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G.A. Minutes 12-3-13
Tonight’s meeting never actually happened. We have been in the lull of a blizzard for the last 8 hours. The blizzard is expected to start up full force after midnight and continue for about 24 hours. What a pain.
We thought we’d be able to squeeze a meeting at Amazing Grace in before the storm but it was not to be. A few of us arrived a little early and found a note on the door that said the café was closed because of bad weather. We quickly contacted the other Occupiers; telling them to never mind.
On this upcoming Saturday December 7th, we plan to attend the Duluth Waterfront Protection Ordinance meeting. This ordinance is the brain child of one of our friends who ran for City office. On Tuesday December 10th, we will be participating in a phone bank/potluck sponsored by Water Legacy. The Polymet EIS statement is due to come out this Friday. There will then be a 90 day period for public comment. It is extremely important that all the people who signed the petition opposing the sulphide mine also post a negative public comment. We think we’ll be participating in quite a few phone bank sessions over the next several months.
It looks like we won’t make it back to Amazing Grace until Saturday December 10th. See you then.
welcome to Occupy Duluth. You have now entered an abandoned, partly fallen down building, a century of plans and fails, a website unfinished, undone, but still showing the faintest hint of green. Occupy Duluth is still alive at the cold start of Winter, 2013.
This website is currently active (20131201) as a site to store occupyduluth minutes, recording a progress toward a more just community.
Other abandoned parts of our website are under exploration or experimental self revelation, so be advised the content you may happen on here is at least partly, if not entirely, subject to beta fail, which we are still trying to learn to undo. If that is even possible. All are liars and I am one.
G.A. Minutes 11-30-13
We have been unable to hold an official meeting for over 2 weeks. A combination of direct actions, bad weather and bad colds going around have kept us from doing so. Tonight we hold the first meeting in what may become our temporary winter meeting headquarters.
We are meeting at the Amazing Grace Café, a small basement coffee house that attempts to practice whole foods dining and socially conscious activities. The café is located in Canal Park, the main tourist centered area in Duluth. While it leaves much to be desired, it’s the best we can come up with for now. We don’t expect anyone will attempt to throw us out for being too radical or weird.
We’d prefer to remain at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial which is located in the center of the city area most commonly frequented by the homeless population. However, once the temperatures get below 20 degrees in the evening, our fires are not big enough to keep us warm.
We acknowledge we are among the privileged people of the world. This allows us to keep warm when the weather is too cold for human comfort. Our goal is to participate in the establishment of a world where all people are entitled to this basic comfort.
Seeing as we’ve all been so busy and haven’t much time for talking we decide to touch base and see if we’re all still on the same page. An Occupier states we have been putting an awful lot of work into stopping the wolf hunt and asks if we remember how this came about. She reminds us that we had come to the conclusion awhile back that all issues were contingent on preserving our planet for tolerable habitation by future generations of human beings.
We realized the world’s indigenous peoples are the original keepers of the earth. In general they are the people who live most closely to the earth and have a deeper understanding her value. Many indigenous people also have treaty rights to the land and water. These treaty rights hold up in the courts and at this point are the strongest weapon in fighting against the corporations and governments that are destroying the planet in their frantic and endless search for the money obtained by stripping our Mother Earth of her natural resources.
During the time we were discussing these facts we came to the logical conclusion that Idle No More was structurally similar to Occupy and possibly the group with whom we could most easily align. We then presented ourselves to INM as allies and began working with them.
As time went by some Occupiers were confused as to why INM was not focusing on the Polymet and Gtac mining issues. An INM ally confided to an Occupier she had heard it said, “If they want us to work on the water, why don’t they help us to work on the wolf?”
A light went on in the Occupier’s head as she realized it was just a difference in perceptions. Native people tend to see the world as interconnected while settler people look at things in categories. While INM folks were working on “the women, the water and the wolf”, settlers were seeing each thing as a separate issue needing a separate group of organizers.
In our north central area of the U.S., most of the indigenous people are of Anishinaabe heritage. The wolf is a major player in the Anishinaabe creation story and therefore of very special significance to the culture. The women are seen as the bearers and protectors of the water. The wolf keeps the other animals from overpopulating the land which in turn keeps the land from being deforested which in turn keeps the water runoff from polluting the lakes and streams and on and on and on……….. Everything is connected.
As we began seriously helping with the wolf we learned much. We now have a deeper respect for this beautiful and magnificent creature. We are also watching some skilled indigenous fighters in battles with the proposed Polymet and Gtac mines.
The issue concerning the women has to do with human trafficking. In our area, the majority of people who are trafficked are of indigenous heritage. There is much government corruption and crime syndicate involvement in human trafficking so there is much personal danger involved. Work is being done but most will not be publically discussed.
