G.A. Minutes 4-17-18

G.A. Minutes 4-17-18

We had a blizzard again on Sunday. It dumped around 7 or 8 inches of snow on us; the entire Twin Ports area was pretty much shut down until mid-afternoon on Monday. Everyone was really bummed out, except maybe the people who like to ski. Seasonal affective disorder was about to descend on the entire population but …. no worries, the temperature went above the freezing mark almost immediately; the extra snow started melting like crazy and the weather people say temperatures will be in the 50s in a few days and stay there for at least a week. Their predictions had better be correct or….. well, we’ll think of something.

The temperature is in the upper 30s with gusts of wind from the east when the first Occupiers arrive at Coney Island this evening. We see that a different staff guy is working behind the counter. He really is different too; he has tattoos on his fingers. No big deal but very unlike the other guys we’ve seen working at the 1st St. Coney Island. He could be a hipster or a white supremacist, who knows? He’s friendly, takes our orders and gets everything right. A lot of people of color frequent this restaurant, if the dude was a card carrying racist,the people would notice and loudly call him on it. That’s not happening so we guess he’s more former than latter. That’s good.

As we push tables together, the Anon who recently was forced to find a job rolls in. An Occupier says to him, “You escaped! Man, we haven’t seen you in several weeks; it’s super good to see you. The Anon replies, “Yeah, it’s been pretty rough trying to hold down my job, go to college and participate in all the Anon actions. I think I’m gonna have to look for another job though. I’m working part-time as a cook in a restaurant/bar in West Duluth; my co-workers and the customers are really nice and I don’t mind working there but they’re only paying me $9.00 an hour. I can’t survive on that low of a wage I got my first paycheck a few days ago, it was for a little over 40 hours of work and after a shitload of deductions, I was still $60 short on my share of our monthly rent. I think I need to get out of the food service industry all together”. An Occupier reassures him, “There are help wanted signs all over the place right now. You should have no trouble finding a better job”. We all give him information about where we have seen help wanted signs.

An Occupier reports, “The City is gonna start reconstruction work on Superior St. tomorrow. They’re starting at 6th Ave W and going to 3rd Ave W in the first phase. That means the anyone who wants to catch a bus that normally drives on Superior St will have to catch it on either W 1st St or W Michigan St. I brought a copy of the bus detour routes in case anybody wants to see them”. Another Occupier opines, “I wonder if that’s gonna screw up access to our fires at Peoples Plaza this year”. The reporting Occupier responds, “It could, although in the past I’ve noticed that City construction crews move pretty slow. It sure will be a bitch when they work on the street right outside the Plaza; we may not be able to drive our vehicles up into the space and unload everything. Carrying all that stuff will be hard; I hope we can figure out an easier method. We’ll just have to wait and see”.

An Anon comments, “Speaking of fires, when are the fire circles gonna start up again?” An Occupier explains, “It all depends on the weather. I’m thinking that as soon as the temperature can hold at 40 degrees or above during the evenings, we’ll be able to start the fires. It better happen soon though or I’m betting we’ll start one anyway and sit out there all by ourselves, freezing our asses off”.

One of the Occupiers who allowed himself to be arrested at the lock down at Wells Fargo a while ago states, “Our pre-trial hearing will happen on this upcoming Thursday at 1pm in the St Louis County Court House. A support rally is being organized for noon”. Those of us who are able will attend.

Another Occupier says, “I just want to remind everyone that the fundraiser/Anishinaabe taco sale for Skip Sandman will happen on Friday, April 27th, 4:30p-8p at the Central Hillside Community Center. I hope that some of you all will be able to come and help out. This is only Skip’s second taco sale and his people don’t understand how to do things yet. The last time there weren’t enough helpers and those of us who were helping in the kitchen almost dropped over dead. The sale was a success, the customers were all happy and Skip raised a lot of zhoon (money) but the cooks and prep folks were seriously exhausted. If a few of you can come and help out it will save a lot of wear and tear on my tired old ass.

“Oh yeah, that reminds me, I was at the Indigenous Commission meeting yesterday. A member of the Ni Mi Win Pow Wow sub-committee reported that they were going to be holding Anishinaabe Taco Sales every other Wednesday at the CHCC. I guess that means we won’t be helping out at a taco sale by the Northwoods Wolf Alliance/Idle No More peeps for a while? I mean, the Hillside hood can only handle so many taco sales in one month”.

