G.A. Minutes 8-29-15

Temperatures are in the 70s with no breeze when we pull up to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening.  Although it’s quite muggy and hot, the air contains that difficult to describe chill inside of it.  That tinge of cold that reminds one autumn is approaching.

As we are walking into the Memorial space, a DPD squad drives by slowly.  He makes an effort to let us see he is scoping us out.

The woman from Mississippi is waiting for us.  As we set things up she tells about her latest problem.  We’re hoping she’s not manic again.  It appears she’s not; she just has a problem.

She filed her taxes using a local accountant and has been expecting her tax refund in the mail. Today she found out her refund had been mailed to the wrong address.

She had just informed a DPD officer that she wanted to file a complaint.  The officer told her he couldn’t help her as her problem was not a criminal matter.  She’s really angry, saying “How dare he tell me it’s not a criminal matter!”

We tell her that actually the cop is right.  Some of us know her local accountant.  We know him to be an honest man and advise her to contact him on Monday.  He will probably be able to help her receive her refund faster than if she just contacts the IRS.

Our advice calms her a bit but she’s understandably tired of waiting.

Many of the Occupiers attended the Citizens Review Board meeting last Wednesday.  An Occupier gives a report to those who didn’t.

She says, “Everything went really well.  Our friend, the city official, spoke first.  He was quite eloquent and talked about the US constitution, the right of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.  He mentioned the amount of blatant sex trafficking and drug dealing that has gone on inside and around CJMM for many years and commented that the police have done little to prevent these activities.

“He then questioned why such a big deal is being made about a small group of people building a small, safe fire, feeding people and sitting in a small circle.

“One of our Occupiers also spoke.  He told about a party that he held a while ago in the Memorial.  He had three fires going and fed about three hundred people.  Before he held the event he asked the CJMM BOD if he could have a permit.  They told him to not worry about a thing, just go ahead and do it.  During his lengthy event no cops showed up and no one bothered him.

“It appeared the CRB members understood.  They paraphrased the speakers and asked intelligent questions.  One CRB member said he had driven by our fire in the past and didn’t understand what the problem was.

“Two DPD Deputy Chiefs were there.  They sat in the back and listened.  Hopefully, they gained a clue concerning what the issues are really about.

“The co-chair of the CJMM BOD also spoke.  He made many outrageous accusations about what we supposedly do at our fires.  He spoke of being very upset and personally offended by the Occupier who writes our meeting minutes.  He said she called him a wannabe.  It was obvious he was seeing our fires as a personal attack against him”.

The Occupier who writes the minutes commented, “What’s really weird is that I never called him a wannabe.  I called him a member of the privileged elite.  I called his followers wannabes.  I was just being true to what was said at that meeting.  I mean the way the BOD has lied about us and attacked us over the years it’s not surprising that we get a little crabby about it”.

Another Occupier replies, “I actually felt kinda sorry for him.  He seems to think this is all about himself”.

Our chairs are full.  There are many people we are meeting for the first time.  One of the new guys says, “Who here likes to smoke good weed?”  Many hands go up.  The guy then says, “Does anybody have any?  All I ever find is that synthetic shit.  That stuff is really creepy”.

There are dead pan looks all around.  If anyone has any, they’re not going to share it with a stranger.

All the apple juice is gone again.  An Occupier walks to the liquor store to get a bag of ice for ice water.  The minister from the Eagle’s Wings storefront church down the street donates several big bags of chips.

The same new guy is talking to a couple of his friends.  He uses a word that is a derivative of the N-word.  This word is popular with young Native men who imitate the behavior of African American gangbangers.

The man from Senegal is extremely offended at the use of the word and he lets the new guy know it.  The new guy is totally confused saying, “Man, I wasn’t even talking to you”.  The Senegalese man responds, “I am African!  Don’t ever use that N word around me”.

The new guy doesn’t appear to be the brightest bulb on the tree.  He still doesn’t get it.  As the Occupiers try to figure out how to explain the situation in a way that will resonate with the new guy, the man from Senegal leaves.

Our African American gay young friend arrives.  He’s drunk again and making a big production out of smudging himself.

One Occupier says to another, “There’s a weird kind of anxious vibe in the air tonight.  Seeing as the sun has gone down, maybe we should start a small fire to help people focus”.  A fire is started.

An unknown white street girl arrives.  She’s just as crazy as the one who showed up two weeks ago.  She starts reorganizing the food table and manages to tip most of the liquids over.  Then she wants to throw logs in the fire.  Her sense of “boundaries” is seriously lacking and the oldest woman Occupier has to speak sharply to her several times before she backs off.

Another squad passes by.

Once the annoying girl leaves, things settle down.  People who are looking “to stir up some shit” wander off, while everyone looking to chill out remains around the fire.

