G.A. Minutes 12-13-16
It should come as no surprise that we are back at Coney Island again.  We have a visitor too.  It’s called the Polar Vortex.  No one is very happy about this and we have no idea how long it will be around.  It sounds like we’re going to be stuck with it at least until the end of the week.  Marvelous.
As we walk through the door, the outside temperature reads 3 above zero.  We notice a small sign on the door that says Bathroom For Customers Only.  That’s never been there before.  Hmmm… 
Things don’t look too promising behind the counter either.  The non-hipster trainee is in charge tonight and it looks like he’s training someone else in.  A cheerful, probably non-hipster, young African American woman takes our orders. 
When an Occupier asks for her usual order (chicken salad wrap, easy on the chicken and lots of veggies) the young woman admits she doesn’t know how to make that.  She asks the non-hipster guy but he doesn’t know how to make it either.  The Occupier explains how it is done then takes a seat in the back booth with the rest of the crew.
After a very short time both staff members come to our booth carrying everyone’s orders.  They have almost everything right except the salad wrap appears to be from another planet.  No worries, at least it has all the correct ingredients.  Once the servers have returned to the counter, the Occupier takes the whole thing apart and rearranges it so as to be able to get it into her mouth instead of her lap.  It’s all rather amusing in an odd sort of way.
An Occupier announces, “On January 20th the Red Herring will be throwing an inaugural ball.  We should all go”.  Another Occupier adds, “The way things are looking right now, I don’t know if there will even be an inauguration.  With voting recounts, possible defections of Electoral Candidates, Russian hacking and massive conflicts of interest everything is up in the air.  It’s kinda like the circus from hell”.  Everyone nods in agreement.
An Occupier comments, “I was watching a video today of the Standing Rock Water Protectors cutting down some of the razor wire that the Sheriff’s Department had put across the bridge on the main highway that leads past the camps and into Cannon Ball. The protectors worked for a little while and then the cops showed up.  They had an armored vehicle equipped with water cannons and that ear drum blowing machine.  The cops aimed assault rifles at the protectors.
“A water protector said to the cops, ‘I don’t know why you guys are so worked up. We’re just trying to clear off the highway on our reservation land so people will be able to get through on the highway.  We’re just trying to help’.  The cops didn’t know what to say about that but they didn’t budge from their positions. 
The Occupier who had watched the video said  the stand-off went on in blizzard force wind for about forty or so minutes.  The cop  in  a white stocking cap face mask seemed to be acting as some kind of spokesperson, but he would not unmask or give any clue to his identity.  He did not answer when the protectors asked what his position was, by what authority and in what capacity did he represent the crowd of thirty or forty uniformed men behind him.  He could not answer and even turned his back to the water protectors.   Eventually the water protectors agreed among themselves  they  had made their point.  The police are constantly watching.  They will respond in minutes in force to the least provocation.  If there is no work going on at the pipeline, who are the police protecting with this illegal barricade? The protectors went back to their warm tipis.  I imagine the cops had to stay out by the bridge to defend stuff from who knows what”.
The city official arrives.  He’s bundled up from head to toe just like the rest of us.  He’s followed by a man who is vaguely acquainted with one of the Occupiers.  The man asks to join us and pulls up a chair.  The man begins spouting platitudes one after the other. We listen for a while then resume our conversation.  Once the vaguely acquainted man is not taking center stage any longer, he leaves.
An Occupier continues, “I was really glad to see the water protectors are still protecting everything at Standing Rock.  I’m a little confused as to what’s going on out there right now.  I imagine you all saw the video put out by Standing Rock Chairperson Dave Archambault.  He says the fight is over and everyone should go home.  Did you see the statements put out by several of the elders stating the chairperson does not speak for them and people should stay at the camps because water protection is still needed?”
We have all seen Mr. Archambault’s video; some of us have seen the elder’s statements.  An Occupier reports that she has been sent pictures of a big warehouse stuffed with brand new generators and many other good things that were mailed out to the camps.  These things were not distributed but ended up in a warehouse owned by the chairperson and possibly the Tribal Council.
Someone says, “It seems that everyone not at the camps is confused about what’s going on right now.  Some of our Native friends and fellow organizers are going out this upcoming weekend to try and make sense of everything”.
Someone else adds, “I’ve observed that when tribal governments try to follow the white man’s rules they usually become corrupted and sell out their people to the interests of the wealthy white people”.
The city official interjects, “Whenever a group uses that top down, Robert’s Rules type of leadership structure, corruption is sure to follow”.
An Occupier tells us, “I received a message from the Superior Organizer today.  She said that one of the members of the Indigenous Commission is in the hospital in Bismarck and is due to be released soon.  The Superior Organizer was wondering if anyone would be available to bring the Commissioner back to Duluth.  I gave her the phone number of one of our friends who will be going out to the camps this weekend.  I know the Commissioner went out to Standing Rock about 10 days ago but I have no idea why she’s in the hospital.  I hope she’s o.k.”  
On another note, the city man remarks, “I don’t know why the Mayor and all the big City officials have to serve alcohol at all their big City functions.  Alcohol has been a big problem in communities of color.  Having alcohol served at these City functions does not help us.  Personally, I’ve never had an alcohol problem but I don’t attend the functions just out of general principle”.
An Occupier exclaims, “Having to hang out with all those ‘suits’ and they’re all drunk?  I couldn’t handle it.  It seems that alcohol is almost mandatory with those folks”.
An Occupier will be leaving for Europe in a few weeks.  He’s going on vacation with his two adult sons.  He says, I think we’ll be going to Germany and France.  I’ll try to check out what they have going on in the way of alternative energy sources.  I think most European countries are more advanced than the USA”.
Another Occupier reminds us, “The Red Herring is sponsoring a benefit for Standing Rock next Monday December 19th from 5pm to 1am.  There will be lots of live music and a silent auction.  Winona LaDuke will give a presentation.  I’m betting it will be a good time”.
The city official has bundled up again and is going off to catch his bus.  As he leaves he calls out over his shoulder, “I forgot to mention, the DTA is hiring bus drivers right now. They pay a decent wage too.  Spread the word”.
We have been sitting in the very back of the Coney Island Café all evening but still, every time the door opens we feel a blast of very cold air.  We have no desire to go back into it. 
It seems like we have no choice.  The new staff members are probably not going to let us spend the night in the place and besides, it would still be cold outside in the morning. Many other people on this planet have to endure discomforts much worse than ours. We bundle up and brace ourselves for the short walks we will be required to tolerate.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, we’ll be back at Coney Island next Tuesday.