G.A. Minutes 1-15-19

G.A. Minutes 1-15-19

We expect a pretty small turnout for tonight’s meeting at Coney Island; some folks who regularly attend have informed us they are having car trouble. Others are not coming out because it’s just TOO DAMN COLD. Perfectly understandable, the entire Twin Ports area is covered in a sheet of ice making driving or walking quite treacherous.

The temperature at 6pm or so says 10 degrees but a strong north western wind is pushing the air temperature well below zero. As has been stated many times in the past, we all can take refuge inside our meeting place and in our humble but warm and comfortable homes. The homeless ones who have been left out on the street will have to sleep in building doorways, under the freeway, in a covered parking lot or any place they can find that isn’t already occupied by another unhoused person. Then, to top it off, these homeless folks will not be able to get a full night’s sleep because it’s actually too cold to sleep and sooner or later a non-homeless person will see a homeless person going into some place to try to at least get out of the wind chill.

Said non-homeless person will then call 911 to report a homeless person having the nerve to try to protect themselves from the extreme cold. Cops will show up and tell the homeless person to “move along”. That’s not very nice but after all, homeless people are creepy and no one who has a home should have to ever see them. NIMBYites abound.

All this misery could be avoided if the City and County would just open the promised warming station at the senior center out on W 58th St. However, the Duluth City Council recently voted to only open the warming station when the temperature hits 0 degrees; the overnight wind chill was not a consideration. We think that none of the Councilors have ever experienced being homeless and stuck out on the street all night long during our winter months; we doubt that any of them would be willing to try it out for even one night.

We’ve been told that all the Councilors received quite a lot of “push back” (that’s the latest word that City employees and NGO folks use now days; it’s almost as popular as “absolutely”) concerning the establishment of a warming station anywhere in Duluth but come on, is there anyone who would be willing to do what is right and just instead of what will get them reelected or what will keep them in their high paying job?

Actually, we know someone who always does what is right and just instead of what is expedient. In fact, he is our friend. Although he is highly skilled and qualified, he never gets offered any of the so called important jobs. He pretty much knows everything that goes on in City government and many go to him for advice but when there’s an opening for a so called important job he applies but is never hired. We think all the “suits” know that our friend is always gonna take the path of truth and justice no matter what. We hear that there’s even a word for folks who are willing to lie and/or be dishonest in order to keep their well paid positions; it’s called being a “team player”.

Anyway, our gathering this evening consists of 3 Occupiers, 2 Water Protectors who are also down with the Anonymous crew, a local activist who is a very good researcher, another local activist who specializes in doing a lot of the “grunt work” for some local NGOs and her teen-aged daughter and an activist who has recently moved into Duluth and is trying to find out what goes on around here.

The Occupier who usually takes the minutes of our meetings apologizes, “Sorry that I have appeared to be slacking over the last month or so but it couldn’t be helped. Two of the missed Tuesdays were Christmas Day and New Years Day; I thought we had a very productive meeting last Tuesday with all the new people from afar. Holding a vigil outside in the freezing cold for our fellow Water Protector and his family was so meaningful, especially with the WP who came over from The Rez to assist with the ceremony. I had big plans for telling the story of last week’s meeting but after making that big casserole for the Sobriety Feast, going to the Human Rights Commission meeting, taking care of some of my responsibilities at the co-op where I live, attending a planning meeting and 2 events for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives and going to the Honor the Earth’s Open House, it was suddenly Monday afternoon and I’d only written a few hundred words. I decided to take a really long nap. However, I promise that if I don’t get the minutes from this meeting out, I’ll move into an Assisted Living Facility”. We all laugh.

One Occupier says to another, “So when are they gonna actually open the warming station?” The other Occupier responds, “I really don’t know; one would think it would be pretty soon. The weather forecast is for night time temps to be well below zero for at least a week. As I’ve mentioned in the past, this warming station idea came from our grassroots movement but as soon as the City and the County came on board, grassroots folks were excluded. It seems like they’re more concerned with the needs of the NIMBYS than with the needs of the homeless. I’ve heard that when they do finally open the station the hours will be from 10pm til 6am. I’ve also heard that while they will need some volunteers, they’ve actually hired a few peeps via CHUM who are or who have been homeless. Those peeps will be like the supervisors or something. The next Homeless Persons Bill of Rights meeting is this upcoming Thursday, 6:30pm at Dorothy Day House; I’ll be able to find out more then”.