An Occupier mentions she attended a brainstorming session at Loaves N Fishes.  Folks are trying to create a survey or some other way of finding out exactly what needs homeless folks find most important.  The answers will be used to compose the Homeless Bill of Rights Ordinance.  Another meeting will be held in two weeks.

Someone reminds us that the next Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NdN Taco Sale is this upcoming Friday from 11am-2pm.  They will need us to help.  Most of us will be able to do so.

Spiritual Man sits down.  He’s come to visit but his girlfriend has been cooking and she’s calling him home to eat.  An Occupier remarks, “Man, if your woman’s been cooking it’s real important that you go and eat.  Her feelings will be hurt if you don’t.  The Spiritual Man takes off.

Another cop comes driving down the hill.  He sits a while, looking at us.  Then he turns and drives off.

A very tall, well dressed, African American young man comes riding up on roller skates.  He skates around the circle several times, exchanges a few pleasantries and skates off.

Some of the Occupiers talk about their childhood experiences in the Boy and Girl Scouts.  The gay young man says, “I was in Boy Scouts.  The one thing I excelled in was knot tying.  If you ever want to tie someone up, I’m your man”.

We all laugh.  An Occupier states, “Oh for sure.  If I ever want to tie anyone up I’ll certainly contact you”.

The stylish Native woman and her partner say goodnight.  Now it’s just the Occupiers and the gay street man.  He wants to help us pack up.

As he helps us he begins to sing.  We join in and sing along with him.  We sound like a bunch of frogs.

Another squad goes zooming by.  He’s not paying any attention to us.

Either the cops have been told to leave us alone (again) or they’ve just been too busy. Whatever.  We’ll just keep doing what we do.

We plan to be back on Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 8-25-15