Another Overpass Light Brigade/Stop The Wolf Hunt action was held last weekend in Cass Lake. It did not involve as much public exposure as our action in Duluth but many good connections in the Leach Lake area were renewed. Another action in the Twin Cities, one in Bemidji and actions in other areas are planned.
An Occupier asks how the Waterfront Protection Ordinance is coming along. Everyone says they would have liked to attend a meeting but all the meetings were scheduled at the same time that another meeting about something else was being held. Another Occupier says she’s heard there has been little attendance at the Waterfront meetings because of scheduling conflicts.
One more Occupier speaks about an online calendar he has made. It will contain all the events being held by all progressive/radical groups in the Twin Ports on a monthly basis. It will be easily accessible and easy to use once you access it. A few kinks are still being worked out but it will be ready soon. We all agree, this is much needed and we look forward to using it.
Someone says they were surprised by the election results for the City offices which were held almost a month ago. Both of our friends were not elected. We agree we expected one friend would lose but we were slightly shocked when our other friend also lost. We were astounded at the dirty and very untrue things that were said in the newspaper about this friend. These things were said by people connected to powerful people within city politics. They lack integrity and don’t want our friend exposing their shady deals.
We were also disappointed to see that many people who offered support in the beginning did not follow through as time went on. Then of course, there was the issue of money. Our friend had very little of it and that’s really all that the current political system is about. Watching our friend’s experiences only serves to strengthen our belief that the current political system is unsalvageable.
Even though it’s a little earlier than when we usually end our meetings at the Memorial, we find we’ve finished the evening’s agenda. This is because we’ve had little of the funny and /or dramatic interruptions we’re used to at the Memorial. We miss the place already but probably won’t be able to go back for about 4 months. Bummer….. We’ll try “The Grace” again on Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 11-12-13
This is the coldest night so far this autumn. It’s probably in the low 20s and we know that in another month or so we’ll wish for temperatures this warm. Right now it feels pretty darn frigid.
We are very few this evening but we work quickly. Everything is set up and the fire is blazing in record time. People arrive from all directions. They stand or pull chairs up within inches of the flames. Many say, “This feels so good!” Even the “business people” who usually stay on the sidewalks are here. There are regular folks who we know by name and others we haven’t previously met. Very few have actual winter clothing; most are wearing layers of sweaters and hoodies. Some are without gloves. All ages and ethnicities are present and everyone is pleasantly chatting. Our hot espresso bean coffee is quite popular.
Seeing as there are only 3 Occupiers present, we think we will skip the meeting part tonight. Several outreach workers arrive and then another Occupier. We decide to try and discuss a few subjects while the rest of the folks carry on with their own interactions.
When we were working on the light boards for the Overpass Light Brigade event the husband of a member of Northwoods Wolf Alliance contributed much to the project. He made all 17 of the boards and put all the holes in them in his personal workshop and then sent these boards to us. He was unable to attend the actual Stop The Wolf Hunt affair so we would like to do something to show our appreciation. An Occupier has purchased a thank you card and is given the go-ahead to send it.
The Occupier in charge of our website reports we have been the victim of an attempted hacker attack. He managed to block the attack this time. Hopefully the hackers will move on. Another Occupier says, “Remember the time a few years ago when the white supremacist hackers crashed our Facebook page and then you turned around and used the same trick to crash their hacked page?” Everybody laughs.
A longtime progressive organizer is planning a forum to be held in January. He says his intention is to form a new third party or progressive electoral alliance. He asks that Occupy Duluth be a co-sponsor of this forum. We have much respect for this organizer but we don’t feel another organization is needed. We think there are more than enough good progressive organizations already and what is needed is a way of bringing these existing groups together. We decide to decline the offer of co-sponsorship and instead to offer our name as a supporter and to commit to attend the forum. We are involved in so many direct actions these days; we don’t have the time or energy to get involved in organizing a panel discussion.
Our Stop The Wolf Hunt OLB action created a lot of attention for Northwoods Wolf Alliance. NWA wants to take advantage of this opportune moment so are scheduling as many rallies and OLB actions across MN as they can. Occupy Duluth is currently in possession of all the letter light boards. We don’t know how many of the out of town NWA events we will be able to attend. We discuss ways in which we can reinforce and pack the boards for easy and secure travel.
The next NWA rally will be held this upcoming Saturday November 16th, 1pm at Maii’gan Corner aka People’s Plaza.
Native Alliance will be sponsoring a Celebrate Indigenous Month event but we’re not sure of the date. Whenever it is, we want to attend.
