G.A. Minutes 9-11-12
It’s standing room only tonight. An Occupier announces that Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president is speaking at UMD Thursday at 6pm. Everyone is encouraged to attend.
A well-known homeless advocate and a social worker from a major charity organization are in attendance this evening. They have some winter coats which they pass out. The social worker invites people to sign up for housing. We appreciate her help however; most of the homeless people are already on every housing waiting list in the city. Many people believe homeless people are in their situation because they are too lazy, stupid or drug addicted to take care of themselves. That is not always the case. Lack of affordable housing and our” winner takes all” capitalist society are major players in many homeless people’s lives. The homeless advocate informs us she has been in touch with the DPP. They informed her they were not planning on becoming involved with the so called Sept. 14th event as threatened by the property owners’ property manager. Could it be they actually are aware of the laws governing landlord/tenant relations? She gives us other good advice which we will certainly take.
We move on to a report about the progress of planning for our Sept. 17th event. There is a lot of work to be done but things are going smoothly. We hope many people will attend.
Next, some Occupiers report on the latest meeting with the property owner. The owner has changed his mind again. This time he says we don’t have to leave and his property manager has her own agenda. We find this strange, as the manager is his employee. He is disappointed the Community Outreach Walk has not been seriously implemented and wants us to get going on that. We say we will try but we are conflicted about this as we are not willing to play the role of police. The alley neighbors have enough problems with police as it is; they don’t need another group telling them what to do. The owner seems to think if we have the Walk, it will “clean up the neighborhood” and make the people in the alley behave. We think the problem is a societal one and will not be solved by a small group of Duluth Occupiers. The owner expresses disappointment in the way the camp is developing. He says, “Allowing a bunch of homeless people to get together is not necessarily a good thing”. We don’t say it, but we wonder exactly who it was that he thought was going to want to live in our camp. Again, to be continued……..
A regular camper wants to read something he has written. He reads and we all listen. Unfortunately, he has his jaw wired shut so we can’t actually understand anything he says. We know he is a very good writer, we’ve seen his work. When he is done we all clap very loudly.
An alley visitor asks where Occupy is going with this camp and everything. The advocate and the social worker also want to hear our thoughts on this subject. We tell about our winter in the Paul Robeson Ballroom and the police and city harassment that lead us to the decision to establish a camp. We say that we are not actually homeless outreach workers; we have a larger vision which includes fighting the capitalist system and eliminating homelessness completely. The camp was intended as a notification to the city that homelessness is a major problem and as an opportunity to grow some crops and learn to feed ourselves. We were overwhelmed with requests from alley people asking to live in our camp. We had to turn many away. A first time visitor to our meeting tells her story of a few months ago. She was homeless and alone. She asked to live in our camp and was turned away (probably because we were full), went back into the alley and was mugged later that night. We explain the energy involved in maintaining the camp has kept us from direct actions. We know we will be unable to keep the camp during winter. We are conflicted as we know when we leave; the majority of people camping with us will be sent back into the alley. We know we will probably not be allowed back in the spring and the lovely land, with lots of flowers and growing things will revert to the way it was, a place for the workers to throw their junk, a place where they throw rocks at alley people who try to rest there. The discussion is going strong but the alley people are not used to meetings and are on mental and emotional overload. When someone gets up to go to the bathroom, the alley people get up to leave. The meeting just sort of breaks up. Some go home or back to their secret sleeping places. Others stay and talk in small groups. It’s dark now but not yet cold enough for a fire.