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G.A. Minutes 8-25-15
The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is pretty much empty as we arrive this evening. It looks like someone has left all their belongings on the side ledge. Two people are assisting a third guy on the back ledge. They say to him, “No, you can’t lay down here. You have to get up”. The guy sits up but appears unsteady. The other people leave.
When we start unpacking we realize the pile of belongings is actually a person. We think he’s probably passed out. We won’t disturb him and hope a cop doesn’t drive by and notice. If that happens it will be off to Detox or jail for the poor fellow.
Once we start banging our metal chairs around, the passed out guy sits up. That’s when we realize it’s our friend, the older Ho Chunk man. We haven’t seen him in a long time. We give him a cup of strong coffee and he joins the circle.
We have been hoping to make a fire as soon as the weather will allow. Tonight is overcast with temperatures in the low 60s; winds are light and variable. We decide to give it a go and see what happens.
Soon flames are leaping. A woman walks over and asks, “So they let you do this again?”
We answer, “Well no, not exactly. “They” never let regular people do much of anything. However, if one stands up for the rights one is supposed to be entitled to as American citizens, sometimes “they” have to let us have them”.
We know that Occupy groups all over the country have been winning lawsuits based on civil rights violations during the first months of the movement. If we need to take this right to make a small safe fire in a public space issue to court, that’s what we will do.
Once the fire starts, all our chairs are full and others are standing. Everyone is thrilled to enjoy a fire again.
Some of the Occupiers attended the Public Utility Commission hearing about the Enbridge Line 3 this morning. The hearing took place in McGregor MN. The Occupiers report the hearing room was packed with over 90% of the attendees being opposed to the building of this pipeline. They report it was quite obvious the few people who spoke in favor of the pipeline were being paid to do so.
An Occupier comments, “Oh good. I’m sure the PUC commissioners will deny the pipeline then. They’ll realize that regular people don’t want it.”
Another Occupier rolls his eyes and answers, “Oh yeah, sure, that’s exactly what will happen”.
Someone informs us that on this upcoming Thursday, August 27th at the Harrison Community Center, a program that will provide special buses for residents of the West End to take to a big grocery store in West Duluth, will be introduced. These buses will be designed to provide spaces for people to put a large amount of groceries.
Seeing as the West End is a food desert, we think this is wonderful news.
Someone else reminds us that we’re going to the Citizens Review Board tomorrow at 5pm.
The gray-haired woman, who is not originally from Duluth, asks for an explanation of why we are going to the meeting. After we explain she says, “The people who run things in MN are really strange. They act nice but then do you harm”.
An Occupier adds, “In MN they smile to your face and then stab you in the back. In the rest of the country they just shoot you”. We all laugh.
The main homeless outreach worker drives up. She has several other people in her vehicle and the back of it is full of stuff. As usual, she is immediately surrounded by many folks of the street. As she drives off she waves to us and calls out, “We’re trying to find a different camping spot”.
An Occupier calls back, “How about right here?”
An Occupier states that on this upcoming Thursday many Anishinaabe people will be congregating at Hole In The Day Lake and harvesting wild rice. They are challenging the state of MN because the state says the Anishinaabe do not have the right to harvest wild rice on ceded territory without buying a state license.
The Anishinaabe folks say yes they do, the 1857 Treaty supports their retention of this harvesting right. The Native people hope the DNR will issue a citation or make an arrest or something so the issue can be put before the courts.
Another Occupier comments, “I wish I knew how we could support them on Thursday”.
Somebody replies, “Just send them prayers and good vibes. I think they and their ancestors can take care of the rest”.
A young man we don’t know approaches the circle. He has a big container of barbequed ribs and asks if anyone would be interested in eating them. “No problem” say the African American guys and a few others. We thank him for his generosity and the rib eating people chow down.
Several junior high aged kids ride up on bikes. They go to the table to see what’s to eat. We know they’ve been at our circle in the past but children’s appearances change so much over short periods of time. We’re not sure which group of kids they belong to.
They are very hungry. Unfortunately, all the sandwiches and apple juice are gone. There are still cookies. The children take as many as they can hold, sit down in the circle and munch away.
An Occupier tells us that Loaves N Fishes will be having a brainstorming session this upcoming Friday, 7pm at Dorothy Day House. They need to do a rewrite of their survey for homeless people because the BOD of CHUM refused to accept the original survey which they presented at the last Human Rights Commission meeting. The BOD stated the survey asked too many questions about abuse from the DPD and didn’t contain anything about homeless people’s own personal responsibility.
The Occupier continued, “It was so dumb. The survey was intended to get responses about interactions with the police. It’s like if someone created a survey about apples and someone else got upset because the survey didn’t mention turkeys. Well, DUH……. The survey was about apples, not turkeys! I don’t think the members of the CHUM BOD know anything about actual life on the street”.
The gray haired woman and the partner of the stylish Native woman each tell a story concerning their experiences with CHUM. The male partner tells a story about being thrown out of the CHUM Shelter in the middle of a severe blizzard.
His Dr. had given him a new medicine to take for his severe mental illness problems. He took the medicine and then was stuck at the shelter because a huge storm blew in. The medicine made him extremely sleepy so he had to lay his head down on the table. The CHUM staff person accused him of being drunk. He explained he was having a severe side effect from his new medicine and went to lie down on the floor.
The staff person tried to shake him awake, again accusing him of being drunk. This made him very annoyed. He angrily said, “I told you, it’s the side effect of my medication!” So they threw him out into a blizzard. He had no warm clothes and could barely function. When he returned several days later he found all of his belongings had been stolen and he was denied entry to CHUM for the rest of his life.
The grey haired woman says she stayed at CHUM when she first arrived in Duluth. She says she believes she was very well behaved the entire time but one day a staff member came up to her and said, “You have 3 days to get out of here”. The grey haired lady is in her mid-70s and very forgetful. She has a very hard time remembering how to get from place to place.
Someone outside of the CHUM organization took her to Superior, WI where she was forced to spend her entire SSI monthly check in order to rent a very small room. Seeing as she had no money she had to get free meals at a shelter for men.
It took her six months to figure out how to get back to Duluth where she was able to receive housing assistance. She is now of the belief she is being stalked by the main homeless outreach person.
The Occupiers agree CHUM provides many good services and they don’t believe the gray haired woman is being stalked. They also agree they have heard many stories similar to these from folks on the street.
The stylish Native woman worked in the past as a housing advocate. She explains how the local NGOs are forced to compete with each other for the small amount of funding given by the Community Block Grant Program. An Occupier adds that she believes this competition is a deliberate government set up to keep the NGOs from working together on issues.
A thirty something white guy sits down and gives a lecture on racism. He says because slavery ended only a hundred and fifty or so years ago, it will take three hundred years for racism to be gone. Then he leaves.
The tall, short haired Native young man, who visits frequently, arrives. He makes a cigarette and states, “I’m so glad you guys are fighting to keep this fire. Everyone thanks you and I really love you for this”. He appears to be a little embarrassed by his own emotional outburst and says goodbye.
We notice a squad car drive by. We don’t notice if the cop is looking our way or not. Somebody remarks, “Too late now”. The flames have turned to coals. One cannot see our fire from a distance unless it has high flames.
The neighborhood retired man arrives. “Are they still harassing you about your fire?” he says.
We answer, “Probably”.
The gray haired woman asks, “Is everything in this country about money?”
An Occupier replies, “Yup. That’s what this country was built on”.
The Ho Chunk man says, “Oh no, this country was built on Native land”. We all laugh and agree he is correct.
People comment about the familiar meme that shows a Native elder saying, “Oh, you want to kick out all the illegal immigrants? Good idea. When are you leaving?”
The Ho Chunk man jokes, “We should put you all back on your boats”.
An Occupier responds, “You know, when Native culture isn’t under the influence of white man culture, it is such a humane culture that they probably wouldn’t even do that”.