The fire is down to the coals. Many folks are still huddled around it, trying to get the last bit of warmth. When we start to put the fire out, we find the big water jug that we always keep on hand has frozen solid. Geez…… We’ll have to remember to keep it close by the fire when it’s super cold. We all sacrifice our personal water bottles. That works. The weather forecast says things will warm up somewhat as the week goes on. Hopefully things won’t be so cold when we return on Saturday.
G.A. Minutes 11-9-13
It’s another chilly one tonight. We expect all the days and nights will be like this and then get progressively worse until sometime next April. Winter is rough but we always survive; unlike some homeless people who freeze to death each year. A person freezing to death, because of something as simple as the lack of shelter from the cold, is a fact of life in this nation. It’s just not right.
The gray haired woman is already at the Memorial waiting for us. She’s shivering and we hurriedly get the fire going, set out the snacks and chairs and take our places in the circle. We exchange friendly banter with her and she is soon warm, relaxed and laughing. An Occupier has brought hot dogs and all the fixings. We begin cooking these and our space is immediately filled with hungry people. Many express their appreciation. Among them is a man who tells us he had frequented the camp we had several years ago at the Civic Center. He looks vaguely familiar.
One of our Occupiers has been busy moving and has missed most of our activities over the last several weeks. We explain about all the effort we put into making the Overpass Light Brigade signs. We partnered with Northwoods Wolf Alliance and Idle No More Duluth for this action; however, NWA and INM were quite busy with additional duties so the Occupiers did most of the organizing and labor for the OLB event. It was necessary to keep the plan secret until just before the actual happening so we had to organize using undercover methods. We really didn’t know if we were going to be able to pull the whole thing off. Fortunately, all the people we asked to help came through for us.
We had enough people to hold the signs, the freeway overpass we picked turned out to be a very good choice, the weather cooperated, the lighted signs were quite impressive, there was good media attention and we had only one brief visit from only one curious police officer. After the action, much to our surprise, pictures of Stop The Wolf Hunt appear to be going viral. The pictures taken by several photographers were up on the internet about an hour after we were finished and up until we left to attend this evening’s meeting they were still being viewed and complimentary comments were coming in from all over the country.
We are also proud of the fact that although we performed the majority of the work we were able to allow the two Native groups to receive most of the credit. This is as it should be. One of the major problems organizations composed of people of color consistently have when attempting to work with groups composed of people from the dominant culture is the problem of the dominant culture group trying to take over and/or take credit for the work of the non-dominant culture group. We hope we have proved ourselves to be good allies and perhaps gained some “alley cred” in the Twin Ports area.
We also tell the recently absent Occupier about an Annishinaabe wolf ceremony we were invited to attend earlier in the day. These types of ceremonies are usually not discussed outside the actual participants in the ceremony. After the ceremony there was a feast. We were honored to be invited.
An Occupier reports she sent an email on Thursday to the DPD lieutenant who had told her he would be mailing out a letter to her one week after their meeting of October 24th, 2013. This letter was supposed to state the DPD would no longer be harassing the Occupiers about their small, safe fires at the Memorial. The Occupier had not received the letter as of November 7th, 2013 so she sent an email to see what was up. She received a prompt return email stating the police chief was conferring with the Duluth Fire Department and she would receive the letter within one week. The Occupier laughs and says, “You know the DPD is never going to admit that Occupy was right about anything so they’ll probably say they’re not gonna boss us around anymore but we’d better be sure to do what the fire department tells us to do”.
A tall young man we haven’t met before walks up and starts yelling, “What are you doing here? Are you here to respect those boys that were hung!?! You are white people. This is a place for black people. Why are you here!?!” He then begins to repeat himself. We look at each other and kind of roll our eyes. We’ve heard this many times before, understand what it really means, have had many discussions with the black men of the neighborhood about the general idea and thought this had already been settled.
When the man stops to take a breath we say, “Yes. The reason we are here is to honor those boys who were hung”. That’s all it takes. The man calms down and begins to talk like a normal person. He tells us he is from Chicago; he had never heard about the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial and has never seen anything like it.
He says, “So the police really let you have this fire here?”
We say, “They do now”.
As we say this, 2 cops come walking up. The female cop asks another young man for his I.D. The tall man begins talking to the cops and tells them how much nicer they are than Chicago cops. Telling them how Chicago cops beat people, take their money and lose their paperwork. Telling them how he knows Duluth cops never do stuff like that. We silently think except if you’re a homeless person.
The cops agree with the man. They think they’re really nice people too. We think they were quietly driving by, heard the man yelling and used that as an excuse to see what we were up to. The officers practically fall all over themselves wishing us a pleasant good evening. Oh well…..it could be worse.
