware that if we ever realize that helping each other and working together is “where it’s at”, then their gig is up.
Many Occupiers were able to attend the Step Up for Racial Justice Potluck last Wednesday.  An Occupier remarks, “I was pleased by the sincerity and readiness of the young people who facilitated the group discussion.  Another Occupier says, “I wish I had been able to attend.  I could have reported about my experience at the last Black Lives Matter meeting I attended.  The only thing I’ve heard since then is that the core BLM group is still working on their platform.  They’re not yet ready to go public with their plans.  I’m excited to find out what they have in store”.
More Occupiers and the city official arrive.  The back booth is empty now so we quickly move.  We make sure the booth we are leaving is clean so the workers won’t have to bother.
The city official comments on the fact that the rents in Duluth are too high relative to the incomes of Duluth renters.  He says this is why so many apartments require multiple roommates.  Because we have such a shortage of low income housing, landlords, especially slumlords, charge exorbitant rent.  If we had more low income housing, rents would be reasonable.
Someone comments about the scandalous behavior of a small group of American Olympic athletes in Rio.  Apparently, they vandalized a gas station, were confronted by police and went back to their Olympic Village and reported they had been mugged and robbed by some brown people.
We talk about “jock privilege” and white privilege in general.  An Occupier comments, “I think the people who go to Trump rallies have genuine grievances about how they are suffering.  They just don’t understand the true causes of their problems.  They think they are entitled to white privilege and they think they are losing that privilege.  They don’t understand that so called “race” is a made up concept.  They think they don’t have well-paying jobs because these jobs have been given to women and POC”.
The newest Occupier woman replies, “That’s where one on one conversation comes in.  When we actually talk face to face with people, listen to what they have to say and maybe gently express our own viewpoint, good things happen. She goes on to report about various studies that have shown when people go door to door to talk with others, real conversations and real understanding happens.  She says, “Most of the time we only talk with people who share our same perspective.  That’s not the best prescription for change”.
An Occupier reminds us, “Next Tuesday at noon there’s going to be a press conference on the Lakewalk somewhere behind that new brewery place.  I don’t have the details but know it’s going to be about requiring Polymet to submit more studies about the health effects of their proposed sulfide mine or something like that.  I don’t even know who is sponsoring the press conference but I know they need people to show up”.
An Occupier reports on the Idle No More meeting she attended last Friday.  She states, “They’re not going to have an NDN Taco Sale in September.  As you know, All Nations is moving into the Damiano so having a sale next month will not be do-able.  In the long run, we think they will be able to reserve us a monthly spot in at the Hillside Community Center where we can continue the sales.
“Also, they’re going to send a $250 donation to the Standing Rock/Sacred Stone Camp and provide travel money for some of the folks to attend a wolf conference in WI.”
The newest Occupier asks, “When you say INM, what is that?”  We start to tell her about the world wide struggle of Indigenous people to preserve their remaining lands and their ways of life.  She already knows about all that.  An Occupier explains, “It was started a few years back by First Nations people in Canada. This is a totally politically incorrect thing to say but it’s kinda like the First Nations/Native American Occupy”.
It’s getting dark outside.  The lead hipster is turning off the outside lights and locking the door.  We ask, “Are you closing now?”  He responds, “Yeah, but you guys can stay as long as you want”.
We chat a bit longer then perform our usual cleaning and tipping ritual.  We find the weather hasn’t changed.  It’s pleasantly cool, misting and looking as though it will storm any minute.
Next Tuesday, if the weather allows it, we’ll be back at People’s Plaza.  If not, we’ll be at Coney Island.    
 

G.A. Minutes 8-16-16

G.A. Minutes 8-16-16
The weather people have been calling for a 40% chance of rain in the early evening.  The sky has been clear all day and still is, as we roll up to People’s Plaza this evening.  We’ve decided to take a chance. 
Temperatures are in the high 70s, skies are partly cloudy and a very slight, occasional, easterly breeze is making itself known.  We’ve noticed that when there’s a slight breeze, it usually picks up after about 7pm.  That means we may be able to light the fire later on.  Cool.
Our first visitor, as we are setting up the circle, is a middle aged woman who we have not met in the past.  She tells us that she has been following our meeting reports on our website and has wanted to attend one for a while.  She decided that tonight was the night.  We welcome her.
The woman and one of the female Occupiers sit and chat.  The woman says, “I recently celebrated my 49th birthday.  I realized that I’m not living my life according to my own personal values.  I intend to correct that”.
The 49 year old does office work for a major health insurance company; the Occupier is a retired nurse.  They discuss a few of the many major wrongs being committed within our country’s health care system.
The new visitor is fairly well versed as to what is going on with progressive and radical groups.  She works with a few of our allies.  Hopefully, she’ll decide to work with us too.
