G.A. Minutes 3-1-16

G.A. Minutes 3-1-16
We’re back at Coney Island tonight after being absent for an entire week.  At our last meeting we had planned on missing a Tuesday in order to attend the Clean Power Plan session at UMD.  At that time we were unaware of the annual Soul Food Dinner at UWS happening on Saturday.  The Soul Food Dinner has become an annual event for us too, so we decided to attend.
The event was completely packed; latecomers were served their meal outside the event room. As usual, the food was very good.  The speeches and entertainment contained a definite Black Lives Matter element.  Of course, that was something we were happy to see.
Anyway, it’s kinda cold tonight.  The temperature says 19 above zero; there’s a slight breeze but it feels colder than that.  Maybe we’re just spoiled; it was 50 above zero this past Sunday.
The hipster in training is now running the place on his own.  There are only a few customers. He appears to have things under control. 
We expect to be minus a few of our regular crew this evening.  Some folks have gone to the DFL caucuses.  It seems they have been “Feeling the Bern”. 
The East Coast Occupier is already waiting in the back booth when the next few Occupiers arrive.  She’s in a dilemma and says, “I can’t decide what to do.  I want to stay for the meeting but I also want to go my neighborhood caucus.  I’ve been a Catholic Worker for most of my life so I know that the two party system was really created to support the desires of the 1%.  I know that all this yakking and coming up with good ideas about how to help the world will all come to naught.  The 1% rulers of the two party = one party system will just turn everything around and go on doing things to benefit themselves.  Same old, same old.  At the same time, I kinda feel the need to witness to those people and tell them what I think.  I also like to go into situations that I haven’t been in before.  I’ve never been to a caucus meeting”.
Another Occupier advises, “Well, we’re not going to tell you what to do.  You’ll have to decide for yourself.  You could say you’re ‘Occupying the Caucus”.  One more Occupier jokingly adds, “Oh no, don’t do that.  They’ll call the cops for sure”.  We laugh.
The Occupier continues, “Actually the worst thing that will probably happen is that someone will ask you that, given the way you feel, why you are in attendance at all?  If you get really emotional, someone may ask you to leave”.
The East Coast Occupier responds, “O.K., I’ve made up my mind now.  I’m going to the caucus.  I’ll call you and tell you what happened”.
As she is leaving, the Occupier who lives in Superior WI arrives.  After settling in he tells us he’s been having a lot of trouble getting registered for his unemployment benefit.  The big box store where he was working went out of business so he should have no problem collecting. However, there are still a lot of hoops he has to jump through.  He explains, “They told me I had to apply for four jobs in one day.  How was I going to do that?  I’m a single parent with three children and I have to meet their needs.  This is fairly new to me; how do single parents manage to work while raising children?”
An Occupier wants to tell him that if a single parent can’t find someone who will watch their children for a greatly reduced fee then they are forced to leave their kids alone while they go to work.  Of course, if the social workers find out about this, they will take the children away.  Then the single parent can work full time and use all the money they make to pay all the fees etc. that it costs to get the children back.
She doesn’t say that, she says instead, “Don’t tell the unemployment people you have three kids.  Definitely don’t tell them that caring for those kids gives you less time to look for work. They will tell you that you are not ‘work ready’ and disqualify you from unemployment benefits all together”.  She sighs and adds, “Don’t you just love the system we live under?”
The Occupier tasked with doing the paperwork concerning our ongoing struggle to have a small, safe and legal fire at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial has copies of paper work to pass around.  She reports, “This first package contains all the emails between myself and the City Councilor who was going to use her legal skills as an attorney to try and find out what is going on.  As you can see, even if it’s just word of mouth information, she says that the City Attorney informed her CJMM is not a city park but a memorial.  That means city park rules don’t apply.
“So we waited three years to get the answer from the City Attorney that we already knew.  Our friend told us about that years ago.  The Councilor went on to say she was told the City Attorney and the CJMM BOD are working on a set of rules that will apply to CJMM.  As far as I can see, we’re being told to obey a set of rules that don’t yet exist.  Somehow I don’t think that’s gonna happen.