The woman with the beautiful voice who is from Las Vegas arrives. She sings us a song again and it sounds very good. We all clap. She sings another song and begins to preach about Jesus. She pulls out a big bottle of hard alcohol and waves it around. An Occupier advises her to put it back in her coat and be discreet as if she doesn’t there is no telling what might happen. She tries to have a discussion with an Occupier who professes to be a Buddhist or an atheist depending on what day it is. She proves to be no match for him and wanders off.
The man who had visited earlier and who had frequented our Civic Center camp returns. He is accompanied by a few friends and also by his mother. They have some bags of blankets and things and some food. They ask who they can give everything to. We tell them we are not equipped to manage things like that but if they leave the things on the back ledge people will use them.
They tell us they don’t want to join any group but they want to help the homeless and ask us for advice. We advise them the best we can and give them some cards of people who will take their donations. One of the friends says, “So if we showed up here, built a fire like yours and served hot chocolate and stuff it would be o.k.?” We tell them yes it would. When we get the letter from the DPD we’ll give them a copy. This could get interesting.
As we are packing up a pair of those traveling Mormon guys who wear suits, carry Bibles and ride bicycles come up. They say they just stopped by to invite everyone to their church service tomorrow morning. Their church is located quite a way up the hill. An Occupier wants to ask them if they will be sending a shuttle down to pick up all the people for church. She also wants to ask them why they waited until all the people of color had left before they came over.
However, she decides to cut them a break. It’s been a long night. We’ll be back Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 11-5-13
The sky is completely dark as we enter the Memorial tonight. November is here; the time of year we huddle together, mourning the absence of the sun. It’s chilly but bearable if we get the fire going right away. Soon we’ll have to go inside for the winter. Soon but not yet.
The street and CJM appear devoid of inhabitants but as soon as we have the flames blazing, we see our gray-haired woman friend approaching. She is quickly followed by another woman who has visited previously. Other folks appear and all our chairs are promptly filled.
A young woman who had lived in our homeless camp walks up. This is a very pleasant surprise. We have not seen her in over a year and have been somewhat concerned for her wellbeing. She and her male cousin came up from the Twin Cities during the start of the Summer of 2012. They had expected to stay with family members. When that didn’t pan out, they ended up sharing a tent in our camp.
The two were inseparable. They were hip hop artists and would entertain us at night with their original music. They were friendly, kindhearted and loved by all. At one point, they had to return to the Cities for a few days. We said goodbye, expecting them back in a week. Within days the young male was ambushed and murdered. His female cousin was a witness to his murder. Because of this, the murderers were trying to find and kill her too. We took up a collection, bought a bus ticket and brought her back to camp. She was quite traumatized. She cried much of the time and began drinking regularly. We could see that she was extremely depressed. We were told she was talking about suicide. After the illegal eviction of our camp we lost touch with her. However, she was not forgotten. Now here she is again. Apparently she went back to the Twin Cities, hoping she would be safe. That was not to be so she’ll be living in Duluth. We exchange phone numbers and she gives us the link to a music video she has made. She seems more healthy and stable than when last we met. This is good.
The outreach workers stop by to chat a bit and to leave a package of snacks for anyone who might be hungry. These outreach workers specialize in caring for homeless youth and our young friend had just informed us that she was now 21 years old. The workers say they are allowed to help people who are younger than 22. We make a note to hook our friend up with these workers.
The workers leave and the conversation becomes focused around the fire. An Occupier comments on a recent article exposing the practice in some U.S. cities of rounding up all the homeless people and putting them in locked FEMA camps.
Someone says, “That’s totally unconstitutional!”
Another answers, “Yeah, but that doesn’t stop them from doing it. What about Indian reservations and Japanese internment?”
The grey haired woman says, “What did homeless people do during the depression of the 30’s?” An Occupier responds, “They built their own camps called Hoovervilles and the government came and burnt them to the ground”.
Another Occupier comments on the lack of Christian spirit among Christians and a discussion begins about all the mean and hateful things that are written in the Bible. Someone says, “The Bible is weird. It has good things too but it’s been written by so many different people and translated so many times, who knows what it really says. Anyway, there’s lots of other things besides the Bible. What about the 7th Spark and the 8th Fire, the Mayan Prophecies or the White Buffalo? One can go with gloom, doom, darkness and death or with light, healing and reclamation”. Everyone agrees, following the light is the way to go.
One Occupier tells another about the hard work everyone put in last weekend making the Overpass Light Brigade signs for this upcoming Friday’s action. They all have little blisters on their hands from using the glue guns. The homeless folk at the fire ask what we are talking about. We explain about the de-listing of the gray wolves and the fact that 6 states including MN are allowing hunting, trapping, torturing and killing of wolves. The MN wolf hunting season begins on Saturday morning and we are planning a Stop The Wolf Hunt action on Friday evening. The homeless people don’t think wolves should be killed either and they ask if they can join us. We give them the details of the action.
