G.A. Minutes 11-3-12
We received a response from Officer Tuscan re: the fact that the city ordinance he sent us does not apply to our situation at the Memorial. In an email to us he states, “I have provided you our interpretation of the ordinances and we will enforce them accordingly. A judge may need to be the final arbiter in defining intent”. What? Is he saying the DPD is above the law? We’re not sure but we know we’ll have to take our chances. We also know of all the civil rights activists who have gone before us. Our little struggle with the DPD is minor compared to their sacrifices. With that in mind, we begin our meeting.
We put the snacks out, start up the fire and take our places around it. We’ve finally received word from the owner of the land where we had previously had our camp. He is being very friendly, offering us full access to the Ballroom and even offering to store our stuff if we can’t find somewhere else to put it. A discussion begins, people from the street are walking up, sitting down, getting coffee and snacks and striking up conversation. We interact with these folks, an African American man who we haven’t met before joins the circle. He wants to know why we are there and begins to say the same type of things we have heard from several other black men over the past few weeks. This man is articulate and we are finally able to understand the concerns of some of the middle aged black men who have lived in the neighborhood and frequented the Memorial area for many years. He asks us if we are having some type of party or celebration. He explains the Memorial was built for a very serious reason and a lot of black folks find it very offensive when a group of white folks show up out of nowhere and have a celebration of who knows what. We try to explain to him our reasons for being there. We tell him that as of right now, we have nowhere to go, Occupy is homeless. We explain a little bit about Occupy and speak of our desire to remain connected with the people of the neighborhood. We have learned much from these people and wish to continue to do so. He listens to us and says, “O.K., that’s a legitimate reason for being here.” He speaks of his spiritual pain, and of the same pain of many of the black folks, associated with the history of lynchings. He speaks of the pain inflicted by racism that black people experience every day. His words are those of anguish but his tone is kind and gentle. His explanations lack hostility; he just wants us to understand. He says,” If me and 5 or 6 other black men came here and started up a fire and sat around talking like you folks are doing, what do you suppose the police would do? They’d jump on us and accuse us of drinking and doing drugs and they would hall us all to jail.” We know this is true. In fact, one of the things we are trying to do is make it permissible for other people of the neighborhood to have a warming fire to peacefully congregate around during cold weather. He says we should have black people sitting with us. We say, “I guess we are cursed because every time one of you guys who have these concerns comes to talk with us there just happens to be no black folks sitting with us. When you guys aren’t here there are other black people who are.” Just then, one of his black male friends comes over. He is a guy who had visited our camp. Some of the Occupiers know him, laughing and teasing breaks out. Then a black woman who had been sitting with us earlier comes back to sit again. Another Occupier arrives, it turns out that this Occupier and the well-spoken man have been friends for many years. The Occupiers are getting some “street cred”. The articulate man says we should have asked somebody if it was o.k. to meet here. We tell him we really didn’t know who we should ask so we asked our good friend, the city official who happens to be a black man, if he thought it would be o.k. Our friend said that legally there should be no problem. The man has a history of local community organizing and knows and respects our friend. He tells us some stories of his past and also makes a few jokes. He also tells us that many of the neighborhood black people have mixed feelings about the Memorial. He says, “Was this thing made so white people can feel better about themselves? A lot of money was spent for this but none of that money benefited regular neighborhood black people. Do you see any benches, flowers, trees, grass or anything that makes it inviting for people of the neighborhood?” We hear him. An Occupier states she asked those very same questions years ago when the Memorial was being built. Several hours have gone by, time was barely noticed because the conversation was so interesting. The man’s friends call to him, they are ready to go. We need to get back to our meeting. We all say good bye. The Occupiers ask the man to please come back again.
We take up where we left off. An older man from the neighborhood arrives, he had participated in our last meeting. We think we need to just remove all our stuff from the Ballroom and quietly cut our ties to the property owner. We really can’t tell if he is our friend or not. The Occupier who has taken the responsibility to coordinate all dealings related to our former camp says she will convey our wishes to the owner.
The wood is getting low and we are all pleasantly tired. The DPD has not arrived. During the evening we had noticed a few squad cars pass by, they looked at us but didn’t even slow down. Is it possible that the “powers that be” have some common sense? We truly hope so, as fighting these silly but important little battles with the government distract us from other tasks. We’ll just have to wait and see. We say our good byes, agreeing to meet next Tuesday in one of our homes for an Occupiers only meeting. We’ll need to do that from time to time as uninterrupted discussion is sometimes required. We’ll be back at the Memorial next Saturday.