G.A. Minutes 8-27-19
It’s raining this evening so, of course, we’re at Coney Island. The sky was only spitting but all the weather maps and forecasts predicted lots of rain so the group decided earlier not take the chance and end up hungry and drenched trying to meet at Peoples Plaza.
It’s never any fun to be having a meeting complete with a fire and food when all of a sudden big dark clouds roll up and pour lots of water on our heads. Then we all hafta run like crazy gathering up all the chairs, tables, food, fire pit and its accouterments while making sure that we don’t leave any kind of a mess behind. Many of the supplies are ruined and after it’s all over and we wind up at someone’s house drying ourselves off, the children and the old folks have colds. Nevermind…. it may not be paradise but Coney Island is the better option.
When the first Occupiers arrive, they find Chicago Man waiting for them; he’s been spending a little more time with the Water Protectors, Anonymous crew and the Occupiers this year so he knows when the meeting place has been changed. The Occupiers greet him and he tells them,”I just had to get out of my apartment; it’s driving me insane. There are so many drug dealers, heavy drug addicts and really mean people living there. It’s always very noisy and the management people couldn’t care less. If I try to ask the so called property manager a question or even just say good morning, she looks at me with complete disdain and refuses to respond. I have got to find another rent subsidized place to live!”
An Occupier comments, “I know the apartment building you’re talking about well. Everyone I’ve ever known who moved in there spent the majority of their free time trying to find somewhere else to live. The big rent subsidized buildings are all like that; in street parlance they’re called ‘crack stacks’. Duluth and most other big and small cities have severe shortages of rental housing that can be afforded by poor and working class people. Most landlords are not willing to accept people with any type of rent subsidy; I think there are two main reasons why they won’t do it. One is that along with government rent subsidies comes extra, very picky inspections that can force the landlord to spend a lot of extra money to make the apartment comply and cold running water, properly functioning drains and toilets, electricity and stuff like that. extra money to make the apartment comply with subsidy standards. Subsidy standards are good because everyone should have adequate heat, hot and cold running water, properly functioning drains and toilets, electricity and stuff like that. Sometimes though, the inspectors like to throw their weight around and make landlords do a lot of expensive but really petty things like replacing exit lights that have a superficial crack on the frame or windows that have a very tiny chip in the corner. Because we live under the stinking capitalist system landlords expect to make a profit on their rental units.
“The other reason is that some landlords have negative attitudes towards people of color, immigrants, folks who work in certain occupations, LBGTQ+ peeps, non-Christians, poor people and just about any other group of people you could imagine. If they accept government rent subsidies they generally can’t get away with that shit. To quote a really lame, trivial saying, ‘I feel your pain dude’. There’s a huge shortage of affordable housing in Duluth and tons of people are struggling just like you. I promise I will keep my eyes and ears open; if I find out about any available place I’ll let you know right away”.
A couple of Anon/W.P.s arrive, they have the three little girls with them. Tomorrow is their mom’s birthday and in a turnabout, Mom has brought a homemade birthday cake, fry bread and the fixins for Indian tacos. We think this is absolutely wonderful and everyone begins to chow down. As more folks roll in they fill plates and take seats. One of the good things about Coney Island is that the staff does not mind if we bring in outside food as long as we also order some food from them. We notice there are generally few customers coming in on Tuesday nights, so maybe our presence which takes up the entire back section of the restaurant, creates job security for the workers?
The Occupier who is a single parent drops in; he’s been working a job outside of town over the summer so we haven’t seen him in a while. After much hugging, pats on the back and such, he assures us, “I’m done with that job now and I don’t think I’ll be working out of town over the summer anymore. I prefer to be in the Twin Ports so will look for work here next summer.
He nods toward the Occupier who has been defending our little recreational fire in the court system and asks, “Hey, I heard that the D.A. dropped all the charges against you; is that true?” The Occupier/Defendant replies, “Yeah, it’s true. At my second court hearing the D.A. tried to get me to accept a plea deal that said I was guilty of violating a City fire ordinance and that I promised to not make another fire for at least a year. In return, if I was able to be a ‘good girl’ for a year then they would drop the charges. Oh sure, like that was gonna happen. I told him no, that I was not guilty of anything so he tried to threaten me with increasing the whole thing to criminal charges which, if I was found guilty, would result in a one thousand dollar fine and 90 days in jail.