The Ho Chunk man adds, “That’s because we believe in the Creator and we put out our tobacco and pray”.
It’s well past time for us to leave. As we pack up we find that the Ho Chunk man got a little too drunk earlier and missed his bus. He doesn’t have many of his belongings and will have to find some place to crawl under and sleep until morning.
An Occupier offers him a ride back to his camp and he gratefully accepts.
We plan to be back here on Saturday.
G.A. Minutes 8-22-15
The Occupiers have had to confer via the internet during the day to decide whether we should hold a G.A. at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial tonight.
The weather people are broadcasting tornado warnings throughout the area. We decide to chance it. As far as we know, a tornado has never touched down in Duluth.
There are grey skies; a strong north wind is blowing while the clouds are moving rapidly across in a southwest to northeast direction. Something is going to happen but not right away.
The first couple of Occupiers arrive. We set out a few chairs and sit and watch the sky. A few neighborhood African American folks on the back ledge do the same.
We hear a woman screaming across the street. The screams come from a street woman who we have been vaguely acquainted with for several years. She is screaming at a man who generally accompanies her when she is out and about.
Up until about a year ago we observed her working the “night shift” on the corner as we packed up after our meetings. We’d assumed the man was her pimp.
We haven’t seen any signs of obvious drug dealing or sex trafficking on the corner of CJM for a long time. We figure the business has moved somewhere else.
Anyway, the man begins screaming too. The couple crosses the street, going to the back ledge. An Occupier comments, “If she’s trying to get away from him she’ll have to make a big ruckus that gets noticed by everyone. If he gets her alone, her chance of escape is over”.
The couple begins hitting each other. No one from the back ledge attempts to intervene. In fact, everyone comes to stand by the Occupiers.
As one Occupier goes to get more chairs, he and the other Occupier exchange looks that say, “Should we call the cops?”
Suddenly the other Occupier says, “Oh, what is wrong with me?” She goes to her car, gets the smudge equipment, fires up the sage bundle and lets the smoke fill the entire space.
The male of the fighting couple comes to sit in the circle. He complains to the other African American men sitting there. He says that although the entire argument is completely his woman’s fault, he knows if he puts his hands on her he’ll be the one going to jail. The other men agree with him. However, they don’t appear to feel much empathy.
The fighting woman stomps off one way while the fighting man stomps off in the opposite direction. A woman from the ledge says, “Maybe now we can have a little peace”. Most of the neighborhood folks go back to the ledge.
Another Occupier and an occasional Occupier arrive. They attended a local memorial service for Julian Bond earlier in the day. They tell us about it and we have a short discussion about revered man’s legacy.
One of the Occupiers asks, “So we’re going to the Citizens Review Board meeting on Wednesday?” Another answers, “Yup, that’s correct”.
We laugh because last week we had been misinformed. We canceled our regular Tuesday meeting and showed up at City Hall at 7pm. The room was dark and empty but we thought we were the first ones there. We turned on the lights and took seats. After a while we started wondering why everyone was so late.
Just as we were about to make a phone call, two of our City official friends peeked in to see what was going on. “You have the wrong night”, they said.
Everything turned out o.k. because they stayed to talk for a while and gave us some good news about the Committee of Black Minnesotans and Voices for Racial Justice.
An Occupier tells us she recently attended another class about white privilege. Among the other class participants was a young, well known and respected African American college teacher. She and the teacher had a discussion about the problems Occupy and the rest of the neighborhood has continuously had with the CJMM BOD. The teacher had been a member of this BOD in the past.
She told him, “As far as we can tell, the real problem the BOD has with us is based on the fact that we welcome everyone at our meetings, including homeless and other street people. In fact, the majority of the people who regularly attend our meetings are homeless and other street people. They enjoy the fires, food and conversation. They also don’t have much else to do in the evenings”.
The teacher responded to her, “You’re absolutely correct. When I was on that BOD I constantly argued with most of the other members about the “quality” of the people who frequented CJM. Most of the other members said they were disgusted by the fact that poor neighborhood people spent time at the Memorial. They wanted the space to remain empty except for suitable tourists and wealthy people, whom the members could take, show them the space and then solicit donations for the CJMM scholarship fund. “I finally resigned from that BOD because I just couldn’t tolerate the arrogance and elitism of most of the members”.
The Occupier continued, “I was really glad to hear the teacher’s words. I really didn’t think we were imagining things”.
Another Occupier reports he’s been making phone calls on behalf of Northwoods 350. There are two Public Utility Commission hearings coming up on Tuesday August 25th11am and 6pm at the McGregor High School and Wednesday August 26th 11am and 6pm at the Carlton County Transportation Building. These hearings will be accepting public comments concerning the proposed Enbridge pipeline Line 3.
Someone replies, “When are we just going to go with all renewable energy sources? I’m getting tired of waiting. All the technology is there, it’s just a matter of doing it”.
Someone else pantomimes sticking a syringe into her arm and says, “They just don’t want to get off of that oil”.
Raindrops are beginning to fall; it’s just a matter of time until the storm hits. We start a conversation about gardening in order to take up the time while we wait.
The short middle-aged white guy who’s been coming around lately arrives. He grabs the sage bundle and begins smudging everyone. Several of the Native women say, “I don’t want to be smudged right now. I’ve been drinking”.
Thunder and lightning arrive. They bring occasional bits of rain with them. The Occupier who is well versed in science explains the calculation for determining how far away the storm is.
We wait for a lightening flash, then count the seconds until we hear thunder. We have it all wrong but we have fun doing it anyway. Then…. A big flash of lightening and the thunder right after it.
An Occupier states, “Oh, oh here it comes. Time to go”. Everyone scurries to pack up. The street folks join in and help. The folks who live in the HRA apartment building on the corner are going to stand under the trees on the back ledge. They want to watch the storm. They’ll probably get wet but it doesn’t matter. They don’t have far to go to dry off and they don’t have anything else to do anyway.
We plan to be back on Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 8-15-15
The weather over the past couple of days has been downright dangerous. The heat index has been over 100 with few clouds and very little breeze.
You can imagine how relieved we are to find temperatures in the 70s with a slight east wind as we arrive at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening.
The streets are empty but a few folks are waiting for us in the Memorial space. They help us set up. We’d expected another hot night so came prepared with extra ice; now we see it’s a good thing we brought plenty of hot coffee.
As people take their seats, an old white man who is known to a few of the street folks but unknown to the Occupiers joins the circle. It appears he’s prepared to give a lecture. He talks non-stop about the US constitution, the behavior of police, entrapment laws, direct action (though he doesn’t use that term) and other things too numerous to remember.
He doesn’t allow anyone else to speak. We know he’s much older than any of us so we want to give him the respect due an elder but he’s getting to be annoying.
The woman from Mississippi comes around the corner, says hello to us and goes straight to the side ledge behind us where some of her women friends are sitting.
She starts in on a rant about how the DPD is abusing the Occupiers. She says we only bring good vibes and a chance for neighborhood people to get together in a good way.
So the guy in the circle is talking loudly about direct action and Mississippi Woman is talking loudly about the police abusing us. Maybe we’ll just sit and listen.
They are both on a roll. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last very long. The Mississippi woman’s friends all get up and leave. She comes over to the circle.
Now she’s talking about God’s word and the Bible. The elder man keeps talking about his stuff too. They’re both talking at once and it sounds really nuts.
Soon the elderly man walks off. We kinda wish he would take Mississippi Woman with him but no….. she just keeps talking.
Most of the street folks get up and leave too. Mississippi will stop ranting if someone says something that interests her but the minute anyone pauses for a breath, she’s right back on the rant again. Her speech is very familiar to us. She’s just repeating words and stories commonly used by African American preachers across the land.