G.A. Minutes 8-25-15
          The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is pretty much empty as we arrive this evening.  It looks like someone has left all their belongings on the side ledge.  Two people are assisting a third guy on the back ledge.  They say to him, “No, you can’t lay down here.  You have to get up”. The guy sits up but appears unsteady.  The other people leave.
          When we start unpacking we realize the pile of belongings is actually a person.  We think he’s probably passed out.  We won’t disturb him and hope a cop doesn’t drive by and notice.  If that happens it will be off to Detox or jail for the poor fellow.
          Once we start banging our metal chairs around, the passed out guy sits up.  That’s when we realize it’s our friend, the older Ho Chunk man.  We haven’t seen him in a long time.  We give him a cup of strong coffee and he joins the circle.
          We have been hoping to make a fire as soon as the weather will allow.  Tonight is overcast with temperatures in the low 60s; winds are light and variable.  We decide to give it a go and see what happens.
          Soon flames are leaping.  A woman walks over and asks, “So they let you do this again?” 
          We answer, “Well no, not exactly.  “They” never let regular people do much of anything.  However, if one stands up for the rights one is supposed to be entitled to as American citizens, sometimes “they” have to let us have them”.
          We know that Occupy groups all over the country have been winning lawsuits based on civil rights violations during the first months of the movement.  If we need to take this right to make a small safe fire in a public space issue to court, that’s what we will do.
          Once the fire starts, all our chairs are full and others are standing.  Everyone is thrilled to enjoy a fire again.
Some of the Occupiers attended the Public Utility Commission hearing about the Enbridge Line 3 this morning.  The hearing took place in McGregor MN.  The Occupiers report the hearing room was packed with over 90% of the attendees being opposed to the building of this pipeline. They report it was quite obvious the few people who spoke in favor of the pipeline were being paid to do so.
           An Occupier comments, “Oh good.  I’m sure the PUC commissioners will deny the pipeline then.  They’ll realize that regular people don’t want it.”
           Another Occupier rolls his eyes and answers, “Oh yeah, sure, that’s exactly what will happen”.
           Someone informs us that on this upcoming Thursday, August 27th at the Harrison Community Center, a program that will provide special buses for residents of the West End to take to a big grocery store in West Duluth, will be introduced.  These buses will be designed to provide spaces for people to put a large amount of groceries.
Seeing as the West End is a food desert, we think this is wonderful news.
          Someone else reminds us that we’re going to the Citizens Review Board tomorrow at 5pm.
          The gray-haired woman, who is not originally from Duluth, asks for an explanation of why we are going to the meeting.  After we explain she says, “The people who run things in MN are really strange.  They act nice but then do you harm”.
          An Occupier adds, “In MN they smile to your face and then stab you in the back.  In the rest of the country they just shoot you”.  We all laugh.  
          The main homeless outreach worker drives up.  She has several other people in her vehicle and the back of it is full of stuff.  As usual, she is immediately surrounded by many folks of the street.  As she drives off she waves to us and calls out, “We’re trying to find a different camping spot”. 
          An Occupier calls back, “How about right here?”
          An Occupier states that on this upcoming Thursday many Anishinaabe people will be congregating at Hole In The Day Lake and harvesting wild rice.  They are challenging the state of MN because the state says the Anishinaabe do not have the right to harvest wild rice on ceded territory without buying a state license.
          The Anishinaabe folks say yes they do, the 1857 Treaty supports their retention of this harvesting right.  The Native people hope the DNR will issue a citation or make an arrest or something so the issue can be put before the courts.
          Another Occupier comments, “I wish I knew how we could support them on Thursday”. 
          Somebody replies, “Just send them prayers and good vibes.  I think they and their ancestors can take care of the rest”.
          A young man we don’t know approaches the circle.  He has a big container of barbequed ribs and asks if anyone would be interested in eating them.  “No problem” say the African American guys and a few others.  We thank him for his generosity and the rib eating people chow down.
          Several junior high aged kids ride up on bikes.  They go to the table to see what’s to eat.  We know they’ve been at our circle in the past but children’s appearances change so much over short periods of time.  We’re not sure which group of kids they belong to.
          They are very hungry.  Unfortunately, all the sandwiches and apple juice are gone.  There are still cookies.  The children take as many as they can hold, sit down in the circle and munch away.
