G.A. Minutes 1-16-18
As predicted, winter is back. It’s cold but at least it’s not as cold as those last days of December were. The temperature has been in the single digits above zero during the day; sometimes the sun shines. That helps, but not much.
In the nighttime the lows are in the teens with wind chills of -20 to -30 below. By the way, can human skin tell the difference between -30 and -40 below zero? Hopefully, no one will have to find out. If they do, they probably won’t live to tell about it. As far as we know, no one in the Duluth area has frozen to death, so far, this winter. Many good people work hard to insure that all are adequately sheltered and fed; our government? Not so much.
The first Occupiers and some of the Anonymous crew arrive at Coney Island simultaneously. We shed our winter garb, order food and drinks, push tables together and settle in to wait for others to arrive.
Last Friday, two of the Occupiers and one man from Makwa Camp chained themselves to the metal entry gates of the Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Duluth. This is what is commonly called a lockdown. This action was taken in order to publicize to the general public the fact that Wells Fargo is deeply invested in Enbridge, a Canadian oil pipeline company. Enbridge is currently trying to bribe MN environmental regulators into giving their permission for a tar sands oil pipeline to be built across our clean water and wild rice beds. We say, “It’s not gonna happen. When the pipeline breaks and it will break, our water and wild rice will be polluted and destroyed forever”.
The lockdown action was also taken in order to encourage current Wells Fargo customers to remove their money from the tar sands oil friendly bank and put it in a credit union or somewhere else that doesn’t invest in earth destroying ventures.
The Occupiers and the Makwa man arrived at Wells Fargo early in the morning, just before the bank employees unlocked the big metal gate covering the Wells Fargo entrance. They quickly chained themselves to the gate. An Occupier and the Makwa man chained themselves together and then to the gate; the other Occupier put a chain around his neck and then on to the gate. Many more Water Protectors and their allies, including some of the Anons arrived; they began chanting, drumming and singing. The Wells Fargo employees were not pleased and, of course, called the police.
Shortly, the Duluth police and a lot of reporters and photographers from a wide variety of media outlets arrived. It appeared that at least half of the entire Duluth Police Department was there. Chief Tusken was running around smiling and shaking hands; it appeared that he was trying to keep everyone, including his police officers, calm. The Chief was quoted by a newspaper reporter as saying, when speaking of the protestors, “I actually know most of these people”.
So, the police formed a line against the walls; the Water Protectors and allies walked back and forth in the middle of the skywalk hallway continuing their singing and drumming. Each group appeared to be respecting the other’s space; after a while some guys who were cops or city employees arrived with some tools. This must have been the first lockdown that the DPD had experienced because they didn’t seem to know how to get the chains off the Water Protectors. They ended up cutting out pieces of the gate, helping the Protectors to stand up, telling them that they were being arrested, cuffing them and taking them down the hall and out to the squad cars.
They took the Occupier/Water Protector with the chain around his neck out first; he still had the chain around his neck. Next were the Occupier/Water Protector and the Makwa Water Protector with their arms still chained together. Each time a Water Protector was hauled off to jail the crowd would cheer, thanking them for their bravery and promising to come and get them as soon as their bail was posted.
Each time that the mechanical dudes starting sawing the fence, the Protectors and allies would crowd around the chained person’s area to see what was going on. They had their cell phones out and were filming everything. Some of the officers formed a line around the Protector being sawed off the fence; the cops would say, “Back up!” The Protectors would move back a couple of inches. Some of the male Protectors formed a line in front of the crowd of Protectors and their allies. The women stood behind them calling out, “Water is life! No Line 3!” and other things like that. The line of cops and the line of Protectors were facing each other, only a few inches apart.
At one point, a small, probably Caucasian, young man in a hoodie, who no one else seemed to know, began calling out personal insults to the cops. Some of the cops just snapped; they began pushing and grabbing people; one cop put his hand around the front of a woman’s neck. Everyone was yelling, telling the cops to stop; after a few minutes they did. They returned to just standing up real straight and looking stone faced. Then, as if following some invisible order, they all marched single file out of the skywalk.
At that moment, one of our organizer friends came down the escalator with a big stack of take-out pizza boxes. The boxes were passed around and everyone remaining ate their fill of pizza.
The Occupier who was chained with the Makwa man is present at our meeting. He reports, “So when we got to the jail we did the escape trick we were taught and were immediately released from our chains. They put us in a holding cell that was really crowded and told us they were going to keep us for 12 hours.
