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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G.A. Minutes 5-30-15

G.A. Minutes 5-30-15
It will be a big fire night again at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. We’ve got chilly weather with daytime highs in the low 50s and an east wind.
Some of the “usual suspects” are sitting on the back ledge. The mood appears to be calm and friendly all around.
We set everything up but the street folks don’t join in right away. It’s only Occupiers at the fire as we start off this evening.
An Occupier is looking at his newly purchased tablet computer. He says, “I bet that police camera up there is connected to Wi-Fi”. Another Occupier teases, “Why don’t you play around until you find the password and use the DPD Wi-Fi to get on the internet?” The Occupier answers, “Oh sure, I’ll do that right now. In about a half an hour the NSA will show up and I’ll be arrested for spying, but you guys will have my back, won’t you?” We all laugh.
One other Occupier comments, “Did you hear about that former Speaker of the House that just got arrested? The charge is lying to the FBI. Hello??? Lying to the FBI? The FBI lies to everyone else all the time”. We laugh again
Another Occupier arrives. He says, “I’m just returning from the Saturday jazz session at the Saratoga Club. The music was really good.
“I’ve tried inviting some of my female friends to join me there but when I do it seems like they’re offended. I don’t understand. I know it’s a strip club most of the week but on Saturdays it’s a completely different atmosphere.
“Someone told me that strip dancing is somehow connected to trafficking”.
A female Occupier responds, “Oh yeah, stripping is a precursor to sex trafficking. When one is a dancer, the customers always want to see someone new, so after one has stripped in all the clubs for a while the customers won’t give them money anymore. Then the dancers have to move on to something worse if they want to stay in that type of business.
The arriving Occupier replies, “I didn’t realize that. Maybe some of my woman friends are under the impression that I support people being trafficked. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just wasn’t aware of the whole story”.
The folks on the ledge begin to join the fire circle. They get their coffee and snacks and move up close to the heat.
Our friend, the African American gay young man arrives. He is “hammered”. He kneels beside the fire and begins singing a popular song from the 90s about a woman who finds true confidence and freedom after her lover leaves her.
He’s giving an all-out performance. If he wasn’t so drunk, he’d be pretty good. He sings almost on key while striking pose after pose. Some of these poses appear to be very difficult. We hope he doesn’t knock over the fire pit. His balance is perfect.
The Occupiers are kind of impressed. The street folks have seen his performances many times already.
When he finishes his performance he stands up and begins acting like his normal self. That’s when he almost knocks over the fire.
The performing man brings a large group of very drunk people of the street with him. Most are known to us and all appear happy and in good spirits.
An overweight Native young man who we’ve seen in passing sits down. He asks if anyone can spare him some tobacco. He says, “I don’t know why people around here are so cheap with their tobacco. Tobacco is meant to be freely shared. It’s a big part of our culture.
“I’m from the country and have only been in this city for about 3 months. I’m very into our Native ways.”
The Occupiers have a pouch of tobacco and rolling papers which they always bring when they are at CJM. It’s meant for the use of anyone who needs it. We offer it to the large Native man.
A DPD squad has been occasionally driving slowly past the space. Every time the squad passes by, the man who recently lost his baby’s momma to a heroin overdose, waves at it.
We are only about halfway through the usual meeting time but the food and drinks are completely finished. We still have a warm fire and good conversation going.
One of the Occupiers reminds everyone that we won’t be at the Memorial next Tuesday because we’ll be attending the Clean Water event at our friend’s club up the street.
On next Saturday some of us will be taking the Northwoods 350 bus down to St. Paul for the big Tarsands Resistance March. Northwoods 350 is asking for $20 for a seat on the bus. However, for those who are unable to contribute $20, funds are being raised to allow everyone to come along.
Someone says, “Remember it will be Juneteenth on Saturday June 21st. We’ll need to attend and see what we can do to help out. There’s also going to be a Juneteenth celebration in Superior, WI on Friday June 20th”.
An Occupier reports, “I won’t be able to attend Juneteenth this year. I’ll be up at the Midsummer Festival at Mesabe in Hibbing”.
An African American woman and 3 young female children enter CJM. It appears they have not previously visited the Memorial. The children are in awe of the sculptures and writings on the wall. The woman takes pictures.
She and her children are friendly towards us. An Occupier goes over to converse and discuss the writings with her.