A young man wearing shorts comes running up. We make room for him by the fire; give him some hot coffee and the snacks left by the outreach workers. He tells us he’s just come from the Casino. Luckily he wasn’t noticed and was able to sneak in and use the bathroom. He speaks of the difficulty of finding a place to use the bathroom when one is shabbily dressed and without money. We have the conversation we have had many, many times about the absolute lack of bathroom facilities for homeless people and of the fact that it is illegal to relieve oneself anywhere else. The City has cops in the alleys making sure homeless people don’t pee there but won’t provide anywhere that they can pee.
A woman wearing a tiny shirt, sporting a bare midriff plunks down. She says she’s just arrived from Las Vegas and she sings us a song. She has a beautiful voice. Just as quickly as she arrived, she is gone.
One of the Occupiers is fighting off a cold. She suggests we pack up a little early tonight. As we do this we can tell the homeless wish we would stay longer. We know that we are all going home to warm beds. We’re not sure where the homeless ones are going.
We plan to change that situation.
G.A. Minutes 10-29-13
We notice a few small snowflakes falling as we arrive at the Memorial this evening. Hmmm……. We’re not ready for winter yet. All the important political actions we’ve been doing since Spring have kept us so busy that we haven’t given much thought to where we are going to meet once it becomes too cold to meet here. Hmmm……
Our former camper, the grey haired woman, is waiting for us. We’re always glad to see her. She is invariably pleasant and cheerful; tonight she seems more clear headed than usual. Her memory is sharper too. She’s telling the same stories she’s told in the past; we haven’t seen her in a while so enjoy hearing them again.
For the first time the Occupier charged with starting up the fire is unable to get it going. Oh well….. He tears it down, adds more kindling and tries again. This time the fire roars. We move our chairs up close to it, rub our hands and grin conspiratorially.
Many street folks are attracted to the flames. Most nights folks come around for cigarettes and refreshments. Tonight it’s the warmth of the big fire.
Three young, well dressed women arrive. We generally don’t get visitors who look this spiffy. When they begin to talk we realize one of the women is probably a young man. We have met her several times and each time she has been so immaculately groomed we only become aware of her transgendered status when she speaks. Whatever.
The grey haired woman says she thinks it’s really terrible the way people are being treated at CHUM. The CHUM workers are arbitrarily throwing people out. Many times their reason for doing so is unclear. This unfair treatment of CHUM residents is especially cruel seeing as the workers know the people have nowhere else to go and the weather is turning cold.
Ms. Transgendered tells us many people are moving into the Lincoln Park/West End area of town. A few of the Occupiers mention that this is what they are afraid of. They know several big developers and city officials have their sights set on gentrifying our Hillside neighborhood. They wish to move all the poor people of the Hillside to the West End in order to accomplish their development goals.
They don’t seem to think poor people should enjoy a view of the lake. We don’t want this gentrification to happen. There are many unique aspects to the Central Hillside. We want to keep them. The poor and working class residents of the Hillside are an integral part of what makes our neighborhood unequaled. Many people visit and move to our city because we still have unique qualities. If the rich turn Duluth into another corporate tourist trap, it would be a major tragedy.
An Occupier asks if anyone has seen the 350.org posting for an anti-Enbridge pipeline organizer to be stationed in Duluth. She is very encouraged by this as she believes it means 350.org is interested in fighting the proposed local pipelines. The Occupiers have also been interested in this battle but as they are few have only been able to do minor education about the issue.
350.org is a national organization with a staff and a network of contacts. Another Occupier expresses an interest in applying for the organizer position. The first Occupier promises to send him the information a.s.a.p.
The talk returns to the question of the possible gentrification of our neighborhood. The grey haired woman wonders if the property owner of our homeless camp is planning on saving our neighborhood. He does own many strategically placed properties in the hood. The Occupiers know him fairly well and state they believe he is just waiting for the right price to be offered. They believe his only real interest is in money. One Occupier mentions his ownership of several businesses catering to the sex trade. She suggests a more sinister motivation.
Occupiers bring up the subject of where they will meet during Winter. One Occupier offers his home. A few begin a discussion about building a portable teepee like structure. They talk about what materials could be used. At this point it is only a fantasy. If they had begun working on the idea last Winter it would have been possible. It’s a little too late now.
There are several more items of business to be discussed but the many street people around the fire are engaged in conversation and appear to be genuinely enjoying themselves. Business can wait. We sit back, giving the neighbors the reins.
Eventually the wood runs out.