A young white girl who we don’t know takes a seat. She’s contemptuous of the preaching woman and makes snide remarks about her subject matter. The young girl then picks up the last bit of the sage bundle and begins smudging everyone left in the circle.
An Occupier tells her, “Please but that down. It’s starting to fall apart and needs to burn out in the dish. The girl pays no attention and goes over to smudge the Occupier. Big pieces of burning sage leaves are falling off the bundle and on to the Occupiers’ bare skin.
The Occupier screams, “Are you nuts? Put it down!” Another Occupier grabs the young girls’ wrist and gently forces her to put it down. The girl leaves immediately.
Mississippi Woman has wandered off to the back ledge where a few African American men are sitting. They argue loudly about religion and the Bible.
The Occupiers and the few remaining street people just sit in amazement for a bit. Is the whole evening going to be like this?
An Occupier reminds us that we will need to attend the Citizen’s Review Board meeting next Tuesday at City Hall, 5pm on the 3rd floor. She explains, “We just sort of need to be there to give copies of our paperwork to Board members and to remind the cops they need to address our complaint about their unnecessary harassment of our fire on the 4th of July.
“I think our real argument is with the Fire Department but we need to start with the DPD and let them tell us that. Again. “
“By the way, I found a copy of the MN Fire Code in the reference department of the Duluth Public Library. I made a copy of all the codes the Fire Marshal showed me and of anything else that could possibly pertain to our fire. All the codes, statutes and ordinances say pretty much the same thing, just with different wording. If worse comes to worse it will probably mean that a judge will have to decide the meaning of a few very common words”.
Another Occupier says, “Hey, did you hear that just a day or so ago the US Department of Justice stated that it is unconstitutional for any city, town etc. to make a law that says people sleeping in public spaces is illegal. They said that the right to sleep is a constitutional right. That’s probably going to be a good thing for homeless people in the long run”. We all agree that this DOJ statement is pretty cool.
An Occupier reports she’s received an email from the leader of Duluth Move To Amend. Duluth MTA is attempting to get a referendum on the November ballot supporting a US constitutional amendment and an end to Citizens United. The email said a few of the City Councilors who had originally supported this cause were now asking for a doubling of the amount of signatures on the MTA petition.
The leader said MTA doesn’t have enough money to get that accomplished in time. The leader stated, “Trying to get the money out of politics is what MTA is trying to do. So now they want us to spend more money in order to do it?”
The Occupier continues, “I thought he had a really good point. I hope he uses it when he speaks with the City Council again”.
The Occupiers who have been bringing much of the food for our meetings report they may be unable to afford to do this for the rest of this month. Another Occupier offers to take over this task.
We receive a visit from the man from Senegal. We haven’t seen him in a long time. Apparently he’s been very busy with a full time job and going to nursing school.
He talks, as he usually does, about the racism he has to deal with in his life. He experiences racist behavior from both white and black people. The man has been in many countries and has lived in the US for 19 years. He says America is more racist than anywhere he has ever been.
The Senegalese man tells us in 1992 his father was a government official. There was a change in the government and his family was forced to leave the country. His immediate family now lives in a large Midwestern city.
He tells us he could not return to his country for many years as he would have been murdered. Now that he is an American citizen, he can safely visit.
2 Park Rangers come up. They are good friends with the man from Senegal so they laugh and joke with him for a while. One of the Rangers comments, “This fire circle thing that you guys have going on is just great. It’s exactly what this space was made for”.
In the course of conversation 1 of the Rangers says, “We lost a cop”.
“What?” responds an Occupier.
The Ranger explains, “Well, we don’t want to put it out on the radio but we’re trying to find a cop. We don’t know where he is”.
The Rangers have also found a recently broken window in the back of 1 of the downtown buildings. They want to find the owner of the building but don’t know how to go about it. 1 of the Occupiers is well versed in this type of thing so he explains to them what they should do.
We have a few more folks drop by. The former building manager who worked for the evil landlord of our former homeless camp appears. Next comes the neighborhood retired man and then one of our former campers who now walks the straight and narrow (sort of).
These people haven’t seen each other in a while so have some catching up to do.
As happens many evenings, the grand finale is enacted by the African American gay man. He’s not singing and dancing as much as usual but he still manages to tell a few stories and pretend to perch on the edge of the unlit fire pit without even getting his pants dirty.
Anyone else would have fallen in. How he does it, no one knows.
It’s way past time for us to be gone. Everyone helps to pack up.
So next Tuesday we’ll be making our presence felt at the Citizens Review Board then back here again next Saturday.
G.A. Minutes 8-11-15
We’ve been absent from the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial for over a week; we’re happy to be returning this evening.
If the weather is a harbinger of things to come, our meeting tonight will be very pleasant. The sky is clear, temperatures are in the 70s and there’s a very light, cool breeze.
Many people are already in the space and scattered up and down the street when we arrive. They help us to quickly set up the snacks and chairs. All the chairs fill immediately. We notice that everyone in our circle is someone with whom we are well acquainted. Some are new friends; others have spent much time with us in previous years.
Several squad cars quickly pull up across the street. A few people from the circle go over to see what’s happening.
No big deal. The middle aged Native man with very long hair is drunk again. He can’t walk. He lives in the “wet house” and this is usual behavior for him. The officers will just take him home.
An African American couple who we don’t know is standing on the sidewalk. They are watching the minor drama.
Several officers are walking back to their vehicle. One of the officers is a tall African American male. The couple is quite surprised. The man calls out, “What? They have a black cop?!?” The cop smiles and waves.
An Occupier in the circle calls out, “They have 2.” The African American man on the sidewalk looks amazed. He says to the cop, “Will you come over to my house for dinner?”
The Occupier says to the circle, “Back when I was young they had a different black cop. The stylish, older, Native woman asks, “You mean B—–?” and the Occupier responds, “Yeah, he was the meanest man who ever lived”.
The children’s cheerleading class that meets in the old Encounter Center is getting out. Parents and children fill the sidewalk. A small child is running, top speed, down the hill and towards the intersection.
The parents all scream, then we scream and then all the folks on the street scream. The child stops up short and begins to cry. At least she didn’t run out into the busy street.
An Occupier reads a poem written by Rumi. Everyone listens; then the Spiritual Man translates it into the language of the street.
Suddenly the woman from Mississippi comes walking down the street. She is seriously ranting. Her southern accent is hard to understand at times but she is swearing like we can’t believe. We had no idea she cussed like that.
She just won’t quit. Back and forth she goes, screaming at the top of her lungs. An Occupier comments, “I think she just gets really frustrated with all the goings on down at the Skinner building. People are always fighting and the DPD practically lives there. HRA won’t let her move into senior citizen public housing where she would be more comfortable. They say she’s too young for that. She’s actually not as old as she looks and acts”.
The behavior of the Mississippi seems to trigger something. The Main Obnoxious Woman is with her boyfriend on the back ledge. She says something to him; he goes up to the Spiritual Man and shoves him. The Spiritual Man pushes the other man off of him then puts his hands behind his back and says, “I’m not going to hit you”. The Spiritual Man’s female friend jumps between them yelling, “If you gonna hit him you gonna have to come through me first”.
This goes on for a short while but the Main Obnoxious Woman’s boyfriend doesn’t hit women so he leaves. The Main Obnoxious Woman has already left. She took off right after she whispered whatever she whispered to her boyfriend.
Small groups of people scattered up and down the street begin, one after the other, to yell at each other.
Those of us in the circle are confused by all this. We look at each other and laugh, sort of. An Occupier takes the sage bundle, blows hard on it and goes around smudging everyone and everything in the whole area. Things calm down after that.
An Occupier gives the latest “fire report”. She says, “I had a meeting with the Fire Marshal on Thursday. The contact officer for complaints against the DPD asked me to do that. It was basically a waste of time. The Fire Marshal just gave her own personal and very erroneous interpretation of all the MN fire laws. She tried to get me to run around and suck up to various other City departments.