A few more Occupiers arrive.  One of them pulls a big piece of birch bark out of the fire pit.  He exclaims, “I can’t believe you were planning on burning this beautiful piece of art!”  He goes on to name some of the things for which birch bark can be used.  The Fire Magician adds, “Also, birch bark is the best thing to use for starting a fire”.
A young man we have seen around over the years comes to the table.  He’s shy but he asks if he can have some food.  We encourage him to take all that he needs.  He takes enough for a light lunch, says thank you and shyly retires.
A good sized group of African American folks come walking up the steps.  We know them, as they have been to many of our fires at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.  Most are from the Skinner.
They get snacks and take seats in the circle.  We open the conversation by mentioning Black Lives Matter.  The Skinner folks are all completely down with BLM.  All have experienced multiple instances of racial profiling and excessive use of force.
One woman says, “Here in Duluth, if the cops see a black man jaywalking or throwing a cigarette butt on the ground, they stop him and lock him up if they can. If they see a white man do the very same things they just ignore it.  I’ve seen it with my very own eyes.  When the cops talk to white guys, they pat them on the back”.
A small woman who is wearing a big medical brace on one of her knees tells us, “A while back, I was arguing in the street.  Somebody called the cops.  When they arrived I tried to tell the cop what was going on.  All of a sudden he grabs me and slams me into his car.  The way he slammed me, he hit my knee real hard.  That’s why I’m wearing this brace.  The doctors say I’m going to have to have a knee replacement.  What is wrong with these cops?  Don’t they know they ain’t supposed to be hitting no woman?!  I got a lawyer though and I’m going to court on this one”.
The city official joins us and is quickly followed by the Occupier who has been living in another city, the stylish Native woman and her partner, the Menagerie Woman, her friend and a little dog.
We don’t have enough chairs.  Fortunately, the Plaza has little moveable benches scattered all around.  We get a few of them and expand our circle. 
An Occupier asks the Fire Magician, “Maybe we could have a small fire?  It’s cooler now and we’re all far enough away from the fire pit that we won’t get too warm.  Maybe a fire for esthetic reasons?”  The Fire Magician lights up a small fire.
One of the Occupiers has thought to bring a dog dish.  We pour water into it and give it to the little guy.  He’s really thirsty; bringing a dog dish was a good idea.
One of the Skinner women states she is from Mississippi.  She is not Mississippi Woman but another woman who is also from Mississippi.  She explains how the prison system works for black people.  Her explanation is identical to what the Occupiers have read from the radical prison analysts.  The difference is, she is talking about her actual life.
Someone asks, “Did anybody see the article in the Trib today about the County Sheriff’s Department wanting to put full time cops in all the rural schools?”  An Occupier replies, “WTF?”  Someone responds, “Yeah, they showed up uninvited to the County Commissioners meeting and wanted the Commissioners to vote to put full time cops in all the rural schools.  I don’t think much of most of the County Commissioners but at least they had enough sense to say no they weren’t gonna vote.  They said they didn’t have enough information.  The next Commission meeting is up in Virginia.  The Sherriff said he would bring them information at that meeting.
The friend of Menagerie woman opines, “Putting cops in schools just make the students think that they (the students) are bad.  An Occupier sighs, “Their union probably tells them if they can get cops in the schools there will be more jobs”.  
An Occupier needs to give a few reports.  She tells us, “Step Up for Racial Justice is having a potluck tomorrow night at Peace Church, 6pm.  On Saturday, August 27th, Loaves N Fishes are having their annual Jefferson Street Block Party from 9am-4pm.  Then on Sunday, August 28th, Hillfest will be happening.
Menagerie Woman needs to leave and catch a bus.  The friend and her dog stay. The friend entertains us with stories about the crazy public housing building that she lives in.  The dog politely smells around.
An artist friend of the Occupier couple stops by.  He looks at his phone and announces, “The weather people say we’re going to be hit by a thunderstorm any minute now”.  An Occupier looks up and answers, “I don’t see any stars…..hmmm….”  It generally takes us about 15 or 20 minutes to pack up.  Once we are done, it’s still not raining.  Hmmm… 
If everything goes according to plan, we expect to be back at People’s Plaza on Saturday.
 

G.A. Minutes 8-9-16

G.A. Minutes 8-9-16
We thought the really hot “dog days” of summer were over.  We were wrong.  It seems foolish to complain, because some of us complain all winter and beg for spring to arrive.  When full-fledged summer gets to cooking, we complain that it’s too hot.  Are we spoiled Americans or does the same thing happen in the rest of the world?
Anyway, the first Occupier to arrive at People’s Plaza is the one who brings the food.  She drives her car up, gets out and goes to sit in the shade.  The next Occupier to arrive does the same.  It’s just too hot to do anything until the sun goes behind the buildings.
