G.A. Minutes 7-20-13
On Tuesday we were roasting, tonight it’s actually cool with an east wind. In July. Go figure. We’re all in summer clothes so will need the fire to keep us warm.
Everyone has been on slow motion, because of the heat, for about a week. The cool air makes for animated conversation, starting with a discussion or various forms of communism and/or socialism. No one is sure what the difference is. An Occupier says, “Ask a communist what communism is and he’ll give you 5 different answers”. Things move to social democracy, anarchism and libertarianism. The only conclusion reached is that libertarianism is basically anarchy for the rich.
The 2 older Native women, who are at almost every one of our meetings, stop by to get coffee. They’re annoyed about an interaction they just had with the storefront church down the street. One woman says, “So I went to reach for a doughnut and the guy says do I know there’s a donation box at the end of the table. Do I look like I can afford a donation”? An Occupier says,”Yeah, Christians sure are mean. Their religion says they’re supposed to love and help everybody. They don’t do that”. The women tell us their homeless camp has been torn down and they’re going to try and find out where it has reappeared. We tell them about our plan to ask all homeless people to try to sneak a peek at the badges numbers of the cops who are harassing them. Then they can report these numbers to us or to the main outreach worker. The women seem to think this is a good idea.
Some of the Occupiers went to the big meeting of homeless advocates a few days ago. Some of the people there were young people wanting to learn how to help the homeless and others were professional homeless workers. The original plan for the meeting had been to have training for the young people and then take them out to the woods to bring supplies to homeless camps. However, the leaders of the meeting decided against the excursion to the woods as very many of the clandestine camps were raided and destroyed during the previous few days. The homeless people were understandably nervous about strangers. A liaison officer from the DPD bike petrol said if needing help when interacting with homeless people one should call him or other bicycle officers instead of calling the patrol (911) officers. He says, “You know those guys are working 12 hour shifts and are dealing constantly with horrific situations. They’re bound to get crabby. We’re not under as much stress so if you call us, we’ll be more compassionate”. An Occupier says, “Do cops lie”? Everyone laughs and someone answers with the standard line, “Only when their mouths are moving”.
The meeting leaders said to the young people, “Don’t expect to be able to offer housing to these people. There is no housing available. We have a huge shortage of low income housing in Duluth. The sequester has frozen all housing assistance and the few shelters we have are completely full. The best we can do is to offer tents, tarps, sleeping bags and other camping supplies. We’re pretty low on supplies too”. The general consensus among the professionals is that a large, somewhat managed, homeless camp is desperately needed. This is music to our ears and something we have been saying for the last year.
One of our friends who is running for a City office needs some help getting his first volunteer meeting up and running. The Occupy couple has offered the friend their home for the meeting. It will take place next Tuesday. We agree to cancel our G.A. and help with the campaign meeting.
A street couple we have met in the past smudge themselves and sit down. The man talks about his ideas for community organizing. His ideas involve gathering the Mayor and many big business owners together and convincing them to help us with our projects. We know this is a ridiculous idea but we don’t say anything, we just listen.
A few meetings back we acquired an Occupy dog. She’s here with us again tonight. She’s been relatively quiet, chewing on a stick. This all changes when a man with another dog arrives. Mad barking, running around, getting her leash tangled in a chair, knocking everything down and tearing through the Memorial garden result. The noise is so loud that we can’t hear each other so we decide to take a Dog Break. When the dogs finally realize everyone’s attention is on them, they settle down.
The conversation resumes with a report there is soon to be an office tower built on the west end of the downtown area. It will be the tallest building in the area and it will cost about 80 million dollars with over 8 million in taxpayer dollars being contributed. We have a desperate need for low income housing in this city so of course; this tower would have to be another office building. We already have many office buildings which are empty or half full so why are we using tax dollars to build another one? We are certain something underhanded is going on. An Occupier asks, “What do you think the chances are that the people working in this tower will let homeless people use their bathrooms”? We say, “Less than zero”.
The Occupier charged with getting a card for the family of the deceased County Commissioner has that card with her tonight. We pass it around so everyone can sign it.
Another Occupier tells about the recent hearing in St. Paul. The MN Public Utilities Commission held a hearing to decide if Enbridge had provided sufficient information in their permit request to at least double the oil flow of the Alberta Clipper Pipeline. They also want to switch from regular oil to tar sands oil. The Commission approved the Enbridge permit. Some Occupiers in the Twin Cities are working on this issue and they attended this hearing. They are furious. They report the company will be using many secret chemicals they were not required to report as they call these chemicals “trade secrets”. The T.C. Occupiers have a video which shows them interviewing the Enbridge Chief Safety Officer. They ask him how many oil spills Enbridge is responsible for and he says he doesn’t know.
They ask him why he has a big book containing information about “secret chemicals”. He says they’re not required to report about them because the oil pipeline competitors would be able to get an advantage and get their oil shipped out faster than Enbridge does. He isn’t at all concerned about these chemicals being safe. Don’t worry, just trust Enbridge. We’re so glad the T.C. Occupiers are doing such good work around this issue. The Duluth Occupier charged with working on the Clipper promises to keep in close touch with Occupy MN and to seek their advice in her work.
An Occupier reports on the volunteer meeting that she attended for another friend of ours who is running for another City office. She was hugely impressed with this friend’s intelligence, speaking ability and organizational skills. She says, “He just needs the extra hands and feet, he’s got everything else covered”.
She then tells about a conversation she had with one of the people from Idle No More. The INM person explained that many Native people are not enthused about working on the water issues brought forth by white environmental groups. The Natives say, “If they want us to help them with the water, why won’t they help us with the wolf”? The Occupier goes on to explain the deep spiritual connection Anishenabe people have with the wolf. She also explains the many environmentally damaging things that happen when the wolf population is imbalanced. She says she told the INM person, “I’m sure all progressive white environmental people are against the wolf hunt. Native people know that everything is connected but white people tend to think in categories. They think water is water but the wolf is an animal. They don’t get the connection. I will pass your words along to the Occupiers”. We all agree that communication is vital and we need to pay more attention to the wolf.
One of the Occupiers has left early but now he suddenly returns with a great, big, hot PIZZA! Everybody including the street people hanging on the outskirts gather around, happily devouring the whole thing in minutes. Small conversations between groups of 2 or 3 people break out. The topics are interesting but too numerous to record. We notice its getting dark so we pack up. Because of our other obligation, we won’t be back until next Saturday.