The infamous street woman has been sitting with us for most of the evening. She has managed to keep from drinking for many months now.
Tonight she has a cold and is coughing frequently. An Occupier says to her, “You probably need to drink lots of liquid and crawl into bed”. She answers, “Yeah, I know. I need to go home but my joints are aching so bad that it’s gonna be painful to walk and I’m 50 cents short for bus fare. I’m hoping someone will lend me their bus pass”.
The Occupier looks to see what is left of the money that has been donated over the last few meetings. There is exactly 50 cents. She gives it to the woman; the woman leaves for home immediately.
The large Native man asks why people are going on a march. We start a conversation about pipelines, Enbridge and such.
The man comments, “Pipelines are a confusing thing. The oil companies hire a lot of Natives to work on their pipelines. Natives are really in need of jobs”.
An Occupier responds, “But wouldn’t it be better if we got our energy from the sun? People could have jobs working on sustainable energy systems. The technology is already there; it just will take the will power to make the switch. If we did that, we wouldn’t have to destroy the planet”.
The big man smiles and answers, “Oh yeah, for sure. The sun is for everybody and it’s free. The companies don’t like that very much”.
He asks for details regarding the Tarsands march. Maybe he will attend.
It’s after 9pm and the streetlights have just come on. The fire was big tonight so we have many coals to watch. We begin packing up.
Seeing as many of us will be in the Twin Cities next Saturday, we probably won’t be back until Tuesday 6/9 or Saturday 6/13.

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G.A. Minutes 5-23-15

G.A. Minutes 5-23-15
Weather wise, today has been a perfect day. Mostly sunny, temperatures in the high 70s with a slight breeze. This evening promises more of the same.
Except for the always slow to awaken oak trees, all the leaves are out and everything is green. This is what we wait for every year.
A lone Occupier arrives a little early at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. She brings a lawn chair and sits in the shade.
A few people whom she is vaguely acquainted with are sitting on the back ledge. She nods pleasantly to them and they respond in kind.
The Occupiers are always careful not to force themselves upon anyone. If the neighborhood folks what to interact they will come over.
The gray haired woman who has been a visitor at the fire circle for many years is walking down the street. When she spies the Occupier she comes right over and says, “Oh good! I keep forgetting that you guys meet here every week. I’m just returning from having dinner at the Mission. I’m really glad I came this way”.
The Occupier opens another chair and invites the gray haired woman to sit. She says, “So what’s new?”
The gray haired woman answers, “Well I’ve just discovered the Mission. It’s a whole new dining experience. I generally walk up to the Domiano for my meals but they only serve a couple times a week. The food is good there but the clientele are mostly other senior citizens. They’re very quiet and everything is closely supervised.
The food’s not as good at the Mission but they serve every day and the place is filled with younger people laughing and joking. Things are sort of disorganized. It’s more my style. I really like it”.
More Occupiers arrive. The gray haired woman helps with setting up.
Many of the regular street people appear. Most are hoping for hard boiled eggs. We have a large container of them and they disappear almost instantaneously.
The gray haired woman comments, “I don’t think I’ve eaten a hardboiled egg in years”.
One of the regular street women is visibly intoxicated from something or other. She is stuffing eggs into her mouth and bumping into things. Her sister, who appears only mildly intoxicated, chastises her and then gets her settled on the ledge.
Folks are making small talk, an Occupier is lighting a small fire when the mildly intoxicated sister begins yelling, “The whole family is just sick of you! You’re shooting heroin again! You’re ruining your life!”
The yelling is so loud it echoes up and down the street. A squad car pulls up.
An Occupier calls back to the ledge, “Hey girls, you’d better chill. We have company”.
Another squad pulls up. Both officers jump out of their cars and come running to the sidewalk. Many of the street folks, their mouths full of eggs, quickly wander off.
The yelling sister runs up to the cops and starts loudly telling them about her sister’s heroin problem. The heroin using sister yells, “If you’re gonna tell on me, I’m gonna tell on you!” She then lets loose with just about every cuss word known to mankind.
The cop calls heroin sister by name and says, “You need to knock it off right now!” He tells the other sister to walk away.
Then the cop comes over to the fire circle and says pleasantly to the Occupiers, “Are these people bothering you? Do you have any complaints?” We answer, “Oh no, they’re not bothering us. Everything is fine”. The cop says, “Well if you need anything, just call us”. Then the cops leave.