The temperature is in the low 90s; it’s extremely humid, skies are clear and the slight occasional breeze is probably why there are no dead bodies lying on the sidewalks.
The sun goes behind the buildings and more Occupiers arrive.  We all join in, get things set up, then plunk down in chairs, tired from just a small effort.
An Occupier comments, “It looks like, now that Bernie’s dropped out, many of his supporters are going to Jill Stein’s camp.  I think that’s good because if she gets a noticeable amount of votes it will show the country that people are really serious about making changes”.
Another Occupier wonders, “Yeah but maybe she’ll turn into a neocon once she takes office”.
The first Occupier responds, “Well, I think there’s about a 99% chance that Jill won’t win the election.  Also, if she did win, there would be only so much she could do because the President is not all powerful.  She would have a Congress where almost all of the members are sold out to some corporation or other.  Almost all of them would refuse to support anything she called for.
“That said, Jill Stein has a platform that’s light years ahead of Bernie.  Given the difficult political circumstances, she’d still make a better president than anyone this country has ever had”. 
An Occupier asks, “Do you know that there’s a Nagasaki/Hiroshima memorial event going on right now?  That’s where some of our Occupiers are tonight”. Another Occupier adds, “Yeah, I wish I could be at two places at once”.
A male/female couple comes to visit.  They are all smiles and cheerfulness.  They give us hugs and tell us how glad they are to see us again.  They look vaguely familiar; we think they may have been at a few of our fires a couple of years ago.
They tell us that things have gone downhill for them lately and they have to stay at the CHUM now.  They don’t like it but at the same time, they’re grateful for the CHUM’s existence.  The man says, “There are some people who stay at CHUM who are really, seriously crazy or something.  It’s hard to sleep when some of those people are up yelling and trying to fight all night”.
The woman adds, “We’ve been dutifully saving our money; by next month we will have first and last and be able to rent an apartment.  We’re pretty sure we have a landlord who will rent to us”.
The woman spots a friend who is across the street and she calls to her.  When the friend arrives, we realize she is the partner of the man who is always laughing. We haven’t seen him in about a year and have been wondering where he is.  As the two women chat and we listen, it becomes apparent that the friend and the man who is always laughing are no longer a couple.  We wonder if he was ever able to get their baby back from social services.  The friend is on her way to meet another sweetheart.  Now is not the time to ask her those questions.
We are joined by the city official.  He’s brought a box of cooked chicken for our table.  We’re sure it won’t last long.
An Occupier says to the official man, “I thought it was the right decision last Friday at the Black Lives Matter meeting.   That woman who works as a gardener suggested that all the white folks should leave so the black folks could talk among themselves.
“I think black folks need to meet together for a while so they can get their game plan together.  Then they can invite us back and tell us what they want us to do.
“So anyway, what happened after we left?”  The city man explains, “Well there’s still the question of who will be in the positions of leadership.  I told them I would not be able to participate much as I’m already doing so many other things.  There are some really bright young people in the group.  I hope they are up to the challenge”.
An Occupier gives a few reports.  She says, “I’m sorry but I lost the minutes from our last meeting on August 2nd.  I wrote them up, went to copy and paste to email and pressed a wrong button.  The minutes completely vanished and all I had was a blank Word document.  They’re now somewhere in my computer but I have been unable to find them.
“The next meeting for the preparation of the Homeless Bill of Rights is this Thursday, August 11th 5pm in room 106A of City Hall.
“I’m sure you all know that we won’t have a meeting this Saturday because some of us will be at the Bayfront Blues Festival”.
As we are listening to the reports, who should come staggering up the stairs but… Bush Man.  He appears to be very drunk.  He walks around the circle shaking hands and then hollers, “Where’s my woman!?” 
An Occupy opines, “Well seeing as today is Tuesday, she’s probably at the movies”.  Bush Man answers, “Oh right, I got kicked out of the movie theatre”. Everyone chats for a bit; then Bush Man yells, “So why isn’t she here right now!?” An Occupier replies, “Relax man, she’ll be here when the movie is done”.
As if on cue, Menagerie Woman arrives; she’s brought a friend and a dog.  Bush Man immediately begins kissing and rubbing up against the animal loving woman. He then begins to slap her arm and pull her hair.  She tells him to stop and he begins to pout.  He kicks a few of the unused chairs that are stacked against the wall, then goes further back into the Plaza to take a few drinks from the bottle he’s been carrying.
When he returns he sits between some Occupiers and whines, “I guess I’ve done something wrong.  She’s mad and I don’t like that so I guess I’ll have to leave her. I have such a hard life and no one will help me”.