          An Occupier tells us that Loaves N Fishes will be having a brainstorming session this upcoming Friday, 7pm at Dorothy Day House.  They need to do a rewrite of their survey for homeless people because the BOD of CHUM refused to accept the original survey which they presented at the last Human Rights Commission meeting.  The BOD stated the survey asked too many questions about abuse from the DPD and didn’t contain anything about homeless people’s own personal responsibility.
          The Occupier continued, “It was so dumb.  The survey was intended to get responses about interactions with the police.  It’s like if someone created a survey about apples and someone else got upset because the survey didn’t mention turkeys.  Well, DUH…….  The survey was about apples, not turkeys!  I don’t think the members of the CHUM BOD know anything about actual life on the street”.
          The gray haired woman and the partner of the stylish Native woman each tell a story concerning their experiences with CHUM.   The male partner tells a story about being thrown out of the CHUM Shelter in the middle of a severe blizzard. 
          His Dr. had given him a new medicine to take for his severe mental illness problems.  He took the medicine and then was stuck at the shelter because a huge storm blew in.  The medicine made him extremely sleepy so he had to lay his head down on the table.  The CHUM staff person accused him of being drunk.  He explained he was having a severe side effect from his new medicine and went to lie down on the floor. 
          The staff person tried to shake him awake, again accusing him of being drunk.  This made him very annoyed.  He angrily said, “I told you, it’s the side effect of my medication!”  So they threw him out into a blizzard.  He had no warm clothes and could barely function.  When he returned several days later he found all of his belongings had been stolen and he was denied entry to CHUM for the rest of his life.
          The grey haired woman says she stayed at CHUM when she first arrived in Duluth.  She says she believes she was very well behaved the entire time but one day a staff member came up to her and said, “You have 3 days to get out of here”.  The grey haired lady is in her mid-70s and very forgetful.  She has a very hard time remembering how to get from place to place.
           Someone outside of the CHUM organization took her to Superior, WI where she was forced to spend her entire SSI monthly check in order to rent a very small room.  Seeing as she had no money she had to get free meals at a shelter for men.
          It took her six months to figure out how to get back to Duluth where she was able to receive housing assistance.  She is now of the belief she is being stalked by the main homeless outreach person.
          The Occupiers agree CHUM provides many good services and they don’t believe the gray haired woman is being stalked.  They also agree they have heard many stories similar to these from folks on the street.
          The stylish Native woman worked in the past as a housing advocate.  She explains how the local NGOs are forced to compete with each other for the small amount of funding given by the Community Block Grant Program.   An Occupier adds that she believes this competition is a deliberate government set up to keep the NGOs from working together on issues.
          A thirty something white guy sits down and gives a lecture on racism.  He says because slavery ended only a hundred and fifty or so years ago, it will take three hundred years for racism to be gone.  Then he leaves.
          The tall, short haired Native young man, who visits frequently, arrives.  He makes a cigarette and states, “I’m so glad you guys are fighting to keep this fire.  Everyone thanks you and I really love you for this”.  He appears to be a little embarrassed by his own emotional outburst and says goodbye.
          We notice a squad car drive by.  We don’t notice if the cop is looking our way or not.  Somebody remarks, “Too late now”.  The flames have turned to coals.  One cannot see our fire from a distance unless it has high flames.
          The neighborhood retired man arrives.  “Are they still harassing you about your fire?” he says. 
          We answer, “Probably”.
          The gray haired woman asks, “Is everything in this country about money?” 
          An Occupier replies, “Yup.  That’s what this country was built on”. 
          The Ho Chunk man says, “Oh no, this country was built on Native land”.  We all laugh and agree he is correct.
          People comment about the familiar meme that shows a Native elder saying, “Oh, you want to kick out all the illegal immigrants?  Good idea.  When are you leaving?”
          The Ho Chunk man jokes, “We should put you all back on your boats”. 
          An Occupier responds, “You know, when Native culture isn’t under the influence of white man culture, it is such a humane culture that they probably wouldn’t even do that”.
          The Ho Chunk man adds, “That’s because we believe in the Creator and we put out our tobacco and pray”.
          It’s well past time for us to leave.  As we pack up we find that the Ho Chunk man got a little too drunk earlier and missed his bus.  He doesn’t have many of his belongings and will have to find some place to crawl under and sleep until morning.
          An Occupier offers him a ride back to his camp and he gratefully accepts.
          We plan to be back here on Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 8-22-15

