All posts by nightcleaner

G.A. Minutes 2-16-16

G.A. Minutes 2-16-16
Something is going on downtown (aka lesser Duluth) tonight.  All the parking spaces are taken and there’s more traffic on Superior St. than is usual for a Tuesday evening during the winter season.
It’s got to be some kind of indoor event as there are not many pedestrians on the street.  The weather is not really cold but it’s not really warm either.  Temperatures are in the teens with no wind.
Who knows?  The big event could be something as simple as a gambling discount at the Fon-Duluth Casino (aka Fat Chance Casino). 
Whatever it is, the Occupy winter hangout at Coney Island is not a part of it.  The new regular hipster guy is at the counter; customers are in a few of the booths.  The best DJ at KUMD is on the radio.  Same ol’ same ol’.
We’ll be a small group again tonight.  About half of our regulars have other obligations.  As we are settling in, an old friend and sometime artist, sometime community activist walks through the door.  She’s been delivering Bernie Sanders signs around town and is stopping by for a visit.  This is good.
An Occupier is in the middle of a report concerning an email she’s received from the Duluth Human Rights Officer.  She says, “He told me that he was forwarding my meeting request to the new CJMM BOD co-chairpersons.  I think having new co-chairs will be beneficial to our small, safe and legal fires at the Memorial.  I think one of the co-chairs is a Caucasian woman who I don’t think I know.  The other is an African American man who I’ve interacted with occasionally.  I believe he works as a community organizer and is a native Duluthian from a working class background.  One would think he’d be empathetic towards the people of our neighborhood”.
Our visiting friend asks for an update on our CJMM recreational fire situation.  She was under the impression we allowed ourselves to be run off the site by the police and fire departments. We explain that we always stop having fires during winter months as our little fire doesn’t provide enough warmth to keep people comfortably sitting around it during the coldest season.
We get her up to speed re: the ongoing saga of our campaign for use of public space by poor and/or homeless people in the Central Hillside.
Our friend offers her opinions concerning the control freak attitude displayed by many cops, the lack of affordable housing and her worries about what Sherman Properties has planned for the low and moderate housing market in our city.
She’s tired as she’s had a long day distributing posters that show the time and place for the many local DFL caucus events taking place on March 1st.  She says goodnight and goes home to crash.  We resume our so called meeting.
An Occupier comments, “I’m not going to the caucuses or any of that stuff.  I received an email from Water Legacy asking me to go and vote for a resolution against Polymet.  I’m in total agreement with the resolution but that entire party platform stuff is a waste of time.  They fight tooth and nail over the party platform; when it’s finally finished they put it on a shelf and never refer to it again.  Why bother?
“I’m sure Bernie is the lesser of all the evils but I’m done with all that.  Even the rare genuine and well-meaning elected representatives don’t have the power to actually do anything beneficial for us or the rest of the world.  Our election system is a complete failure.  Why can’t people see that the same thing happens after every election?”
Another Occupier responds, “Yeah, it’s like when Charlie Brown tries to kick the football.  Lucy holds the ball, he runs up and whoosh!, she yanks the ball away.  Every damn time!  He never learns”.  We crack up; good analogy.
An Occupier passes around a postcard she received in the mail.  It’s a notification about the Clean Power Plan Listening Session being held at UMD, Tuesday, February 23rd 5:30p-8p.
Some Occupiers look at it and roll their eyes.  The presenting Occupier tells them, “Yeah, I know, these government and corporate types hold so called public meetings all the time. Regular people attend and speak very knowledgeably and passionately; the government corporate lapdogs then make the decision that most benefits the rich.
“I need to do a little research yet but I think I want to sign up to speak.  Also, I know they keep a count of how many regular people show up to these things.  According to some statistic, for each actual regular body that shows up it means so many other regular bodies actually care about the particular issue”.
Another Occupier agrees, “You kinda have a point there”.  We agree to discuss this issue again at our next meeting.
Changing the subject, an Occupier reports, “I just read that this past month of January was the warmest January ever recorded worldwide”.  We say, “Whoa!”
The Occupier continues, “Things are not looking real good.  I wonder if the world still has a chance.”