We look at each other and say “WTF?” We figure the DPD has finally realized that street folks tend to act a little calmer when we’re around, but this is ridiculous. Treating us like we were high class 1%’ers? We don’t much care for that.
The heroin sister is left sobbing alone on the ledge. “I don’t want to go back to prison”, she cries.
We are all used to this kind of drama and there’s nothing we can do to make things better for her so we just leave her crying. Eventually, a street man comes and sits down beside her.
Anyway, so a couple of Occupiers start putting the grill on the fire for the first batch of hot dogs. As they do so, another Occupier remarks, “The grill is on upside down. All the dogs are gonna roll to the edges”.
The dog cooking Occupiers keep doing what they were doing and the dogs start rolling to the edges. They try to adjust the grill, it falls down and dogs start falling into the fire.
The Occupiers are quick though. They rescue the dogs in a flash; only 3 are sacrificed to the fire gods.
An Occupier whispers to the gray haired woman, “Well, I tried to tell them”.
The dogs are doing fine and another bunch of people arrive. A few we know but most we don’t.
All are friendly and polite. All love hot dogs.
Apparently, seagulls love hot dogs too. They start swirling above, then land en masse on the building roofs, waiting for their turn. Eventually they figure out they’re not going to get a turn.
Seagulls are supposed to eat fish.
A man on a bicycle rides up and asks for a dog. The gray haired woman says teasingly, “If you want one you have to sing us a song”.
The man sings a way cool song from the 60s. Another man arrives; he sings too. He has a nice voice.
Some of the regular street folks return but the food has all been eaten. Everyone sits around, conversing agreeably.
The gray haired woman observes, “This is so multicultural. This is what America is supposed to be about”.
Suddenly a short blonde woman we have seen before arrives. She is looking for trouble and hurls insults at several of the street people.
The men take it in stride; at first, they look bored. She then starts in on some of the women, trying to physically push them.
One of the women says, “Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve never seen you before in my life”.
As far as we can gather, there had been a fist fight earlier in the day. Someone was attempting to sell oregano as some type of drug and the rest of the folks on the street called him on it.
Somehow the berserk woman’s son was involved. The street folks are trying to explain to the woman what the problem had been. The woman refuses to listen.
Soon the woman is trying to face down about 20 street people. We think she must be a meth head or something.
An Occupier advises, “Maybe if you just stopped responding to her, she’d take her attitude down the street”.
Eventually that’s what happens. Most people just turn their backs on her and she goes off yelling down the street.
A DPD SUV pulls up and an Occupier goes to talk with the officer. The officer asks what just happened. The Occupier responds, “Oh, some people were fighting but they’re gone now”. End of story.
A couple of Occupiers who live just up the hill arrive. They look really tired. They tell us they took a mentally ill, homeless woman from out of town into their home last night.
She kept them up all night with her nonstop talking and by morning she began to criticize them and make unreasonable demands. They had to ask her to leave but are now feeling worried and wondering what will become of her.
An Occupier reminds everyone, “We won’t be here next Tuesday. We need to go to the City Council meeting at 7pm. We need to back up the homeless advocates when they make their request for City funding for the Housing Access Center”.
It’s dark now. We are all pleasantly exhausted.
The remaining street folks help us pack up. The gray haired woman says, “Now that I’ve found you again I hope I can remember that you’ll be back here again next Saturday at 6pm”.
We hope she remembers too.

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G.A. Minutes 5-19-15

G.A. Minutes 5-19-15
Many people are sitting on the back ledge and there are at least 100 seagulls flying overhead or running around inside of the Clayton Jackson Memorial as the first Occupiers arrive this evening.
We had expected to see a lot of folks out tonight. We’ve had a week’s worth of much needed rain. Everyone is happy to see the sun.
The Damiano and the CHUM center usually give away large amounts of day old white bread. Street folks bring the bread out in the street and feed the seagulls for their own and maybe the seagull’s amusement. The gulls mostly fight though; they don’t look too amused.
When they notice the Occupier’s arrival, most begin throwing the bread across the street so the space will clear for us.
We take our time setting up. As we do this we casually check out the scene, noting who is here, who we know, who we don’t know and what is basically going on.
Most folks appear to be “under the influence” of any number of substances. This is unusual for this time of month. The majority of homeless people are pretty short on cash the first week or so after getting their small checks.
