G.A. Minutes 9-16-14
It’s another evening where we haven’t been at the CJM Memorial for an entire week. We were rained out last Tuesday and on Saturday we attended an IWW event put on by one of our occasional Occupiers at the Jefferson People’s House.
The weather has been chilly for about a week but today temps were in the low 70s. It looks like this evening will be pleasant too.
When the 1st Occupier arrives she sees a DPD officer getting out of his car and approaching the Memorial space. A few people are hanging out. They leave quickly. Only 1 regular neighborhood guy is left sitting on the back ledge. The cop walks up to him and they talk. The Occupier tries to sit unnoticed so she can listen to the conversation.
She can hear what the officer is saying but the neighborhood guy’s voice is too quiet. The cop asks the guy for an ID but he doesn’t have one with him. The guy has an ethnic sounding name; the cop asks him if he’s “legal”. He then has the guy stand beside the squad car while he calls in the guy’s name and address. Everything checks out so he gives the guy a citation, thanks him for being cooperative and drives off.
The Occupier says, “So what happened?”
The guy says, “He gave me a citation for being a public nuisance. I’m so pissed. I gotta go home. I’ll come back and talk to you later”.
The Occupier has seen this game played many times. The DPD give street people citations for non-existent reasons. The cops know the people are poor, feel powerless and won’t show up in court to fight the charges.
The people can’t afford to pay the citation fines so after they accumulate enough unpaid citations, they can be sent to jail for a few months. The people then lose their government subsidized housing and are discharged from jail into homelessness. On average, it will take them 3 years to be able to get housing again.
The Occupier wonders what the point of all of this is. To keep the jails full? To create more homeless people? It doesn’t make sense.
A few more Occupiers arrive. An Occupier who can’t be present tonight drops off a bag of hot dogs and buns. We set things up and get the fire going. The air is still warm so we won’t have to sit close to the flames right away.
An older Native man we haven’t met in the past staggers over. He appears quite drunk. We greet him and he sits down.
More folks come over. We notice everyone is quite drunk… or something. Some are people we are acquainted with, others are not. They are all in various states of zombie like condition. This is unusual for this time of the month. Something out of the ordinary is going on but we’re not gonna ask what.
Fortunately, with the exception of one young couple, no one is acting aggressive or angry. People are just stumbling around waiting for the hot dogs to finish cooking. When they’re cooked, everybody eats. They are grateful and they say so.
The young couple is having an argument that carries up and down the hill. Apparently she is throwing him out of the house and he’s calling on his phone trying to find somewhere else to stay. They’re not interested in hot dogs.
One of the women from the pair of twin sisters who are long time homeless people arrives. She tells us about a homeless conference in Rochester. She has just returned this conference and seems decidedly pleased. She speaks to a woman sitting in the circle saying, “The main homeless outreach worker has been looking for you. She very worried about how you are doing”.
The conference goer gets some coffee and says to the Occupiers, “You know I work for CHUM now?” We congratulate her.
A middle class appearing man walks up and says, “I have some pizza left if anybody wants it”. We accept his gift and thank him. No one is particularly hungry any longer; but we know he meant well and the pizza is from one of the top of the line pizza places.
The other half of the twin sister duo arrives with her daughter and grandchildren. She gets her coffee and asks how things are going. An Occupier quietly tells her, “The only person I’ve seen all night who wasn’t messed up on something was your sister”.
People are wandering off but the older Native man remains. He stares into the fire.
An Occupier reminds every one of the Idle No More meeting on Friday. She also reports that a free stove has been found for the Duluth Indian Center. Several other Occupiers discuss plans for picking it up in the morning.
The Occupiers discuss their impressions of the Jefferson People’s House. We know we need to find a suitable place to hold our meetings during the worst of the winter months. We also know that JPH allows groups to hold meetings in their space.
An Occupier says, “I’ll stop by there soon and ask about their normal business hours and such”.
We discuss the fact that tomorrow night we have 2 events we need to attend. Our friend the government official is having his monthly Equity In Hiring meeting at the CHCC at 6pm. Another friend and organizer is holding an event about mercury pollution in the St Louis river at Clyde Iron. This event is also at 6pm. We decide to split up with some going to one meeting and others going to the other.
An Occupier reports Idle No More has been given permission to visit the Penokee Harvest Camp on October 13th. Of course we have been invited to go along. We say laughingly, “The fact that we’ve been there before and know the way might have something to do with the invite”.
Another friend from INM is planning to attend the “Not Your Mascot” event on November 2nd in the Twin Cities. He’s looking for others to go with him.
The Native man looks up from the fire and says, “Can I tell you a story?” We say sure and he begins.
“I’m from LacCourte Orielles Tribe. When I was about 12 years old they built a dam and flooded our entire land. They didn’t even ask, they just did it. We lost our homes, the graveyard was flooded too and bodies were floating in the water. This was in the time of AIM. Do you know what AIM was?”
We nod yes. one of the older Occupiers was acquainted with folks from AIM.
The man of LacCourte Orielles Tribe went on, “My dad was a demolition expert. He knew how to blow up the dam. Some guys from AIM came to him and asked him to blow up the dam. My dad asked me and my brother if he should do it. “My brother said yes and I said no. My dad decided not to do it. He knew some innocent white people would be killed”.
Our friend the infamous street woman arrives. A man is following her and trying to argue with her. She sits with us and tells us she expects to get housing at the beginning of next month.
She looks good. Her skin and eyes are clear. The man stomps off. She says, “I’m under so much stress but I think I’m going to make it”. We offer words of encouragement.
The clock strikes 9:15pm and the fire is down to coals. Time to pack up. The older Native man would like us to stay. It seems he hasn’t had a chance for serious conversation in a while.
We tell him we’ll be back on Saturday and invite him to join us. We drive off as the night shift arrives.