Another Occupier replies, “I think it’s kind of a tossup.  Either the world doesn’t have a chance and we just stop everything we’re doing.  We hang around, socialize and watch TV.  Follow sports teams, abuse various substances, gamble, play computer games….whatever…..because nothing matters anyway or maybe the world does have a chance and we just keep doing what we’re doing and working with all the other people who are doing what they’re doing.
“Every year more people change their minds, learn their history and get a clue.  Eventually we reach critical mass and things work out for the betterment of all living beings and the planet begins to heal.
“It could go either way, but personally, I think that keeping on doing what we’re doing will make things better for the coming generations no matter what happens in the end”.
We are about to get into a deep discussion when the hipster working the counter asks loudly, “What do you think about Bernie Sander’s idea of free college for everyone?  I think that if college were free then the government would have to pay for it and they would start paying the teachers and other staff much less.  That would make all the good professors go work in private colleges.  The people who couldn’t afford to pay tuition would be stuck with an inferior education in public colleges”.
An Occupier responds, “Nah man, we’d take the money to pay for college from the 1% and everybody would have good, free education”.
The last remaining customer calls out from his booth, “We don’t want the USA to be like Russia.  Russia just gave free education to its citizens in order to make them slaves of the state”.
We quietly say, “Oh, oh, never mind”.  None of us are crazy enough to get into a discussion about the imaginary democracy of the United States vs Russian bolshevism.
It’s a little past closing time anyway so we clear off our table in the back booth, grab our coats, leave a few bucks in the tip jar and say, “See you later”.
We’ll be back for more on Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 2-13-16

G.A. Minutes 2-9-16

G.A. Minutes 2-9-16
The weather people told the truth this time.  It’s winter again; temperatures are a few degrees above zero.  The wind is variable but when it blows it’s enough to kill you. Hopefully, it won’t kill any of our homeless ones tonight.
There are few Occupiers this evening; two thirds of those who are present have colds. It will probably be a very short meeting.
There are absolutely no customers in Coney Island and only 1 staff person.  He tells us most of the food is gone too.  There’s coffee, herbal tea and polish sausage.  We’ll get beverages and wait until we get home to have our dinners.
The conversation starts with a discussion about White Earth people who have announced their candidacy for Tribal Chairperson.  It appears that 2 people who were/are close friends will be running against each other.  That’s about all we know and it’s probably not any of our business anyway.
An Occupier says, “Did you know that Red Lake is the only tribal reservation, in our area at least, that was able to keep all of their land owned in common?  They have no individual ownership”.  We think that is pretty cool.
Our friend, the City official, has given the Occupier couple tickets to the North Central Windows Program dinner on Thursday, February 11th, 6pm at the United Presbyterian Church in Superior WI.  The NC/WP is an art enrichment program serving survivors of domestic violence. 
An Occupier comments, “The tickets are somewhat expensive because it’s a fundraiser. The event would have been out of the reach of our personal budget so we really appreciate being given tickets.
“I know the Superior Organizer is quite active in NC/WP.  I also know that creating art is very therapeutic for most people.  I’m happy to do whatever I can for the project and am looking forward to attending the event”.
Another Occupier reminds us, “On Valentine’s Day, Sunday, February 14th at 1p-4p the Annual Overdose Vigil is going to be held at the Central Hillside Community Center.  It will be a potluck feast with a Native drum group and time for sharing stories and memories.
“Also, on Saturday the 13th the Red Shawls/Solidarity Shawls march will start from Trepanier Hall at 1pm”.  The march is in recognition of murdered and missing Indigenous women.
A young man who is talking to himself walks through the door, asks for the key to the bathroom, goes in, comes out, gives the key back and leaves.  All the while talking to himself.  The hipster staff guy doesn’t bat an eyelash, just smiles at the dude.  Sweet.
An Occupier comments, “I still haven’t received any answer from the Clayton Jackson McGhie BOD concerning my request to be invited to their meeting.  I guess that means they are deliberately ignoring me or that they don’t monitor their website well.  I’m going to the Human Rights Commission meeting tomorrow so can ask the Duluth Human Rights Officer what is up.  He’s a co-chair of the BOD.
I was cleaning off my desk yesterday and found copies of all that insulting stuff that the other CJMM BOD co-chair was writing to us last summer.  I didn’t remember that I had made a copy of that stuff.  I sure hope I’m not forced to show it to anyone outside of our group but I know we’re going to have to have our legal right to make our small, safe fires recognized.  There’s a moral issue too”.