An Occupier says to him, “I’ll drive you over to Detox if you like”.  Bush Man sits straight up and responds, “Oh no!  There’s nothing wrong with me!”   Menagerie Woman announces, “I really don’t like you when you’re drunk”.  Another Occupier adds, “You are very obnoxious when you’re drunk”.  Bush Man apologies to his newly found woman and they are all cuddly again.
Some of us have spoken privately with Menagerie Woman.  We’ve told her that we feel very nervous about her forming a relationship with a man who physically abuses her.  She has responded that she’s not worried.  She said, “Oh, he’s just testing his boundaries.  He won’t ever be able to really hurt me.  My dogs won’t allow it”.
We know she is a grown woman and has been around the block a few times. Still….we worry.
Two young Native boys are standing in the shadows; they call out “Boozhoo”.  We answer, “Boozhoo”.  We invite them to partake of the food on the table.  They are most happy to do so.
There’s still some chicken left.  There are hard boiled eggs, organic cookies, coffee, apple juice and cold water.  The boys have themselves a feast.  When they are finished they thank us.  As they leave, an Occupy observes, “Growing kids are always hungry”.
Bush Man jumps up, gets his lighter, goes to the fire pit and says, “Come on, let’s light this baby up!”  In unison, everyone else in the circle cries out, “No!  It’s too hot!”
A strong breeze picks up; it washes over us and feels great.  Menagerie Woman needs to catch the last bus home.  She hesitates as to whether she will take Bush Man along.  He makes a sad face and she relents.  Off they go.
The big clock strikes 9pm.  Someone says, “If we pack up quick, we can get out of here before anyone else shows up”.  Everyone agrees and we quickly put all the stuff away.
One Occupier says to another, “Well, I guess you got your wish”.  The other Occupier answers, “Huh?”  The first Occupier explains, “Remember a few days ago when you said you missed all the constant drama like we used to have back at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial?  Well, you got your wish; there was plenty of needless drama here tonight”.   
We won’t be here on Saturday but expect to return to People’s Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 7-30-16

G.A. Minutes 7-26-16

G.A. Minutes 7-26-16

G.A. Minutes 7-23-16

G.A. Minutes 7-16-16

G.A. Minutes 7-16-16
 We’ve hit on another perfect evening at People’s Plaza.  We’ve been hoping to get a few more of these before summer is over.  We remember these types of days all year long; they help us through the cruelest times in winter.
The temperature is in the low 80s, the sky is partly cloudy with a gentle breeze whispering calmly throughout the space.
When the first Occupiers arrive, the Plaza is completely empty.  Someone has been here recently and they didn’t clean up their mess.  Old food wrappers, used paper cups and cigarette butts are scattered all around.
The first couple of Occupiers decide to sit and wait for others to arrive before setting things up.  As they wait, they notice the street and sidewalks are strangely quiet, especially for a Saturday night.  Superior St. has been blocked off after 1st Ave. W. There is no activity going on inside the blockade. 
After sitting, enjoying the weather for about a half an hour, the streets are still quiet and absolutely no one has even shown their face in the Plaza.  The Occupiers decide to do the set up and cleanup themselves and see how things develop.
As they are putting the chairs in a circle, a woman who appears to be a tourist comes up and asks them if they know where the dance on the Lake Walk is going to be.  The Occupiers are clueless but they point her in the direction of the Lake Walk.
They get a small fire going.  Their first visitor is the brain damaged man who lives at San Marcos.  He looks like absolute hell.  His hands are shaking, his face is quite swollen and his right arm has an open wound surrounded by green tinged skin.  He assures us that he’s just fine and says he can’t remember how he got so banged up.
An Occupier asks how things are going at the San Marcos and the man replies, “Oh, everybody’s always fighting but the next morning they can’t remember what they were fighting about so they’re friends again”.  He also comments, “I hear there’s gonna be a street dance here”.
The other Occupier notices that the Port-a-Pottys that were in the back of the Plaza when they had their last fire are now gone.  She exclaims, “Damn!  I was so hoping they would still be there”.
A middle aged man we haven’t met in the past asks to sit down; we welcome him.  He tells us he was on his way to southern MN when his RV broke down about a block from People’s Plaza.  He says he’s dedicated his life to Jesus Christ so he figures there is a reason why he broke down in Duluth.  He’s gonna go with the flow.
The middle aged guy, who has a country hippie look about him, reports that he was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and since then has spent most of his life working as a counselor at juvenile correction facilities.  He states, “Everybody thinks I work with bad kids.  They’re not bad; they’ve just had bad upbringing and bad luck.  I try real hard not to judge people”.
Another man, perhaps somewhat older, asks to sit and we welcome him also.  He looks kinda like a hippie too but his clothes are new and his gear is top of the line.  He tells us he’s from Wasila, Alaska and he’s in the process of hitchhiking to Maine.  The man says, “I had a really nice boat but it was destroyed in the hurricane in the Gulf.  I’d sunk everything I had into.  I have friends in Maine who own a farm and I’m going there to help.  I hope I’ll be able to find some type of job that I can work until I’m too old to work anymore”.
