G.A. Minutes 11-21-15
We’re at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial again. It seems like we were here just yesterday. Oh wait a minute…. We were here just yesterday.
We assisted our allies from Black Lives Matter, Politics Off My Body and a few other groups with a rally and march that coincided with Duluth’s annual Christmas City of the North Parade.
The title for the rally was Justice City of the North. The focus was on another young African American man executed by the police. This time it happened in Minneapolis. The murdered man was lying face down on the pavement with his hands cuffed behind his back. His name was Jamar Clark. A cop put a gun next to the young man’s head and pulled the trigger. As horrifying as that sounds, it occurs in epidemic proportions here in “Merika”.
Last night it was the Occupier’s job to keep a fire going for a few hours for the event which took place at CJMM. A fire was pretty much mandatory as last night was really cold. Afterwards many of the participants went a block down the hill and made a surprise entrance into the parade. We were told the parade crowd was mostly appreciative of what the marchers had to say.
After the parade some folks came back and sat around the fire and chatted with some of the street folks. The rally was a success and was covered by all the local major media. It received some national attention too.
Tonight is even colder. The temperature is somewhere in the teens with not much of a breeze. The leaves have all been off the trees for several weeks and all the animals who go south for the winter are long gone. It hasn’t snowed yet but that’s sure to come soon.
We think this may be our last weekly fire until spring. If we get a mid-winter thaw we could come back for that; but it’s getting to the point where our little fire won’t keep folks warm enough to sit for long.
We really hate to leave because our battle with the City and its masters from the 1% about the people’s right to comfortably make use of common spaces has not yet reached a conclusion.
The street folks who haven’t found a place to stay for the winter are showing signs of desperation. If we hear of anywhere that could be a possibility we’ll look them up and give them the 411. After 3 years of making fires at CJMM we know a lot of street folks well enough to find them on the days we’re not at the Memorial.
Most of the Occupiers are not actually homeless. None of us has a fancy house but most have some place that has heat and running water.
When the temperatures become so cold that our little fire can’t keep us warm, we have to go inside. By homeless standards that probably makes us wimps. It appears that the majority of the street people appreciate our weekly fires so we’re guessing they don’t call us wimps behind our backs.
So anyway, we find folks waiting for us when we arrive. Everyone pitches in; getting the fire started is the most important thing. One of the Occupiers is always assigned that task. Another always fires up the sage bundle. Many of the neighborhood regulars know our set up routine by now so things are ready quickly.
Among those waiting are Drowsy Man and his girlfriend. It looks like she’s recovered from her overdose adventure. They seem to be getting along o.k. for now.
The gray haired woman is present along with a somewhat regular Red Lake guy and a middle aged African American man who we don’t know.
Some get coffee, cookies and hard boiled eggs. Everyone scoots up close around the flames. Another African American middle aged man who we don’t know comes staggering severely up to the circle, crashes through and falls directly on the fire pit.
WTF? In all the years we’ve been meeting here, no one has ever fallen into the fire. An Occupier screams. Everyone else keeps calm. Two people grab the guy, who is now lying across hot coals and flaming logs, and stand him up. Someone else puts the fire pit back together. The people who are most likely crazy grab burning logs with their bare hands and throw them back in the pit. The Occupier tasked with taking care of the fire brings a shovel and a dustpan, sweeps up all the stray coals and ashes and puts them back in the fire.
Then we all sit back down and look at each other in amazement. Drowsy Man says, “Man, the fire was rollin’ so nice. Now we have to start all over again”.
A DPD squad goes by slowly.
Lots more people arrive including our big white former camper, the man who’s always laughing, the Native/Mexican man who rides a bike, Ms. Community Cleanup, her best friend and one of the neighborhood schizophrenic girls.
3 squads drive by; they look over at us but it appears they’re going somewhere else.
An Occupier gives the others a copy of the letter she received from the Deputy Fire Chief the other day. The letter is in response to the meeting several Occupiers had with the fire chief about a week ago. At that meeting they showed the chief all the fire codes, state statutes and city ordinances that support the legality of the small, safe fire at CJMM.
The chief was unable to provide any information that refuted the Occupiers claims. He was unaware that the City was the owner of CJMM. He attempted to read each regulation separately and only in part and then use his interpretation to prove the fire is illegal. Each time the Occupiers read him the whole of the law.
The chief pretty much boxed himself into a corner and then said, “Let me investigate this further and I’ll get back to you”.
The Deputy Fire Chief’s response letter, when boiled down to language of common people, says, “We’re not going to follow the law. The City and its 1% masters have decided they don’t want you to have a fire at CJMM so therefore, you will not be allowed to have one. Too bad for you”.
After reading the letter, an Occupier comments, “Wow, this is really lame”. Another answers, “I know but this is the first actual answer we have received in 3 years and it’s in writing. I sent a copy to our friend on the City Council and they said that at least we now know who our opponent is. I say, “To be continued”.
We decide to meet next Tuesday at Coney Island and begin “the continuing”.
An Occupier exclaims, “Hey, the Stop the Enbridge Invasion feast, rally and march we helped out with on November 2nd really rocked, didn’t it?” We all agree that it truly rocked. A couple of Occupiers attended a recent local follow-up meeting and report that concerning Enbridge, there will be many more actions to follow.
One Occupier is sitting next to the Native/Mexican man, she says to him, “We’re gonna try meeting at Coney Island on Tuesday. You’d be welcome to stop by”.
The man responds, “You know, once a person has been at this homeless thing for a while, being indoors feels real weird. I think they’re seriously trying to kill us now though. They’ve closed up all the entrances under the freeway and to the steam pipes. We can’t go to the shelters but we have to be able to stay warm somewhere. It’s getting really rough”.
Most Duluth homeless people are from cities or towns. Outdoor winter camping is something they don’t know how to do.
5 or 6 squads go racing by. They’re not using lights or sirens and they’re not even glancing at us.
Another former camper, the Native woman from FDL, arrives. She’s quiet drunk and crying. It seems she’s still serious about wanting to stop abusing everything but she’s hasn’t been having much luck. She seems to be a bit afraid of leaving the life she’s been living for so long. We’ve been trying to hook her up with a Native healer that we know. So far things haven’t worked out but we’ll keep trying. Anyway, tonight she needs a ride home. An Occupier agrees to drive her.
The fire is dying. It’s early enough to put on a few more logs but the Occupiers are cold and tired. The rest of the people are too.
So we’ll check out Coney Island (107 E. Superior St) on Tuesday and see what happens. Come on down and pay us a visit. Don’t worry if you don’t have any money. We’ll buy you a cup of coffee.