We all agree, we certainly don’t wish to cause any BOD member harm or embarrassment but the homeless ones have so little time or place to feel safe or valued.
The homeless ones are the absolute lowest ones in this twisted society’s pecking order.  However, they aren’t any different from people who have homes; it’s just that their luck has been worse.
Some of the people with homes have their sense of morality all screwed up.  They think they’re supposed to scorn and shun the less fortunate ones.  WRONG.
Someone remarks, “In keeping with this subject…..  I’m tired and I have a headache. Can we just stop now and go home?”
Yes we can.  We clear off our table, gather our spare change for the jar and say goodnight to the surprised looking staff guy.
We’ve been his only customers all evening so he’ll be able to clean up quickly and go home too.  We’ll be back on Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 2-6-16

G.A. Minutes 2-6-16
It’s winter coats without hats and gloves again as Occupiers roll up to Coney Island this evening.  The weather continues to be more like late March than early February.  The weather people say the normal below zero temperatures and snow storms are going to return starting tonight.  So far, it hasn’t happened.
The first Occupiers to arrive take the big back booth, as usual, and chat while waiting for others to arrive.  We don’t expect to have a full house tonight as some have gone to the Take Back the Park vigil and march at Leaf Erickson Park.
This vigil and march has been hurriedly arranged by area feminist groups and their supporters. It is in response to a wacko misogynist blogger who called for a worldwide event in which likeminded wackos were called upon to meet up at appointed times and places.  The misogynist blogger even provided code words (Do you know where the nearest pet shop is?) and responses (It’s right here.).
The blogger had the meeting place of Leaf Erickson Park in Duluth picked out for misogynists of the Great White North.  As the word got out across the country, counter protests were organized; the blogger began receiving death threats and such.  Apparently these threats scared him and he canceled the worldwide event. Just in case his cancelation is a deceptive technique, the Duluth counter protestors decided their event should still be held.
Of course, all the Occupiers are feminists but some of us feel these counter protests will provide more publicity to attention seeking wackos.  However, we definitely support a chance for area feminists to get together in support of protection and respect for women.
An Occupier comments, “I’m betting most misogynists have a basic fear of women.  Their threats and rantings are just a cover for their own perceived inadequacies”.
As we continue to wait, the Occupier from the East Coast entertains us with stories from her life.  She tells us about camping in a park where she was able to watch large herds of elk. These elk became very noisy at sunrise.  Their noise attracted a mountain lion and a pack of wolves.  She watched these predators as they caught their breakfast.
She tells about a recent experience in front of the CHUM homeless shelter.  She was walking up hill on an icy sidewalk when she slipped and fell.  When she hit the ground her glasses and one of her boots flew off.  She tried to get up but, because she couldn’t see well and was missing a boot, getting up wasn’t working too well.
Many people coming down the hill on their way to work just walked around her.  No one stopped to help.  Eventually, a worker from the CHUM center came out, helped her up, collected her missing items, brought her into the center and gave her a cup of coffee.
The eastern story teller laughs, “I guess all the working people thought I was homeless and drunk.  I think the CHUM worker thought the same thing.  I didn’t say much, just drank the coffee and thanked him”.
An Occupier states, “It shouldn’t have mattered if you were a homeless and drunk person. Those people passing by should have at least acknowledged you.  Most people are so cruel to less fortunate ones”.
Another adds, “At least they didn’t take you to Detox.  I’ve known some people who were locked up in Detox even though they weren’t under the influence of any substance”.
As the rest of the Occupiers appear, they find us in a conversation about the failures of various treatment programs.  We think most are too short and when treatment is over, the client is dumped back into the same situation he/she was in before they were put into treatment.
An Occupier says to another, “Did you go to the All Nations feast today?”  The questioned Occupier replies, “Yes, but I got there very late and all the food had been put away.  I went into the kitchen and the cooks gave me what they could find.
“I was late because it took me a really long time to wash all the dirty dishes from Friday’s NDN Taco Sale.  The taco sale went really well.  We sold over 100 tacos”.
An Occupier has been under the weather for a week or more.  She has heard about her Occupier brother’s arrest at the January Stop Enbridge rally but wants details.  The arrested Occupier tells the story.