“The funny thing was, he was using the same MN Statue the we have in our defense arsenal; it shows that our fire is legal. I think he was relying on my being ignorant and scared. So my attorney friend and I went over all our evidence, got all our ducks in a row and I went to my third court hearing prepared to throw down. I’m sitting in the hall waiting to be called into the court room when a woman carrying a clipboard walks up and tells me that all my charges have been dropped. The actual D.A. was nowhere to be seen. When I go into the court room the judge tells me the same thing and says, ‘You’re free to go’. So I went.
“I kinda wanted the whole thing to go to trial because I’m pretty sure we would win. Then there could have been no more arguments about whether our fire is legal; we also would have been able to publicly expose MN Power for the hating, classist, racist, corporate motherfuckers that they are. With the D.A. dropping my charges, all that says is that I am not guilty, it doesn’t say anything about the legality of our little fire. So the cops can still come and put it out. We really need to get the ‘suits’ and their minions off our backs.
My attorney friend says that the reason the D.A, dropped the charges is because they know our fire is legal, they don’t want to lose the case and have that fact become public. My attorney friend and I have a few things up our sleeves that will probably make the so called government leaders back off”. The formerly criminally charged Occupier turns to the Occupier who records things and asks that none of the information about to be divulged be written down. The Occupier then begins to divulge.
She is about to finish but recollects, “Oh right, I almost forgot. When I got home from all the court stuff I opened my mailbox and found a threatening letter from the Acting Fire Marshal. She threatened to charge me with violating three different MN Fire Codes and to serve me with a two hundred dollar Administrative Fine. The only thing is, the fire codes she cited were either completely irrelevant or incorrect as pertains to our particular fire. It seems that someone in City government is really desperate to stop us from giving the homeless ones respite. My friend tells me that the Acting Fire Marshal actually can fine me but that there are several ways to appeal the fine. That would also expose what is going on with ‘the powers that be’.
A conversation begins regarding all money and programs for poor and working class folks that He Who Shall Not Be Named has discontinued. The Occupier who is a college student sighs, “Yeah, school is just about to start up again and when I went to the financial aid office to get all the grants I have been given every semester, I was informed that HWSNBN had canceled one of the grant programs. That meant I was twenty five hundred dollars short and had to take out a loan. When I finally graduate and go looking for a job, that loan is gonna come back and bite me in the ass”.
Several of the W.P.s who live on the Fond du Lac Reservation are also members of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Coalition. Many of the rest of us serve as allies. The Coalition members speak about their anger and frustration with the various police departments on the Rez and in Cloquet, Duluth and surrounding areas. One member explains, “The reason we search mainly for Indigenous and sometimes other people of color is because no one else does. When a so called white person goes missing, the media puts out tons of publicity and search parties containing hundreds of searchers are organized. When an Indigenous or other person of color goes missing, the only people who care are the immediate family members and sometimes not even them.
“We attempt to assist the family members in searches or we do it by ourselves. Most of the time we only find the dead bodies of the missing; occasionally we find a person who is still living. When we find a body, the cops label it a suicide no matter what the circumstances. Many times the circumstances point obviously to murder but if the cops label it a suicide they don’t have to do an investigation. They say the murdered person doesn’t matter anyway because they were involved in the drug or sex trade or what ever. We say NO! Everyone is somebody’s child, sister, brother, father, mother, lover or what have you. Every missing person has value; many of us have family members or friends who have been lured into dangerous situations. That doesn’t mean that we no longer worry about them or love them. MMIW&R work is extremely stressful but we still do it because no one else does”. Those of us who live in the Twin Ports area find it difficult to make it out to the Rez to participate in a search at the drop of a hat. We attempt to assist the Coalition by printing up and/or distributing flyers that have pictures and information about the missing persons. When we are able we help out with gas money.
Several of the Occupiers attended the Husky Oil Refinery meeting yesterday in Superior WI. One of those in attendance reports, “It was pretty lame; there were about twelve of us who were there because we’re concerned about the fact that the Husky hydrogen fluoride tank could blow up and easily annihilate all 180,000 residents of the Twin Ports in a matter of minutes. There were also about one hundred refinery and other extraction industry union members. Their main concern was, of course, jobs. I’m sure that Husky scheduled the meeting for 11:30am in order to prevent other working people from attending.
Things are starting to wind down and we’re beginning to gather our dirty dishes when a Water Protector from the western US walks in. We are so pleasantly surprised! He hasn’t been around for many months; hugs and other greetings abound. Seeing as we are just packing up, some Occupiers invite everyone over to their house where we can catch up on old and new times.
We hope it doesn’t rain next Tuesday because we prefer to be back at Peoples Plaza.