Somebody sets off a firecracker. This sudden loud noise makes everyone jump. An older African American man says to a younger man, “What’s wrong with you boy? You gonna make the police come. If they do, you gonna be the one we send to talk to them”.
Once the chairs and things are setup, people start smudging and getting snacks. A middle aged street woman we have known for years and another middle aged and physically very beautiful street woman who we have met off and on over the years, come to sit with us.
The beautiful woman is very drunk and crying profusely. The other woman is attempting to comfort her.
We give the crying woman some chocolate cookies. Her mood brightens immediately.
She tells us there is going to be a major cleanup of the neighborhood on Thursday. CHUM will be gathering all the willing homeless folks together for a street cleanup day.
The beautiful woman wants to be sober by then so she can participate. She wants to stay sober as she is planning on going back to the reservation to see her mother on Saturday.
She has just finished talking on the phone to her boyfriend. He has been sober for years and he wants her to just come home and sleep it off. Maybe that’s why she’s crying?
The street man who makes flutes shows up, gets coffee and sits. His hair is normally shoulder length but tonight his head is shaved. An Occupier comments, “Getting ready for summer?”
The same Occupier then informs the others, “On Saturday some people from Food Not Bombs are supposed to be joining us here. They’re interested in feeding people at CJM when we have our meetings”.
Another Occupier says, “There are a few things we will need to be doing in the next couple of weeks.
“The Transform Now Plowshares anti-nuclear protestors were released from prison over the weekend. There will be a welcome home event for Greg Boertje Obed this Friday at 7pm at the Community Church on 38th and E. Superior St.
“On Tuesday May 26th at 7pm the Human Rights Commission and others need everyone to be at the City Council meeting to help request funding for a new Housing Access Center.
“On the following Tuesday, June 2nd, the Red Herring will host a MN 4 Clean Water event. Several of our friends will be speaking. I think we should attend and give them support”.
Someone reports we are very close to being completely out of fire wood and the Occupy treasury only has $3 in it. We purchased the last load of wood about a year ago.
An Occupier volunteers to pay for the next load and says if we get any donations over the next months we can give them to her.
As our discussion has been going on, the two middle aged women have been sitting quietly. Suddenly the beautiful woman starts yelling.
“You need to shut the fuck up!” she screams at an Occupier. “Do you think all we want to do is to listen to you talk? You need to let someone else talk!”
The screaming woman’s friend looks at her in horror. The Occupiers roll their eyes and sigh. Arguing or defending one’s self is pointless. Things are not always as they seem.
Just as suddenly, the screaming woman covers her mouth with her hands. “I can’t believe I just said that! I’m so sorry”.
The well-known and flagrantly gay male street man drops in. He’s also drunk and very sad. He’s returning from the funeral of a good friend who committed suicide.
He’s shows us the dead man’s picture. We realize, although we didn’t know the man, we’d seen him around. We offer our condolences.
The beautiful woman continues yakking. She’s laughs and says, “How come no people are coming to sit by the fire?”
Her friend answers, “Maybe it’s because of you and the way you’re acting”. The pretty woman stops talking.
It’s too much for the Occupiers. They can’t help but crack up.
As the two women wander off, many other folks come to join the circle. No one talks much; we just sit together watching the flames.
Soon the two women return. The beautiful woman has a cut on her chin, it’s bleeding and she’s crying again. Apparently, another street woman punched the crying woman in the face a couple of times.
It’s unclear what actually happened. We really don’t care to know. The bleeding woman thinks it’s finally time to go home. We agree and give her money to take the bus. Her friend accompanies her.
One of the Occupiers walks to the corner and looks down the hill. She sees the women getting on the bus.
The regular street man whose baby’s mother has died of a heroin overdose recently arrives and asks to be smudged.
Normally, when people have been drinking, they won’t touch the sage bundle themselves. They will ask someone else to smudge them.
He states, “The police said I could come and get my phone tomorrow. I guess they realize I didn’t have nothing to do with her death. You know I got that phone so she could call me. Now that she’s gone, I don’t know why I even need a phone”.
An older African American asks, “So what exactly are you guys doing here?”
An Occupier answers, “We’re taking over the government”.
The older man’s eyes get really big, he holds up his hands and says,”O.K., guess I’ll just let you alone then”. We all laugh.
Another woman we have known for years appears. This is the first time we’ve seen her this year. She is commonly drunk; tonight she is sober.
