occupy minutes 9-20-16

occupy minutes 9-20-16

G.A. Minutes 9-17-16

G.A. Minutes 9-17-16
The Occupiers still have not been able to get the brakes on the truck fixed.  The main problem is lack of funds.  They are relying on mechanically gifted friends to get the job done.  The friends are only able to help during the spare time their slave jobs allot.  So fixing the brakes may take a while. 
The Fire Magician is riding with the Food Occupier again tonight.  They arrive at People’s Power Plaza in a little car stuffed to the gills with supplies for the circle. More Occupiers quickly follow; they are bringing things too.
The Occupier who usually does a quick general cleanup of the space is amazed at how clean everything is this evening.  He says, “Wow, they must have had a whole cleanup crew here this afternoon.  Another Occupier laughs and adds, “Maybe that head maintenance dude was embarrassed about what poor condition he and his crew were keeping the Plaza in, especially now that they have regular guests”.
We think it will be a slightly chilly evening.  The sun is down; skies have been covered with dark, threatening clouds all day but no rain.  Temperatures are in the low 60s; a chilly, light and variable wind has caused us to bring our jackets. 
The Magician starts up a big fire right away.  It produces a lot of smoke at first then settles down, soothing us with tall glowing flames.
Immediately a big young man walks up.  We remember him from one of our earlier fires.  He was living and sleeping on one of the benches.  An unassuming middle-aged man who appears to be chronically homeless comes up too.  The two men know each other well.
The city official arrives.  As is not unusual, his dance card is full tonight.  He’s just coming from a dinner event and on his way to hear a speaker from the St. Paul Black Lives Matter group.  He’ll stop and visit for a while.
He comments to an Occupier, “So I heard the Human Rights Commission has been disbanded”.  The Occupier responds, “Well, that’s not exactly what happened.  Apparently, the mayor or whoever is responsible for such things, neglected to inform the current commissioners that their terms were up and that they needed to reapply.  The mayor still has not appointed any new members to any of the commissions so technically, there are no commissioners so therefore, no Human Rights Commission”.
The city man states, “Oh, so that’s what happened.  I knew there was more to the story than what I was told.  Well, considering how government works, this will all be worked out”.
An Occupier changes the subject, “I don’t know how the Water Protectors are gonna make it through winter in tents.  I mean, a winter in North Dakota?”  Another Occupier answers, “Well, they’re not gonna have white man camping tents. They’re gonna have teepees and wigwams.  Those things must be warm.  Native people have been using those structures and living in winter for thousands of years.  I think they must know something”.
The Newest Occupier tells a few stories.  She reports, “I placed a call to the Energy Transfer’s vandalism hotline the other day.  A lady answered and asked me who was doing the vandalism.  I said, ‘Actually, I want to report your company for vandalism.  They sicced dogs on peaceful women and children and ripped up sacred artifacts and graves’.  As I started to explain more, she hung up on me. When I thought about it later I thought maybe I should have asked everybody to call the hotline”.
Another Occupier exclaims, “What a brilliant idea!  Tuck it in the back of your mind for the next time the oil company commits a faux pax”.
The New Occupier continues, “Did you hear what the women of Indiana did when the legislature was trying to pass a bill that said anytime a woman suffered a miscarriage she would be mandated to report it to a government agency and then come in for ‘tests’?  The women called the Governor to report every time they were having their periods.  They’d say stuff like ‘Well, I had unprotected sex and now I’m having my period so do you think I might be doing something wrong?  Just wanted to check in, you know’.  The Governor received thousands of calls. Unfortunately the bill passed so now they’ll have to call all the legislators who voted for the bill too”.
Bench Man pulls out a paper bag.  We look at him quizzically.  He says, “I remember, no drinking in the circle.”  All the homeless men in the circle, except one, take their food and go over to another part of the Plaza to share a drink or two.
Bench Man soon returns.  He tells us he’s from Red Lake and that many of his relatives are out in Standing Rock.  He tells us, “Yeah, the oil company sicced attack dogs on our women and children.  The local warriors went home and got their own dogs.  I don’t think their dogs would be much of a match for our dogs”.