The older man and an Occupier talk about the best routes for hitchhiking.  The man confides, “I really don’t want to go near Chicago.  I hear it’s seriously dangerous there right now.  Black Lives Matter is closing down the freeways and there’s lots of violence”.
The other Occupier responds, “We just attended a Black Lives Matter vigil last night.  It wasn’t violent at all, in fact, it was beautiful.  I think you might be getting your information from the major media.  They’re doing to Black Lives Matter the same thing they did to Occupy.  They produced very selected footage and accused Occupy of being violent when nothing was further from the truth.  They’re doing the same thing to BLM.  Folks from Black Lives Matter are no different from us.  They’re just people trying to survive”.
We hear sounds of people doing mic checks and tuning up.  Maybe they are having a street dance up the street.
Our friend, the city official, comes up the stairs and joins the circle.  An Occupier says to him, “I thought last night was really nice”.  The official answers, “So did I.  Some of the speakers spoke some very heavy words; I especially liked it when we all lit candles, made that big circle and held them up”.      
The Occupier informs the other men, “We’re talking about last night’s Black Lives Matter vigil.  The official was the lead organizer and MC for the one here in Duluth.  There was a vigil in Superior too and in lots of places across the country”.
The middle aged man asks, “So what is Black Lives Matter about anyway?”  An Occupier nods to the official and answers, “He can explain it best”.  The official responds, “Yes I can but I’m tired of doing it.  You explain it”.  So the Occupier explains, “Well, the bottom line is that cops are killing black people’s innocent children.  The cops don’t even get in trouble when they murder the kids.  Cops have historically done this.
“African Americans have been complaining about having their children killed for over 100 years.  That’s why BLM is blocking the streets and freeways now.  They’re trying to get the rest of the people to listen.  So far, no one is listening.  There were 3 young, innocent black men murdered already, this month.
“You will probably be seeing a lot more white folks in Black Lives Matter.  White folks have white privilege so are gonna try to get the attention of the rest of people”.
The middle aged man comments, “Yeah, that slavery shit was terribly gruesome. Getting kidnapped and put on those ships and all”.
An Occupier says to the city man, “So I hear there’s another BLM meeting Friday, 2pm at the Dom.  I sure hope I can make it.  I’ll be helping out at the All Nations Indian Taco Sale and I’m not sure when I’ll be done”.  The city man replies, “I think I won’t be able to get to the City Forum, Q+A on next Tuesday 6p-7:30p at Denfield H.S.”
A young, probably homeless man has been hanging around the edge of the circle.  An Occupier smiles at him and signals a welcome to the fire.  The young man helps himself to the snacks on the table.  He looks hungry so the Occupier asks, “If I throw these hot dogs, from a few fires ago, on the grill, will you eat some?”  The young man answers, “Definitely”.
A well respected local musician stops in.  He’s hungry too.  Another middle aged, dressed in sports fan attire, would like to eat but will only take the food if he can pay for it.  We put his donation in the treasury fund.  We have at least $10 now.
A squad car pulls up across the street and an officer gets out.  Several more officers arrive on foot.  Then a big fire truck with flashing lights pulls up at an angle, blocking the street.
For a moment we wonder if we’re about to have a replay of the drama we experienced during our final months at the Memorial.  But no, the middle aged man comes from across the street and reports, “There is a woman lying in the middle of the sidewalk.  I tried to help her but the man who appeared to be with her told me she was alright.  I moved away and called the cops.  I’m surprised they got here so fast”.
We sit and observe the scene unfolding.  It turns out like many things on the street.  A lotta drama over nothin’.  Apparently the cops have received the same answer as the middle aged man.  They all leave and the middle aged man comments, “I’m surprised they just leave her like that”.  An Occupier tells him, “They probably know her and can see she’s o.k.  If she was really bad off they would take her to Detox”.
The big clock strikes 10pm.  The fire is dying and all the hot dogs are gone.  The official offers to help us pack up but an Occupier replies, “We’ve kinda got this thing down to a science”.
As the Occupiers finish packing up, one of them observes, “Well considering it was just the two of us tonight, I’d say things went pretty well”.
We’ll be at an anti-racism forum next Tuesday but if all goes well, we expect to be back at People’s Plaza next Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 7-12-16

G.A. Minutes 7-12-16
The weather is cooperating, more or less this evening, so we’re back at People’s Plaza.  It’s partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid-80s.  The wind is blowing from the west at about a bazillion miles per hour.  We’re going to need to anchor down everything on the table; if we don’t, the entire contents will be bouncing off the cars on the freeway exit.
