G.A. Minutes 11-9-13
It’s another chilly one tonight. We expect all the days and nights will be like this and then get progressively worse until sometime next April. Winter is rough but we always survive; unlike some homeless people who freeze to death each year. A person freezing to death, because of something as simple as the lack of shelter from the cold, is a fact of life in this nation. It’s just not right.
The gray haired woman is already at the Memorial waiting for us. She’s shivering and we hurriedly get the fire going, set out the snacks and chairs and take our places in the circle. We exchange friendly banter with her and she is soon warm, relaxed and laughing. An Occupier has brought hot dogs and all the fixings. We begin cooking these and our space is immediately filled with hungry people. Many express their appreciation. Among them is a man who tells us he had frequented the camp we had several years ago at the Civic Center. He looks vaguely familiar.
One of our Occupiers has been busy moving and has missed most of our activities over the last several weeks. We explain about all the effort we put into making the Overpass Light Brigade signs. We partnered with Northwoods Wolf Alliance and Idle No More Duluth for this action; however, NWA and INM were quite busy with additional duties so the Occupiers did most of the organizing and labor for the OLB event. It was necessary to keep the plan secret until just before the actual happening so we had to organize using undercover methods. We really didn’t know if we were going to be able to pull the whole thing off. Fortunately, all the people we asked to help came through for us.
We had enough people to hold the signs, the freeway overpass we picked turned out to be a very good choice, the weather cooperated, the lighted signs were quite impressive, there was good media attention and we had only one brief visit from only one curious police officer. After the action, much to our surprise, pictures of Stop The Wolf Hunt appear to be going viral. The pictures taken by several photographers were up on the internet about an hour after we were finished and up until we left to attend this evening’s meeting they were still being viewed and complimentary comments were coming in from all over the country.
We are also proud of the fact that although we performed the majority of the work we were able to allow the two Native groups to receive most of the credit. This is as it should be. One of the major problems organizations composed of people of color consistently have when attempting to work with groups composed of people from the dominant culture is the problem of the dominant culture group trying to take over and/or take credit for the work of the non-dominant culture group. We hope we have proved ourselves to be good allies and perhaps gained some “alley cred” in the Twin Ports area.
We also tell the recently absent Occupier about an Annishinaabe wolf ceremony we were invited to attend earlier in the day. These types of ceremonies are usually not discussed outside the actual participants in the ceremony. After the ceremony there was a feast. We were honored to be invited.
An Occupier reports she sent an email on Thursday to the DPD lieutenant who had told her he would be mailing out a letter to her one week after their meeting of October 24th, 2013. This letter was supposed to state the DPD would no longer be harassing the Occupiers about their small, safe fires at the Memorial. The Occupier had not received the letter as of November 7th, 2013 so she sent an email to see what was up. She received a prompt return email stating the police chief was conferring with the Duluth Fire Department and she would receive the letter within one week. The Occupier laughs and says, “You know the DPD is never going to admit that Occupy was right about anything so they’ll probably say they’re not gonna boss us around anymore but we’d better be sure to do what the fire department tells us to do”.
A tall young man we haven’t met before walks up and starts yelling, “What are you doing here? Are you here to respect those boys that were hung!?! You are white people. This is a place for black people. Why are you here!?!” He then begins to repeat himself. We look at each other and kind of roll our eyes. We’ve heard this many times before, understand what it really means, have had many discussions with the black men of the neighborhood about the general idea and thought this had already been settled.
When the man stops to take a breath we say, “Yes. The reason we are here is to honor those boys who were hung”. That’s all it takes. The man calms down and begins to talk like a normal person. He tells us he is from Chicago; he had never heard about the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial and has never seen anything like it.
He says, “So the police really let you have this fire here?”
We say, “They do now”.
As we say this, 2 cops come walking up. The female cop asks another young man for his I.D. The tall man begins talking to the cops and tells them how much nicer they are than Chicago cops. Telling them how Chicago cops beat people, take their money and lose their paperwork. Telling them how he knows Duluth cops never do stuff like that. We silently think except if you’re a homeless person.
The cops agree with the man. They think they’re really nice people too. We think they were quietly driving by, heard the man yelling and used that as an excuse to see what we were up to. The officers practically fall all over themselves wishing us a pleasant good evening. Oh well…..it could be worse.
The woman with the beautiful voice who is from Las Vegas arrives. She sings us a song again and it sounds very good. We all clap. She sings another song and begins to preach about Jesus. She pulls out a big bottle of hard alcohol and waves it around. An Occupier advises her to put it back in her coat and be discreet as if she doesn’t there is no telling what might happen. She tries to have a discussion with an Occupier who professes to be a Buddhist or an atheist depending on what day it is. She proves to be no match for him and wanders off.
The man who had visited earlier and who had frequented our Civic Center camp returns. He is accompanied by a few friends and also by his mother. They have some bags of blankets and things and some food. They ask who they can give everything to. We tell them we are not equipped to manage things like that but if they leave the things on the back ledge people will use them.
They tell us they don’t want to join any group but they want to help the homeless and ask us for advice. We advise them the best we can and give them some cards of people who will take their donations. One of the friends says, “So if we showed up here, built a fire like yours and served hot chocolate and stuff it would be o.k.?” We tell them yes it would. When we get the letter from the DPD we’ll give them a copy. This could get interesting.
As we are packing up a pair of those traveling Mormon guys who wear suits, carry Bibles and ride bicycles come up. They say they just stopped by to invite everyone to their church service tomorrow morning. Their church is located quite a way up the hill. An Occupier wants to ask them if they will be sending a shuttle down to pick up all the people for church. She also wants to ask them why they waited until all the people of color had left before they came over.
However, she decides to cut them a break. It’s been a long night. We’ll be back Tuesday.