G.A. Minutes 8-22-15
     The Occupiers have had to confer via the internet during the day to decide whether we should hold a G.A. at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial tonight.
     The weather people are broadcasting tornado warnings throughout the area.  We decide to chance it.  As far as we know, a tornado has never touched down in Duluth.
     There are grey skies; a strong north wind is blowing while the clouds are moving rapidly across in a southwest to northeast direction.  Something is going to happen but not right away.
     The first couple of Occupiers arrive. We set out a few chairs and sit and watch the sky. A few neighborhood African American folks on the back ledge do the same.
     We hear a woman screaming across the street.  The screams come from a street woman who we have been vaguely acquainted with for several years.  She is screaming at a man who generally accompanies her when she is out and about.
Up until about a year ago we observed her working the “night shift” on the corner as we packed up after our meetings.  We’d assumed the man was her pimp.
     We haven’t seen any signs of obvious drug dealing or sex trafficking on the corner of CJM for a long time.  We figure the business has moved somewhere else.
     Anyway, the man begins screaming too.  The couple crosses the street, going to the back ledge.  An Occupier comments, “If she’s trying to get away from him she’ll have to make a big ruckus that gets noticed by everyone.  If he gets her alone, her chance of escape is over”.
     The couple begins hitting each other.  No one from the back ledge attempts to intervene.  In fact, everyone comes to stand by the Occupiers.
     As one Occupier goes to get more chairs, he and the other Occupier exchange looks that say, “Should we call the cops?”
Suddenly the other Occupier says, “Oh, what is wrong with me?”  She goes to her car, gets the smudge equipment, fires up the sage bundle and lets the smoke fill the entire space.
     The male of the fighting couple comes to sit in the circle.  He complains to the other African American men sitting there.  He says that although the entire argument is completely his woman’s fault, he knows if he puts his hands on her he’ll be the one going to jail.  The other men agree with him.  However, they don’t appear to feel much empathy.
     The fighting woman stomps off one way while the fighting man stomps off in the opposite direction.  A woman from the ledge says, “Maybe now we can have a little peace”.  Most of the neighborhood folks go back to the ledge.
     Another Occupier and an occasional Occupier arrive.  They attended a local memorial service for Julian Bond earlier in the day.  They tell us about it and we have a short discussion about revered man’s legacy.
     One of the Occupiers asks, “So we’re going to the Citizens Review Board meeting on Wednesday?”  Another answers, “Yup, that’s correct”.
      We laugh because last week we had been misinformed.  We canceled our regular Tuesday meeting and showed up at City Hall at 7pm.  The room was dark and empty but we thought we were the first ones there.  We turned on the lights and took seats.  After a while we started wondering why everyone was so late.
     Just as we were about to make a phone call, two of our City official friends peeked in to see what was going on.  “You have the wrong night”, they said.
     Everything turned out o.k. because they stayed to talk for a while and gave us some good news about the Committee of Black Minnesotans and Voices for Racial Justice.   
     An Occupier tells us she recently attended another class about white privilege.  Among the other class participants was a young, well known and respected African American college teacher.  She and the teacher had a discussion about the problems Occupy and the rest of the neighborhood has continuously had with the CJMM BOD.  The teacher had been a member of this BOD in the past.
     She told him, “As far as we can tell, the real problem the BOD has with us is based on the fact that we welcome everyone at our meetings, including homeless and other street people.  In fact, the majority of the people who regularly attend our meetings are homeless and other street people.  They enjoy the fires, food and conversation.  They also don’t have much else to do in the evenings”.
     The teacher responded to her, “You’re absolutely correct.  When I was on that BOD I constantly argued with most of the other members about the “quality” of the people who frequented CJM.  Most of the other members said they were disgusted by the fact that poor neighborhood people spent time at the Memorial.  They wanted the space to remain empty except for suitable tourists and wealthy people, whom the members could take, show them the space and then solicit donations for the CJMM scholarship fund.  “I finally resigned from that BOD because I just couldn’t tolerate the arrogance and elitism of most of the members”.
     The Occupier continued, “I was really glad to hear the teacher’s words.  I really didn’t think we were imagining things”.
     Another Occupier reports he’s been making phone calls on behalf of Northwoods 350. There are two Public Utility Commission hearings coming up on Tuesday August 25th11am and 6pm at the McGregor High School and Wednesday August 26th 11am and 6pm at the Carlton County Transportation Building.  These hearings will be accepting public comments concerning the proposed Enbridge pipeline Line 3.
     Someone replies, “When are we just going to go with all renewable energy sources? I’m getting tired of waiting.  All the technology is there, it’s just a matter of doing it”.
     Someone else pantomimes sticking a syringe into her arm and says, “They just don’t want to get off of that oil”.
     Raindrops are beginning to fall; it’s just a matter of time until the storm hits.  We start a conversation about gardening in order to take up the time while we wait.
     The short middle-aged white guy who’s been coming around lately arrives.  He grabs the sage bundle and begins smudging everyone.  Several of the Native women say, “I don’t want to be smudged right now.  I’ve been drinking”.
     Thunder and lightning arrive.  They bring occasional bits of rain with them.  The Occupier who is well versed in science explains the calculation for determining how far away the storm is.
     We wait for a lightening flash, then count the seconds until we hear thunder.  We have it all wrong but we have fun doing it anyway.  Then…. A big flash of lightening and the thunder right after it.
     An Occupier states, “Oh, oh here it comes.  Time to go”.  Everyone scurries to pack up. The street folks join in and help.  The folks who live in the HRA apartment building on the corner are going to stand under the trees on the back ledge.  They want to watch the storm.  They’ll probably get wet but it doesn’t matter.  They don’t have far to go to dry off and they don’t have anything else to do anyway.
     We plan to be back on Tuesday.        