We are just beginning to unload when we see the stylish Native woman and her partner walking up.  An Occupier had seen them at the Domiano earlier in the week and told them about our new location.  It’s wonderful to see them again; they’re some of our favorite people.
We give them a copy of the final draft of the proposed Homeless Bill of Rights. This bill has been worked on by homeless advocates for approximately 2 years.  It will be presented to the City Council in the near future with the recommendation that it be made into a City Ordinance.  The couple takes a seat in the circle and begin reading.
We notice something else that’s pretty wonderful too.  Off in the far west corner of the Plaza 3 porta pottys sit open for business.  We figure they are there so the various construction crews can use them in the daytime when they’re working in the area.  Fortunately, they’ve been left unlocked.  This makes a huge difference in the lives of homeless people.
As more Occupiers arrive, we start up a conversation about Black Lives Matter and the horrible murders of young black men across our country this month.  Then last Saturday 5 white police officers were killed by an African American sniper in Dallas, Texas.
The young black men were Delran Small of NYC, Anton Sterling of Baton Rouge, LA and Philandro Castile of St. Paul, MN.  All three men were just minding their own business and living their lives when they were shot and killed by police officers.  The 5 Dallas cops were attending a rally and were marching in support of Black Lives Matter.
 We make plans to attend the BLM vigil to be held on Friday, July 15th at 7pm in front of City Hall.  This vigil will be in coordination with vigils held all across the country.  Superior, WI will be holding a vigil at their City Hall also.
Some of the Occupiers were able to attend a pre-rally meeting last Friday.  After planning logistics, the BLM members told us this violence and murders have to stop.  They said that is reaching epidemic proportions and they will need us to increase our support and make use of our white privilege.
A BLM organizer stated, “In the past you have been our allies and have been there to back us up.  We are not being listened to so we need you to step up and be heard.  Your white privilege will get your words listened to and then maybe we can stop the police killing us for BWB (breathing while black).
All the Occupiers are down with complying with the BLM request.  We’re not sure how we will go about getting the powers that be to listen to us as they have not done so in the past.  We will certainly take every opportunity to make ourselves heard.
Our friend, the city official, arrives.  This evening he is talking about the City Council meeting last night.  At that meeting, Carl Crawford, a man that we all know and respect, was confirmed as the new Duluth Human Rights Officer.  Several of the Occupiers attended this meeting.  The Council Chambers were packed with supporters of Carl.
Anyway, all the Councilors were talking about what the HRO job entailed when one Councilor, Howie Hansen, committed a faux pas.  He welcomed Carl into the inner circle, “good ole’ boys” golfing team.  Everyone in the Council Chambers was pretty much speechless for a moment after that.  We don’t expect that Carl will have much time or interest in schmoozing with the inner circle while protecting the human rights of our most vulnerable citizens.
An Occupier comments that he wonders why cops are allowed to keep their jobs and escape any punishment after killing innocent and harmless people.  The city official responds, “It’s because of the police unions.  They will back up a cop no matter what he/she has done”.
Changing the subject, another Occupier tells a story, “I had my utilities shut off most of today.  I’m behind on my bill so they decided to cut me off.  I don’t have enough money in my bank account to cover the whole thing so I asked if they would take the considerable sum that I had.  They said no, they wanted the entire amount. 
“I called the Energy Assistance people.  They told me I’d have to fill out a bunch of forms and wait about 6 months to be accepted.  Then they said it doesn’t really matter because they have run out of money so don’t have anything to give anyone anyway”
The city official adds, “The CEO of that energy assistance program makes a 6 figure salary.  Maybe that explains why they don’t have any money left”.
The Occupier continues, “Fortunately, I was able to borrow some money from one of my friends so my electricity is back on now”.  
The utility using Occupier has been a big supporter of Bernie Sanders.  We know he’s been very busy today so we ask him, “Did you see what Bernie did today?” He answers, “No, what did he do?”  We tell him, “Bernie endorsed Hilary Clinton for president of the U.S.”.  The Occupier takes the big Bernie button off his shirt and puts it in his pocket.  Enough said.
The wind has finally settled down.  We can light the fire without worrying about accidently burning the whole place down.
The woman with the animal menagerie rides up on her bike.  She’s coming from her usual Tuesday night visit to the Plasma Donating Center and is looking for the Spiritual Man.  He’s been staying at her house recently and they had planned to take the bus back to her place later.  We tell her to just wait a while, Spiritual Man generally shows up later in the evening.
The fashionable woman and her partner have finished reading the Homeless Bill of Rights.  They like it very much, especially the parts where it says that homeless people have a right to make use of public space, to rest and to sleep and to have use of a bathroom and general hygiene space 24/7.