“I thanked her for her time, left a copy of all the documents that prove the legality of our fire and left. When I got home I sent her an email recapping what we had talked about and informing her we would be restarting our fire. If she could find any law we were actually breaking she could charge us with it.
“And you know what else? She told me the Fire Department doesn’t operate under the MN Statutes or City ordinances but under this big book called the MN Fire Codes. The general public isn’t able to access this book. They have to purchase it online for about $77. Isn’t that some shit? I as much as told her so too”.
Another Occupier adds, “That’s what the Fire Marshal did to us when we were at our first camp at the Civic Center. She had us running around trying to comply with all sorts of regulations. Then the DPD showed up and tore down our camp”.
An additional Occupier reminds us, “Northwoods 350 is holding informational and phone banking sessions to work against Enbridge in MN. The working groups will be meeting Mon-Fri of this week and next week, 4p-7p at Studio 15. Also, Loaves N Fishes will have their annual block party on Sunday, August 23rd from 1p-4p.
With the business now over, an Occupier directs a question to the circle. She says, “I have never been able to figure out why the young guys sag their pants”. The Spiritual Man responds, “Originally it was a black thing. The black guys saying to the white man, ‘Kiss my ass’. Now everybody does it so it means ‘Kiss my ass’ to The Man”.
The Occupier replies, “Wow. That’s so simple and it makes a lot of sense”. The grey-haired woman comments, “Well couldn’t they just hang a little sign from their belts? Then their butts would stay warm”. We all crack up.
A friend of the Main Obnoxious Woman’s boyfriend comes to join our circle. He wants to explain some things to the Spiritual Man. He tells him how the Woman taunts and manipulates her boyfriend. He doesn’t understand why the boyfriend puts up with her behavior but it is what it is. The Spiritual Man is willing to make amends.
The skies are darkening earlier these days. As they darken, the air becomes cooler. An Occupier says to another, “If I’d known it was gonna cool down like this I would have suggested we start a small fire. Now I suppose it’s too late”.
As we are packing up we notice a regular street woman, who we have known for years, passed out under the tree on the back ledge.
As we discuss what to do, the Lakota man from the Black Hills comes to sit beside her. An Occupier says, “I’ll ask him”.
The Lakota man tells the Occupier, “I guess you’d better call Detox”. We do so and a couple of Occupiers stay to wait for the cops to arrive.
We intend to be back at CJMM on Saturday.
G.A. Minutes 8-1-15
When we drive up to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening we find a big Duluth Police Department SUV with all its lights flashing, parked in the entry way.
A female officer is down on her knees beside the back ledge. She’s taking many pictures of the ground and cement.
We decide to wait and see what’s going on. We park where we can and just watch her. After 5 minutes or so she gets up and drives away. Hmmmm………..
It’s another hot night with temperatures still in the 80s. There’s a strong cool breeze blowing so the weather feels close to perfect.
Our friend, the grey haired woman is waiting for us. She says, “I’m just returning from eating dinner at the Mission. It was so weird, usually the place is filled to capacity but tonight almost no one was there”.
This comment reminds us that it’s the 1st of the month. That means the street people who receive small government checks will have been paid today. If they use their little bit of money to get high, they’ll be broke again in a day or 2.
Some of the street folks hang on to their monthly pittance using it for essentials like toothpaste, shampoo, socks and underwear. Most just treat themselves to a couple of doses of their substance of choice.
As far as the Occupiers are concerned, the 1st of the month means things will be very quiet at the Memorial as everyone has gone off somewhere to get their groove on. It can also mean many people will do their partying right at CJM and the surrounding area. We’ll have to wait and see.
A woman who stayed in our homeless camp years ago enters our circle. She takes the smudge dish saying, “I’m going to show you how my people do this”. She breaks off some of the sage leaves, puts them in the dish, adds fire then takes the burning sage to every person present in the space and spreads the smoke across each person’s body. Then she puts the dish back on the table and leaves. We are grateful for her attention.
Someone down the street has a generator running. It’s very loud; we need to raise our voices in order to be heard. A group of middle aged African American folks are sitting on the side ledge behind us. It seems they are all friends and are enjoying their interaction. We can hear their comments clearly so we think they must be talking very loud.
We notice many of our chairs have disappeared from the circle. The group behind us has been quietly taking them to sit on. That’s quite alright. They are all a little past the age where sitting on the ground is easy. It’s a good thing we have lots of chairs.
An Occupier reminds everyone, “Next Tuesday will be the CHUM National Night Out Picnic. I think we should all attend. Also, next weekend will be the annual Bayfront Blues Festival. We’ll probably be going to that also”.
Another Occupier reports, “After all these weeks of running around, I’m supposed to talk with the actual Fire Marshall on Monday. I hope we’ll be able to get things straightened out. However, it seems to me these government types enjoy dragging their feet”.
Another Occupier states, “Are you guys aware of that anti-drug campaign D.A.R.E. that has been propagandizing in the public school system for the last 40 or so years?” We all nod yes and he continues, “Well I just read that the people who run that program have come out in favor of legalizing marijuana”.
Another responds, “That makes a lot of sense. Most school children know at least a few adults who smoke marijuana and appear unharmed by it. If they want the kids to stay away from dangerous drugs then they’d better tell them the truth. Actually, the real truth is that alcohol is the most dangerous drug of all”.
The grey haired woman has been free store shopping again. She pulls a bunch of well-made clothes from her bag. Everyone takes a look. A female Occupier finds something she likes and tucks it away.
A street person questions, “Hey, did you see that cop taking pictures of the blood stains?”
We ask, “What blood stains?”
The person replies, “The ones on the back ledge”.
Of course we all have to go and take a look. There are some large splatter markings on the ledge and the floor beneath. They could be blood stains. The Occupiers have little expertise in these types of matters.
The man from Senegal arrives. We haven’t seen him in a long time. We look forward to talking with him.
However, he is immediately followed by at least a gazillion other people. The Memorial is jammed packed; folks are getting the last of the snacks and drinks. Everyone is friendly, in good spirits and yakking up a storm.
After the dust settles, we find the Senegalese guy is gone. The stylish older Native woman and the CHUM employment counselor are now in our circle.
So is that crazy white guy who worked for the evil landlord of our former homeless camp. We hardly recognize him. He looks and acts completely normal. As normal as anybody gets around here anyway.
One of the Occupiers notes, “Hey, the breeze is a little cool now. It would be o.k. to start up the fire but I suppose seeing as it’s 8:45pm, it’s too late to do so.?”
No sooner do the words come out of her mouth than the DPD cop makes an appearance. The officer gets out of her car and walks to about the middle of the site. She doesn’t speak to anyone, just turns, walks back to her car and drives off.
WTF? Was she sent to check and see if we had a fire going? Do the cops think we are a bunch of morons? Why would we have a fire going when the temperature is in the 80s? Somebody in this city is not playing with a full deck. It’s probably not the Occupiers.
Anyway, we start to clean up. An Occupier notices the stylish Native woman is not around but all of her gear is in the circle. The Occupier says, “Well I could take it with me and look for her tomorrow however, this is a lot of stuff. She might need it before I can find her”.
As luck would have it, the Spiritual Man shows up. He knows the Native woman so he and an Occupier gather the stuff together and take off down the street in search of the woman.
They find her passed out in a doorway. She is easily woken and very grateful her belongings have been rescued. The Spiritual Man knows where the woman lives and he will watch over her and make sure she gets home safely.
The Occupier returns to the Memorial. Most everything is packed up. It looks like the street is gearing up for a party. We hope everyone has a good time and that no one gets hurt.
We won’t be able to make it back here for at least a week. We’ll probably be back on Tuesday August 11th.
