G.A. Minutes 5-11-13

G.A. Minutes 5-11-13
It’s somewhat chilly and very windy this evening. It takes a couple of tries before we get the fire going. There are many people here, all the chairs are in use and some folks are standing. We have many of the regulars, an occasional Occupier, an Occupier who hasn’t been around for at least a year and several who are here for the first time.
A group of 5 or 6 street people are at the Memorial when we arrive. They are talking and laughing loudly and appear to be very drunk. They notice us, toss a friendly glance our way and continue with their conversation. One young man comes over and sits by the fire. He doesn’t say anything, he’s possibly too drunk to speak but he’s clearly attracted to the fire. His friends finish their beverage and are ready to leave. It looks as though he wants to stay near the flame but his friends won’t allow him to remain so he staggers off.
A regular Occupier tells us an international day of protest against Monsanto is planned for May 25th. A group of Duluthians would like to organize a demonstration for that day and ask if the Occupiers will participate. We will. We are still a little exhausted from the May Day event so offer to play a supporting role. There is a brief discussion of possible venues, the Occupier says he will be meeting later in the evening with people who are initiating this event and get back to us with details.
An occasional Occupier tells us about the environmental group Water Legacy. We all know the issue of the proposed Polymet nonferrous mine is of major importance in northern Minnesota. We also know only 3% of the water on the earth is suitable for drinking. This water is rapidly being polluted by various corporations in their quest to extract profits from the Earth’s natural resources. The task of stopping the corporations from destroying the earth and all those who live on it is a daunting task however; it is a task we must take on. All around the world people are fighting corporate attempts to destroy the natural resources of the planet. The corporations rob these resources in an attempt to satisfy an insatiable need for more and more profits. In impoverished countries this theft if accomplished by the barrel of a gun. In wealthier countries it is accomplished by bribes to those in power and lies and false promises to those living on the coveted land. In northern Minnesota, the Polymet Company is proposing to build a copper mine near Hoyt Lakes. There has never been a nonferrous (not iron) mine anywhere in the world that has not severely polluted the water in and around the area of the mine. Northern Minnesota is home to many rivers and streams of clean water. These waterways empty into Lake Superior, the world’s largest source of fresh water. Well, guess what…….. according to Polymet, their mine is not going to pollute. They are engaged in a serious smoke and mirrors campaign in an attempt to convince people of northern Minnesota their mine will bring no pollution, only good jobs. Their claims are false but many are being tricked by their promises. The Water Legacy and many other environmental groups are engaged in a most important battle to save our water for ourselves and for generations to come. We are all fully aware of the life and death issues involved here. The occasional Occupier invites us join the fight and we accept his invitation.
An occasional Occupier has been to an international conference of longtime organizers. He tells us about the people he met and the ideas they presented. We are engrossed by his story. Included in the advice given by the conference presenters were recommendations for young organizers to seek the council of older organizers so they may learn what tactics have worked in the past and a suggestion for all organizers to take the time to establish a solid base of support and to make long range plans.
Some of the Occupiers must leave in order to meet with those planning the anti-Monsanto event. The rest of us throw more wood on the fire and begin talking with a homeless man who lives in a small homeless camp about a half a mile from CJM. He and one of the homeless Occupiers start a conversation about some of the secret homeless camps around town. The man says he and his friends don’t dare make a small safe fire to cook food on. If they do, the police show up, spray their food with a fire extinguisher and then knock everything to the ground. They say, “This is for your own safety you know”. Just then a squad car pulls up to the Memorial, 2 officers get out and walk over to us. These are officers we have not seen before. One of them says, “What do you think you are doing here? You can’t have a fire here. This is a city park and you can’t a fire have in a city park”. An Occupier says pleasantly, “Actually this isn’t a city park. If you look on the official Duluth list of city parks you will find the Memorial is not listed there. However, if it were it would still be legal for us to be having a fire like this. The legislative code for fires in city parks says one may make a fire in any of the fire receptacles provided by the park or in any personal receptacle that is designed for fires. The policemen look at the Occupier like she is out of her mind. The Occupier asks, “Were you guys working in this neighborhood last fall?” The officers look up and down the street with distain and say no. She tells them, “We went through all this stuff with Officer Tuscan last fall. It was determined we were within our legal rights by having a small safe fire at the CJM Memorial.” One cop says, “You mean Deputy Chief Tuscan! I think we will call him right now.” At that moment another squad pulls up. It is driven by one of the regular neighborhood policemen. The 2 officers walk over to his car and we hear the officer in the car say, “When they had a fire here last fall…………blah,blah,blah”. The 2 officers walk back to their car and drive away. They don’t look at us or say goodbye. After they leave, many of the street folks come over to sit and talk. Some we remember from our previous fires. One woman we have met several times remembers us. She is visibly drunk as she has been all the other times she has sat with us. She introduces us to a much younger woman who is her daughter and they talk about her other daughter who also lives on the street and has been badly beaten by a group of women earlier that day. Some of the street people begin to pull out bottles and blatantly pass and wave them around. Perhaps they have become emboldened by watching us “defeat” the police. We wish to share our fire with the people of the neighborhood but we’re not interested in encouraging rowdy drunken behavior. That would be boring, counterproductive and would give the DPD a legitimate reason to close us down. We quietly put out the fire, pack up and say a pleasant good night to everyone. On Tuesday we will begin to establish a code of behavior for those sitting at the fire.