His initial court date is in Superior WI, February 10th at 1:30pm.  Several Occupiers have previous experience with being arrested.  One explains, “The first court date is just the arraignment.  They ask you if you want to plead guilty or not guilty.  Seeing as the whole thing was completely bogus, they may just drop the charges”.
Another Occupier agrees, “I’ve had plenty of experience with that.  You expend all this energy and time to get to court and then find the charges have been dropped.  You were completely innocent all along but there’s no compensation for the trouble the false charges caused you”.
An Occupier asks, “So, do you want to hear what happened at my meeting with the new City Councilor?”  We do and the Occupier continues, “The Councilor suggested I ask to attend a CJMM BOD meeting.  The Councilor will accompany me and I should bring some articulate supporters.
“There’s a rumor going around that the City has given the BOD the authority to “manage” the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.  We need to hear what the BOD has to say about that and if they tell us the rumor is true; we need to ask for proof.
“If they claim they are authorized to “manage” we’ll need to see what kind of a job they are doing. If they’re not doing well maybe the City needs to take the job away.  If we aren’t given an invitation to attend a meeting or if the BOD just doesn’t respond at all, that will show a lot.
“We know the real reason for the mess they have made relating to our small, safe and legal fires, has to do with the co-chairperson’s taking offense at something he imagined I had said about him.
“I used their required channel of communication last Thursday and requested an invitation to a meeting.  I haven’t had a response yet but will wait a while longer.  Personally, I see this as another way of calling attention to what the CJMM BOD is actually doing”.
Another Occupier remarks, “Well, I think that denying homeless and poor people the only chance they have to feel safe and relaxed by sitting around a small, safe and legal recreational fire is definitely incompetent management.  Especially when the safe relaxation takes place in the neighborhood where they live and in a space dedicated to oppressed and marginalized people”.
Some of the Occupiers go outside for a smoke break.  When they return they report that they were talking with the gray haired woman who has been a regular at our fires for years.
The gray haired woman told them she had just been confronted by the police.  She said, “I was in the Holiday Center.  I’ve been told in the past that the area is private property for customers only.  I’m 73 years old and have to walk 13 blocks each way in order to get to the Mission for my meals and then back to my apartment.  I usually get tired on the way back.  Sometimes I have to use a bathroom.  I always buy some kind of treat from one of their machines and then sit in one of their chairs to eat it.
“Tonight I used their bathroom, bought a treat and sat to eat, just like I always do.  The police told me that a security guard called them.  They were really polite and apologetic.  Why would a security guard call the police on me?  That really hurts my feelings”.
We know the gray haired woman to be always polite, well-spoken and friendly.  She’s also always clean and reasonably dressed.  Her biggest problem is a somewhat faulty memory.
The smoking Occupiers said to her, “What a jerk!  The security guard obviously has emotional and/or mental health problems.  Maybe he feels powerless in the rest of his life so his little piddley security position gives him the opportunity to abuse the general public.  What a loser”.
As the smokers were saying goodbye to the gray haired woman, a group of young men walked by.  They were carrying signs that said “Respect Women” “Women Are Our Mothers and Sisters” and stuff like that.  These men were walking in the direction of Leaf Erickson Park.
An Occupier complains that he is being charged a “courtesy fee” by his phone company when he uses his bank debit card to pay his monthly phone bill.  Another Occupier responds, “A courtesy fee?  That sounds like something out of a Kurt Vonnegut novel”.  We all laugh.
When we look at the clock we notice we’ve stayed at least an hour past regular closing time. One of the staff guys is rolling out the mop bucket.  The workers at Coney Island are really nice.  They’ve been playing good jazz on the radio too.
Time to call it a night.  We clear off our table, put our coats on and some bucks in the tip jar.  As we head out the door we see there’s a pretty steady snow falling.  Hmmm….. Will it be winter again when we return on Tuesday?

G.A. Minutes 1-30-16

G.A. Minutes 1-30-16
The weather tonight feels more like March than like the end of January.  We had a big snow/sleet/ice/rain storm last night.  That was pretty much like March too.  We think this is pretty nice in the short term but realize it does not bode well for years and decades to come.