The first Occupier adds, “I read in the Duluth News Tribune that the warming station is not going to allow sleeping there”. We say, “What???” A WP/Anon quips, “Sleeping by the supervisors or by the volunteers?” We all crack up. The first Occupier explains, “No, there’s to be no sleeping by the homeless people who are trying to stay warm”. An activist exclaims, “You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me. Being able to sleep unmolested is the biggest need that most homeless folks have. The Occupier agrees, “I know. Like I said, grassroots folks are not being seriously consulted about anything. The guy that I consider to be the biggest moron of the whole bunch was quoted as saying that there would be no sleeping because the building wasn’t designed to house overnight guests”. The activist opines, “Well then, they should have found another building”. The Occupier agrees, “Yeah, I know”.

An Occupier and the researcher/activist sit at a table next to the rest of us; they are looking at various legal documents and maps and trying to find the location of the original survey markers on a particular spot of our Mother Earth that provides the foundation which 4 W Superior St (aka Peoples Plaza) sits upon…… or something like that. We know that their research is focused on tracing the history of that specific piece of ground from just after it was stolen from the Native Americans until the final easement with the so called City of Duluth was signed.

The researcher comments, “Whenever I do serious research I come across little interesting tidbits almost by accident. This time I found out that a citizen can go to speak before the City Council and speak on every topic on the agenda. One is given the chance to speak for 3 minutes before the Council discusses and possibly votes on each agenda item. If a person were clever enough and had an important idea they wanted to get across, that person could find a way to connect each agenda item to the idea they wished to present and be given an actual half an hour or more of speaking time over the whole evening. Hmmm…. If I were to do it I’d talk about affordable low income housing”. She also gives us information about the lack of camping restrictions in public parks versus city parks.

A Water Protector opines, “I really liked those training sessions about Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Relatives that we participated in over the last couple of weeks. I look forward to doing it again next month; the indigenous woman who was the main presenter has some serious detective skills. I think she’s been able to find the remains of every loved one she’s been asked to look for and that’s after the cops tell the families they’ve followed every lead and come up with nothing. After completing her investigation she said she usually finds the remains within a few hours. I think that’s because she actually cares whereas the cops don’t”.

One of the activists remarks, “You know that I generally watch you guys from the sidelines and I totally admire and support all the work you do but I’m confused; I have watched you do homeless outreach and minor government disruption for years and I definitely get the fight against Enbridge pipelines, Polymet mines and all other environment destroying stuff but now you’re helping out with trying to find MMIW&R. I support that too but it seems like you’re going kind of out in left field; what’s the connection?”

An Occupier smiles and explains, “Oh, everything is definitely connected, that’s just a law of nature or a fact of life or something. You see, when the fossil fuel and other earth destroying corporations are allowed to put in a pipeline or a mine or something they generally do it in rural areas or other places where there are a lot of poor people. In order for the company to get its project up and running it needs to hire hundreds, sometimes thousands of predominately young male workers who come from all over the country in order to work in the relatively well paying jobs.

“The company builds a bunch of very basic houses or trailers or whatever for all the workers to live in. The common name for these big housing areas is Man Camp. So then you have a bunch of mainly young guys working out in an area that is removed from all the diversions of city life. They have a lot of money to spend and nowhere to spend it; that’s where the drug dealers and sex traffickers come in. The dealers bring in every type of drug imaginable, though I believe that meth and heroin are the most popular; the sex traffickers bring in primarily young girls and boys, sometimes little children and even babies and offer them to the workers for just about any type of sexual act imaginable.

“A large portion of the corporate, earth destroying projects are located in or near Native American reservations. Many of the young people living on the reservations are quite poor and easily impressed by the so called luxuries that the sex traffickers (also called pimps) dangle in front of them. A female Native American friend of mine who advocates for victims of sex trafficking has a saying ‘manicures, pedicures, new shoes and tattoos’. In saying this, she means to show that some of the things that we city folk think of as just normal can be very alluring to naive young people living on reservations.