G.A. Minutes 7-28-15
The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is filled with a large group of middle class white young people upon our arrival this evening. They are from the regular church school organization that brings young people to Duluth every summer.
We set out a few chairs and chat with one of the youth leaders for a bit. We’ve become used to these church folks being surprised by our presence at CJM. They usually ask us a lot of questions.
Tonight is different. No one appears to find us unusual. We chat about the big rainstorm that was supposed to hit the city today. Apparently it went somewhere else.
Many street folks are on the back ledge and lining the street. We can tell they are waiting for us. We don’t want to put out the snacks and drinks until the youth group is gone. If we put things out right away, we will have to offer them to the kids too.
We don’t have an enormous amount of goodies; if the young people dig in, they will put a big dent in the refreshments needed by the people of the street. The church group has plenty of food back at their headquarters. The kids will have to wait awhile. As soon as the church people leave, street folks descend upon the snack table. Everyone wants a big glass of homemade, ice cold lemonade.
That’s because it’s really hot outside. At 6:30 pm the temperature is in the high 80s without a breeze. Many are dehydrated. All our chairs are filled. We have the fire pit set up and we’d like to make a fire but to do so would be ridiculous. No one talks much; we just sit, sweltering in the heat.
Ms. Community Cleanup comes around the corner. She’s singing and acting her usual goofy self. Ms. Cleanup is originally from the Cass Lake Reservation.
Several women, with whom we are unfamiliar, come walking by. They spy Ms. Cleanup and come right over. They are also from Cass Lake. Hugs all around and then they take the smudge dish and solemnly smudge each other. It’s kind of a little family reunion.
Ms Cleanup tells us her father is back in prison again. This time it’s rather final. He won’t be eligible for parole until he’s 77 years old.
The Cleanup woman tells a few stories about some of the wild escapades she shared with her dad.
The main homeless outreach worker drives by. She’s looking for the Spiritual Man. No one has seen him in the last few days but we’ll be sure to let him know she’s looking if he comes by.
After sitting for a while, the Occupiers get their powers of speech and movement again. An Occupier reports there is going to be a Kurdish potluck picnic at the end of Park Point tomorrow around 5:30pm. She doesn’t know the details but seeing as she was clued in by some of the folks who work with the Rania/Duluth friendship organization she’s guessing some people from Rania, Kurdistan are in town.
Another Occupier reminds us about the CHUM picnic on August 4th at 6pm.
It’s still early in the evening but the lemonade is gone and the water jugs are warm. An Occupier walks down the street to the liquor store to get a bag of ice. She returns and dumps the whole thing into the big lemonade jug. Everyone fills their glasses…….. Ah…..perfect.
A few young men who were with us at our 4th of July meeting and were able to watch the entertainment provided by the DPD and DFD arrive. The tallest of the young men says, “Hey, you’re back! So what happened?”
We tell them about filing complaints with both the DPD and DFD and about the long, stupid process we’ll have to endure. We assure them we will continue with the fire and meetings.
Only 1 squad car has driven by CJM so far and he didn’t appear to be paying any attention to us. Maybe they have something else to do.
The grey haired woman is with us tonight. She has noticed the camera in the next door pawnshop window that points down on the Memorial. The camera has been there for some time but she’s seeing it for the first time. It bothers her.
We tell her we know it’s there and that there are probably a few others hidden around. We believe every city in most of the world has cameras focused on the inhabitants these days.
A conversation about drones and other creepy stuff ensues.
The stylish, Native, older homeless woman comments, “I think cops are the ones who actually make the trouble. People will be sitting around just talking or resting and the cops come up and start yelling at everyone. They go through our belongings and throw stuff around. They act like they’re looking for a fight”.
An Occupier exclaims, “Hey look! I just noticed the magic marker scribbling is gone from the Memorial back wall. You can’t even tell it was there”.
Another Occupier answers, “Yeah, they probably sandblasted it. It’s probably not the first time they’ve had to remove stuff from these walls either”.
The grey haired woman says, “I wonder why the City does things the way they do around here. She glances over at the old, burned out Kozy apartment building and continues, “I mean, look at that mess. Why do they leave that eyesore sitting there when it’s right in the center of the city and right in the faces of all the tourists?”
One of the Occupiers replies, “They’re probably still afraid of all the ghosts around here”. The grey haired woman looks confused; the Occupier continues, “Well, you know those 3 innocent black men were dragged out of the City Jail and hauled up here to be lynched. There were some so called prominent people involved in the murder but no one except one poor man who drove a horse cart ever spent any time in prison”.
Another adds, “See that building across the alley from our old homeless camp? That’s where the KKK used to meet. There probably are some ghosts around here but they’re not looking for people like us. It could explain why City official types don’t come around here much”.
The grey haired woman is aghast. “I never knew any of this” she says. The grey haired woman is very forgetful. We don’t worry about giving her scary nightmares and such. She will have forgotten our whole conversation by the time she gets home.
A group of young and middle aged African American men are getting pretty loud over on the east end of CJM. However, they’re just laughing, joking and enjoying themselves. A few of them were over visiting with us earlier.
DPD officers on horse patrol appear. There are 3 officers on 3 horses. The horses are very beautiful; the officers…… not so much. They ride over to the group of laughing men. The officers don’t say anything; they just look at the men. The men become quiet; a few of them leave. The officers ride away.
The CHUM employment counselor is among the crowd. He comes to sit with us for a while. We talk about the Respect Your Mother Earth Festival we attended over the weekend.
A breeze suddenly passes through from a cool direction. It feels very good.
The sun is down. Everyone is tired. Time to get some sleep. We should be back here again on Saturday.
G.A. Minutes 7-21-15
The atmosphere at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening can be described in one word…… Hot.
Temperatures are in the mid-80s with no breeze. One can start to sweat without even moving. We’re not complaining though. It’s not winter.
Several community organizer friends are waiting for us when we arrive. Everyone scurries to set up the circle, fill their glasses with homemade lemonade and then, wordlessly, we plunk down in the chairs. Whew!
A street friend arrives and directs our attention to a particular spot in the center of the wall. WTF? Someone taken purple magic marker and actually written right across the Memorial wall. This is unbelievable; we are speechless.
The writing appears to be that of an adolescent. It says something like so and so plus so and so forever. More street folks arrive. It sounds like everybody on the street is really pissed off about this.
They tell us the name of the young woman who created the sacrilege; it’s someone we don’t know. The street folks say that when they confronted the woman she didn’t understand why what she had done was so terrible. They say the woman is about 25 years old. We think she may be developmentally disabled. Anyone who would disgrace the Memorial wall can’t possibly be in their right mind.
The woman from Mississippi sits down. It appears she’s been drinking a little. She sits next to the Occupier who likes to talk about the Bible. The Occupier attempts to engage her in conversation but it’s not happening. The Mississippi is on a roll. She’s talking about the difference between the Bible and Holy Bible. Her story is hard to follow, it sounds like something she has memorized and it’s kinda boring.
We make several attempts to distract her. Nothing works until Ms. Community Cleanup arrives.
Ms. Cleanup is hooping, hollering and a dancing, as per usual. A young man in an electric wheel chair accompanies her. She tells us he’s her new boyfriend. It quickly becomes apparent they have met for the first time a few hours ago.
Ms. Cleanup takes the stage from the Mississippi woman but she’s not much of an improvement. Her speech doesn’t make a lot of sense either. Must be the heat.
As Ms. Cleanup goofs around, the Occupiers carry on a quick side conversation. On Friday, July 24th, some Native folks are holding a water ceremony in memory of the 10 year anniversary of the huge Endbridge/Kalamazo tars sands oil spill. The ceremony will take place in Canal Park at 3:30pm. All Occupiers who are able will be attending.
The vigil for the woman who was recently murdered is not going to happen this upcoming Saturday. We will meet at 2pm this Saturday July 25th and drive out to spend the whole day at the Respect Your Mother Earth Festival.
