G.A. Minutes 1-7-14
The weather is still deadly cold. The entire Midwestern United States has been in what they’re calling an Artic Vortex for over a week. In layman’s terms that means if one is outdoors without serious winter clothing they will freeze to death. Mother Nature is definitely not playing this time.
When we arrive at the Amazing Grace Café this evening we notice a sign on the door which states they will be closing at 7pm. We think the staff is getting fed up with this horrible weather and they want to go home before the temperatures drop into the risking your life to be outside mode. We’ll have to talk fast. We decide to do a quick rundown of up all the things we’re planning to do over the next few weeks.
An Occupier reports she has been asked to become a member of the City of Duluth Human Rights Commission. She was told by some of the commissioners they are having trouble making and decisions because they can’t make quorum. They believe the Occupier generally follows through when she makes a commitment so they’d like to become a member. She’s not sure what to do as she questions whether these commissions actually accomplish anything. She wonders if she’ll be wasting her time. Another Occupier says he has a friend who is interested in joining the Human Rights Commission. The next HR Commission meeting is tomorrow evening and the 2 Occupiers agree to meet up at that meeting. Hopefully the friend will come with them. They plan to attend the next few HR meetings and then make a decision.
A quick rundown of the next few weeks events consists of a Water Legacy phone bank held at the Occupier couple’s home on Thursday January 9th from 4p-9p, a progressive forum at the Coppertop Church Saturday January 11th from 11p-4p, the 13 Moons Pow Wow also Saturday January 11th from 10am-10pm at Black Bear, the Water Legacy EIS comments workshop Monday January 13th 5p-9p at Leibovitz Bldg UMD, presentation of the Homeless Bill of Rights to the City Council also on Monday January 13th 7pm, election for district 2 county commissioner (replacing the Occupier’s good friend who recently passed away) Tuesday January 14th, the Polymet EIS comment hearing Thursday January 16th 5p-10p at the DECC and many Martin Luther King Jr. Day events which will take place from Friday January 17th thru Monday January 20th. We’re going to be quite busy.
There is also another project that we will be working on. The month of January is Sex Trafficking Awareness Month. Our ally Idle No More is greatly concerned about this issue as approximately 80% of trafficked women in the United States and Canada are of Indigenous heritage. Of the few local agencies that address sex trafficked persons, none are concerned specifically with the needs of Native women. Several area Native women’s groups have banded together and are planning an event for Thursday, January 23rd to highlight this problem. As part of this event, the women would like to have an Overpass Light Brigade action. They have requested that the Occupiers take charge of this action. We’re told Men As Peacemakers will help with the labor. It will be a lot of work but we have a work space and experience with making the light boards. We are happy to help out. Right now we are in the planning and gathering supplies stage. The bulk of the work will be done Friday, Saturday and Sunday, January 17th, 18th and 19th. That means we’ll miss the majority of the weekend MLK events. We hope to be done in time to make the MLK rally on Monday.
An Occupier tells a story. She was at the mayor’s press conference at Trepanier Hall earlier today. The conference was the kickoff to Sex Trafficking Awareness Month. All the domestic violence NGOs were there and everyone was giving speeches and praising and patting each other on the back. Almost as an afterthought, the MC pointed to two of our main Indigenous women allies and said, “Oh, we mustn’t forget these women. They are doing lots of great work and they’re not even getting paid”. We all laugh. We know the difference between getting paid to care and caring because you actually care.
The workers are putting the chairs up on the tables and nervously reminding us they are about to close. We had planned a discussion around some literature we’ve been reading. It’s about the subject of where does Occupy go from here. Well tonight Occupy is going home. Perhaps we can discuss when we return next Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 12-31-13
It’s New Year’s Eve and we’re having a G.A. at the Amazing Grace. A bit unconventional but seeing as we haven’t been able to meet for over 2 weeks, we thought meeting tonight was a good idea.
Some of our people will leave early as they are volunteering to help out at a CASDA fundraiser. CASDA is the main sexual assault/domestic violence protection agency across the bridge in Superior, WI. Those of us who remain generally shun the New Year’s Eve party and bar scene referring to it as “amateur night”.
Temperatures plunged a few days ago and haven’t risen above zero since. There is no end to this frigid weather in sight. Homeless advocates and concerned others are on high alert. The CHUM center isn’t picking and choosing its residents this week, all are admitted. A few homeless folks are in the hospital and in danger of having their frostbitten limbs amputated. The remaining Occupiers won’t be hanging around under the stars this evening. When the café closes we’ll drop those without vehicles off and all will scurry home to dive under blankets and maybe stay awake long enough to welcome the New Year. It appears this new year will be promising.
Some of our allies went down to the Mall of America this morning. They planned on attending the 2nd annual Idle No More Round Dance Celebration. A few days before the scheduled event some of the people believed to be leaders received unsigned letters telling them they would be arrested if they attempted to hold the Round Dance. Idle No More and their allies were rightfully quite offended upon receiving these letters.
Mall of America’s practice of regularly allowing Christian groups use of the space for celebration of Christian and dominant culture rituals, while terming Native celebration political protest, smacked of racism and ethnocentricity. INM decided to go ahead with the planned Round Dance. As the Occupier couple was leaving to attend the G.A. they were notified that 2 women classified by the MOA as leaders had been arrested. One of these women is a very close ally of the Occupiers.
The couple was informed MOA security had been stationed at every entrance and were stopping and searching people at random, turning away whomever they chose. They decided to bring their laptop to the G.A. so as to keep tabs on the situation.
During the meeting it was determined to be a “courtesy arrest”. The 2 INM women were released within the hour. This will surely become a legal matter. As we discuss the issue we wonder what criteria was used for searching and turning away those entering the mall. We also wonder about the fact that MOA was built with a lot of public funds and that it sits on ceded territory. We are disappointed that what could have been a joyous, inclusive and healing occasion was turned into one of racism, mistrust and hatred by MOA.
An Occupier reminds us the next INM meeting is Friday, January 3rd at Randy’s.
The discussion evolves into one about another issue we have partnered with local Native people to address. The wolf and the wolf hunt. We participated in 2 more Ogichiidag Overpass Light Brigade actions during the past 2 weeks. One was at Bentleyville in Duluth and the other in Bemidjii. Both were successful and received good media attention. 2 more actions are planned; one will be in Ely and the other in Grand Rapids. The dates haven’t been decided upon but they will probably be sometime in January. The MN and WI hunts are now officially finished. They finished early as the hunters had reached their government approved killing quota.
We wonder what Northwoods Wolf Alliance strategy moving forward will be. Seeing as we are allies of NWA, our ideas and opinions are always heard however, strategy will be decided by our Anishenaabe partners. We will wait until our next INM/NWA meeting to find out what will happen.
We know there will be another Wolf Rally on Saturday January 4th at Lake Ave and Superior St. It has been suggested there be a ceremony for the honoring of all the wolves who were killed. The local spiritual leader will be consulted as to what is appropriate.
An Occupier has recently earned a Bachelor’s degree in science but has been forced to take a part time job at Target in order to meet basic survival needs. He tells us of his disapproval of the management’s blatant anti-union propaganda. This leads us into a discussion about the short sightedness of many unions and then into a discussion of our racist and classist judicial and prison systems.
The Amazing Grace Café is closing a little early tonight. Hopefully this is so the workers can have some time to celebrate their New Year. They are all young and eager to party. The Occupiers are older and like to party also but their parties are of a different nature. We exchange good New Year’s wishes all around and if we’re not needed elsewhere, we’ll be back on Saturday.