“After about 3 and a half hours they came and took us out. A captain told us we were being released on our own recognizance and that he was releasing us early because he didn’t want us to be put out when it was really dark outside. I wonder if he treats all of his captives in this same manner. So what happens next is that we go to court and defend ourselves, maybe we will have an attorney. We’re going to ask for a jury trial and use the ‘necessity defense’ “.
An Anon asks, “What’s the necessity defense?” The heroic Occupier answers, “It’s when you tell the judge and jury that you had to do something unlawful in order to prevent something that is very dangerous and evil from happening to the planet and the people. This defense has already been accepted in several court cases in our nation. The more it is used, the more it will become accepted”.
An Occupier comments, “Man, I am so proud and grateful to you and our other Occupier for putting your bodies on the line to protect our clean water and our manoomin (wild rice). I’m betting that because of all the horrid and illegal abuse by the police and their hirelings against the Water Protectors at Standing Rock and because of all the nationwide attention their abuse received, Chief Tusken wants his officers to present a more humane face. The problem is that Tusken is a new Chief; very few cops on the force were trained in by him. Many of the old cops have a difficult time acting like normal human beings”.
On a different note, an Occupier says, “I hear that the Water Protector who had his toe amputated is back at Makwa Camp. He appears to be walking o.k.” Another Occupier remarks, “Oh good, I’m glad to hear that. We need to go out there again soon”.
The Occupier, who promised to do the research, reports “I’m sorry to say that He Who Walks In A Coma is the person who died. I’m told that he went home to his family and died in the family home. He was only in his early 50s”. Another Occupier sighs, “That’s really sad. I think we are going to miss him; he was such a normal part of the scene. Even though he was usually blind drunk, he never drank when he sat around our fire and was always peaceful and kind”.
The Anons are still collecting warm clothes, blankets, sleeping bags and anything else that will be useful to folks in need. They call it Operation Safe Winter. Several of the Occupiers have been able to gather a fair amount of these things and are ready to pass them on to the Anons. This evening is cold and there’s too much stuff for the young guys to carry home. A member of an Occupier couple suggests, “Why don’t you all come over to our house after the meeting and we can hang around for a while, then we can gather up all the stuff, put it in my trunk and I’ll drive you all home. The Anons think that’s a good idea.
An Anon comments, “There’s getting to be a lot more people moving into Makwa Camp now; they need blankets, sleeping bags and winter clothing. We’re going to take some of the winter stuff out there as soon as we can hitch a ride”.
Another Anon tells us, “When we were driving home after the Wells Fargo action last Friday, the cops were waiting for us at my house. There were at least 3 squads; my mom was driving and they said she was speeding. She wasn’t speeding; she was driving up the icy hill. One has to really step on it when trying to drive up these hills when they’re covered with ice; the cops know that. I think we’re going to get a lot more police harassment from now on”.
Yesterday, on Martin Luther King’s Birthday Anniversary, at the big rally at the DECC, the NAACP presented Occupy Duluth with a Drum Major for Peace Award. When we had to go up on the stage we brought the Anons with us. The Occupiers generally like to fly under the radar but it was gratifying to be recognized for the work that we do. We’ve heard that the award was given to us because of our recreational fires and because of the fact that we don’t try to publicize ourselves. Sweet. MLK Day was a very pleasant day for us but now………it’s time to get back to work. There is much to be done.
An Occupier groans, “I’m having some really annoying computer problems. My computer keeps kicking me out and making me go through the whole reboot and sign in process again, over and over. Just doing simple things takes forever; I guess I’ll have to call an IT person”. Another Occupier adds, “There’s definitely a computer virus going around. I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about it”.
An Anon informs us, “I think there were a few infiltrators at the Wells Fargo event. I noticed a few people in the crowd that seemed to want to incite violence. There’s a one hour video of the event going around. (Almost everyone at the meeting has watched the video). If you watch the end where our friend comes down the escalator you will see a guy take some of the boxes from him and start passing pizza out. That guy, who we don’t actually know, has come to talk to us several times in the last month or so. He always tries to talk us into doing something violent. We tell him no, we’re not going for it.”
Another Anon reports, “There’s going to be some training for medics out at Makwa soon. There’s a real need for medics out there. An Occupier tells him, “I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years. I’m so old that I can’t walk much but I can do triage. My brain still works pretty well”. We all laugh and she continues, “Just let me know when they’re going to have the trainings and I’ll try hard to be there”.
We’ve pretty much talked ourselves out and it’s time for Coney Island to close. We pack everyone into several vehicles and head over to the Occupiers house to gather up all the winter gear. We plan to return to Coney Island next Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 1-16-18