It’s later than we usually stay and we need go home, crash and live to fight another day. One man doesn’t want us to leave. He lives alone and doesn’t get a chance for meaningful conversation often. We know he will be able to sleep all day tomorrow. We don’t have that luxury. We invite him to join us when we return one week from today. Next Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 10-26-13
The Memorial is empty as we arrive but something is going on by the Skinner apartments at the end of the block. Squad cars with flashing lights are everywhere. One squad is racing down the wrong side of the street and squealing around and around the block.
This is not unusual as the Skinner is the source of much of the drama on this street. It’s an SRO building where people fortunate enough to have been granted some type of government housing assistance can live. Apparently the management is rather loose and/or nonexistent, so illegal activity is the norm. Kind of like the revolving door between multinational corporations and the U.S. congress, except that the residents of the Skinner are poor so have to pay for their sins.
It gets dark earlier and the air is cooler these last days of autumn. We get the fire going immediately, put out refreshments, sit down and relax. An Occupier says, “Man this heat feels good!”
As the squads are leaving, a woman on the street yells, “Hey, come back! The white people are playing with fire!”
An older man we don’t know walks up and says, “So what are you guys up to? I saw you here a few days ago.” We explain we are Occupy Duluth and we’ve been holding our meetings at the Memorial twice a week for over a year. The man has never heard of Occupy or the Occupy Wall Street movement. He has recently moved into the neighborhood and into the Skinner. As he begins to tell his story, it is determined that he and one of the Occupiers attended high school together. Although he looks much different than he did in high school, the Occupier remembers him and they reminisce for a bit. The man has spent much of his life as an alcoholic; in and out of prison. He’s sober now, has many health problems and is involved in volunteer work at several animal rescue agencies. He tells us of a veterinary clinic that will spay or neuter your cat for free if you can present an EBT (food stamp) card. “Wow!” says an Occupier, “That is some really useful information. Thanks for telling me.”
Another Occupier states, “It’s really gonna be boring around here now that the cops won’t hassle us anymore.”
A third Occupier remarks, “Nah, being hassled by the cops was becoming really boring.”
A meeting between a representative of Occupy Duluth and a police lieutenant in charge of public safety was held recently. Occupy presented their complaint which had been previously delivered to the Citizens Review Board. The Lieutenant said all DPD officers had been given instructions to stop bothering the Occupiers at their Memorial fires. The Occupier’s representative stated she would need to have something in writing concerning this issue and the Lieutenant said in about a week he would mail her a letter verifying his statement. After a year of standing our ground and demanding that the DPD follow their own laws, it appears we may have won this battle. That would be a pleasant surprise.
Several of the Occupiers have a secret to impart. An action in relation to the upcoming MN wolf hunt is being planned. For now, the details must remain a mystery. Things are discretely explained to all Occupiers present. Everybody is down with the plan. Many people are coming in and out of the circle, smudging and getting their snacks. They’re all in their own worlds, not paying attention to the confidences being exchanged.
One in our group is planning to attend the yearly demonstrations against the School Of The Americas; located in the state of Georgia. He asks if Occupy will make a donation to his travel funds. We have $100 currently in our treasury so offer to give him $50. Looks like we’ll have to come up with a way to raise some more funds.
An Occupier reminds us that there will be an Anti-Trafficking meeting on Monday evening and an Idle No More Meeting on Friday morning. Next Saturday we will meet at an art studio to work on our secret wolf project. It looks like we’ll be able to be back here next Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 10-22-13
It’s going to be really cold this evening. The temperature is in the low 30s so we’ll need to keep the fire burning big and hot. The majority of the regular Occupiers are present at the Memorial tonight. Other duties have kept us from meeting here for the past 2 weeks. We’ve missed this crazy place.
Speaking of crazy, a homeless man we haven’t met before approaches as we’re setting up. After asking what we’re up to he introduces himself and as we give him our names, he writes them down. He informs us he is a special agent working for the IRS. He also works closely with the FBI. He says he’s been kicked out of the CHUM center and is finding life very difficult since the weather has turned colder. He’s spent a few nights in a tent at the reconstituted Graffiti Graveyard but doesn’t like it there. Many of the residents are violent, drunk and insane. He hasn’t been in town long so asks us what his options are and we tell him what we know. We certainly are not veterans in the homeless community but experiences at our former homeless camp and now that we are meeting at Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial have taught us a few things. The man maintains a running dialog and we attempt to discuss Occupy stuff while he talks. He participates articulately in the conversation for a while and then leaves.