G.A. Minutes 8-15-15

G.A. Minutes 8-15-15
The weather over the past couple of days has been downright dangerous.  The heat index has been over 100 with few clouds and very little breeze.
You can imagine how relieved we are to find temperatures in the 70s with a slight east wind as we arrive at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening.
The streets are empty but a few folks are waiting for us in the Memorial space. They help us set up.  We’d expected another hot night so came prepared with extra ice; now we see it’s a good thing we brought plenty of hot coffee.
As people take their seats, an old white man who is known to a few of the street folks but unknown to the Occupiers joins the circle.  It appears he’s prepared to give a lecture.  He talks non-stop about the US constitution, the behavior of police, entrapment laws, direct action (though he doesn’t use that term) and other things too numerous to remember.
He doesn’t allow anyone else to speak.  We know he’s much older than any of us so we want to give him the respect due an elder but he’s getting to be annoying.
The woman from Mississippi comes around the corner, says hello to us and goes straight to the side ledge behind us where some of her women friends are sitting.
She starts in on a rant about how the DPD is abusing the Occupiers.  She says we only bring good vibes and a chance for neighborhood people to get together in a good way.
So the guy in the circle is talking loudly about direct action and Mississippi Woman is talking loudly about the police abusing us.  Maybe we’ll just sit and listen. 
They are both on a roll.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t last very long.  The Mississippi woman’s friends all get up and leave.  She comes over to the circle.
Now she’s talking about God’s word and the Bible.  The elder man keeps talking about his stuff too.  They’re both talking at once and it sounds really nuts.
Soon the elderly man walks off.  We kinda wish he would take Mississippi Woman with him but no….. she just keeps talking.
Most of the street folks get up and leave too.  Mississippi will stop ranting if someone says something that interests her but the minute anyone pauses for a breath, she’s right back on the rant again.  Her speech is very familiar to us.  She’s just repeating words and stories commonly used by African American preachers across the land.
A young white girl who we don’t know takes a seat.  She’s contemptuous of the preaching woman and makes snide remarks about her subject matter.  The young girl then picks up the last bit of the sage bundle and begins smudging everyone left in the circle.
An Occupier tells her, “Please but that down.  It’s starting to fall apart and needs to burn out in the dish.  The girl pays no attention and goes over to smudge the Occupier.  Big pieces of burning sage leaves are falling off the bundle and on to the Occupiers’ bare skin.
The Occupier screams, “Are you nuts?  Put it down!”  Another Occupier grabs the young girls’ wrist and gently forces her to put it down.  The girl leaves immediately.
Mississippi Woman has wandered off to the back ledge where a few African American men are sitting.  They argue loudly about religion and the Bible.
The Occupiers and the few remaining street people just sit in amazement for a bit. Is the whole evening going to be like this?   
An Occupier reminds us that we will need to attend the Citizen’s Review Board meeting next Tuesday at City Hall, 5pm on the 3rd floor.  She explains, “We just sort of need to be there to give copies of our paperwork to Board members and to remind the cops they need to address our complaint about their unnecessary harassment of our fire on the 4th of July.
“I think our real argument is with the Fire Department but we need to start with the DPD and let them tell us that.  Again. “
“By the way, I found a copy of the MN Fire Code in the reference department of the Duluth Public Library.  I made a copy of all the codes the Fire Marshal showed me and of anything else that could possibly pertain to our fire.  All the codes, statutes and ordinances say pretty much the same thing, just with different wording.  If worse comes to worse it will probably mean that a judge will have to decide the meaning of a few very common words”.
Another Occupier says, “Hey, did you hear that just a day or so ago the US Department of Justice stated that it is unconstitutional for any city, town etc. to make a law that says people sleeping in public spaces is illegal.  They said that the right to sleep is a constitutional right.  That’s probably going to be a good thing for homeless people in the long run”.  We all agree that this DOJ statement is pretty cool.
An Occupier reports she’s received an email from the leader of Duluth Move To Amend.  Duluth MTA is attempting to get a referendum on the November ballot supporting a US constitutional amendment and an end to Citizens United.  The email said a few of the City Councilors who had originally supported this cause were now asking for a doubling of the amount of signatures on the MTA petition.
The leader said MTA doesn’t have enough money to get that accomplished in time.  The leader stated, “Trying to get the money out of politics is what MTA is trying to do.  So now they want us to spend more money in order to do it?”
The Occupier continues, “I thought he had a really good point.  I hope he uses it when he speaks with the City Council again”.
The Occupiers who have been bringing much of the food for our meetings report they may be unable to afford to do this for the rest of this month.  Another Occupier offers to take over this task.
We receive a visit from the man from Senegal.  We haven’t seen him in a long time.  Apparently he’s been very busy with a full time job and going to nursing school.
He talks, as he usually does, about the racism he has to deal with in his life.  He experiences racist behavior from both white and black people.  The man has been in many countries and has lived in the US for 19 years.  He says America is more racist than anywhere he has ever been.
The Senegalese man tells us in 1992 his father was a government official.  There was a change in the government and his family was forced to leave the country. His immediate family now lives in a large Midwestern city.
He tells us he could not return to his country for many years as he would have been murdered.  Now that he is an American citizen, he can safely visit.
2 Park Rangers come up.  They are good friends with the man from Senegal so they laugh and joke with him for a while.  One of the Rangers comments, “This fire circle thing that you guys have going on is just great.  It’s exactly what this space was made for”.
In the course of conversation 1 of the Rangers says, “We lost a cop”. 
“What?” responds an Occupier.   
The Ranger explains, “Well, we don’t want to put it out on the radio but we’re trying to find a cop.  We don’t know where he is”.
The Rangers have also found a recently broken window in the back of 1 of the downtown buildings.  They want to find the owner of the building but don’t know how to go about it.  1 of the Occupiers is well versed in this type of thing so he explains to them what they should do.
We have a few more folks drop by.  The former building manager who worked for the evil landlord of our former homeless camp appears.  Next comes the neighborhood retired man and then one of our former campers who now walks the straight and narrow (sort of).
These people haven’t seen each other in a while so have some catching up to do.
As happens many evenings, the grand finale is enacted by the African American gay man.  He’s not singing and dancing as much as usual but he still manages to tell a few stories and pretend to perch on the edge of the unlit fire pit without even getting his pants dirty.
Anyone else would have fallen in.  How he does it, no one knows.
It’s way past time for us to be gone.  Everyone helps to pack up.
So next Tuesday we’ll be making our presence felt at the Citizens Review Board then back here again next Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 8-11-15