As a few of the Occupiers are entering Coney Island, an unknown young man asks them for $1.  He says he’s a recent arrival from Nevada and has come to visit his children.  He’s been to CHUM already but has no desire to stay there.  An Occupier gives him $1 and everyone wishes him well.
There are 2 hipster guys on staff tonight.  They are non-stressed and appear to have everything under control.  As usual, some of the regular evening customers are present.  There are some not as regular folks too.
The Occupier who is a member of the Duluth 7 tells us what’s been going on in his life since he last attended our meeting.  The Duluth 7 are a group of serious activists who had allowed themselves to be arrested during our Stop the Enbridge Invasion occupation of an Enbridge office last November.  It’s officially called the Duluth 4 now as 3 of the arrestees accepted a plea bargain.  The remaining arrestees have pleaded not guilty to charges of trespassing and are scheduled for trial sometime in April.
These Duluth 4 are hoping to argue their case on the grounds of Necessary Defense. Necessary Defense basically means one had to commit a minor legal violation in order to protect themselves and/or others from a greater danger.  We all agree Enbridge tar sands pipelines are definitely a greater danger.
He recommends that we research Tim DeChristopher and the Environment Civil Disobedience Center for a deeper understanding of the concept.
The Occupier tells us in order to have a trial instead of accepting a plea bargain, the Duluth 4 will have to except harsher punishment should they lose.  They will also have to forgo a trial by jury.
We have a brief discussion about the fact that the majority of court cases don’t go to trial anymore.  Most non-wealthy defendants are forced to accept some type of guilty plea rather than risk being found guilty of crimes larger than the one originally charged.  This includes defendants who are completely innocent of any and all charges.
The Occupier who is single parenting 3 children expresses concern about an increase in residential utility taxes which is about to be passed by the tax regulators.  The utility tax on ordinary households will be increased in order to reduce the tax paid by big corporations.
The Occupier parent is an employee of a major “big box” store.  He exclaims, “Being a single parent is almost impossible.  Working 40 hours a week, coming home, making dinner and helping the kids with their homework doesn’t leave you enough time for a full nights’ sleep.  On your 2 days off you do the laundry, do the shopping and clean.  Where is the time for your own life?  Along with this is the constant worry “Am I going to be able to make the rent payment this month?  Is the car going to break down? Etc.etc”  Some of the Occupiers have been single parents.  We all emphasize with his situation.
Another Occupier states, “I have a sort of weird story to tell.  I was at the Citizens Review Board meeting on Wednesday.  I’m sitting at a table making small talk with the commission members when I see the senior Deputy Police Chief walk in.  I notice he looks carefully over the sign in sheet appearing to put a face to each name.  He looks at me for a while.  I’m sure he recognizes my name because it’s on all the numerous complaints about the DPD that we’ve filed.   Judging by his response to the last one we filed, directed specifically at him, I know he knows who I am.
“So anyway, he puts the sheet down, walks over and plunks himself down right next to me.  He puts out his hand and says, ‘Hi, I’m blah, blah, blah’.  I’m thinking you must think I’m really dumb but I tell him my name and shake his hand.  He sits next to me for the entire meeting whispering comments in my ear. 
“He makes the announcement that he’s been appointed Interim Police Chief by the new mayor.  He says he’s throwing his hat in the ring for the position of permanent Chief.  At one point the CRB president asks for suggestions from community members about what type of qualities are important in a Police Chief.
“Seeing as I was the only grassroots community member present, I gave a little speech about transparency, accountability, fairness, inclusiveness and so on.  Basically everything the Interim Chief has not shown to us. 
“The I.C. doesn’t get the irony at all.  When I’m finished he says loudly, ‘Well said!  Well said!’ The rest of the cops in the room soundly agree.  Give me a break!”  We all laugh.
An Occupier reports, “I’ve applied to be on the hiring panel for the new police chief candidates. The main homeless outreach worker has done so too”.  She looks at another Occupier and comments, “I think you should apply also”.  She explains the process to him.
Another Occupier announces, “I have some bad news.  Our fire pit and wood are gone.  I called the Superior Public Works Department and was told that the Superior police ordered our stuff thrown into the landfill.  We’re gonna have to buy a new fire set up”.