An Occupier mentions there will be a Project Homeless Connect at the Gimaajii Center from 2-4pm Thursday, October 24th. These Connects sponsored by Loaves N Fishes and are held once or twice a year. They consist of tables from the majority of the social service NGOs in Duluth. Homeless people are offered free food, personal hygiene products, haircuts, warm clothing and blankets (if available) and other small things. The people are also allowed to sign up on waiting lists for public housing. If they are able to wait about a year until they are contacted (if they can still be found without too much trouble), they can go to many appointments and fill out many forms and possibly be given a very low rent apartment in a dangerous and not very clean public housing complex. If they follow all the many rules they are required to follow they can have a roof over their head. If a person is a felon, he can forget about housing. Felons are banned from public housing.
Another Occupier reports a forum on poverty will take place at 6:30pm at Trepanier Hall Wednesday October 23rd. This forum will be inviting all the candidates running for City Council office to participate. Someone states that there will be a symbolic Superior Homeless Camp in the parking lot of the public library in Superior WI this weekend. Maybe some people who have homes will go there and sleep overnight in a tent or something.
We put a lot of work into helping Northwoods Wolf Alliance sponsor the Wolf Walk on October 12th. We feel the event was quite successful with people and speakers from across northern MN participating. The occasion began with an Ojibwe prayer, spiritual drumming, tables and good speakers. About 70 people with signs, puppets and drummers marched from the Civic Center to the People’s Plaza and then to Canal Park where a round dance celebration took place on the beach. Several television stations and media reporters were there, so we were able to generate press coverage for the wolves. A feast at the Hillside Community Center closed out the day.
Somebody asks for an update on Water Legacy. We think they are still attending as many events as possible, attempting to get more signatures for the EPA petition. The time for public comment about the proposed PolyMet sulfide mine will probably be pushed ahead to January 2014. An Occupier says, “The last time I petitioned for them, almost everyone said they had already signed”.
A Occupier wants to know about our complaint to the Citizen’s Review Board concerning the DPD. We tell her 2 Occupiers have an appointment with a police lieutenant on Thursday. We are supposed to present documentation of our complaint at that time. The DPD will then be allowed to come up with a solution. If we don’t like the solution we can return to the CRB. We attended a CRB meeting about a month ago and we noticed many of the members of the Board didn’t seem to understand what they were supposed to be doing. It appeared things were being subtly directed by the cops.
Some of us attended the City Indigenous Commission last night. A few of our allies are on this commission. Native Alliance gave a report about their recent activities. A man from the Fon du Lac adolescence agency reported the state health department is changing its rules and eliminating the intake substance abuse report, substituting a mental health report in its place. The man is concerned that youth will be given false or inaccurate mental health diagnosis which will follow them for the rest of their life. He says, “It’s like they are already setting the kids up for failure”.
A member of the commission offers a resolution which states that the Gimaajii Center will be required to report monthly to the Indigenous Commission. Another commission member objects to this proposal and a discussion ensues. Members of the public at the meeting are invited to express opinions on the subject. The discussion is then tabled until next month’s meeting when members who are missing tonight will be present.
The homeless IRS agent returns. He looks worried and tells us he has just been trespassed from the casino. He had gone in to use the bathroom and warm his hands when he was informed by security that management had put him on the unwelcome characters list. This is a big deal as many street people (Occupiers too) rely on the casino for its bathrooms, warmth and as a convenient place to buy a pack of smokes. He’s unsure why he has been kicked out and we explain people in power generally act on their personal whims, especially when dealing with people who have much less power.
Now the pleasant speaking agent really doesn’t know what to do. He can sleep at the Graveyard but will have to put up with a lot of unpredictable behavior from the other residents. He could get a bottle of alcohol and drink enough to get admitted into Detox. He’ll get a warm bed, food and a shower but they may put a 72 hour hold on him. He needs to report to his probation officer tomorrow and doesn’t want to screw that up. He could just hang on the street until morning and then apply to various churches for enough money for a ticket to the Twin Cities. In the T.C. he could try his luck with homeless shelters and such. One of the homeless outreach workers arrives and stands at the fire. The outreach worker can’t help Mr. Agent Man as the worker represents an NGO that can only help people under the age of 18.
Everyone breaks into small groups and conversations about various topics develop. We hear some noise from the back ledge and look to find some bodies rolling around. Other people in the Memorial go over and join them. An Occupier moves to go over and another Occupier cautions him to wait. The fighting group separates and we are able to determine that 2 women are fighting and a bunch of men have grabbed them and are holding them apart. One woman screams, “Why are you messing with my man, bitch!” Both women are dragged off to different corners as an Occupier comments, “Well if someone’s messing with her man it seems like it’s her man she should be talking to”.
Everyone gathers around the fire again and a street man we have seen before approaches Mr. Agent and says, “I just need 75 cents and I can take the bus back to my house and get some warm coats and stuff for the people out here”.
