G.A. Minutes 1-26-19

G.A. Minutes 1-26-19

When the first two Occupiers arrive at Coney Island this evening, they come running through the front door. One Occupier exclaims, “Holey shit! This weather is unbelievable! My car thermometer is reading -19 and the sun only went down about a half an hour ago”. The other Occupier adds, “Yeah, and the -19 doesn’t include the wind chill; I’m guessing that the actual air temperature is closer to -40”.

When the Occupiers scrutinize the space, they see that it is completely empty. One of the staff guys tells them, “It’s been almost dead all day; we’re expecting our boss to call us any time now and tell us to just close up”. The Occupiers order some food and head to the area in the back of the restaurant. One Occupier comments to the other, “I doubt that anyone else is as insane as we are; we’ll have to wait a while to see, though”.

It turns out that there are others who are actually just as insane. Within a short while another Occupier arrives, then 3 activists and a couple of Water Protectors. The first Occupiers are comforted to find there are others who share their derangement.

As everyone sheds their many layers of outer clothing, an Occupier says to an Occupier/Water Protector, “I see you all are having a fundraiser related to your arrests when you chained yourselves to the Wells Fargo entry gate about a year ago. I hear that the benefit is going to happen on February 8th from 6p-9p down at Carmody’s”. The Occupier/WP replies, “Yup, we have to raise money in order to pay our fines. We were each charged with trespassing which is a petty misdemeanor and the judge fined us $135 a piece. That’s less than the $300 a piece that the City requested but still too much for each of us to afford on our own. After he issued the guilty charges the judge said to us and the courtroom, “There is a long tradition in this world of honorable and appropriate civil disobedience. This case is a perfect example. Keep up the fight”.

One of the activists exclaims, “Well then, why didn’t he just find you not guilty by reason of your ‘necessity defense’?!?” The Occupier/WP tells her, “I really don’t know. Maybe there was some obscure legal thing that our attorneys weren’t aware of or maybe he was just afraid of losing his job”. Another Occupier interjects, “The courts and the cops in ‘Merica’ are lowering charges for environmental and social justice cases frequently these days because they don’t want defendants to be eligible for a jury trial, especially if the defendants plan on using the ‘necessity defense’. I think they know that if the defendants are able to present the whole story, the jury will probably find them not guilty”. Another activist opines, “It might have to do with the fact that Wells Fargo is on private property. Trespassing charges are different on private property than charges on public property. Next time, try to find a major bank that is on public property”. We all laugh.

An Occupier reports, “The warming station in West Duluth has been open for about a week and a half now and I hear things are going really well. The information is being spread by word of mouth out there and the station has been getting 25-35 guests a night. Another Occupier inquires, “Are they still forcing the warming station guests to stay awake all night?” The reporting Occupier winks and says, “No comment”. She continues, “Some of the homeless ones are crediting the warming station with saving their lives. However, a few problems still remain; 10 pm is too late to open the station because it gets colder once the sun goes down and 6:30 am is too early to put people out to the street because the sun doesn’t come up until after 7 am. Of course, not opening the warming station at all unless the overnight temperature is predicted to be 0 or less is not fair either. A person can still freeze to death when the temperature is anywhere below freezing. One of the workers told me that when he comes to open the station a little before 10 pm he finds many homeless peeps hunkered down in their sleeping bags waiting for the place to be opened.

“Never fear though, the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition, Loaves N Fishes, the main CHUM outreach worker, some Catholic Workers and many others are pushing for these things to be remedied. As of right now, at least we have one warming station up and running”. We can’t argue with that.

Changing the subject, a Water Protector asks, “Hey, did anybody see the video that our friend, the WP elder and Fond du Lac band member put out today?” An Occupier pouts, “Yes, I did and it really pissed me off. That shit was fucking disgusting!” Others say, “Huh?” The WP tells them, “Three of our W.P.s went to the FDL casino out on the rez; they were attending an open house sponsored by Enbridge. The event was kind of a job fair and who knows what else; they had food and it was open to all FDL band members. All three W.P.s are FDL band members.