The Occupier tasked with conversing with the DPD and the DFD reports, “I’ve been emailing back and forth with a DPD administrative lieutenant concerning the police and fire people harassment we experienced at our last 2 meetings. Today she sent me an email stating the police department was completely aware the Clayton Jackson McGhie was under the jurisdiction of the City. She said she’d send official notification to all the police supervisors reiterating this fact and asking the supervisors to make sure all the beat cops were aware.
“Then of course, she went on to say that the police and fire departments don’t interpret the city ordinances and state codes the same way that we do. Personally, I don’t see what other way they could be interpreted; they’re pretty straight forward.
“Oh well, at least we may get the CJM BOD off our backs. We’ll have to keep fighting for the people’s rights. I don’t expect we’ll ever get anything even resembling an apology. I just want them to leave us alone”.
More and more people are arriving. A very large group of Native folks, male and female, young and not young come storming across the street and into CJM. It looks like they’re marching instep. The young ones are doing the gangsta walk. Anger and much pain are evident in their faces.
Not to worry…….. We know them all. They’re part of a large extended family from White Earth. Something has happened, we don’t know what. They look at the defaced Memorial wall. That doesn’t help their mood any.
One of the men from White Earth takes the sage bundle and smudges everyone down real good. That helps. The Spiritual Man arrives. He reminds the group about the need for calmness and respect. That helps too.
The CHUM employment counselor walks up. People are now in small groups all around the space. The CHUM man visits for a while in each group. He has much experience with construction and tells us the words on the wall can be sandblasted off.
An Occupier reads a few poems. One of the men in the White Earth group takes the book and reads also.
Everything is pleasant and peaceful……..Then Ms. Cleanup returns. Her eyes are flashing; she grabs chairs and throws them around. No one has a clue what brought on her sudden change of behavior. Street folks are trying to calm her but it’s not working.
As a last resort, we start packing our things. That works. Someone hustles Ms. Cleanup off the sight. Everyone regroups to the circle.
We didn’t need to put out the fire because we never started one up. We may be crazy but we’re not so crazy as to start a warming fire when temperatures are still in the mid-70s.
People just sit, talking quietly. The CHUM man and an Occupier converse. The CHUM man states, “The street folks have so much pain and sorrow. There aren’t nearly enough houses to house all those who need them. It gets worse every year but the people with the resources to actually solve some of society’s problems won’t listen much less look. Don’t they realize the capitalist system is doomed? They’re dining on caviar or whatever while the world is being destroyed”.
The Occupier responds, “I agree with everything you’re saying man. I think the only thing we can do is to keep trying to do good work, to help anyone we can. The shit is gonna get seriously real, probably sooner rather than later. Do as much as you can to protect the planet and the people. Our children and grandchildren are the ones who will really carry the load. Try to lessen their burden as much as you can”.
On that note everyone says good night. We’ll be at Respect Your Mother Earth on Saturday. Weather permitting; we’ll be back at the Memorial next Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 7-14-15
It’s unseasonably cool this evening. We’re at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial and there’s a cool breeze with temperatures in the high 60s.
The fire will be welcome once the sun goes down. We’ve decided to start having the fire again as we know we are within our legal rights. We’ve also contacted both the DPD and the Duluth Fire Department and are in the process of filling complaints concerning their illegal harassment of our fire.
Many neighborhood street folks are on the back ledge. A few are regulars; a few are former regulars and the rest are folks we haven’t met yet.
A Native man, who we don’t know, respectfully takes the sage bundle and individually smudges all the people in space, Occupiers included.
All our chairs fill immediately. An Occupier has brought a book of high quality poems. He reads a few. The neighborhood people appreciate these poems and ask him to read a few more.
Miss Community Cleanup arrives laughing and making her usual noise. She tells us she has been in a treatment center for a while. She looks above her head up in the sky and points “Look at that, she says.
We all look up. There is a strip of rainbow right above our heads. It’s very short.
No one has ever seen anything like that before. Even the Occupier who is a scientist hasn’t seen anything like that.
Ms. Cleanup says, “Now that is some kind of rainbow!” She spots a couple of park rangers passing by, goes to talk, and then leaves with them. The rainbow vanishes.
The sun is behind the buildings and the air is a little chilly so we start up the fire.
A heavyset, middle aged Native man we have seen around asks to speak. He tells us he is Lakota Sioux from South Dakota. He owns a few parcels of land in the Black Hills. He wonders if we know why the government is trying to buy his land.
We tell him about fracking and about the big corporate push to suck every drop of oil and gas out of the earth. We explain about the Native groups and multicultural coalitions that are fighting against the earth destroying corporations. We inform him (he probably already knows) that the government works for the corporations. We give him information about a local Lakota friend of ours who may be able to put him in touch with some of the groups fighting to save their lands.
The man tells us, “Land in the Black Hills is sacred. I will never sell it”.
An Occupier gives the latest “Fire Report”. She comments, “I’ve been talking with an assistant fire chief. He’s been trying to arrange a meeting between him, myself and the fire marshal. He’s had trouble contacting her. The last message I received from him said the fire marshal told him we need a permit to have these fires. Of course, that’s not true. The assistant chief is on vacation until next week so I can’t do anything until then. I plan to fill out the DPD complaint form tomorrow”.
She continues, “I went to the Human Rights Commission last week and when it was over I had an interesting conversation with the other co-chair of the CJM BOD. He was vaguely aware of what his co-chair (who likes to call himself the CJM president) had done to us on the 4th of July.
“I filled him in. He said he is completely aware that the CJM BOD has no legal jurisdiction over the Memorial space. He supports our fires in an odd sort of way. He’d rather we didn’t have to have them at CJM but he realizes poor and/or homeless people have nowhere else to go. He gave me a history of the previous downtown spaces where folks were able to go in the past. Apparently, they were not bothered by the police in those places.
“The City has now taken over all those spaces. CJM is the only public space left in the downtown area. The CJM co-chair thought if the City, BOD, whoever, wanted us to not have fires at CJM they would have to provide a public space in the immediate downtown area where people could meet and continue the activities we now enjoy at CJM.
“I told him it was my personal opinion that his idea could be doable providing that the space met all the necessary requirements and that it was legislated as a permanent space that could not be taken away. Anyway, that’s something that could happen years from now. Right now we have to deal with right now. It’s good to know we have some support from somebody from the BOD though”.
Another Occupier reports the INM/NWA NdN Taco Sale was a heck of a lot of work but very successful. There is going to be a big Workers Rights March in the Twin Cities tomorrow. Some people from Duluth are looking for someone who has a dependable vehicle and would be willing to drive down. There will be a Water Ceremony in Canal Park in memory of the anniversary of the huge Enbridge tar sands pipeline spill in Kalamazoo MI., Friday July 24th at 3:30pm and the vigil for the recently murdered woman and the Respect Your Mother Earth Festival will both be happening on Saturday July 25th.
The man from the long term homeless couple who fought a couple of weeks ago at our meeting arrives. He sits for a bit and then says, “I’m gonna go get my wife. She’s a little drunk though”. An Occupier jokes, “Oh no!” The homeless man laughs and replies, “She’s not that bad.”
He leaves but returns quickly. He’s shaking his head and looking frustrated. He rejoins the circle. After a while he says, “I served my country. I was in the Viet Nam war. I was a helicopter pilot and mechanic. During my time I crashed 3 helicopters. I still have terrible nightmares and flashbacks. I hate it when the medical helicopters fly over our neighborhood. I didn’t want to do a lot of the things I did over there. They made me do them. I served my country though”.
He packs up his things and states, “I’m gonna go off to bed now. I guess I’m gonna be cold tonight”.
Several of the regular people in the circle have wandered off but their backpacks and other belongings are still beside their empty chairs. An Occupier remarks, “Oh, oh. They forgot their stuff”.