She tells us, “My boyfriend is trying to fight with me so I just left the house. I was gonna go sit by the lake and pray or something but I saw your fire. I’m glad you’re here”.
She tells us about her boyfriend’s gambling addiction and about the fact she had attended her father’s funeral three weeks ago. She says her father had cut her out of his will because she was a “N-word” lover.
The fire is dying; it gets dark later now days.
As we say goodbye to everyone and pack up, an Occupier comments, “What a weird night. I think it was a really sad one. Sometimes when people laugh, it sounds like they’re crying”.
Another responds, “Yeah, I know. There’s a lot of sorrow and pain out here. I think that’s probably the main reason most people drink and take drugs like they do”.
Life goes on. We’ll be back on Saturday.

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G.A. Minutes 5-9-15

G.A. Minutes 5-9-15
We’re going to need a big fire tonight at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. The temperature is in the 40s but the strong east wind makes it feel more like the 20s.
Of course there are very few folks on the street or in the Memorial. Those that are around come over quickly as we set up the food and the fire pit.
A Native woman who we have been seeing around frequently this year asks if we have any hard boiled eggs tonight. We do and we also have a bag of fry bread left over from the NdN Taco Sale yesterday.
We offer her a piece and she says, “This is great! I’ll share it with my little sister”. We suggest she go ahead and take 2 pieces as we know that once word gets around that we have fry bread, it will be promptly gobbled up. She replies, “We’re both pretty hung over right now so we have to be careful what we eat. I’d better just take 1”.
Our friend who owns the music club up the street walks by and waves. On his way back to the club he comes to sit with us for a bit. We hold a “mutual admiration society” conference.
He tells us how much he appreciates our holding our fire meetings in the hood and we tell him how much we appreciate all that he does for amateur music scene and the community. Our conversation is genuine and sincere.
Our friend must return to his business as he always hosts live music on Saturday nights.
An Occupier reminds us that our friend will be sponsoring a tribute to his father and his uncle on Saturday May 16th 4pm-6pm at the Red Herring.
The Occupiers who helped out at the Idle No More/Northwoods NdN Taco Sale yesterday report it was a huge success. They sold at least 120 tacos and a bunch of pieces of fry bread too. After paying back expenses and donating $100 to the All Nations/Anishinaabe Ode Duluth Indian Center, they still had over $400 left. Most of the money that INM/NWA makes at these tacos sales is donated to various people in the community who are in need of financial help.
The Occupiers also report they really busted their butts making tacos and doing deliveries. Even though it was great fun, it took them until today to fully recover.
Another Occupier tells us she attended the Positive Force 30 Years of Punk Politics documentary at the Jefferson People’s House last Wednesday and found it to be very informative.
She states, “I was raising a child and managing Latin bands in San Francisco during the punk era so I wasn’t really aware of what punk was all about. I just unconsciously picked up the idea from the major media that punk was just about being loud, annoying and hating everyone and everything.
“I found out that the punk folks had communes focused on creating positive change in the world. They were into sustainable living, anti-racism, anti- sexism, anti- homophobia and all that. I guess the idea was to try to force these changes on to the world. I’m guessing they found out that being blatantly ‘in your face’ about stuff all the time isn’t too effective.
Although the movement now days is pretty much in your face sometimes, I think we have more diversity of tactics.
“Also, as long as I was at JPH, I asked about the possibility of us showing our movies there. I was told they had decided to open on evenings only twice a month and that they were already booked thru August.
I’m guessing we could ask for 1 Wednesday in September, October and November and that we might want to co-ordinate the dates with whenever the colleges start up again. What do you think?”
Everyone agrees that her idea is doable and the Occupier agrees to try and set things up.
Another Occupier states that the annual Housing Summit will be held at the Coppertop church on Wednesday, May 27th 10am-3:30pm and the next class, White Privilege 301 will be held also on May 27th at the Jefferson People’s House at 5:30pm.
Somehow, we get into a discussion about cultural food choices. Some cultures are averse to the eating of pigs, some to the eating of cows, others to eating dogs and so on.
We agree that it’s important to be tolerant of different cultural ways but we admit the thought of eating dogs really grosses us out.
As we are talking, people come by to get snacks and some ask for a piece of fry bread. The coffee is popular too. While most get their refreshments, say thank you and hurry to find somewhere indoors, a few sit with us by the fire. If one sits up close it’s very comfortable.