“The pimps are quite skilled in knowing which children will be the easiest to seduce. Generally, the young ones who are the most lonely, bored, isolated and lacking in adequate nurturing from their families are those targeted. At first, the sex traffickers may lure these poor kids with flattery, giving them presents and pretending to love them. They may get the children addicted to a particular drug and after a while demand that the addicted one do something in order to pay for the drugs they are now dependent upon. The pimps also use fear, violence and induced feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness to force compliance from their adolescent victims.

It’s common for traffickers to haul these basically kidnapped and deceived kids far away from where they originally lived. A sex trafficking victim may find themselves passed from man to man and trailer to trailer “out in the middle of nowhere” having no idea where they are. When they’ve been used up in one area they are then drugged or terrorized into some type of transport and hauled off to the next Man Camp. If the trafficked one should try to escape, they will be severely beaten, possibly even killed. Once the pimp feels he (the pimp is not always a he) has no further use for his prey, he will try to sell the child to another pimp. It’s also quite common for a trafficker or drug dealer to murder the youth and dump the body in a shallow grave. Anyone ‘back home’ who actually cared for the ‘disappeared’ juvenile may search for decades in order to find out what happened to them. Most murdered victims of sex trafficking are never found.

“So you see, when Water Protectors and their allies fight to save Mother Earth, the water and the air, we know that the earth destroying, corporate projects will bring Man Camps and all that they entail into an affected community too. That’s why we include a demand for the end to MMIW&R along with all our other demands”. The activist replies, “Oh. My. God. That is so horribly awful! I did not know about that connection; I will proudly carry a No More MMIW&R with you all any day!”

An Occupier notices the staff beginning to clean up and reports, “Looks like we should be fixin’ to leave soon. but first I wanted to tell folks who weren’t at the meeting last week, about the partner of the Stylish Native Woman. We were just packing up to go when The Partner came in; it was just as cold then as it is tonight. He just had on a pair of light sweatpants, a t-shirt and was wearing his coat wide open; he didn’t have any gloves or a hat. His eyes were all wild and shit, you know how he gets when he’s in the middle of a major schizophrenic breakdown. The only coherent thing he said was, “IT’S COLD OUTSIDE!” We tried to give him our gloves and hats but he wouldn’t take them. The more we tried to talk with him, the more he seemed to forget who we were and start acting afraid of us. So we all decided to leave except for the Fire Magician who stayed behind to see if anything could be done to help”.

The Fire Magician adds, “Yeah, he went out onto the street and I followed him from the distance of about a block. I think he knew I was there though and it seemed like he was trying to hide from me. I followed him for a while as he went up and down the street; I eventually just walked home because I thought I was doing more harm than good. It sure would have been good if there had been an open warming station in the area. We’ve looked for him on the street since then but haven’t seen him”.

The first Occupier continues, “I don’t know for sure but I’m gonna take a guess as to what’s going on. We know the Stylish Native Woman has been having some serious health problems over the past year. Someone told me that she had been taken out on a stretcher and into an ambulance while having dinner at the Mission earlier that evening. The last time we actually talked, she told me she spent a couple days in the hospital about a month ago after having a collapsed lung and being diagnosed as diabetic. As soon as she was stabilized they dropped her off back at the CHUM. So we know that The Partner is not stupid and the Native Woman is around 20 years older than her partner. We also know how the partner responds to stressful situations; I’m guessing he was coming to the conclusion that the Stylish Woman may not live much longer. Just imagine! They are both so intelligent, kind hearted and so dependent on each other yet powerless to protect each other from ‘the suits’. I wonder how we can help them?’

We really have to leave now; the staff guys have lives too. As we head out the door a Water Protector reminds us, “Until we all get arrested we’ll be doing Hold Down the Port every Sunday at 6:30pm; meet at Peoples Plaza and then go to the chosen location”. An Occupier adds, “ The annual Martin Luther King Jr. March leaves the Washington Center at 10am, next Monday, January 21st and marches to the DECC with the presentations starting at noon”. We all say, “Right on”.

We expect to return to Coney Island next Tuesday.

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