The woman tells us, “This is just exactly what we need”, her partner agrees, “Yeah, we just need to be treated like human beings”, he then goes on to tell us about a man who froze to death in the winter, in our city.  The man was kicked out of CHUM and could find no indoor space to keep warm throughout the night.
We see 2 squad cars sitting at the Superior St. intersection; when the light changes, they drive on.  They don’t seem to be paying us any mind.
An Occupier announces, “Tomorrow is the public hearing for the BWCA and friends.   Twin Metals executives will also be there.  It’s at the DECC and people are supposed to meet in the parking lot at 3:30pm.  The hearing starts at 5pm.
Another Occupier says to some of the others, “I found out that there is a group of people in the cities that are planning on caravanning to the DNC national conference in Philly.  Here’s the contact information in case you want to go along”.
Spiritual Man arrives.  He tells us he’s been wrestling with some heavy speed type drugs for the past 4 days or so.  He’s come down now and hopes he doesn’t go there again.  He’s been unable to smudge so appreciates being able to do so now.  He says, “I don’t really want to do that drug because I know it’s bad for me but I have to admit, I like it.  I have to figure out what it is about me that makes me like it”.
The big Native man who had just won the Papa Smurf doll when we saw him at our last fire comes walking up the stairs.  He and Spiritual Man are good friends.  They take a copy of the proposed Homeless Bill of Rights and sit to read it.
When they are finished the big Native man comments, “This is really good.  I hope it gets passed; it contains some very important things.  You know, the workers at CHUM threw away all my clothes again.  This is the 5th time they’ve done this. Now I’ll have to get all new clothes.  They don’t have anywhere that I can store my stuff so I just have to leave it there when I can’t take it with me.  If I’m not back in a few days, they throw my stuff away.  That’s not right”.
Spiritual Man, Menagerie Woman and the big Native guy go off to the bus stop. We are left with just Occupiers at the fire.
Someone says, “It’s only 9pm but maybe we should pack up now”.  Somebody else replies, “Yeah, we only stay later when a visitor still needs us to sit longer”.
So we pack up.  If the weather holds up, we’ll be back to the People’s Plaza on Saturday. 
 
 

G.A. Minutes 7-5-16

G.A. Minutes 7-5-16
So we’ve been calling back and forth all day trying to decide where we should meet tonight.  The weather people say there’s going to be major rainstorms all evening.  We check the weather maps; they show big storms on the way.  It’s impossible to tell if they are heading right for us or if they will pass to the north or south.
Eventually, we decide to be cautious and meet at Coney Island.  The sky has been gray all day with temperatures in the mid-80s.  The air is humid, almost oppressive and a breeze is non-existent.
Right about the time we’re rolling up to Coney Island, a strong, cool breeze picks up.  We think this is part of the big storm that’s been forecast.  We just stop and stand around outside for a bit.  It feels real good.
As we enter the café, an Occupier tells us, “I thought we might be going to People’s Plaza so I made a big bunch of PB+J sandwiches.  No worries though, once we’re done here I’ll drop them off at CHUM.  People will probably appreciate a bedtime snack”.
It’s the usual suspects plus one this evening.  A retired school teacher who is a friend of all the Occupiers is joining us.  She’s not been to one of our meetings before.  Once we start to yakking, we’ll have to remember to stop and explain what we’re talking about every so often. We’re used to using acronyms and names she may not be familiar with.
We find we’re quite packed in as we settle into the back booth.  If anyone else shows up some will have to stand.
An Occupier comments, “I hear they’re not giving out free Narcan kits at the Needle Exchange anymore.  Pfizer bought out the company that makes Narcan and they’ve jacked the price up real high”.
The Occupiers all gasp.  An Occupier exclaims, “OMG, that just cannot be. Where did you hear this?”  The first Occupier answers, “A friend of mine who works at the Exchange told me this a couple of days ago.  I guess only rich junkies will be able to have their lives saved now”.   
One of the Occupiers turns to the teacher and explains, “Narcan is a drug that when injected into a person who is having a heroin overdose will sort of neutralize the heroin.  Narcan has saved many people’s lives”.
Another Occupier adds, “I’m so glad I never got into those types of drugs. Smoking marijuana was as far as I ever went and I was quite happy to stay right there.  Someone remarks, “A very long time ago, I tried heroin twice but I didn’t like it very much”.
The teacher says “Really?  I thought heroin was supposed to be a heavenly experience”.  An Occupier replies, “Only for some people.  It depends on one’s brain chemistry I think.  Some people think it’s just great but others don’t like all the creepy side effects.  One thing is for sure though; using heroin will definitely ruin one’s life”.
