201203061815 Paul Robeson Ball Room March 6th, 2012, 6:15 General Assembly minutes

201203061815 Paul Robeson Ball Room March 6th, 2012, 6:15 General Assembly
Members present: Reese, Vern, Carl, Nadia, Kathy, Matt, Mike, Adam, Bridgette, Richard, Jesse
Agenda: Vern; Foreclosure Report and a request.
Reese; HP347, Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011.
Really Really Free Market and Critical Mass bike ride.
Minnesota tour
Jesse; Foreclosure rally Wednesday 8 March 2012
Matt; Chum SWA confusion clarified
Alan; Events and developments on the left.

Vern told us that there has been movement on the part of US Bank in the foreclosure fight to save the home of the Dunbar family from sheriff’s sale and subsequent eviction. The family met with four bank officers and the meeting included a teleconference with two USB officers from the Minneapolis branch. The bank agreed to reconsider the foreclosure, and will meet with Dunbar’s again on the 14th of this month. At 3:00 pm on that day a picket line will form in front of the downtown Duluth branch of USB to call for the bank to halt the foreclosure. Depending on the results of that meeting, the picket will culminate in a celebration, or else a more vigorous demonstration. Jesse commented that we should prepare a list of offenses committed by USB, not just against the Dunbar’s and other bank customers, but also in their support of the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, which accepts money from anonymous corporate donors and channels the funds to a stable of pocket party politicons. ALEC is a major force pushing for voter ID laws, which are designed to disenfranchise impoverished and homeless voters. Matt said a recent issue of Zenith has an excellent article explaining what the voter ID laws will do to Americans.

Vern said MoveOn.org is sponsoring training for non-violent direct actions, and a training event will be held at UU church, or other appropriate venue, at a time to be decided. The training will be a lead-in to planned May Day and Tax Day actions. Watch for it.

Vern presented us with copies of the Loren Martel petition to request a state audit of School District 709 (the Duluth school district) which was last audited fifteen years ago, before the school district’s long range facilities plan, even though school district’s own policy (School Policy 3215) explicitly states that the school board is to arrange for state audits to be conducted every five years. The long range facilities plan, infamous to Duluthians as the Red Plan, continues to incur cost overruns. Many Duluth residents are still choking on the way it was forced into us. Several occupiers took copies, and there will be a box of them available at Paul Robeson Ballroom for people who want to help collect signatures. Vern said the petition needs another 1600 signatures of eligible voters. Adam noted that questions could be addressed to Art Johnson, who was the only school board member to dissent when the plan was approved. Jesse said he is willing to organize a street walk and door knock campaign to get more signatures.

Vern also told us about a Transition Town project to achieve the Occupy vision, which meets at 2304 W. Superior Street in Duluth on alternate Saturday mornings.

Reese spoke about actions planned to protest the passage through congress of HP347, Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011, which will allow the arrest of persons attempting to exercise first amendment rights to free speech on Federal property. The bill passed the Senate (97 to 3) and is on President Obama’s desk, awaiting his signature. The protesters are pushing for a veto. Kathy said there is an online petition available. Reese said there will be a nationwide Occupy conference call Thursday March 8th at 7pm local time about actions planned for the 12th of this month. Jesse noted that this may be an issue to address at the Philadelphia Article 5 Constitutional Convention on July 4th.

Reese announced that he is going to tour Minnesota from Wednesday the 14th to the end of the month. He plans to spend time with Occupy groups across the state, starting in Minneapolis, and plans to visit in St. Cloud, Grand Rapids, Bemidji, and Moorhead. Have ideas for outreach? Give him a call.

Reese then advocated moving toward obtaining a 501C tax status for the purpose of legally receiving donations for utilities and upkeep of the ballroom. Counter arguments were presented by Jesse, Bridgette, Matt and Vern, who pointed out that Occupy is not an organization. Obtaining a 501C would involve forming a permanent board of directors with officers and formal leadership positions, which in our case would be forced from the top down. We risk becoming like any other institution. Matt said we could spin off a 501C working group to do the fundraising, keeping our Occupy fingers clean of any resulting corporatism. Kathy and Bridgette moved to table discussion of this idea until Reese returns from his grand tour. That seemed happy. Jesse suggested an entire meeting be set to discuss the ramifications. Bridgette noted that we will still be discussion fundraising at upcoming GA’s.

Jesse spoke of the need for a two-year moratorium on foreclosures. An action in this regard is being undertaken at the State Capitol on the 14th of March. Tomorrow a protest will form in front of USB at noon to show a banner and distribute leaflets. The banner will carry the message that 18.5 million homes are now vacant, and 3.5 million are homeless. Let’s see, that works out to about five vacant homes for each homeless person. One of ten Americans is now homeless. Vern commented that the banks are now trying to bundle the homes and sell them to investors in rental properties.

Matt told us that there was a confusion at Chum about posters for the anti-racism rally at the city hall a few days ago. Staff at the Chum center thought the posters were supporting Nazis, since they showed a swastika. Staff apparently didn’t notice that the swastika was overlaid by a red circle and ban line, and was being thrown into a trash can. Higher staff at Chum now assures Matt that it was a mistake and they will be more than happy to post our posters in future.

Adam reported that Food and Water Watch is doing an action involving corn costumes, a local box store, and unlabeled genetically modified food items for human consumption on the shelf. There will be petitions, flyers, and media attention. Also, Take Action Minnesota is planning to fund actions against our recently elected tea-party Congressman Crackass. Big resources are being committed in our area to take this clown back home to the circus.
The meeting adjourned at about ten minutes after eight pm.

Next meeting, Saturday 10 March, 2 pm, at Paul Robeson Ballroom. Everyone welcome.