G.A. Minutes 6-15-13
The street and the Memorial are completely empty when we arrive. There was a big Juneteenth celebration up at the Community Center this afternoon, so we figure people are still there or are sleeping off the effects of a huge free meal.
As we’re setting up, our old friend from our former camp walks up. It’s really good to see him. He talks a mile a minute and tells the most wild and entertaining stories. The stories always seem to be based on things that actually happened in his life but they contain obvious embellishments. We think our friend is a much damaged veteran of the 1st Gulf War. He hasn’t come around for at least half a year and we ask him what he’s been up to. The fun begins. The yarn he spins is delightful. The part about losing his apartment, being homeless now and camping up the hill somewhere is probably true. The part about having top of the line camping equipment along with a detailed description of each item, leaving tonight with his new girlfriend for a bike trip to the southern U.S. and then finding a way to Hawaii where he has a job measuring lava flow for the National Science Foundation are probably not true. He gets a cup of coffee and takes off to begin his new adventure. Hopefully, it won’t too long before we see him again.
A young man who has attended several of our meetings over the winter arrives. This is his first time ever at the Memorial. He asks questions about the old burned down Kozy building across the street. We explain the history of our connection to the building and the history of the building itself. We tell him of our former homeless camp in the courtyard of the Kozy. Many of the people on the street of the Memorial were residents of our camp, so although this neighborhood is rough, when we hold our meeting here people either leave us alone or sit down to join us.
The young man speaks about a new branch of the BDS which is being formed in Duluth. Some of us know the branch organizer well and have been lending some support to his efforts. We all support divestment in Israel and the right of the Palestinians to have whatever they want to have. He tells us a story about an interaction with police officers. It seems he has had little experience in interacting with 5-0 so we explain a bit about police behavior. One of the basics is: police continuously lie so always be polite (that keeps them calmer) but never take anything they say as the truth.
The young guy then says he believes people in Duluth should form coalitions instead of having many separate groups around different issues. An Occupier comments we don’t form a lot of official coalitions and give them names but we know most of the other organizers and activists. We regularly work with each other and offer support for each other’s direct actions. He hasn’t lived in the Twin Ports for very long and we encourage him to stay involved. We promise him things are really “cooking” around here.
An Occupier asks another to start up the fire, she hands him her pink lighter. He jokingly says, “Oh I’m a man, I can’t use that. You do it” and hands her back the lighter. She says, “Well, because you just said such a scandalous thing, you have no choice but to use this to light the fire.” They both laugh and he lights the fire.
A couple, who are probably not homeless or from the neighborhood arrive and sit down. The woman says they have received a rare break from their young children. Their grandparents are babysitting and they are cruising around town trying to find out what’s going on. The man says, “So what’s Occupy up to these days?” We tell him what we’ve been doing lately and speak of our concerns related to climate change and the destruction of our planet. We speak about the importance of treaty rights and the kinship we feel with Idle No More.
A man pushing a shopping cart comes into our circle. He is a friend of one of the Occupiers. He says he has just had his individual camp on the hill torn down by the DPD. He is on his way to set up camp in the Graffiti Graveyard. This camp is unofficially sanctioned by the DPD. We tell him we think the police want to have all the homeless congregated in a few large camps where they can be easily watched and controlled. He agrees with us. He says he knows he has many treaty rights which the police regularly violate. He speaks about something called the LaPointe Treaty. He says it is a treaty which covers many of the Ojibwe tribes in the north central U.S. We make a note to do some research concerning this treaty. We ask him if he is familiar with INM and he says he is not but mentions there is no separation between Natives of the U.S. and those of Canada. Native nations are not the same as nations made by the white man. This man has to leave as he needs to set up his new camp before dark. He promises to return and we hope he will do so.
A woman, who had been a speaker at the anniversary commemoration of the CJM Memorial the previous day, arrives. She is doing a doctoral thesis on various types of memorials throughout the country and had been introduced to one of the Occupiers. She’s come to observe and participate. We welcome her.
A very drunk woman comes to sit. She is crying and talking about the death of her husband. She says she is the victim of much abuse by her husband and other men. She points to her glass eye and her shattered cheek bone. She does look quite battered. An Occupier remembers they have not fired up a sage bundle yet so she does this. The smell of sage seems to calm the drunken woman. Her friend arrives, accepts the sage but says, “I’m really not supposed to smudge when I’ve been drinking”. Then the two friends throw their arms around each other and sob about past abuse and some man who has recently been arrested. Stopping our political discussions and ministering to the neighborhood street folks is the price we pay for using the Memorial.
Another man calls from across the street, “Do you still have free coffee?” When we say yes he comes over to get some. He’s a little confused by the sugar we have. We tell him it’s just the same as regular sugar except it’s fair trade and unrefined. He says, “I may be just making this up but I think the reason Native people have the highest diabetes rate in the nation is because they were forced to eat all that commodity food”. We assure him he is not making it up. The drunken woman continues to sob. We know we cannot solve her problems so begin to pack up. We give her some cigarettes and ask her to join us again next Tuesday.