“The other package contains the email I sent to the new co-chair of the CJMM BOD.  I’m fulfilling the request of the other City Councilor who is helping us.  Remember, I said at our last meeting that I would probably be seeing him at the NAACP meeting on Sunday?  Well I did and he was very friendly.  He gave me his email address and told me to write a letter containing my request and the reason for the request.  I sent the email out nine days ago and haven’t received a response.  I sent it out again yesterday but still no response.
“I don’t know if we are actually going to get invited to a BOD meeting.  They have always been very secretive about what they are doing.  If we do get a meeting, I think we should invite our friend and supporter, the neighborhood cab driver.  I was talking with him a few days ago.
“He said he went to a CJMM BOD meeting five or six years ago to complain about the blatant sex trafficking and drug dealing that went on at CJMM every night and late into the morning. The police weren’t doing anything about it and he asked the BOD to put up signs, have a guard or a fence or something.  The BOD was quite hostile and refused to do any of those things. One of the BOD members told him, ‘CJMM is not about doing stuff like that’.
An Occupier exclaims, “What!?!  That’s exactly what they’re about doing now.  That proves to me it’s really all about Occupy being there.  I remember how it was in the old days.  The trafficking and dealings were blatant enough to be shocking and I’ve been ‘around the block’ a few times.  Our friend, the city official, tried for years to get the DPD to put up a camera on the site.
“After we’d been having fires there for a few months, a cop said to us, ‘Tell your city official friend that there is a camera up now’ and he pointed it out to us.  We made sure that all the people at CJMM knew a camera was looking down on them.  After the first year all that blatant stuff moved to somewhere else.  Then we started hearing the BOD was complaining about the bad behavior going on at the site.  Since when is generalized homeless and poor people’s chaos worse than sex trafficking and selling dangerous drugs?  The BOD should be thanking us instead of oppressing us.  How totally lame!”
An Occupier asks the Occupier who is tasked with the general pre-fire CJMM site cleanup when we have fires, “When you cleaned up did you ever see used needles lying around?”
The Occupier answers, “Come to think of it, no, I never did”.  The questioning Occupier says, “So there’s another thing.  My disability doesn’t allow me to do much walking anymore but I’m told there are used needles lying around on the ground everywhere in Central Hillside.  That means that between us and the neighborhood folks we keep CJMM real clean.  It could also mean that junkies don’t shoot up at CJMM because the camera is there”.
Another Occupiers asks, “Hey, did you hear that the Duluth 3 have found an attorney to argue their case?  It’s a woman from The Cities”.
An Occupier responds, “That’s great!  I know that a person is allowed to defend themselves but I’ve never heard of a case where a person defended themselves and won”.
Someone explains, “It does happen once in a while.  The best case I know of was called Gideon vs Waynewright.  Gideon, who was poor, was accused by Waynewright, a business owner, of stealing something from Waynewright’s business.  Gideon told the judge that he couldn’t afford a lawyer.  The judge did not give Gideon a lawyer.  Gideon was found guilty and was sent to prison.
From prison Gideon filed a lawsuit saying he was unjustly found guilty because he couldn’t afford a lawyer.  The case went all the way to the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court agreed with Gideon and that’s how poor people got the right to a Public Defender.  We say, “Cool”.
An Occupier replies, “Unfortunately, Public Defenders are so over worked they generally don’t do a very good job”.
Another Occupier states, “Yeah and when I had to go to court in WI I was required to pay $50 for my Public Defender”.
Somebody else adds, “I’m reading of cases where people are being arrested for having overdue bills.  I thought debtor’s prisons were illegal”.
We all go on to tell about cases we’ve read about where people were arrested for not having enough money.
An Occupier reminds everyone that the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NDN Taco Sale is coming up this Friday.  We all plan to help out.
Coney Island has been fairly empty all night.  A few of the single male regulars are at the counter.  Another hipster staff guy has arrived.  It looks like he’s come to help the new guy with closing duties.
We’ve gone on talking way past closing time again.  We go through the usual ritual of busing our table and putting tips in the jar.
Out the door we go.  We’re pretty sure we’ll be back on Saturday.