G.A. Minutes 7-15-14

G.A. Minutes 7-15-14

We have been absent from the CJM Memorial for an entire week. We were seriously rained out last Tuesday and on Saturday we attended the FDL Veterans Pow Wow.

There’s no rain tonight as we arrive and no rain is expected. It’s one of those rare perfect evenings we long for during the rest of the year. Small scattered clouds, temps in the mid 70s and a gentle breeze create a tranquil atmosphere. For us anyway, most of the street folks have so many problems they rarely experience any type of serenity.

The first couple of Occupiers think they’ll just sit a while and enjoy the air. No such luck. The rest of the group arrives and we quickly set up the circle. We set up the fire also but we don’t light it. We’ll know when the time is right.

The street is pretty much empty of its regular inhabitants. There are quite a few people coming and going from the casino and a lot of vehicle traffic on the road.

An Occupier asks, “Does anyone know what went on with Israel and Palestine today?” Another answers, “Yeah, they had a seize fire for a couple of hours, then Hamas shot off a couple of rockets and Israel responded by starting up the bombardment again”. An additional Occupier says, “The Israeli government just doesn’t get it. Palestinians are never going to accept living the way they are being forced to live. They aren’t going to accept more of their land being stolen. The Israelis treat Palestinians just like the Nazis treated them.” We sadly shake our heads in agreement.

An Occupier reports the Respect Your Mother Earth Festival will be held this upcoming weekend on the outskirts of Duluth. She asks if we would like to get our vehicles together and go there on Saturday. She suggests maybe we could contact the Northwoods Wolf Alliance and see if they would like us to table for them. Another says, “I think that would be a good venue for NWA”. Everyone agrees; going to Respect Your Mother Earth is a good idea.

One of the Occupiers tells a story about his developmentally disabled sister. She has a job working in a thrift store where she is paid only 50 cents an hour. “Isn’t that against the law?” he asks.

“Actually it’s not”, says another. “I don’t know what the law exactly says but I know they have an entire industry here in Duluth. They force most disabled people to work in order to receive a pittance of financial aid. I had a client once who had cerebral palsy, was D.D. and in a wheelchair. He was forced to work 40 hours a week stuffing envelopes. I think he was paid $1.00 an hour. One day he said to me, ‘I don’t like having to work this much. It seems like I hardly have a life and I’m always tired’. I didn’t tell him about the capitalist system but I told him that everybody feels that way”.

Someone else says, “Oh yeah, the 1% has to make sure everyone is working all the time. If you have time to enjoy yourself then you’re slacking. If there are no jobs and you have to apply for government assistance they’ll put you to work first in order to get your benefits. If you ineligible for benefits they put you in jail”.

An additional Occupier arrives. He has just come from a Nail Pulling Party at CHUM. He says, “Everyone had hammers and they were pulling and pounding nails out of long used boards. It got pretty loud. They’re going to use all the boards to make raised beds in the yard of the Steve McNiell homeless apartment building that is under construction right now. We all think that is way cool.

Someone says, “I was at the Food Not Bombs dinner outside the City Council yesterday. A person said a city councilor was presenting a proposal to take a part of the DECC and turn it into a casino run by the City”. We all crack up. She continues, “Our friend the government official is really giving them hell. He thinks it’s a dumb idea”. We laugh some more.

An occasional street person rides up on a bike. We’ve known him a long time but haven’t seen him in over a year. He smudges and sits down. He has had a home for some time now and is making it into an art studio. He tells of us his plans and also about a Native pipe ceremony he has just attended. He speaks of peace, love, the Creator and how everyone is connected. Of course, we agree. He asks if we know where to find sage growing around the neighborhood. An Occupier tells him and they converse about the different varieties and their properties. The former street person says, “I just started riding over this way and I didn’t know why. Now I see. You guys are still here”.

A woman who manages a local art supply store also rides up on a bike. We all know her well. She tells the man she has saved all his art work and supplies that he left behind and they make arrangements to meet up tomorrow.

A much respected local metal and wood worker arrives. He tells us he has lived in his studio for 13 years. He has always paid half his rent at the beginning of the month and the other half in the middle of the month. His landlord is getting up in age so has recently hired a management company to take care of his properties. The management company insists he pay all the rent on the 1st of the month. No excuses, no exceptions. He says, “Now I can’t buy food until I get my 2nd check”. An Occupier says, “Oh I’m sure the property management company will starve to death if they don’t get all of your rent on the 1st of the month”.

It looks like the regular street people are back from wherever they were. Many call out to us. A group of regulars come up to smudge and get their refreshments. They all appear to be drunk. They tell a story of being locked up in Detox last Saturday.

They managed to distract a staff member and they all ran out the front door. It’s common knowledge that anyone locked up in Detox who can manage to escape is home(less) free until the next time they are captured. One of the women thinks she may have broken her foot.

She says, “I wonder if I should go back to Detox where they’ll take care of me?” She sits down and talks about how she misses her children.

An Occupier reports that we have been asked to give an endorsement of our good friends’ candidacy for the MN 8th CD. Of course we want to endorse him but we wonder if it is appropriate for an Occupy group to endorse a political candidate. Maybe we could each personally provide an endorsement. We’ll have to talk with him to see what we can work out.

A woman approaches our table and smudges. She is sobbing. A man who knows her arrives, helps her to smudge and puts his arm around her. They walk off.

We hear someone talking very loudly from somewhere nearby. We listen and look around. We realize it is a man reciting some type of hip hop poetry at the open mic in our friends club up the street.

The street lights come on and we realize it’s time to leave. It’s a shame to go in on such a perfect night but we need to rest and carry on another day. Looks like we won’t be back until next Tuesday.