G.A. Minutes 12-29-15
The first couple of Occupiers roll up to Coney Island and casually stroll in. They are greeted by the staff and the few single male regular customers who are usually present in the early evenings. The Occupiers have been meeting at the café for only a month or so but they’re being treated like regulars already. They have no problem with that.
While waiting for the others to arrive, the first Occupiers order food, go to the big back booth and carry on a conversation about the racism directed towards area Native Americans that they so frequently observed during their childhood years.
These days the racism is generally more hidden and some non-Natives have respect, even admiration for Indigenous people and their culture. However, one need merely scratch the surface and there it is, in many subtle and not so subtle ways.
An Occupier comments, “Just look at the way the fossil fuel and mining industries pretend to be working with the various Native reservations. The other Occupier replies, “Don’t get me started. Here comes our friend, the City Official”.
Our friend sits down. He’s brought flyers which list all the events that will be happening around Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Duluth. The events include: a Mayor’s MLK Reception on Thursday 1/14, a talent show at Denfield H.S.on Friday 1/15, the Jammin’ with MLK event at Peace Church on Saturday 1/16, an evening worship service at St. Mark’s AME Church on Sunday 1/17 and a Free Community Breakfast, March&Rally and Movie Night all on Monday 1/18.
An Occupier makes a suggestion, “Last year we went as a group to the Jammin’ with MLK event. I think we should do that again this year. Everyone will want to go to other MLK events as possible but I think we should all plan on attending the Saturday event together”.
More Occupiers arrive. One of them states, “I don’t think we’ll be seeing our Catholic Worker friends tonight. I suppose you’ve heard they were among the participants in an action against the airplane and other weapons of war manufacturer, Grumman-Northrup somewhere around Omaha? One of our C.W. friends is in jail right now. She was arrested along with 4 others”.
Another answers, “Bummer. I knew they were leaving town a few days ago and that’s why they weren’t at our Christmas Night party. I’m sure the action was planned well in advance and our friend had committed to getting arrested beforehand. C.A. is an effective organization. They will have bail money set up, attorneys ready to go and a whole support system for those in jail. We’ll just have to call and see if there’s any way we can help”.
Another Occupier reports he was at the Boycott Bruce Hagen rally in Superior WI yesterday. The rally was organized by our friend, a very effective and intelligent organizer, who lives in Superior. After the rally, the group was invited inside the Court House to table and get petition signatures. Everyone was surprised at the amount of Superiorites who were in support of demanding the mayor’s resignation and also in support of anti-racist and anti-Islamophobic principles. The Boycott Bruce Hagen folks plan to be back at the Court House tomorrow from 10a-4p.
Our City official friend tells us, “Mayor Hagen is backpedaling like crazy. He originally took off for a month’s vacation but has agreed to return on Saturday for a dinner at the Islamic Center of the Twin Ports. This dinner will be attended by City Council members and 200-300 members of our area’s Muslims.
“WPR also agreed to sponsor and record 10 town hall meetings . This whole mess he created has gone national”.
Another Occupier confesses, “I opened a can of worms yesterday when I made that aggressive post on Facebook telling the mayor the next time he has too much to drink he should refrain from posting anything on social media. I only meant to make the Superior organizer laugh. I forgot it would go out to who knows where. A hater answered saying he had proof Obama is a Muslim. I just left the whole thing alone. Another of our organizer friends responded and seemed to settle the hater guy down”.
Someone responds, “I think I saw that post. Did it begin with ‘Dear Mayor Hagen, Bite me?” The confessing Occupier rolls her eyes; everybody laughs.
An Occupier says, “Did you all see the post from a hater in the Twin Cities? He went on the Black Lives Matter page and posted some really racists things. His comments went out on the internet, his employer, ADM, saw his comments and fired him on the spot. I wonder if that’s another case of a moron getting drunk and going on social media.”
One of the Occupiers has brought a sack of fresh mandarin oranges and put them in the center of the table. He says, “Help yourselves. They are magical health oranges. They even ward off evil spirits”.
He then says to our City official friend, “Speaking of warding off evil spirits, what day of Kwanza is this?” Our friend answers, “It’s the 4th day. This day is about celebrating black business and entrepreneurship”.
A Coney Island staff member is mopping the floor. We are the only customers now. We think the mopping guy is someone different from the guy who works the counter. It turns out it’s the same guy, he’s just taken off his cap and glasses. We laugh and banter back and forth with him about all the disguises he uses throughout his work shift.
An Occupier lives in a building owned and managed by Sherman Properties. He tells us about the disrespect and condescension with which they treat the tenants of their low income rental properties. Several Occupiers have had dealings with Sherman. They are in agreement.
Another Occupier adds, “George Sherman is a billionaire. The City has given him at least 10 million dollars in TIF funds. TIF funds are credits that allow some business owners to be relieved of paying taxes. In return, the TIF recipients are supposed to develop new businesses or refurbish existing ones”.
Somebody remarks, “So if old George doesn’t have to pay his taxes then that means we living hand to mouth taxpayers have to pay his share too. Wonderful”.
The staff guy comes over and says in a panicked voice, “Did any of you notice someone come in while I was in the back room?” We were so busy talking that we didn’t notice anyone. The guy continues, “Somebody walked in here and stole all the money from my tip jar. I’m gonna call my boss. We have cameras so maybe we have a picture of the thief”. We say words of empathy to the burglarized guy.
One Occupier whispers to another, “They should show us the camera tapes. We probably know who the thief was from sitting with so many neighborhood folks at our Clayton Jackson McGhie fires”.
The Occupier who originally made the suggestion says, “I’m thinking we could all go to Jammin with MLK on Saturday, January 16th, 6pm at Peace Church?” Everybody thinks that is a good idea.
An Occupier reminds us, “On Saturday we’re going to the Socialist Action Marxmas party”.
Our City friend says, “Socialists!?! I don’t know if I can handle that!” He rolls his eyes and continues, “Even though I’m probably one myself”.
Another Occupier states, “A lot of people are socialists and don’t even realize it”. The first Occupier exclaims, “Even Jesus was a socialist!” The second Occupier clasps her hands to her chest and cries out, “Even Jesus?” She falls over.
We’re starting to get goofy now. It must be time to go home. As we get ready to leave, we gather up enough money to replace the few stolen bucks and a little more and put in the staff guy’s tip jar.
We’ll be at the Marxmas party on Saturday and back here at Coney Island next Tuesday.