The agent says, “You have a house? Can I sleep on your couch and take a shower?”
The other man says yes and the agent gives him 75 cents and the man leaves. The Occupiers look at each other, roll their eyes and think, like the dude is ever gonna come back. The conversation continues. The fire is dying and we immediately feel the cold.
Everyone feels sorry to leave the agent out in the frigid air but we have to crash in order to continue on tomorrow. As we begin to leave we see the man of the 75 cents has returned to take the agent to his home. Cool.
We currently know of no other obligations to prevent us from returning next Saturday.
G.A. Minutes 10-8-13
It was raining steadily all day last Saturday so we went to an Occupiers home and worked on our wolf puppet. This Tuesday evening the sky is clear and the air is unseasonably warm. It’s supposed to be in the high 60s and low 70s all this week. The sun goes down much earlier these days. It will be down in about an hour. We won’t need much warmth from our fire but the light will help a lot.
A few of the regular street people are around. They greet us warmly; some help us carry our things. An older man who we don’t know greets us. When an Occupier asks, “What’s up”? The man answers, “Same as always, everybody’s just trying to get a buzz”.
One of our Occupiers has been absent for a week or more. We need to fill him in on what’s been going on. There’s been so much that we can’t remember it all. We tell him about 2 meetings that are happening tomorrow.
The first is a meeting of the Duluth Human Rights Commission in City Hall. The issue of the placement of the Indigenous Cultural Staff has still not been decided. Apparently, a well-known politician has a solution he is going to propose to the commission. The problem is, none of the Native people connected to the staff issue were notified of his plan. They found out about the meeting by word of mouth so they’re understandably suspicious. We shake our heads in disbelief. What is wrong with these white people? They seem to think only the rich and those of their inner circle are worthy of respect. They seem to think everyone else will just obey their orders. We will attend this meeting and support our Native allies.
The second meeting will be with the campaign committee of one of our friend running for City office. While on the subject of this friend, an Occupier reports something she was told at the Idle No More meeting she attended yesterday. When our friend gave a press conference a couple of weeks ago he spoke out against the Polymet mine. He took a public stand about a very important issue; something very few politicians are willing to do. All the television stations were there and they took a lot of footage. Many supporters of our friends were also present. When the actual news reports were shown, our friend was not mentioned. Neither his face nor his words were in any part of the television presentations. Our other friend running for City office was at the INM meeting and stated, “There are many powerful people in this city who are determined that no person of color will ever hold a government office”.
The sun has set. We notice all the street lights that usually shine on the Memorial and on the corner intersection are out. We have also noticed there have been 4, maybe 5, slow drive byes from squad cars since we’ve been here. An Occupier jokes, “Maybe we’ll set a record tonight”. Is this an ominous sign of something about to happen or merely a coincidence? The fire gives us enough light to see each other. We’ll just have to wait and see.
We inform the previously absent Occupier Native Alliance will hold an introduction to the community potluck feast on Friday at the Central Hillside Community Center. We will attend just as soon as we are done with our regular Friday rush hour protest with the Northland Anti-War Coalition. On Saturday we will participate in the Wolf Walk being sponsored by the Northwoods Wolf Alliance. We’ve been doing a lot of work with NWA for this event. It too will end with a big feast and potluck at CHCC.
An Occupier notices a man walking down the street and coming up on the Memorial. It’s too dark to see his face but she thinks she recognizes his walk. She calls his name and he answers. Everybody cracks up. This is a man who had lived in our camp for several months. We haven’t seen him in quite a while and had heard he was incarcerated. He tells us he’s been in treatment for the last 7 months. When he sits down to chat we notice he hasn’t changed much. Still extremely anxiety ridden and talking about violent things. Several regular street folks come to sit. It seems they all know him so it’s a bit like old home week, sitting around the fire at our old camp. The middle aged Native woman walks her circle around us and sits down.
The former camper tells us of his plans to go to college up north and become a forest ranger or a DNR agent. He gives his usual speech about the problem with the people on the street is that they’re lazy and they should just get off their asses, get a job and take care of their lives. We notice that in spite of his attitude, he is still on the street and doesn’t have a job. Of course, we don’t say that but try to explain that things are more complicated than the solution he proposes. He will have none of it.
The older man who we spoke with when we arrived is back. He’s definitely got a buzz. He can barely walk and his friends on the back ledge are affectionately laughing at him.
The fire is dying. Should we throw on another log? If we do we know we’ll be stuck listening to Mr. Anxiety’s lectures. We decide to leave. We won’t be back on Saturday, as that is the day of the Wolf Walk, so we won’t see this place again until next Tuesday. As we are packing up an Occupier says, “We did break a record. 8 slow drivebys from the DPD”.
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