An Occupier opines, “You see a lot of various types of substance abuse in our neighborhood.  I think a lot of it might just have to do with boredom.  So many people in the Central Hillside just have nothing to do.  No one will hire them for a job or they just don’t have enough self-confidence to try and get a job.  Maybe they are unable to work and just haven’t discovered what it is that they enjoy doing.  There’s many reasons why they have nothing to do.  I think if I was bored shitless and had nothing to do but hang out on the street; I’d start abusing drugs and/or alcohol too”.
Our friend, the city official, cruises in.  An Occupier asks him, “Has the Mayor announced her choice for Human Rights Director yet?’  The official replies, “Nope, I haven’t heard a word.  However, I don’t get the inside scoops like I used to. Everyone knows that I hang out with you guys”.  We all laugh.
The Zenith News has a front page article about the achievement gap between Duluth’s white students and its students of color.  All the Occupiers think this is just horrible.  The official remarks that one of the main problems with students of color not doing as well as the white students has to do with the fact that there are very few teachers of color in the Duluth school system.  It’s a generally recognized fact that students respond better to teachers who are of the same ethnicity as themselves. 
The topic of conversation morphs into one about the upcoming rehabilitation of Superior St.  This project will last for at least 3 years and very many workers will be needed.
Our city official friend has challenged the Mayor to make sure at least 50% of those jobs are given to POC.  Considering the fact that over the course of the previous Mayor’s time in office, there were many City projects of which no POC were hired. 
Our friend requests that we join him and help make good jobs for Duluth POC a reality.  Everyone is down with his cause.  An Occupier promises to speak on the subject before the City Council.
An Occupier adds, “I’m sure our new mayor will be much better than our old one. However, I don’t have a lot of confidence that she will come through with anything of substance”.
The official responds, “I’ve worked with her in the past and found her to be very genuine.  She’s also intelligent and well organized.  The problem is that rich developers and other wealthy Duluthians have so much power and they’re constantly pressuring her to see things their way.
The City has what are called TIF funds.  These TIF funds are given to developers who agree to create new buildings and businesses in our city.  Basically, they get a reduction on their taxes for a period of time.  That means less taxes are going into the City coffers; therefore the City has less money to spend on services to its regular citizens.  Of course, this affects poor citizens the most.
“In the past, TIF funds have been given to business owners who are multi-millionaires, even billionaires.  Billionaires don’t need tax breaks.
“The 1% doesn’t have to worry about bare survival so have more time to schmooze politicians.  We’re going to have to work really hard to remind her what is truly important”.
Changing the subject, an Occupier states, “I’ve been getting into the Indigenous Commissions’ Ethnographic Study.  It’s amazing and really sad and frustrating at the same time”.
The Occupier turns to the retired teacher and explains, “A well respected historian and scholar got a grant to do research about what it was like in our Twin Ports and surrounding area before white people came on the scene.  His findings are what is called the Ethnographic Study. 
“This area was frequented often by large numbers of Ojibwe people and some Souix people too.  There were large numbers of villages stretching from what we call the Lakefront to Cloquet and further.
“So of course, you know that white people arrived and basically kicked all the Native peoples to the curb and stole their land.  After this time, the main Chief of the area Ojibwe people was called Chief Buffalo.  The white people asked him to pick a portion of the area that Duluth stands on now.
“He chose an area that encompassed the waterfront area from about Canal Park to the Garfield Ave. area; it then goes up the hill to around where the second old Central High School is.  From there it went back down the hill to 1st Ave W. and down to the lake again.
“The entire City Complex sits on Chief Buffalo land.  Anyway, Chief Buffalo dies and the land is inherited by his daughter and her dishonest white husband.  The husband does all kinds of forgeries and double deals.  He dies and a bunch of other white people forget about Chief Buffalo and his descendants; they build the City of Duluth.  There’s a lot more to the story.  I’m just giving you an overview.
Another Occupier says to the teacher, “Have you ever heard of the Doctrine of Discovery?”  She says no and the Occupier explains, “It’s a Papal Bull from a Pope who ruled in the 1400s.  It said that any Christian could take away the land, possessions and whatever of anyone who was not a Christian.
“It said that non-Christians were unworthy of owning anything so it was a Christian’s duty to lay claim to anything belonging to a non-Christian.  The so called European explorers used this “Bull” to justify their claiming western hemisphere lands.  The “Bull” is still in the law books to this very day”.
An Occupier inquires, “Does everyone remember that FDL’s Veteran’s Pow Wow will be happening on Saturday?”  Another Occupier replies, “Oh right, we’re gonna go aren’t we?”  We all say yes and we start figuring out logistics.
An Occupier tells our friend, the teacher, “FDL’s Veteran’s Pow Wow is the best Pow Wow of the year”.  The hipsters are bringing out the brooms and mops so we know it’s time to go.
We’ll be out at Mash Ka Wisen on Saturday and hope to hold a fire circle at the People’s Plaza next Tuesday.