Someone reports, “May Day is not all that far away; I already know of 2 events that will happen. The Democratic Socialists of America (I think) will be sponsoring some type of event that will end up as a potluck at CHCC. A group of Native American women will be holding a ceremony in front of the Dewitt Seitz building in Canal Park for the Missing and/or Murdered Indigenous Women. They will then march to the lake and put flowers in the water to bless the woman because they believe many of them were thrown in the lake from the big ships after the men used them up. I’m not sure of the time yet but will find out soon”.

An Occupier tells us, “It looks to me like the Duluth Police Department is going to go ahead and purchase riot gear no matter what the people who will be most affected by riot gear usage think. I was at the last Citizens Review Board meeting where there was a discussion about the purchase. I repeated my main objection that they have cops on their force that should definitely not be put in riot gear. When the meeting was over the female Deputy Chief came to sit beside me. With the utmost sincerely (real or fake, I don’t know) she told me that they also know they have some cops that have “difficulty controlling their emotions” so that’s why they need a complete set of riot gear for each of their 100 cops who work the streets. They need to be able to smoothly move the cops in and out of a situation; they intend to put their cops with “difficulty” out on the line for only 20 minutes or so and then replace them with cops who are naturally mellow.

“I didn’t say much, just listened. During the meeting I had asked a rhetorical question about why is it that most of the police departments in the so called US of A are getting riot gear, M-raps, tear gas launchers and stuff like that. Nobody wanted to tackle that question but after the Deputy Chief gave her riot gear sales pitch, we started talking about climate change, climate refugees, water and food shortages and stuff like that. At one point, I said to her, ‘You know, that’s what those young people with masks are really all about. They’re just trying to encourage people to live their lives in a better way’. She said, ‘Yeah, we know that. They are basically good people’. So there’s your get out of jail free card guys. Next time the cops hassle you, refer them to that Deputy Chief and she will make them leave you alone”. We all laugh.

Another Occupier adds, “This Security State bullshit so really sucks!! I suppose you all know that they can track you and listen in from your cell phone even when you’re not using it?” We know. Another Occupier opines, “I’ve heard that if you take your cell phone battery out they can’t hear you anymore”. The first Occupier replies, “Yeah, that still works”.

Changing the subject, an Anon comments, “You know, He Who Shall Not Be Named makes Obama look really good”. An Occupier laughs, “Shit, HWSNBN makes George W look good”. There are loud sighs all around.

On that note, the smokers go out for a break. As they are smoking a street guy that we all know comes walking up. It’s the developmentally disabled or brain injured (we’re not sure which) dude who lives at the Wet House and has attended many of our fires in the past. It appears that he has no idea that he’s ever met any of us before. He asks for spare change and a cigarette. An Anon gives him a cigarette; an Occupier gives him a dollar. He’s not a bad dude but he has a tendency to loudly and completely dominate the conversation. So guess what…. he promptly begins to loudly and completely dominate our conversation. He talks about what a pain in the butt it was to be cooped up in the Wet House with all the drunks for over 24 hours during the blizzard. An Occupier jokes, “I bet they all felt the same about you”. The loud dude gets the joke and laughs loudly saying, “I bet you’re right”. We finish our smokes, bid him goodbye and invite him to attend our fire again this year. We figure that in about 10 minutes he won’t remember talking with us but will be pleasantly surprised to find a dollar in his pocket.

When the smokers return, an Occupier tells them, “I attended last month’s Full Moon Ceremony. The spiritual leader told us that she has lived in the same house for many years. She always watches the moon carefully and after a while she knew which window in her house the moon would rise in depending on the time of year. She said that everything changed about 2 years ago; now the moon comes up in different places. She not sure anymore where it will rise. I said that the scientists say it has something to do with that 2004, 9.5 earthquake that happened in the Indian Ocean. Supposedly, that earthquake tipped the earth’s axis a bit.” The spiritual leader said that was correct.