G.A. Minutes 8-11-15
We’ve been absent from the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial for over a week; we’re happy to be returning this evening.
If the weather is a harbinger of things to come, our meeting tonight will be very pleasant.  The sky is clear, temperatures are in the 70s and there’s a very light, cool breeze.
Many people are already in the space and scattered up and down the street when we arrive.  They help us to quickly set up the snacks and chairs.  All the chairs fill immediately.  We notice that everyone in our circle is someone with whom we are well acquainted.  Some are new friends; others have spent much time with us in previous years.
Several squad cars quickly pull up across the street.  A few people from the circle go over to see what’s happening.
No big deal.  The middle aged Native man with very long hair is drunk again.  He can’t walk.  He lives in the “wet house” and this is usual behavior for him.  The officers will just take him home.
An African American couple who we don’t know is standing on the sidewalk.  They are watching the minor drama.
Several officers are walking back to their vehicle.  One of the officers is a tall African American male.  The couple is quite surprised.  The man calls out, “What?  They have a black cop?!?”  The cop smiles and waves.
An Occupier in the circle calls out, “They have 2.”  The African American man on the sidewalk looks amazed.  He says to the cop, “Will you come over to my house for dinner?”
The Occupier says to the circle, “Back when I was young they had a different black cop.  The stylish, older, Native woman asks, “You mean B—–?” and the Occupier responds, “Yeah, he was the meanest man who ever lived”.
The children’s cheerleading class that meets in the old Encounter Center is getting out.  Parents and children fill the sidewalk.  A small child is running, top speed, down the hill and towards the intersection.
The parents all scream, then we scream and then all the folks on the street scream.  The child stops up short and begins to cry.  At least she didn’t run out into the busy street.
An Occupier reads a poem written by Rumi.  Everyone listens; then the Spiritual Man translates it into the language of the street.
Suddenly the woman from Mississippi comes walking down the street.  She is seriously ranting.  Her southern accent is hard to understand at times but she is swearing like we can’t believe.   We had no idea she cussed like that.
She just won’t quit.  Back and forth she goes, screaming at the top of her lungs. An Occupier comments, “I think she just gets really frustrated with all the goings on down at the Skinner building.  People are always fighting and the DPD practically lives there.  HRA won’t let her move into senior citizen public housing where she would be more comfortable.  They say she’s too young for that.  She’s actually not as old as she looks and acts”.
The behavior of the Mississippi seems to trigger something.  The Main Obnoxious Woman is with her boyfriend on the back ledge.  She says something to him; he goes up to the Spiritual Man and shoves him. The Spiritual Man pushes the other man off of him then puts his hands behind his back and says, “I’m not going to hit you”.  The Spiritual Man’s female friend jumps between them yelling, “If you gonna hit him you gonna have to come through me first”.
This goes on for a short while but the Main Obnoxious Woman’s boyfriend doesn’t hit women so he leaves. The Main Obnoxious Woman has already left.  She took off right after she whispered whatever she whispered to her boyfriend.
Small groups of people scattered up and down the street begin, one after the other, to yell at each other. 
Those of us in the circle are confused by all this.  We look at each other and laugh, sort of.  An Occupier takes the sage bundle, blows hard on it and goes around smudging everyone and everything in the whole area.  Things calm down after that.
An Occupier gives the latest “fire report”.  She says, “I had a meeting with the Fire Marshal on Thursday.  The contact officer for complaints against the DPD asked me to do that.  It was basically a waste of time.  The Fire Marshal just gave her own personal and very erroneous interpretation of all the MN fire laws.  She tried to get me to run around and suck up to various other City departments.
“I thanked her for her time, left a copy of all the documents that prove the legality of our fire and left.  When I got home I sent her an email recapping what we had talked about and informing her we would be restarting our fire.  If she could find any law we were actually breaking she could charge us with it.
“And you know what else? She told me the Fire Department doesn’t operate under the MN Statutes or City ordinances but under this big book called the MN Fire Codes.  The general public isn’t able to access this book.  They have to purchase it online for about $77.  Isn’t that some shit?  I as much as told her so too”.
Another Occupier adds, “That’s what the Fire Marshal did to us when we were at our first camp at the Civic Center.  She had us running around trying to comply with all sorts of regulations.  Then the DPD showed up and tore down our camp”.
An additional Occupier reminds us, “Northwoods 350 is holding informational and phone banking sessions to work against Enbridge in MN.  The working groups will be meeting Mon-Fri of this week and next week, 4p-7p at Studio 15.  Also, Loaves N Fishes will have their annual block party on Sunday, August 23rd from 1p-4p.
With the business now over, an Occupier directs a question to the circle.  She says, “I have never been able to figure out why the young guys sag their pants”. The Spiritual Man responds, “Originally it was a black thing.  The black guys saying to the white man, ‘Kiss my ass’.  Now everybody does it so it means ‘Kiss my ass’ to The Man”.
The Occupier replies, “Wow.  That’s so simple and it makes a lot of sense”.  The grey-haired woman comments, “Well couldn’t they just hang a little sign from their belts?  Then their butts would stay warm”.  We all crack up.
A friend of the Main Obnoxious Woman’s boyfriend comes to join our circle.  He wants to explain some things to the Spiritual Man.  He tells him how the Woman taunts and manipulates her boyfriend.  He doesn’t understand why the boyfriend puts up with her behavior but it is what it is.  The Spiritual Man is willing to make amends.
The skies are darkening earlier these days.  As they darken, the air becomes cooler.  An Occupier says to another, “If I’d known it was gonna cool down like this I would have suggested we start a small fire.  Now I suppose it’s too late”.
As we are packing up we notice a regular street woman, who we have known for years, passed out under the tree on the back ledge.
As we discuss what to do, the Lakota man from the Black Hills comes to sit beside her.  An Occupier says, “I’ll ask him”.
The Lakota man tells the Occupier, “I guess you’d better call Detox”.  We do so and a couple of Occupiers stay to wait for the cops to arrive.
We intend to be back at CJMM on Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 8-1-15

