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”.