The unassuming middle-aged man who did not go off for a drink smudges himself. He talks about the many places in the Central Hillside where sage grows wildly. He talks about building sweat lodges and wigwams.  He says, “I’m not genetically Anishinaabe but I know their ways.  He tells us he has lived on the streets for 11 years.  The rest of his story is fairly typical of the stories we hear from older homeless men.  He had a wife, family and very good job.  Something bad happened, he lost his job and things fell apart.  He ended up homeless.
An Occupier who is facing the lake exclaims, “Look at the moon!”  We turn and look.  It’s very large and sort of melon colored.  Someone says, “It’s a Harvest Moon”.  We sit in silence for a while, looking at the moon.
An Occupier asks of another, “Did you get that meeting set up with Officer Lepak?”  The questioned Occupier answers, “I did.  We’re supposed to meet him on Thursday, September 29th, 1:30pm at his office in the Transit Center”.  To those who look confused she says, “We’re going to talk about the possibility of bringing our fires back to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.  I don’t really expect anything to come of the meeting but we can’t turn down a chance of going back”.
Another Occupier reminds us, “Remember to give one of those Homeless Folks Pizza Nights flyers to everyone who comes by.  The event will be Thursday, September 22nd 5pm at Trepanier Hall.
“Also, we’re needed to help Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance with some kind of Pancakes Not Pipelines event on Saturday, September 24th at the Hillside Community Center.  I’m not sure what they want us to do yet but I think the event will run from 11am-2pm.  I’ll try to have more info for our next meeting”.
The male from the couple who have been forced to live at CHUM shows up.  He’s on his way to make curfew at CHUM but stops to express his solidarity with the circle.  He remarks, “My partner has decided to spend the night somewhere else. She’s entitled to her choice but I hope she’s o.k.”
A couple of Native hipster kids who we may or may not know come to the table. They are happy that there is good food left.  When they spot the double use salt and pepper shaker that sits by the hard boiled eggs, one of them exclaims, “You guys have really been around the block a few times!”
Ms. Community Cleanup’s partner is on the stairs.  He is with a group of fashionably dressed adolescent boys.  They all have skateboards.  The partner is attempting to do some tricks.  It appears that he was once a real skateboarder but he’s much older now.  He seems to have lost his touch.
The middle-aged man quietly comments, “You know those kids are just watching him and waiting for him to take a bad fall so they can laugh”.
The man then tells us a story about watching ducks.  He points over across the street to a tree in front of the Lake Place entrance.  He and his former wife watched a mother duck build a nest in that tree and lay her eggs.  They watched her sit on the eggs and they talked to her a lot.  Eventually she got to know them and the sound of their voices.  The mother duck hatched eleven ducklings.  The man talked about how cute it was when he and his wife would arrive and call to the mama.  Eleven baby ducks would come popping out from under her.  They watched the first time mama took all the ducklings to the lake.  Only four of the babies actually made it to the lake.  The others died of various mishaps during the trek over the property of the humans.
The city official returns.  He says the BLM speaker was fantastic.  An Occupier remarks, “We were all wishing to attend his speech but we found out about it too late.  We’d already promised everyone a fire, so couldn’t change horses in the middle of the stream”
Another Occupier says to the official, “So what’s up with our local BLM Chapter?” The city man smiles knowingly and replies, “I think we’re about to hit the streets”.
We should be thinking about packing up but instead, we get a visit from the grey haired woman.  We haven’t seen her since springtime.  She laughs, “I finally found you!  I’ve been looking for you forever!”  We know we told her dates and times to look for us the last time we saw her.  We also know that the grey haired woman’s short term memory is basically toast   It doesn’t matter though.  Given the small area of town that she covers and the fact that everyone knows her, she gets along just fine.
We sit around chat, laugh and tell jokes with the woman of the grey hair.  When the big clock strikes 9:30pm, she and the city official help us pack up.  We give her times and dates again but we know we’ll just see her when we see her.
We hope to be back at People’s Plaza on Saturday.     

