G.A. Minutes 10-22-13
It’s going to be really cold this evening. The temperature is in the low 30s so we’ll need to keep the fire burning big and hot. The majority of the regular Occupiers are present at the Memorial tonight. Other duties have kept us from meeting here for the past 2 weeks. We’ve missed this crazy place.
Speaking of crazy, a homeless man we haven’t met before approaches as we’re setting up. After asking what we’re up to he introduces himself and as we give him our names, he writes them down. He informs us he is a special agent working for the IRS. He also works closely with the FBI. He says he’s been kicked out of the CHUM center and is finding life very difficult since the weather has turned colder. He’s spent a few nights in a tent at the reconstituted Graffiti Graveyard but doesn’t like it there. Many of the residents are violent, drunk and insane. He hasn’t been in town long so asks us what his options are and we tell him what we know. We certainly are not veterans in the homeless community but experiences at our former homeless camp and now that we are meeting at Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial have taught us a few things. The man maintains a running dialog and we attempt to discuss Occupy stuff while he talks. He participates articulately in the conversation for a while and then leaves.
An Occupier mentions there will be a Project Homeless Connect at the Gimaajii Center from 2-4pm Thursday, October 24th. These Connects sponsored by Loaves N Fishes and are held once or twice a year. They consist of tables from the majority of the social service NGOs in Duluth. Homeless people are offered free food, personal hygiene products, haircuts, warm clothing and blankets (if available) and other small things. The people are also allowed to sign up on waiting lists for public housing. If they are able to wait about a year until they are contacted (if they can still be found without too much trouble), they can go to many appointments and fill out many forms and possibly be given a very low rent apartment in a dangerous and not very clean public housing complex. If they follow all the many rules they are required to follow they can have a roof over their head. If a person is a felon, he can forget about housing. Felons are banned from public housing.
Another Occupier reports a forum on poverty will take place at 6:30pm at Trepanier Hall Wednesday October 23rd. This forum will be inviting all the candidates running for City Council office to participate. Someone states that there will be a symbolic Superior Homeless Camp in the parking lot of the public library in Superior WI this weekend. Maybe some people who have homes will go there and sleep overnight in a tent or something.
We put a lot of work into helping Northwoods Wolf Alliance sponsor the Wolf Walk on October 12th. We feel the event was quite successful with people and speakers from across northern MN participating. The occasion began with an Ojibwe prayer, spiritual drumming, tables and good speakers. About 70 people with signs, puppets and drummers marched from the Civic Center to the People’s Plaza and then to Canal Park where a round dance celebration took place on the beach. Several television stations and media reporters were there, so we were able to generate press coverage for the wolves. A feast at the Hillside Community Center closed out the day.
Somebody asks for an update on Water Legacy. We think they are still attending as many events as possible, attempting to get more signatures for the EPA petition. The time for public comment about the proposed PolyMet sulfide mine will probably be pushed ahead to January 2014. An Occupier says, “The last time I petitioned for them, almost everyone said they had already signed”.
A Occupier wants to know about our complaint to the Citizen’s Review Board concerning the DPD. We tell her 2 Occupiers have an appointment with a police lieutenant on Thursday. We are supposed to present documentation of our complaint at that time. The DPD will then be allowed to come up with a solution. If we don’t like the solution we can return to the CRB. We attended a CRB meeting about a month ago and we noticed many of the members of the Board didn’t seem to understand what they were supposed to be doing. It appeared things were being subtly directed by the cops.
Some of us attended the City Indigenous Commission last night. A few of our allies are on this commission. Native Alliance gave a report about their recent activities. A man from the Fon du Lac adolescence agency reported the state health department is changing its rules and eliminating the intake substance abuse report, substituting a mental health report in its place. The man is concerned that youth will be given false or inaccurate mental health diagnosis which will follow them for the rest of their life. He says, “It’s like they are already setting the kids up for failure”.
A member of the commission offers a resolution which states that the Gimaajii Center will be required to report monthly to the Indigenous Commission. Another commission member objects to this proposal and a discussion ensues. Members of the public at the meeting are invited to express opinions on the subject. The discussion is then tabled until next month’s meeting when members who are missing tonight will be present.
The homeless IRS agent returns. He looks worried and tells us he has just been trespassed from the casino. He had gone in to use the bathroom and warm his hands when he was informed by security that management had put him on the unwelcome characters list. This is a big deal as many street people (Occupiers too) rely on the casino for its bathrooms, warmth and as a convenient place to buy a pack of smokes. He’s unsure why he has been kicked out and we explain people in power generally act on their personal whims, especially when dealing with people who have much less power.
Now the pleasant speaking agent really doesn’t know what to do. He can sleep at the Graveyard but will have to put up with a lot of unpredictable behavior from the other residents. He could get a bottle of alcohol and drink enough to get admitted into Detox. He’ll get a warm bed, food and a shower but they may put a 72 hour hold on him. He needs to report to his probation officer tomorrow and doesn’t want to screw that up. He could just hang on the street until morning and then apply to various churches for enough money for a ticket to the Twin Cities. In the T.C. he could try his luck with homeless shelters and such. One of the homeless outreach workers arrives and stands at the fire. The outreach worker can’t help Mr. Agent Man as the worker represents an NGO that can only help people under the age of 18.
Everyone breaks into small groups and conversations about various topics develop. We hear some noise from the back ledge and look to find some bodies rolling around. Other people in the Memorial go over and join them. An Occupier moves to go over and another Occupier cautions him to wait. The fighting group separates and we are able to determine that 2 women are fighting and a bunch of men have grabbed them and are holding them apart. One woman screams, “Why are you messing with my man, bitch!” Both women are dragged off to different corners as an Occupier comments, “Well if someone’s messing with her man it seems like it’s her man she should be talking to”.
Everyone gathers around the fire again and a street man we have seen before approaches Mr. Agent and says, “I just need 75 cents and I can take the bus back to my house and get some warm coats and stuff for the people out here”.
The agent says, “You have a house? Can I sleep on your couch and take a shower?”
The other man says yes and the agent gives him 75 cents and the man leaves. The Occupiers look at each other, roll their eyes and think, like the dude is ever gonna come back. The conversation continues. The fire is dying and we immediately feel the cold.
Everyone feels sorry to leave the agent out in the frigid air but we have to crash in order to continue on tomorrow. As we begin to leave we see the man of the 75 cents has returned to take the agent to his home. Cool.
We currently know of no other obligations to prevent us from returning next Saturday.