“Anyway, it was in a private room, there were tables scattered around with food and brochures and stuff; there didn’t appear to be many people in attendance, an Enbridge public relations type guy was standing around waiting for someone to talk to him. So the W.P.s mosey on over to talk; the PR dude tries to impress them by bragging about how Enbridge is there to help them learn how to start a business. Fortunately, (or unfortunately, it all depends on how you want to look at it) the W.P.s have some business of their own to discuss. Firstly, there is all the destruction of the environment and of cultural ways that have survived since forever issues. The W.P.s explain to the man why they really don’t like having Enbridge anywhere on their reservation; now that Enbridge and all their workers are present on native land, the dominant culture inspired, so-called tribal government (aka RBC), is requiring that actual FDL enrolled band members/Anishinaabe people apply for a permit before walking, standing or what have you, on any FDL land (especially in the woods or other so-called undeveloped land).

“Believe it or not, this is true; the genuine water protectors, traditional people and all other folks of Fond du Lac Indigenous heritage are not allowed to access THEIR OWN LANDS without a permit. Also, any people from anywhere who are not FDL members cannot access FDL land for any reason at all. Meanwhile, Enbridge workers have unlimited access to FDL lands however and whenever they choose. So the W.P.s don’t like this very much. Keep in mind, the W.P.s are speaking very politely and respectfully. The PR guy keeps interjecting, “Yabut, I can teach you how to start a business”. The W.P.s tell him they know that if or when Enbridge gets to working full out, Man Camps will pop up all over the place. They know that some of their children will be raped and/or abducted or lured into taking or selling dangerous drugs. The W.P.s don’t like this very much either.

So the conversation goes on like this for five or ten minutes then all of a sudden, a shit ton of rez cops show up. The cops form a line between the W.P.s and the PR man. The W.P.s say, “WTF?” One of the W.P.s has met the PR dude many times in the past so she kind of knows him. She calls out to him over the shoulders of the rez cops. “Ah come on Bob! (or whatever his name is) Really??? Really???” The PR guy just keeps fading away, acting like he’s being swept away by a river current or something. Then the cops inform the W.P.s that they are being trespassed out of the casino which is on THEIR OWN LAND. The W.P.s consist of two grandmas and a young mother; I mean, I suppose they could have had suicide vests strapped to themselves but………PROBABLY NOT.

Every time any of us are forced to come into contact with any Enbridge employees, we are amazed by their ridiculous behavior. Are all people who worship money as stupid as they are?

One of the activists who are present at this evening’s meeting is a woman from a First Nations community in Manitoba. She has spent a large portion of her life looking for, supporting and defending Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives. Most of the problems and solutions in Manitoba are similar to those we experience in our northern Minnesota area however, she and her colleagues have been fighting the good fight for over twenty-five years. In the Twin Ports area, the real grassroots work is just beginning. The First Nations woman can’t help but tease us; she sees we are really dragged down by this arctic weather. The Manitoban woman laughs, “This is nothing; back home we have this kind of weather for three or four months in a row”. Some of us think, “Wow! She is really tough”. Others think, “Remind me to never go there”. The woman activist intimates that she will need to travel around for a bit but promises to return in time for the next MMIW&R Search Training and Patrol on February 13th.

The staff guys are deep into their cleaning routine; we take the hint and begin packing up. The Occupier who reports stuff reports, “Just a couple of quick things, the Anons will need our assistance this Saturday, 1 pm at Peoples Plaza, for the kickoff of Operation Safe Winter; Gitchigumi Scouts will be doing outreach and patrol on this upcoming Sunday. Meet up at Peoples Plaza at 3 pm. Also, remember that next Tuesday we’ll be having a short meeting here because we’re going over to the artist co-op to watch the documentary, Trouble: Killing the Black Snake.

With that, we all head out, gingerly and screaming like the big whiny babies that we are, because it’s just TOO DAMN COLD! We expect to be back at Coney Island, for a while at least, next Tuesday.