Red Warrior Camp is reported though social media to have issued a call to action alert, urging everyone to come to Standing Rock.

Update 201609140338 Red Warrior Camp is reported though social media to have issued a call to action alert, urging everyone to come to Standing Rock in a good way.  All kinds of supplies are needed.  If you can go, bring enough for yourself and more to share.



G.A. Minutes 9-13-16

G.A. Minutes 9-13-16

G.A. Minutes 9-3-16

G.A. Minutes 9-3-16
It’s going to be a great night for a fire.  We’re at People’s Plaza again.  The brakes on the truck have not been fixed yet so we can’t bring our chairs this time either.  The benches belonging to the Plaza will have to be used again and will work reasonably well.  It’s nice that they are moveable.
The sun is already behind the buildings, the sky is cloudy, temperatures are in the low 70s and a strong, cool wind is blowing.  We start the fire right away.  The wind makes the flames shoot high; it also makes the air slightly chilly so the heat feels good on our skin.
An Occupier comments, “Seeing as it’s still the first days of the month, I don’t expect we’ll have many street folks visiting tonight.  Most of them just received their small government checks so will be off having their monthly indulgences”.
We’re missing Occupiers tonight too.  They and a large group of our allies left yesterday for Sacred Stone Camp at Standing Rock.  They were bringing a big trailer full of supplies; food and lots of blankets, caps and gloves for when the weather turns cold.  Most of the donations were from people on the Fond du Lac Reservation.
An Occupier tells us, “I received a message from our friend who works at CHUM.  He said they all arrived safely at Sacred Stone.  He also said the oil company had their construction crew start working on the pipeline this afternoon.  So far, one protestor had been arrested.  He sent a few pictures; they were of the confrontation in progress.
Another Occupier exclaims, “What?!?  They’re not supposed to do any work until the court decision comes down on September 9th.  The first Occupier responds, “Yeah, I know.  I guess the oil company thinks it can do anything it wants because it has the whole state of North Dakota in Its pocket”.
A man walking a dog comes up.  He is wearing top of the line walking your dog on the street type clothes.  He asks us what we are doing and we explain.  He knows about Occupy but didn’t realize there are still small groups of Occupiers all over the country.
He’s quite well versed in progressive issues and tells us he is the nephew of our Federal House Representative, Rick Nolan.  We say we think Nolan is good on a lot of progressive issues but his support of the Polymet mine and of pipelines is unforgiveable.
The man states, “Yeah, I feel the same way.  Uncle Rick says his job in the House is very difficult; because the House is so messed up and he pushes hard on many progressive issues, he has very few friends among his colleagues.
“Rick is the reason I’m now living in Duluth.  I was living in Florida until six months ago and really wanted to move; he told me that Duluth was a good place to live.  I recently became the director of The March of Dimes here”.
We ask him what he likes about Duluth so far and he answers, “The abundance of nature is great and I’m also glad there are no poisoness insects or snakes.  I’m overwhelmed with how nice all the people are too”.
An Occupier adds, “Have you heard about ‘MN nice?”  Or as I prefer to call it ‘MN passive aggression’?”  The man laughs and says, “Oh yeah, I’ve come across that too”.
When we ask him what he doesn’t like about Duluth, he responds, “The cold winters are horrible and I’m just appalled at the amount of prejudice against Native Americans here”.
An Occupier agrees, “I know what you mean.  I’m from here but I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years.  When I left this area, people who were Native American tried to hide their heritage.  In the Bay Area I saw racism related to black people, Latinos and Asians.  I ran across very few Native Americans.  When I returned to this area I saw Native people were no longer hiding their heritage but the amount of general hatred toward them was just unbelievable”.
The March of Dimes man says, “Many rich people refuse to donate to us because they know that we give about 90% of our donations to the Native American community.  That’s because they are the ones that need it the most”.
The man wants to know what other things are going on.  We tell him about our friends at Standing Rock, the Homeless Bill of Rights, the meeting at the Red Herring on Wednesday and the vigil for trafficked women on Saturday. He puts this information in his phone, says he’ll see us there and continues his walk.
As he is leaving, an Occupier remarks, “I wonder if I should have mentioned the vigil for the disappeared Storytelling Woman at noon on Wednesday at Central Hillside Park?”
 The city official arrives.  He’s later than usual because he’s just finished a long volunteer shift serving food to hungry people at the Dom.  He tells us, “I wasn’t scheduled to serve tonight but some of the other volunteers didn’t show up so they asked me to help”.
Someone comments, “That’s a problem with volunteers, they don’t have to show up if they don’t want to.  I imagine the holiday weekend caused them to make other plans”.
A couple who we have known since they stayed at our homeless camp comes up the stairs.  We have not seen them for almost a year.  They are not homeless but they look unhealthy and very unhappy.  They don’t seem in the mood to tell us their problems; we don’t ask.  They take food and leave.
The new Occupier asks, “Did anybody attend the Pride Festival today?” Another replies, “No, I would have liked to because I think they were going to have some really good bands.  However, the bands I wanted to see were playing at the same time as our fire circle.  I decided to come here instead”.
One of the quiet men who usually come around for food comes out of the shadows.  He gets what he needs and makes a little small talk.  We notice he is wearing a medallion that leads us to believe he has come from the Pride Festival.  We comment on that fact; he just smiles and leaves.  We’ll probably see him again next time.
A man with a long beard and backpack who appears to be in his early forties is standing a ways away looking at us.  We invite him to take food and/or join us.  He steps forward and responds, “Do you have any clean water?” We show him the water jug and give him a cup.
He sits and tells us he’s been homeless for much of his life.  He’s hoping to move into an apartment in a week or so.  His cat is being fostered by a friend and he’s looking forward to being reunited soon.
The homeless man is a quiet but good conversationalist so we sit and talk about many things.  The place where he pitches his tent, the cops who don’t actually give him much trouble, things that happened in the 60s and 70s, memories of cartoons and children’s shows watched as kids, the stupidity of the current election cycle, climate change and the fate of the world.  An Occupier gives him a copy of the Homeless Bill of Rights.
The big clock chimes 10pm.  We were so lost in conversation with the homeless man; we didn’t notice the time go by.  As he helps us pack up, we tell him that we are generally at the People’s Plaza, if it’s not raining, on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 6pm til 9pm.  Except for next week, we’ll be at the Homeless Bill of Rights meeting on Tuesday and at the Hildegard House Vigil on Saturday.
We expect to return to the Plaza on Tuesday, September 13th.         

