G.A. Minutes 6-11-13

G.A. Minutes 6-11-13

We arrive at the CJM Memorial this evening and find a rather large group of junior high school students hanging out. They’re very friendly and tell us they are members of a non-denominational youth group from South Dakota. They’re in Duluth for the summer doing some type of volunteer work. When we explain about our bi-weekly Occupy meetings, they are absolutely thrilled. Go figure.

We have noticed over the last half year or so, the general public seems quite favorable toward Occupy. The youth help us unload everything from our truck. One of their leaders sits down with us for a chat. We ask her about the oil and gas drilling in her state. She tells us, “All of that is going on in North Dakota, not in South Dakota. However, I’ve noticed oil company trailers being parked all around. I haven’t heard anything but I’m thinking maybe some of that stuff will be starting where I live”.

She has no knowledge whatsoever about fracking. We explain what it is and the damage it will bring to her water supply. We remind her that clean water is necessary for life. It appears the things we are explaining are new concepts to her but she does not seem resistant. The other group leaders are gathering up the kids so she joins them. Everyone says, “See you next week”.

The temperature is still in the 70s. We agree to wait to start a fire until the sun goes behind the buildings. One of the Occupiers was unable to go to the Penokee Harvest Camp on Saturday. He’s very anxious to hear what we found. We inform him we were impressed by the camp. It covers a good sized area of pristine forest and has a river flowing alongside. The chief and about 10-15 regular campers run an efficient encampment complete with kitchen, dishwashing, gardens, fire pit and socialization area, many nature trails and guides, Native arts and crafts and plenty of tents for guests. They have the approval of all the woodland neighbors and many supporters across Wisconsin and Minnesota.

While we were at camp, the chief explained some of the intricate details of the legal battle with the government and the mining company. Many people are fighting the proposed mine and the possibility of a victory is real. The main mission of the camp is to educate visitors about the precious area and to keep watch on the activities of the mining company. We received word this morning that the company had begun exploratory drilling. A call was put out for as many supporters as possible to come to camp and serve as witnesses. We have many commitments this week but Idle No More folks headed over today. We are attempting to send a news reporter to the camp a.s.a.p.

An Occupier expresses his frustration with the 1%, with their blindness and their greed. He bemoans the extreme poverty and suffering of so many of the world’s people. “Why can’t they see that people need a means to survive?” Another Occupier says jokingly, “You mean austerity is not the answer?” Everyone laughs. He sighs and we move on.

A woman who has been sitting on the ledge comes over. She says, “You’re Occupy Duluth ain’t ya? Remember me? I was at your camp”. We do indeed remember her. She was extremely skinny, always drunk and looking for a fight. Now she has put on 30 or 40 pounds and is talking in a friendly and intelligent manner.

“I’m not homeless anymore. I got into treatment, jumped through all them hoops they make ya do and got myself a little place to stay. I still hang out with all these guys’ cuz they’re still my friends but I’m pregnant now and I got a kid to take care of. I’m acting different these days.” We are genuinely pleased to see her; we congratulate her and give her encouragement.

Another man sits down. He is talking a mile a minute and although we listen to him carefully we have no idea what he is talking about. He says he’s from San Francisco but that’s about all we understand. He’s using regular English words and has an intelligible accent but we have no clue what he’s trying to say. We hear him for a while; he thanks us for our hospitality and leaves. After he is gone an Occupier says, “I guess with some people, style is more important than content.”

An Occupier reminds us tomorrow night there will be an important panel discussion at UMD about the proposed Polymet mine in Northern Minnesota. We have been asked by one of the organizers to arrive a little early to help him plan for questions and answers. Most of us will be able to make it to this event. Somebody asks what the position of our local Native tribes are. We know Protect Our Manoomin is an ally but there’s a lot that remains to be seen. Many people are opposed to this sulphite mine. We know the health of our land and water takes precedence over a few promised jobs for a few people. It looks as though most government officials and regulators have been purchased by the corporation. Tomorrow night may get heated.

Someone mentions an ordinance was passed by the City Council yesterday and it had something to do with synthetic drugs. Another explains the ordinance made being under the influence of synthetic classified as a crime. It’s called internal possession. Everyone thinks this is really funny. The ordinance also said any store selling synthetic drugs must have a license to do so. We wonder how “internal possession” will be determined as we know drug tests for synthetic are very expensive and police and treatment centers don’t have them. We wonder if there is such a thing as a license to sell synthetic drugs. It’s obvious to us that synthetic is a real problem in our city but we’ll just have to wait and see how things play out.

As our meeting was going on, the street scene was very loud. We weren’t paying much attention but were aware there was a lot of yelling and people running around. At one point we fired up a small bundle of sage and let it drift over the area. Things became quiet and calm immediately. The entire ruckus went somewhere else. Now a pair of DPD officers walk up. One of them says, “Have you been having any trouble?” “Everything’s fine here,” we say. One officer says, “Is this a cooking fire or a warming fire?” It seems like he thinks he needs to appear to be in authority. We choose one and say, “A warming fire.” He says, “Well that’s o.k. then” and they walk away. The mysteries of the DPD….

Nightfall is arriving; we have many things to do this week. We’ll keep in touch and meet back here on Saturday.