Another replies, “Don’t worry. That just means they trust us. They know we’ll keep an eye on their things until they come back”.
Throughout the evening we’ve noticed quite a few squad cars driving by. We don’t know if they’re monitoring us or if they’re looking for someone. At approximately 9pm we get the answer. 2 squads pull up and 2 DPD officers get out and walk towards us. A big fire truck pulls up too.
These guys are more calm and polite than the cops who harassed us on the 4th of July. Unfortunately, they’ve got the same trip going on. Officer McShane (#420) remarks, “I suppose you know what this is about. You can’t have a fire here”.
An Occupier asks, “Why is that?” Officer McShane replies, “The owner of this space doesn’t want you to have a fire”.
The Occupier asks, “So who is the owner?”
Mr. McShane answers “The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Board”.
The Occupier responds, “Actually that’s not true. The owner of CJM is the City of Duluth”. Officer McShane looks perplexed.
Officer Hurst (#484) says, “We have a direct order from Deputy Chief Tuscan to put your fire out every time you have it. I’m going to look up the memo he sent us”. Officer Hurst pulls out his computer tablet and walks over to the wall.
When he returns an Occupier questions, “Did you find the memo?”
The officer says yes he did find it and the Occupier says, “May I see it please?” Officer Hurst looks questioningly at Officer McShane. Officer McShane states, “No, don’t show it to her”.
The Occupier then says, “Can you at least tell me when you received this memo?” After some conversing they agree that they received the memo about a week ago. The Occupiers exchange eye contact. They think that’s probably not true.
Captain Lattner of the Duluth Fire Department walks up. He has another guy with him. This time they are not dressed from head to toe in firefighting attire.
Officer McShane says, “So you guys can put out the fire yourselves if you want to or we can have these fire guys do it”. An Occupier replies, “Please have the fire guys do it”. So that’s what they do.
Officer McShane comments, “You’re welcome to stay here, you just can’t have a fire”. They thank us for being so nice and polite and then they leave.
As soon as they all leave, all the street folks return. They’re pissed off. We sit around for a while to assure them that we are not going to give up.
As we are packing up, a well-known area reporter and media person pulls up. A few Occupiers go over to talk with him. He’s pissed off too.
Apparently he has been observing our meetings and fires from a distance for quite a while. He tells us, “I really wanted to come over while the cops were here but I was so mad I knew I would start ranting and quoting all the laws that make what they were doing illegal. There are fires in public spaces all over town all the time. The cops don’t bother them. You guys are being set up!”
We already know that. The reporter then gives us some good advice. We’ll have to keep his advice secret for now. It looks like this crap is going to go on for a while. We’ll try out the advice and let you know later.
We’ll be back at CJM on Saturday and of course, we’ll start up the fire.
G.A. Minutes 7-7-15
A group of middle aged African American women are sitting on the back ledge as we enter the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening.
We recognize most of them but don’t remember seeing them socialize in this space. Maybe it’s some type of special occasion.
The weather is warm; clear skies with a slight warm breeze. Hopefully it will stay this way for a while as we’ve decided to not light the fire tonight.
After the police and fire department antics on July 4th we figure it will take a few days to get them all back in line. We don’t plan to challenge them until we have all our ducks in a row.
The middle aged Native woman who stuck by us at our last meeting is waiting for us. She been taking care of government paperwork today so has done a lot of walking. She’s very tired and her feet hurt. She’s hoping we might have money for bus fare.
Fortunately we do and we happily give it to her. She sips a glass of lemonade and chats while waiting for the bus to arrive.
The man who is always laughing appears. We ask him how things are going with CPS and getting custody of his newborn baby.
He tells us, “I sold my car to pay for a lawyer and I’m doing everything they tell me to do, no matter how difficult or stupid the requirement. My lawyer says if I do everything they tell me to do, I’ll get to have my baby. This is hurting my heart really bad. I’ve never fathered a baby who was taken away. My own child and I can’t take her home? I’ve met a lot of other people recently who have had their children taken away. It’s awful what the government does to families.
An Occupier agrees and tells a few horror stories she knows of that were perpetrated by CPS.
An Occupier arrives. He’s carrying a carton of ice cream. He has fresh raspberries too. Wow! This brings the ladies on the ledge and everyone else over. In a short time, the ice cream is no more.
We’ve set up the fire pit and placed a large burning candle inside. If anyone wants to know if we have a fire going, they’ll have to come on over and look.
A squad drives by every so often but we can’t tell if they are looking at us or looking for someone else.
Many of the Occupiers present this evening were not at our July 4th meeting. They want to hear the whole story.
Another Occupier gives the all the gory details. She also says, “So I spent most of yesterday calling around. I spoke with 2 of our friends on the Citizen’s Review Board telling them what went down. They hooked me up with a DPD lieutenant who is in charge of dealing with citizen complaints. She emailed me the official complaint package which I will fill out and bring to her next week. I’ll get copies to our friends on the CRB and we’ll be sure to attend their next meeting.
“However, I’m thinking the real deal is the fire department. In the letter we received from Chief Ramsey about 2 years ago, he said he was passing the responsibility concerning our fires on to the fire department.
“I called the fire department yesterday and received a call back from a deputy fire chief right away. We chatted for a while. He told me the fire department had no idea the DPD had passed responsibility on to them. He said the DPD ordered them to put out the fire so that’s what they did. Government officials frequently lie so who knows? I always pretend that I believe them.
“Anyway, I told him about the city and state laws that support the legality of our fires. He asked me to bring him copies of those statutes and a copy of the letter from Chief Ramsey. I’ll do that tomorrow. After we get that package into the hands of the fire department I think we should start having fires again. We’ll probably get hassled but we can tell them who to contact”.
Another Occupier comments, “All this crap is directly attributable to the CJM BOD president. I wonder what the penalty for lying to the police is? For rich people…..probably not much”.
Moving right along, an additional Occupier reports that the Jefferson People’s House is closing up shop on July 12th. Apparently they didn’t get enough business to allow them to pay the basic bills.
Everyone gasps, “Oh, no!”
Someone suggests, “Maybe they would do better at a location closer to downtown”.
The Occupier continues, “The next Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NdN Taco Sale is this Friday. They’re going to be shorthanded so they really need our help. The FDL Veteran’s Pow Wow is this upcoming Saturday. We should be ready to leave by 2:30pm. The Human Rights Commission meeting is tomorrow at 5pm. If there’s an opening we should report about what was done to us on July 4th. Then on Saturday July 25th we’re gonna have 2 events we need to be at. Our friend the CHUM worker is holding a vigil for the Native woman and her dog who were murdered very recently and it’s also Respect Your Mother Earth weekend. I think we should go to the vigil and then go out to RYME. Everyone agrees to that plan.
A regular visitor, the older woman from Mississippi, joins the circle. She tells us the group of women is sitting on the back ledge because there has been an ongoing altercation between a husband and wife. It’s gone out into the street. They’re waiting to see what happens next.
An Occupier comments, “When one has nothing to do, it gets boring. One has to find excitement wherever one can”.
An acquaintance of ours walks up. He’s running for City Council and he’s practicing his politician skills. He makes the rounds of everyone at the Memorial, shakes their hand and gives them his card. It appears that most of the folks think he is crazy.
When he leaves we hear a man’s very loud yelling, “I stomped that N-word’s ass! Whoo Hooh! I stomped his ass!” We don’t know him. The women all run in his direction. He rounds the corner and heads for the casino. The women follow him.
The woman from Mississippi says,” I’m non-violent like Dr. King”. We tell her that we are too.
Our friend, the gay street man and Bird Man arrive. As usual, the gay man is singing. A young guy dressed in a security guard uniform walks past. The gay man calls, “Hello, can I have your phone number?” The young guy keeps walking and the gay man says, “Sometimes I just can’t help myself”.
