G.A. Minutes 5-7-13

G.A. Minutes 5-7-13

We’re back at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial tonight and we’re glad to be here. Although we’ve only been gone for 5 months it seems much longer than that. Winter lasted forever; Spring arrived quietly less than a week ago.

We begin by cleaning up the place, it’s not too bad considering how long it’s been unattended. It appears the neighborhood is just coming out of hibernation. A group of two men and one woman walk past, sit down on the back wall and watch us with idle curiosity. One of them is the older black man who harassed us last year. “Your granddaddy done hung those boys!”, he would say. Eventually we figured out he was angry as he thought we were interfering with his street business. One of the Occupiers calmly confronted him with this theory, after that he didn’t harass us anymore. Tonight he doesn’t appear angry; he acts as if we’d never met. The female comes over to get a few of our paper cups and they sit and share a beverage.

We get things set up, we’re ready to light the fire and an Occupier starts to dial 911. We’d started off doing that last year so as to counteract any hysterical phone calls claiming the Memorial was on fire. After a while they told us we needn’t bother as they knew when our meetings were. Another Occupier says he doesn’t think we should call as it’s too much like sucking up to” the man”. Some Occupiers agree and others don’t. Some say it’s counterproductive to challenge “the man” for no serious reason. A tranquil discussion ensues, each Occupier expresses his opinion and it is decided to start up the fire and call.

There are several occasional Occupiers with us tonight. They haven’t been to a meeting at CJM so ask about our history at this space. We explain the lengthy mental battle with the DPD. They showed up almost every meeting, making threats and telling lies. We knew our legal rights and politely stood our ground. After many months they backed down and our last meetings before we went in for winter were allowed to proceed without harassment.

An Occupier reports one of the union guys stopped by her house earlier to pick up the half of the donations from May Day. They were pleasantly surprised that we decided to split our contributions. The Occupiers are just trying to be fair.
Somebody asks what we should do next. Someone else mentions the Lake Superior Days event which happens every year in Duluth. Another states she thinks it’s an event mainly involving Chamber of Commerce types. No one knows much about it so we agree to check it out and report back.

The street has been rather quiet, a squad has driven by several times, looked at us and then drove off. We’ve had only a few visitors. As always happens, a man stops by and angrily complains about being not allowed to use the bathroom at the Casino. He then complains homeless people have no place where they can go to the bathroom. We know this is a very real and serious issue. The CHUM center closes at 4pm so if one is not going to sleep there for the night there are no public bathrooms available anywhere on the Hillside. If one is caught relieving themselves outside, they will be ticketed. Too many tickets will send you to jail for a while. It shouldn’t be a crime to need to go to the bathroom. When meeting at the Memorial, the Occupiers routinely go to the Casino to use the bathrooms. The security people don’t appear to even notice us. We generally don’t appear to be homeless but a few of us are homeless. We are all human beings.

Another visitor says he is a working man with an alcohol problem. He says when he gets paid he covers his bills and then tries to spend the rest of his money as fast as he can so he can avoid going on a drinking binge. This visitor is amazed we are giving him a cup of coffee free of charge. “And it’s good coffee at that!” He knows what Occupy is and believes he may have stumbled onto something very interesting. We tell him we’ll be here every Tuesday and Saturday at 6pm if it’s not raining. Maybe he will come back again.

The sun is setting, as usual, the fire is hypnotic. Somebody sighs; we look at each other and smile. It’s so good to be back in the hood.