Among those stopping to sit is the infamous street woman. She’s looking good and healthy. She’s still managing to keep from drinking almost completely.
When we tell her the fry bread is from yesterday’s NdN Taco Sale she says, “Crap, I wanted to go to that but I forgot”.
A DPD squad car pulls up to the corner of CJM and parks. He sits there for a while but doesn’t appear to even be looking at us. Someone is sitting in the passenger seat. The squad car drives off.
An Occupier comments, “He must be looking for someone”.
Ms Obnoxious comes walking up with a few other folks. She’s not acting particularly obnoxious. She gets some coffee and tells us her boyfriend tried to commit suicide by overdosing on his high blood pressure pills, then she wanders off.
A young woman who we have seen around the neighborhood for many years has been sitting quietly with us for some time. She sat quietly with us last Tuesday also.
Tonight she decides to tell us a bit of her life story. She has recently moved with her teenaged daughter and her boyfriend to a house near the edge of town. She has several dogs and cats, a hamster, many birds, a rat and a lizard.
She says she has a terrible time being around people and never talks to anyone she doesn’t know. This evening she’s talkative but doesn’t appear to be “under the influence”. She tells her story without any mention of horribly traumatic events.
We enjoy listening to her and then….. Ms. Obnoxious returns. She has her boyfriend with her, she’s obviously been drinking and she’s definitely obnoxious now.
She and her boyfriend sit down side by side and she taunts him by singing songs about hopelessness, being unable to feel emotions and wanting to die. He takes it all in stride. He behaves toward her as if all her antics were totally normal.
So then she comments on the size of the shy young woman’s butt. The shy woman leaves immediately. An Occupier follows her to make sure she’s o.k. and to offer support.
We get a visit from the man from Senegal. We haven’t seen him yet this year and are very pleased he has joined us.
Ms. Obnoxious begins to rub up against him and asks for a cigarette. He politely but firmly tells her leave him alone and she actually complies. She and the boyfriend wander off.
The man from Senegal is still working his full time job and sending money back to his family. He’s also attending school again.
He’s just coming from the casino where he lost a little money. We have a conversation about the amount of time one can waste on gambling.
Then he has to catch a bus. We hope to see him again soon.
The Occupiers are now alone at the fire. The Memorial is devoid of other people. We should be gone by now but the fire has been burning strong all night and now we have a large amount of hot coals. They give off really good heat and are beautiful to watch.
So that’s what we do. Sit without talking, just watching the coals.
Eventually someone stands up. This shakes us from our revere and we start packing.
It’s supposed to be cold and rainy for most of next week so we decide to hold our next Tuesday meeting at the Amazing Grace.

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G.A. Minutes 5-5-15

G.A. Minutes 5-5-15
The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is surrounded by squad cars when we arrive tonight. The main homeless outreach worker is talking with them.
We drive around the block a few times to access the situation. They begin leaving; we park and go to chat with the outreach worker.
An Occupier asks, “So what’s going on now?” The worker replies, “Not much. Some street folks were fighting, same as always”. She continues, “I don’t know what it is I’m supposed to do anymore. Just talk to people I guess. I work with street folks and help them get into treatment, get counseling and health care, get their paperwork together and begin to have a little self-esteem. After they accomplish all that, there’s still no housing available for them. They end up dumped out into the street again, right where they came from. It sucks”.
We shake our heads and sigh in agreement. We know the government continues to cut back on all services to the homeless and working poor.
With all the protestors taking to the streets over the last 4 or so years and regular people appearing more aware, something’s gotta give pretty soon.
We need to keep our spirits up, do what we can and be ready for the big change that is sure to come.
All the cops are gone now and folks are congregating and looking expectantly at us. We excuse ourselves and hurry to get everything set up.
One of the regular visitors to our fires, a street man we have known for years, approaches one of the female Occupiers and tells her, “My babies’ momma died over the weekend. She overdosed on heroin. The DPD is trying to blame it on me.
“I was with her when she died but I went to sleep. I thought she was sleeping too. I don’t take any of that stuff so I didn’t know. When I woke up, I tried to wake her up and saw that her face and her lips were all blue. I saw she was dead.
“The cops came, they took my phone and said they thought she got heroin from me. When they finish looking through my phone they’ll see it wasn’t me. I don’t do that stuff, I don’t sell it, I don’t hook people up…… nothing. I just drink and panhandle, that’s all.