G.A. Minutes 8-30-16

G.A. Minutes 8-30-16
We’re off to an unusual start this evening.  The Fire Magician went down to People’s Plaza in the afternoon to sweep up a lot of broken glass he had noticed when he was at a rally in the Plaza yesterday.  When he had finished, got into his truck and began to drive off, he noticed that he had absolutely no brakes.  Not good but actually very lucky.  If he hadn’t gone to do the sweeping, his brakes probably would have gone out as he was driving down the hill with all the fire stuff for the meeting.  He could have landed in the middle of the busiest intersection in town.
Tonight all the fire stuff is packed into the car of the Occupier who brings the food. She doesn’t have room for the chairs so we’ll have to make use of the many benches that are scattered about the Plaza.
This evening’s weather will be well suited for a fire.  Temperatures are in the low 70s, the sky is clear, the sun is already behind the buildings and we have a noticeable but non-bothersome breeze.
A veteran hippie homeless couple is sitting with the first arriving Occupiers when the supplies for the circle arrive. They have attended a few of our fires since we’ve been at People’s Plaza.  They appear to have had and/or are having experience taking heavy drugs but they tell good stories and are quite amiable.
The city official arrives; right behind him are a couple of neighborhood youth. The teenagers have come for snacks to fill their growing bellies.  They smudge first then survey the table.  The boys are pleased with the commercial snack foods that have been supplied by the newest Occupier.  They roll cigarettes from our tobacco.
When they leave, an Occupier comments, “I know we should be discouraging the young ones from taking up smoking but as I’m sitting here smoking a cigarette myself, it would be hypocritical of me to tell them not to do it.  Besides, judging by how well they can roll them, I’m betting they’ve already been at it for a while”.
Most of the Occupiers attended yesterday’s Socialist Action Support for Standing Rock rally here at the Plaza.  The turnout was great and many Native activists joined us.  We managed to get reasonable if slanted coverage from two Duluth TV stations.
We start up the fire and the hippie couple tell us a few stories.  A few years ago the male hippie moved into an apartment in a rough neighborhood in Minneapolis. A couple of blocks from his new home, he ran out of gas.  A cop drove up and asked him if he was there to buy drugs.  When he told the cop that he lived in the neighborhood the cop said, “Oh yeah, well I’m gonna search your car”.  The hippie man answered, “You can’t search my car unless I give you my permission and I’m not gonna give it to you”.  The cop says, “We’ll just see how much I need your permission”.  The cop then proceeded to tear the guy’s car apart.  He slashed all the upholstery and broke the doors and dashboard.  The cop added, “From now on, I’m gonna tell all the cops around here to stop you every time you try to go anywhere.  You’re gonna have to move”.  The man continues, “The cop was right too.  They harassed me so much that I finally had to move”.
The hippie woman reports, “About a year ago I was walking down a public beach. I was singing while I was looking for agates.  Somebody called the cops.  Four cops showed up and surrounded me.  They asked what I was doing there and when I held out my cup of agates, one of the cops went for his gun.  I asked him what he was doing that for and he said, ‘I thought you were gonna throw them at me’.  I mean, come on, he was gonna kill me if I threw a small cup of little rocks at him?”
The man tells another story, “A while back, we were over in Superior.  The cops beat the hippie woman so bad that she ended up in the hospital.  While all this was going on the cops took all my belongings from me.  After she was hospitalized, the cops gave my belongings back.  They put a small bottle with meth in it inside the case where I kept all my daily meds then they arrested me for possession of meth”.
We all discuss some of the many problems with police.  Everyone thinks it’s a good thing that many regular people now have cell phones that can film well.  We think it’s also good that cops have to wear body cameras.  The hippie couple informs us the cops in Superior don’t have them.