G.A. Minutes 8-1-15

When we drive up to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening we find a big Duluth Police Department SUV with all its lights flashing, parked in the entry way.
A female officer is down on her knees beside the back ledge. She’s taking many pictures of the ground and cement.

We decide to wait and see what’s going on. We park where we can and just watch her. After 5 minutes or so she gets up and drives away. Hmmmm………..

It’s another hot night with temperatures still in the 80s. There’s a strong cool breeze blowing so the weather feels close to perfect.

Our friend, the grey haired woman is waiting for us. She says, “I’m just returning from eating dinner at the Mission. It was so weird, usually the place is filled to capacity but tonight almost no one was there”.

This comment reminds us that it’s the 1st of the month. That means the street people who receive small government checks will have been paid today. If they use their little bit of money to get high, they’ll be broke again in a day or 2.

Some of the street folks hang on to their monthly pittance using it for essentials like toothpaste, shampoo, socks and underwear. Most just treat themselves to a couple of doses of their substance of choice.

As far as the Occupiers are concerned, the 1st of the month means things will be very quiet at the Memorial as everyone has gone off somewhere to get their groove on. It can also mean many people will do their partying right at CJM and the surrounding area. We’ll have to wait and see.

A woman who stayed in our homeless camp years ago enters our circle. She takes the smudge dish saying, “I’m going to show you how my people do this”. She breaks off some of the sage leaves, puts them in the dish, adds fire then takes the burning sage to every person present in the space and spreads the smoke across each person’s body. Then she puts the dish back on the table and leaves. We are grateful for her attention.

Someone down the street has a generator running. It’s very loud; we need to raise our voices in order to be heard.  A group of middle aged African American folks are sitting on the side ledge behind us. It seems they are all friends and are enjoying their interaction. We can hear their comments clearly so we think they must be talking very loud.

We notice many of our chairs have disappeared from the circle. The group behind us has been quietly taking them to sit on. That’s quite alright. They are all a little past the age where sitting on the ground is easy. It’s a good thing we have lots of chairs.

An Occupier reminds everyone, “Next Tuesday will be the CHUM National Night Out Picnic. I think we should all attend. Also, next weekend will be the annual Bayfront Blues Festival. We’ll probably be going to that also”.

Another Occupier reports, “After all these weeks of running around, I’m supposed to talk with the actual Fire Marshall on Monday. I hope we’ll be able to get things straightened out. However, it seems to me these government types enjoy dragging their feet”.

Another Occupier states, “Are you guys aware of that anti-drug campaign D.A.R.E. that has been propagandizing in the public school system for the last 40 or so years?” We all nod yes and he continues, “Well I just read that the people who run that program have come out in favor of legalizing marijuana”.

Another responds, “That makes a lot of sense. Most school children know at least a few adults who smoke marijuana and appear unharmed by it. If they want the kids to stay away from dangerous drugs then they’d better tell them the truth. Actually, the real truth is that alcohol is the most dangerous drug of all”.

The grey haired woman has been free store shopping again. She pulls a bunch of well-made clothes from her bag. Everyone takes a look. A female Occupier finds something she likes and tucks it away.

A street person questions, “Hey, did you see that cop taking pictures of the blood stains?”

We ask, “What blood stains?”

The person replies, “The ones on the back ledge”.

Of course we all have to go and take a look. There are some large splatter markings on the ledge and the floor beneath. They could be blood stains. The Occupiers have little expertise in these types of matters.

The man from Senegal arrives. We haven’t seen him in a long time. We look forward to talking with him.

However, he is immediately followed by at least a gazillion other people. The Memorial is jammed packed; folks are getting the last of the snacks and drinks. Everyone is friendly, in good spirits and yakking up a storm.

After the dust settles, we find the Senegalese guy is gone. The stylish older Native woman and the CHUM employment counselor are now in our circle.

So is that crazy white guy who worked for the evil landlord of our former homeless camp. We hardly recognize him. He looks and acts completely normal. As normal as anybody gets around here anyway.

One of the Occupiers notes, “Hey, the breeze is a little cool now. It would be o.k. to start up the fire but I suppose seeing as it’s 8:45pm, it’s too late to do so.?”

No sooner do the words come out of her mouth than the DPD cop makes an appearance. The officer gets out of her car and walks to about the middle of the site. She doesn’t speak to anyone, just turns, walks back to her car and drives off.

WTF? Was she sent to check and see if we had a fire going? Do the cops think we are a bunch of morons? Why would we have a fire going when the temperature is in the 80s? Somebody in this city is not playing with a full deck. It’s probably not the Occupiers.

Anyway, we start to clean up. An Occupier notices the stylish Native woman is not around but all of her gear is in the circle. The Occupier says, “Well I could take it with me and look for her tomorrow however, this is a lot of stuff. She might need it before I can find her”.

As luck would have it, the Spiritual Man shows up. He knows the Native woman so he and an Occupier gather the stuff together and take off down the street in search of the woman.
They find her passed out in a doorway. She is easily woken and very grateful her belongings have been rescued.  The Spiritual Man knows where the woman lives and he will watch over her and make sure she gets home safely.

The Occupier returns to the Memorial. Most everything is packed up. It looks like the street is gearing up for a party. We hope everyone has a good time and that no one gets hurt.

We won’t be able to make it back here for at least a week. We’ll probably be back on Tuesday August 11th.