“I need me some smudge”.
The Occupier says, “Gee man, that’s rough”. She hurries to get all the stuff out of the big carrying box and to fire up the sage bundle. She smudges the man down.
She thinks to herself, Just because he’s innocent doesn’t mean the DPD won’t try to charge him with accessory to murder or something. He’s a young black male after all. He should try to find some legal counsel before they come for him.
The CHUM employment counselor arrives. We invite him to take refreshments but he takes a rain check. He needs to get home to his family.
The counselor has come looking for Ms. Community Cleanup. Ms. Cleanup has an out of town court date in 3 weeks and the CHUM employee wants to talk about plans for transportation and housing for this date.
The young woman is still rather beat up from her encounter a few days ago with the casino security guards. Her wrist and her ankle are quite swollen and she has a constant sharp pain in her side. She has attempted to go to the ER but has been turned away.
Ms. Cleanup listens politely but doesn’t have any answers. She appears to be the sort of person who prefers to live in the moment and tries to forget her problems and responsibilities.
She promises to meet the CHUM man at his office in the morning. Somehow, her promise doesn’t sound convincing.
The editor of a well-known community newspaper stops by. She brings hot dogs and all the fixins. We thank her and throw the dogs on the fire.
Everyone is hungry and everyone is fed. After all have eaten, some decide to sit for a while.
Ms. Cleanup and her friend, a well-known veteran homeless woman, get to giggling and telling vulgar jokes. When they start in on bodily functions, an Occupier says. “Oh come on now. You’re grossing me out”.
They giggle some more and then Ms. Cleanup leaves. She returns shortly saying, “Well I did what I had to do”.
The two women begin making vulgar comments again and the same Occupiers responds, “Please don’t talk like that. Can’t you think of something good or happy to talk about?”
Another Occupier, who has been observing the women carefully, states, “Well you know, she does have a point. It’s absolutely ridiculous that some people aren’t allowed a place to go to the bathroom when they need to. They’re forced to use the bushes and the alleys. When they do that, people call the cops to have them arrested”.
The women stop joking and Ms. Cleanup comments, “Yeah, that’s right. It sucks to have to poop in the alley”.
Someone mentions, “I was looking over my calendar for the next week or so and except for tomorrow night’s 30 Years of Punk Politics, there doesn’t seem to be much going on”.
Someone else responds, “Don’t forget the NdN Taco Sale on Friday, the Loaves N Fishes fundraiser on Thursday, the NAACP meeting on Sunday the Idle No More meeting on Friday, May 15th and our friend who owns the club down the street’s tribute to his father on Saturday May 16th”.
The first Occupier laughs and says, “I stand corrected”.
A student activist friend of ours joins the fire circle. He asks, “So what have you guys been up to?” This student is active in MPIRG activities at his college.
We tell a little about our recent adventures and say, “Man, we are so down with going after Enbridge and alerting people to what’s really going on with the Alberta Clipper, Sandpiper and their various other schemes. We’re just waiting for you guys to say the word and we are on it”.
A group of young boys on bicycles drive up. One of them says, “Can I have a cup of coffee please?”
An Occupier replies, “No, we can’t give you coffee but you can have some apple juice”. The boy answers, “But I’m 13 years old. I can have coffee”.
One of the street men cheerfully calls out, “Hey, didn’t you just tell me the other day that you were 12?” and the boy responds, “Well I’m going on 13”.
We laugh. Another Occupier says, “Well it’s too late for you to have coffee”.
As the boys leave, an Occupier jokes, “I can see it all now. We give him a big cup or our coffee. He gets all buzzed up, goes home and his mother says, “Boy, what’s wrong with you?”
He tells her, she calls the DPD. The DPD says, “Oh great! Something we can get them for!”
“We all to off to jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. I can hardly wait”.
A couple of regular street African American young men who we know are sitting with us. They have a white male friend around their age with them. The white guy is from a more affluent area of the city.
He asks his friends for a little money to buy something that someone is selling around the corner. His friends tell him, “No man, don’t do it. It’s not good for you. Nothing good will come of it. Here’s enough money for you to take the bus home. Don’t be messing with the shit around here”.
All the food is gone, sage has burned down and so has the fire. We pack up and expect to be back on Saturday.

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