G.A. Minutes 10-21-14
The CJM Memorial is empty when the first two Occupiers arrive. Ordinarily they would wait for the arrival of more of their comrades before setting things up but not tonight.
It’s too cold for sitting around waiting. They do the work by themselves. Soon others arrive; the fire is going in no time and everyone huddles close to it.
An Occupier asks about the latest news from the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance group. Another answers, “A few of the members are currently doing research concerning the de-listing of wolves and other protected species and the introduction of new mines, logging operations and other environmentally destructive operations on to the lands of the previously protected species. The idea is that INM/NWA should be able to work more closely together; enabling them to better co-ordinate their actions. The next meeting is this upcoming Friday, October 24th, 1pm at the Duluth Indian Center”.
Someone mentions, “The Coalition To Stop Sulphide Mining will be holding another event at our friend’s club on next Saturday. I think we should go to offer support and also there’s going to be some really good bands”. We all agree we would like to attend the event so make plans to meet at the Red Herring at 8pm on Saturday October 25th.
Some regular street folks arrive to get some coffee. The man says, “Oh, you’re burning sage. Is it fake sage?” An Occupier answers, “Is there such a thing as fake sage?” Another responds, “Oh you know, that synthetic stuff and the first Occupiers teasingly retorts, “So if you use fake sage does that mean you will get fake blessings?” Everyone laughs.
A regular man who is not homeless but spends a lot of time on the streets appears. He and his friend sit and talk with us for a while. He’s spent all his money on alcohol again and doesn’t have bus fare to get back home. Some of the Occupiers dig in their pockets and come up with enough change to help him out.
Another man we haven’t met comes up to sit. He’s very friendly and his voice sounds familiar. After we converse for a while he says, “Don’t you know who I am?” We don’t know. He tells us his name and we are astounded. This man lived at our former homeless camp but he looks very different than he from how he looked at our camp. He’s lost weight, is wearing nice clothes and has a calmer demeanor than he did when he lived with us. An Occupier states, “Oh man, I didn’t even recognize you. I figured you had gone back to Chicago”. The man says, “I live up in Hermantown and I have a job”. It seems he hasn’t found many friends in Hermantown. He’s not a daily drinker but when he feels like drinking he comes down to the old hood and looks for his old friends. Seeing as he no longer lives in our neighborhood, he’s out of the loop as to where people are on this night. He sits with us and politely calls out to all the women who walk by. He doesn’t get any responses.
One of the Occupiers reports that one of our friends is holding a conference at City Hall this upcoming Saturday at 12:30 pm. Members of the Council of Black Minnesotans will be presenting a forum and question and answer session with some MN elected officials concerning issues affecting black Duluthians. The Occupier continues, “I don’t know if I will attend as I don’t think I would have much to offer that would be helpful though I could just listen”. She gives the names of a few of our P.O.C. friends who are planning on attending. Another says, “Duluth is a strange place. At first glance it appears to be a very progressive and fairly hip place but if you look closer there is a lot of racism here. Just look at the difference in income levels, difference in housing and in jobs. That tells one something”. Another says, “I don’t think there are any black people in city office jobs. There are a lot more black people who live here than black people you see working any type of job as you go about your daily business in Duluth”.
A group of people, most of whom we are familiar with, join us. One of the men begins to introduce himself when an Occupier jokingly says, “Ogiima-Central Hillside! We know you” ( Ogiima is Anishinaabemowin for Chief). The man had visited us once many months ago. He had been very drunk and boastful. Tonight he is humble and answers, “Oh, I ain’t nobody. I’m just a drunk”. It appears that he and his friends have been drinking this evening. When they begin to bring out their bottles, the Occupiers ask them to go and drink at the back ledge. They cheerfully do so.
We resume our conversation at the fire and the street group stands at the back ledge laughing and drinking.
Suddenly a DPD squad pulls up to the curb and gets out. A lone officer walks quickly toward the group. They immediately disperse but Ogiima doesn’t get away fast enough and the cop corners him. The cop begins the usual questioning, “What’s your name? Where do you live? Have you been drinking? Do you have ID?”
Another squad and officer arrive. We continue looking into the fire but stop our conversation and listen carefully to what’s going on at the ledge. The Chief answers humbly and politely. He pleads, almost crying, “Please don’t take me in. Please let me go”. Suddenly his tone changes. He says, “I’m Ogiima and these are my friends”. The officer asks if we know the man. We say yes we do.
One officer goes to his car to check the Chief’s credentials while the other officer guards the Chief.
In the midst of all this, a well dressed woman carrying a bag walks through. She walks up to the officer and the man saying, “I have cupcakes and garlic toast from the event at the Zinema. Would you like some?” The officer says no thanks and the Chief takes a cupcake.
The woman then comes over to the fire and puts all of her food out on the table. We have a lovely conversation with her about all the changes that are occurring at the Zinema.
The Chief wants to come and sit with us at the fire but the cop will only let him sit on the back ledge. We think the cop believes we are all crazy and may possibly do him some harm.
Finally the other officer returns, says something to the first officer and the first officer says to the Chief, “Everything’s o.k., you’re free to go”.
The other officer drives off, the Chief comes to sit by the fire and the first officer comes over to talk to us. He says he’s new to this neighborhood beat and asks who we are, what we’re doing and stuff like that. We tell him as little as possible while still appearing to be polite and co-operative. He wishes us goodnight and reminds us to call him if we need any help. He gets into his car but doesn’t drive off.
All of the Chief’s drinking friends return and plunk themselves down by the fire. They quite loudly proclaim they are not afraid of cops. One yells “Fuck the police!” A very young girl who is part of their group pulls a bottle out of her coat, drinks some and begins to wave it around.
A female Occupier stands up and chastises the girl, “No! You cannot drink at this fire! If you want to drink you must leave and come back after you’re done. You are not going to ruin things for everyone else”. The girl puts her bottle back but appears as though she thinks she has been unjustly punished.
Shortly thereafter, the group says their goodbyes and begins to wander off. They realize they have forgotten the Chief so return for him. As he starts to leave we notice he has left his backpack. We call him back, get everybody situated with their proper belongings and off they go again. As they leave, the squad car drives off in the same direction they are going.
The fire is down to the coals but the remaining people are in no hurry to leave. We stand around conversing with our hands over the fire pit.
We’ll be at the gig at the Red Herring on Saturday and back at CJM next Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 10-21-14