We hear one of the customers calling out to another customer, “What time is it?” The other customer answers, “8:15p” We say, “Oops! We quickly pack up our stuff; when we’re finished we notice that there are other customers at tables and booths. They don’t appear to be going anywhere. One of the staff guys notices our confused looks and says, “Oh, I forgot to mention, we’re not doing winter hours anymore. We’re back to staying open til 9pm”. Oh well…. too late now. We leave tips and head out the door, expecting to be back to Coney Island next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 4-10-18

G.A. Minutes 4-10-18

The sky stays light until about 7:30pm these days; that’s pretty cool and very much appreciated considering all the dark winter days we’ve been forced to live through again this year. It doesn’t seem fair that people should be required to live through the misery of winter every single year; once every 5 years or so would be doable, perhaps. I suppose this winter every year crap is to make us appreciate the other seasons when they arrive and to make us remember why we live in the Duluth area. Even after we are fully grown, Mother Earth and Father Sky treat us as though we were children; from their point of view we probably are still children who need to be reminded of our blessings……

Anyway, it’s neither winter nor spring as the first Occupiers arrive at Coney Island this evening. The sidewalks and streets are clear but small piles of ugly, black snow are scattered all about. The temperature is in the mid-30s with little wind; occasional drops of something are falling from the sky. We guess they might be snowflakes that melt as soon as they touch an object.

The place is empty except for the 2 staff guys who regularly work the Tuesday evening shift. One of them says, “We sure missed you guys last week”. We explain that we took a road trip out to the country and the staff guy continues, “You all are our favorite customers!” When we looked surprised he remarks, “You folks are always pleasant; you never yell or swear at us and you clean up your own messes”. Suddenly the door swings open and a bunch of customers come in; they all want to-go orders. Fortunately, this marks the end of our conversation; we don’t have the heart to tell him that as soon as spring really arrives we’ll be having fire circles at Peoples Plaza again. The staff won’t see us unless it’s raining.

As soon as we have settled in, the Occupiers who were able to make it out to Makwa (bear) Line 3 Resistance Camp tell the others what they found. An Occupier reports, “I was amazed at the amount of work they have done since the last time we were out there. It was kinda chilly outside so we went into a kitchen/meeting space that was in the process of being built when we dropped off firewood a few months ago. The building was completed a while ago and it seriously rocks! The ceiling was fairly high but they had a double barrel wood stove that heated up the entire space nice and cozy. There was a big wooden table with lots of chairs; I imagine that’s where everyone congregates for the nightly dinner. A woman was making beaded earrings on it when we arrived. They had every durable pot, pan and cooking utensil one could imagine hanging on the wall At one point, one of the women threw a couple of stuffed turkeys in the top barrel, closed the door and walked out to go and attend to her other business.

“Most of the Water Protectors stopped working for about an hour and came into the building to visit with us. They’re fixin’ to move in a few weeks so have lots of preparations to make. A couple of women were making lists and organizational charts; many of the others were trying to thaw out the ground enough to allow them to remove the stakes that were holding up some of the sleeping spaces. We saw a magnificent waaginogaan (wigwam) that one of the Water Protectors had made according to the ancient ways. They’ll be able to take it down and transport it to the new space.

“I don’t know the whole story but they told us they want to move some place that’s closer to the Line 3 pipeline. They have several offers but haven’t decided which one they’ll take yet. We talked about a million different things and then it was time for everyone to get back to work before the sun went down. We wished we could have helped with the physical labor but we’re so old that they would have had to waste their time taking care of us when we threw our backs out after working for 5 minutes. We brought a few gifts but with the exception of firewood, the campers have just about everything they need.

“The Camp has received many donations; they have a big surplus of good clothing. We offered to take all of their excess clothing, wash what needs to be washed and bring everything over to the “Dom”. The folks in the Central Hillside will be pleased to have new clothes. Who wants to help take over the laundry room at my Co-op and washes clothes for hours and/or days?” Another Occupier adds, “We’ll wait to go out there again until they get settled on the new land”.

An Occupier asks, “Any new developments with the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights?”. The Occupier who is a member of the HPB of R Coalition answers, “Nothing huge but the 2 other City Councilors who were the original sponsors of the Bill have had some of their time freed up so will be able to lend us a hand again. Maybe they can guilt trip the Councilor who’s our sponsor now into getting things moving. The main homeless outreach worker came to the last meeting and told us that someone in Parks N Rec. was complaining about homeless people sleeping and carrying on in the 2 heated bathrooms that the City is leaving open until 9pm; after that the bathrooms are supposed to lock by themselves.

“Sleeping overnight in a heated bathroom when you’re homeless and the nighttime weather is cold didn’t sound like any big deal to us but we formed bathroom patrol teams that will visit the heated bathrooms every other night this month to see what they find. My turn will come a couple of times at the end of this month. I spoke with the outreach worker yesterday; she told me that all they found was a few couples who were sleeping. The bathrooms were clean and no one was partying. She didn’t have the heart to tell them to leave so called the lead shift dude at the Duluth Police Department and informed him that she was letting the couples sleep where it was warm. The police dude didn’t have a problem with that. The sleeping couples said that they didn’t think the bathroom doors were actually locking at all. To be continued…….

