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.

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