A big fire truck pulls up on the side of CJM, a squad car does the same. We think, they’re gonna be so disappointed when they see it’s only a candle.
Turns out they’re going to the casino. An ambulance pulls up as an Occupier returns from using the casino bathroom. He says, “There’s a man lying on the floor and the first responders are surrounding him”.
We’re sorry to hear that but happy to know everything is not about us.
The Memorial is empty now except for Occupiers. One of the best bands in town happens to be rehearsing across the street. We share the pleasure of their music. When they come out for a break an Occupiers hollers over, “You’re my favorite band”.
As we’re packing up, 2 young white guys are limping down the sidewalk. They call out, “Do you have anything to eat?” Most of the food has been eaten but we do have 2 PB+J sandwiches and a bit of lemonade left. We give it to them.
They are grateful and tell us they are just now returning from walking from Lester Park. They’ve missed dinner at the Mission.
We say our goodbyes and plan to meet again on Saturday to go to the Pow Wow. We’ll be back here on Tuesday. If things go according to plan we’ll start up the fire.
G.A. Minutes 7-4-15
So we’re at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial again tonight. We have very few Occupiers; we don’t expect many more will show up as they have various 4th of July obligations.
Those of us who are unobligated have decided to observe what “The Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave” has to offer its homeless and/or poor citizens for today’s birthday celebration.
The sky is overcast; temperatures are in the low 70s with a slight east wind. The wind cools things a bit. The fire will be needed later.
A few of the regular street people are on the back ledge. We assume they’ve all been drinking a little; most are happy and they wave to us. However, one couple appear to be completely wasted. We are acquainted with the long haired Native man. Whenever we come across him, he’s extremely intoxicated. This evening is no exception. He can barely walk. We don’t know the woman who he is with. She’s young, heavyset and appears Native. She’s sitting slumped over and nodded out.
We’ll have to keep an eye on those 2 so they don’t hurt themselves.
Things look pretty quiet all around so we set up just a few chairs. As we are finishing, the Spiritual Man arrives, greets us, smudges himself and dives into the hard boiled eggs. “I’m really hungry”, he says, “I have to apologize because I’m kinda drunk. I know that’s not right but I’m in a lot of emotional pain right now”.
When he sits down some of the ledge folks come over. We get more chairs. A middle aged woman who we have seen in the past is among these folks.
It appears she is a friend of the Spiritual Man. As they converse we discover they had been in a romantic relationship sometime in the past. It was during a time in their lives when they were involved in so called outlaw behavior.
The woman sounds bitter. She pulls up her sleeve to show the Spiritual Man’s name tattooed on her bicep. “Remember this?” she says. She waves her hands over her body and adds, “This used to be yours”.
The Spirit Man responds, “Those were some dangerous but exciting times. I was not a good person then. I’m very different now”.
We’re surprised they are having this very personal, painful conversation in front of us. Perhaps it’s the only way they can speak to each other at all.
They reminisce about some of their crazy escapades, then the woman asks, “Why did you leave me?” He tells her, “Because I thought money was more important than you. I’m not that guy anymore. It was a very long time ago but I was wrong and I’m sorry. I’m truly very sorry”.
The woman sits and thinks. Our friend, the city official, stops for a visit. He sits with us for just a few minutes. A big van containing many high school aged young people drives up. They have come to view the Memorial.
Our friend is one of the founders of CJM. He’s offers to take them on a tour. The kids are very lucky as our friend will be able to give them a complete history about everything concerning the space. After examining the wall, our friend takes them on a tour of the neighborhood.
All the people from the ledge and many others from the neighborhood are around the fire now. The drunk man with the long hair is passed out stone cold under the tree behind the ledge. We’ll keep an eye on him; we may have to call for medical assistance.
Another Occupier and our friends, a mother and son, whom we have worked with in many actions, arrive.
An Occupier points out that the president of the CJM BOD is standing across the street.
Almost immediately a fire truck pulls up. We assume someone has called about the passed out long haired man.
We are wrong. About 5 fire people jump out and come straight over to us. Several DPD squads arrive right behind them. CJM is filled with all kinds of people in uniforms with guns, fire extinguishers and who knows what else.
Much to our surprise, the majority of the peeps at the fire just stay put right where they are.
A big sized cop (#464) who we’ve seen before stomps over and barks, “By order of the police department, you have to put out this fire! The president of the CJM BOD is in charge of this place and he says he doesn’t want you having a fire!”
Of course, all of this is completely contrary to all the negotiations and nonsense we went through with the DPD for a year and a half. That was almost 3 years ago. Since then we have not been bothered by the police. On the rare occasions we have interacted with them, they have been most kind and polite.
An Occupier calmly tells the officer, “The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Board has absolutely no legal jurisdiction over this CJM space. I have plenty of paperwork that shows we do have a right to have a small, safe fire at CJM”.
She attempts to hand some of the paperwork to Officer #464. He refuses to take them and roars, “I have orders from my lieutenant to make you put out this fire! If you don’t like it you can call the police department on Monday. Right now, deal with the fire captain!”
The Occupier asks, “What is the name of your lieutenant, please?”
The officer who must think he is John Wayne, answers, “I’m not going to tell you that!”
The Occupier explains, “Well if I call the police department on Monday I’m going to need to tell them the name of the lieutenant.
Mr. #464 responds, “These orders come straight from Deputy Chief Tuscan!”
The Occupiers find this strange because Officer Tuscan (he wasn’t a deputy chief back then) was the main person we dealt with during the time we originally fought for our right to have our fires.
A fireman identifying himself as Fire Captain #233 says, “It’s against the law for you to have a fire here”.
The Occupier hands him a copy of a letter from DPD Chief Gordon. The letter says that DPD officers are being ordered to not disturb us at our fires. It says all issues from now on will be addressed to the Duluth Fire Department.
The Fire Captain says, “Yeah, so what?” The Occupier replies, “That’s just to show you what it says about these cops. Here are copies of all the City and State fire ordinances. As you can see, they state that a small, safe fire like ours is completely legal”.
So the captain reads the papers……… and you know what?…… He Doesn’t Care.
Several firemen surround our fire with fire extinguishers and put out our fire. The Spiritual Man picks up the sage and begins attempting to smudge the firemen. Officer #464’s head just about blows up.
He screams, “I’m gonna cuff you and take you in!” The Spiritual Man is no dummy. He sits right down and says, “You’ll have no further problems with me, officer”.
Once the fire is drowned, the firemen go to the back ledge to deal with the passed out dude.
Many of the neighborhood people around the fire are just furious. The place is crawling with cops. Some are trying to reason with these officers.
The Occupiers have seen this movie already. They just sit and watch. An Occupier takes pictures.
The girlfriend of the passed out guy who is pretty far gone herself, begins to scream and freakout. An Occupier counsels, “Honey, there are a lot of cops here. If you don’t calm down, they will haul you in too”. She doesn’t listen; they cuff her and take her off to Detox.
Another fire truck pulls up; they put the passed out dude on a stretcher and say they are just taking him home.
Cops are talking in cop talk to Officer 464. Basically they’re saying, “Hey, there’s a lotta shit going on out there right now. I have things to take care of”. #464 tells them to go ahead and leave.
Soon all the government employees disappear. Our friend, the city official returns. He looks around, confusion on his face.
Without the fire it’s chilly. Most of the street folks leave too. It’s just a few Occupiers, our friend and a few regular visitors.
We laugh and shake our heads. An Occupier sighs, “Oh great, now I’ll have to make lots of copies of all our evidence, then we can go through the stupid process of proving our case all over again”.
Actually, we have had our knowledge validated. The Land of the Fee, Home of the Slave, is operated solely for the benefit of the rich. When the rich man commands, all the soldiers fall in line.
Or not……… Guess we all have to make that choice?