Menagerie Woman arrives.  So does the multi-racial couple who had recently become homeless and were forced to stay at CHUM.  We ask the couple how things are going for them and the woman replies, “We’ve saved enough money to rent an apartment.  Now we’re trying to find someone who will rent to us.  We have a possibility a little east of here and we should find out in the next few days. I sure hope we get it”.
We get a surprise visit from the Occupier who has moved out of town.  He states that he expects to return to the Twin Ports within the next few weeks.
The woman of the multi-racial couple comments, “I saw a really bad thing today. We were up having lunch at the Dom.  A black woman was serving the food.  An older man in the food line refused to eat food that had been touched by a black person.  He threw his food tray down and stomped out of the building”.  An Occupier responds, “Good enough for him.  If he wants to be a hater, he can go without lunch”.
We get another surprise visit.  It’s from the retired neighborhood man.  He says, “I heard a rumor that you were down here now.  So you’re not exactly ministering to the most destitute anymore?”
An Occupier explains, “A lot of the folks from the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial area are willing to make the two block walk down here to sit with us.  We spent most of last summer and fall having the cops and fire people show up and forcibly put out our fire.  The former CJMM BOD president threw his weight around and somehow forced the police department, the fire department and the City Attorney to attempt to chase us off. The BOD said our fires were the reason so many homeless or poor people hung out at CJMM.  I notice that since we’ve been gone the population there has remained the same.  We stood our ground until winter forced us indoors.
“Over the winter we talked about what we thought was more important, fighting the cops or having a fire circle for neighborhood people.  We decided the fire was most important.  We’ve been having them here since April and have yet to be bothered by five-o types.  They know we’re here but they leave us alone.  Go figure”.
The newest Occupier is leaving.  She says she’ll see us on Saturday.  Another Occupier reminds her, “We expect to be here on Saturday but next week there’s a lot of other stuff we’ll have to do.  The next Homeless Bill of Rights meeting is on Tuesday evening, September 6th, the meeting at the Red Herring about sexual harassment of women on 1st Street is Wednesday evening, September 7th and the Hildegard House Vigil for Trafficked Women is on Saturday evening, September 10th”.  The new Occupier replies, “Sounds like a plan”.
The multi-racial couple needs to leave too.  They must be back to CHUM before 9pm.  They load up on snacks so they will have something to tide them over until tomorrow.
We just start to pack up when Ms. Community Cleanup and her partner come up the stairs.  They have a bedraggled looking guy with a big bandage on one foot and a walking cast on the other in tow.  Ms. Cleanup tells us she has made him a new bandage with one of her shirts.  She says, “His foot looks pretty ugly but it’s not gangrene yet”.  They are all very hungry so begin chowing down.
Ms. Cleanup reports that she and her partner have been having a hard time trying to apply for social security disability.  She explains that her partner is schizophrenic and is not being well taken care of by the mental health care system.  When she tells us this, a light goes on in many of our heads.  We first met her partner over a year ago and were puzzled by much of his behavior.  We had hypothesized he was very burnt out from doing massive amounts of synthetics or something.  Now we understand.
We start to pack up again when a few women we haven’t met in the past arrive. One says, “Do you have anything that me and my very pregnant friend can eat? We are so hungry”.  We offer them all the food we have left and they are thrilled. In fact, all the street folks have been thrilled with the food tonight.  Especially with the small bottles of something called Sunny D.
Once the women take what they need, the food is completely gone.  This time we pack up for real.  We expect to be back at People’s Plaza on Saturday.   

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.