“She also told me something I thought was rather amusing; she said that when the cops took down all the benches in Peoples Park and the entrance to Lake Place Park and the massive public outcry ensued, Chief Tusken called her and started screaming and yelling at her. She had to hold the phone out away from her ear and just let him roll for a while”. Another Occupier exclaims, “What!?! Mr. My Friend and Your Friend the Great Humanitarian Duluth Police Chief Tusken has a temper problem??? I’m crushed….” The first Occupier replies, “Well, I was mildly surprised as he generally does a good job of appearing to be pretty mellow but after all, he is a cop”.

None of the Anonymous crew have showed up tonight; we wonder what they’re up to. We know they had another Divest action yesterday and want to know how it went. We know they’re going through some changes and may take a while to settle into their new routine. Hopefully, we can hook up with them soon.

The Occupier who is a single parent arrives; he always has to get his kids situated before he can join us. This evening he remarks, “Will somebody tell me why one home solar panel sells for $150 in Africa while that same solar panel sells for $2,000 – $4,000 in the US? An Occupier opines, “Well, I think it has something to do with a capitalist philosophy that goes something like “All the market will bear”. I think that means that one should sell their product for as much money as they can possibly ring out of each customer. Nice aye?”

The single parent Occupier responds sarcastically, “Yeah, real nice. Then there’s Narcan, the drug that will save a junkie’s life if he’s in the process of OD’ing. It used to be somewhat affordable but then some douche bag bought the company and raised the price so high that only millionaire junkies could afford it. I remember that the first responders, social service providers and people like that were in an uproar about how they were gonna be able to provide life saving services. I believe the douche bag dude took his prices down a bit but still….. what is up with these capitalist bums?”

An Occupier tells us, “I don’t know how much the stuff costs but I have a Narcan kit, just in case. It was given to me by a friend who works at the Needle Exchange. Remember that I have it because we may need it sometime when we’re having one of our fires. We can save 4 lives or 2 lives if the stuff the OD’ers have done is laced with Fentanyl” Everyone groans.

Another Occupier reports, “I had a couple of great experiences last weekend. On Saturday I attended the Catholic Worker Faith and Resistance Retreat at U.U Church. One of our Occupiers was a lead organizer for the event. It was wonderful! U.U is a big place and it was packed to the gills. There was a good chili feast and then our friend, the spiritual leader and healer, Rickey DeFoe gave a marvelous (as usual) talk about the contrasting philosophies of the Annishinaabe and that of the capitalist system. The official attorney for Leech Lake (I think) then taught us about how the white man’s legal system really functions. It’s very weird; possibly because they don’t want the common person to be able to navigate through it. I also had fun hanging around outside, smoking cigarettes with some of my local Native friends.

Then on Sunday I and another Occupier participated with Natives Against Heroin in a cleanup in some of the city parks. There were lots of friendly peeps who I hadn’t met before and we picked up trash in 4 different parks. The first 2 parks were in Lakeside and Lester Park and they were already almost completely clean; we didn’t stay long. Then we went down to Lake Place Park; the group that went down to the lake came back with all sorts of stuff. I wasn’t curious enough to look inside their bags to see what they found. The other Occupier, who is not with us tonight, and I stayed up by the benches and picked up a ton of cigarette butts. We were hoping to find some street folks who were getting drunk so they could tease and laugh at us; but no such luck. Lake Place was devoid of people except for our crew. When we went to Lincoln Park we found a bunch of cigarette butts in the parking lot and one used syringe. When we started out, we expected to find huge amounts of used needles; the Clean and Safe Team must be on their job. They only clean city property though so maybe next time we’ll check out some empty lots”.

As usual, we haven’t been watching the time but the staff guys have. Everything is cleaned, they are holding their coats and have that “it sure would be nice to go home” look on their faces. We take the hint; as we’re packing up, an Occupier says to another, “Anything else going on this week?” She replies, “Tomorrow the Human Rights Commission meets in City Hall at 5:30pm and the Indigenous Commission’s Sobriety Feast starts at 6pm in the Central Hillside Community Center. I made some killer, homemade, organic, whole grain mac n cheese with turkey hot dogs for the Feast. If you show up you could eat some; you have to be there though because there’s never any leftovers.

As we head out the door, we tell the staff guys, “There’s a distinct possibility that we’ll be back here next Tuesday”.