Someone replies, “Wait a minute; our fellow Occupier is charged at the last Stop Enbridge rally with Failure to Show ID to a Police Officer.  So, not showing an ID is only a violation if one is committing a crime or about to commit a crime.  The police are erroneously saying that starting a fire in a public space is a crime.  Our fire pit and wood is their supposed evidence and they’ve thrown it away?”  We shake our heads in disbelief.
An Occupier reminds us, “Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance has another NDN Taco Sale coming up on Friday.  I assume we’re all down with helping out?”  We are.
The staff guys are wiping off the tables and sweeping the floors.  An Occupier’s phone rings. Friends are asking when he will be leaving and coming to meet them.  It’s that time again.
As we are collecting tip money and getting ready to leave, an Occupier says, “I’ve got a proposition for you all.  I’m meeting with the new City Councilor on Monday, going to the Forum on Racism and Cultural Understanding on Tuesday, making NDN taco meat on Wednesday, going to the INM/NWA pre-taco meeting on Thursday and working the taco sale on Friday.  If we don’t have a meeting here on Tuesday evening, I might get a chance to get started on that letter to the editor that I’m supposed to write”.
We accept her proposition.  It looks like we won’t be back to Coney Island until next Saturday. It will be February by then…… wow.

G.A. Minutes 1-26-16

G.A. Minutes 1-26-16
We are a small and somewhat sorry group of Occupiers tonight in the back booth of Coney Island.  Small because we consist of only those who live within walking distance of the café’. Sorry because we’re all really tired and we’re propping up our heads with our hands.
The new guy is working the counter again.  He tells us he’s the only one on staff tonight.  He’s got some lame commercial country rock radio station playing on the radio.  We’d like him to switch it over to KUMD but decide against it.  He doesn’t know us yet and might be offended. At least he’s not playing it very loud.
We all participated in the Save Our Sacred Waters, Stop the Enbridge Invasion rally and march yesterday in Superior WI.  The occasion was marked by a mild but continuous snow storm.
We expended a lot of energy chanting, marching and dancing.  However, we each experienced the event from a different vantage point so attempt to compare notes.   
One Occupier carried our rather unwieldy two faced CEO puppet throughout the event, another gave interviews to the media and interacted a lot with other protestors and the third was unjustly arrested just as the event began.
The Occupier who was arrested tells his story, “So when I got there, I asked the main organizers where they wanted me to set up our Occupy fire pit.  They asked me to go to an open public space a few blocks away that was near the second Enbridge office building everyone would be marching towards.
“I drove over there and started to unload and set up.  I had barely started when 2 Superior cops walked up.  They started asking me all sorts of questions like who from the rally told me to start a fire right where I was located and they told me if I start up the fire I’ll be arrested.
“I decided I would be polite but that I wasn’t going to give them any information.  They were playing the usual good cop/bad cop routine with the bad cop doing most of the talking.  The bad cop asked to see my ID; I explained nicely that I didn’t need to show them my ID if I wasn’t guilty of any crime.  That made the bad cop really pissed off; he said it was illegal to make a fire on private property.  Then he said the empty lot belonged to the City.  I guess he thought being City property makes the space private?
“Anyway, I asked him exactly what law I was breaking; he said, ‘I don’t remember but I can assure you there is a law’.  I still refused to show my ID so he cuffed me real tight, searched me, found my ID and asked me if the guy on my ID was me.  I didn’t answer so he put me in the back of the squad car and took me to jail.  He also confiscated our fire pit and a load of good firewood       
“It’s been a very long time since I was in the back of a squad car.  They’ve gotten really uncomfortable.
“When we got to the jail the rest of the officers and people there acted like they were embarrassed that I had been brought in.  The bad cop was trying to tell me if I didn’t verbally state who I was I would have to spend the night in jail.
“After he did all the paperwork and talked to some other cops he came back and told me he was going to release me.  All the other cops cheered. 
I am charged with failure to provide identification to a police officer.  If I choose to appear in court, my court date is February 10th at 1:30pm.  I’m surely going to court because I’m not going to accept guilt over bullshit.
“By the time I got out to the street the whole event was done.  I called a few folks to let them know what happened.  I told them I was part of the cops’ official ‘Catch and Release’ program. It kinda bummed me out that I missed the rally”.
Another Occupier adds, “It really pisses me off that they stole our fire pit and wood.  We need that stuff.  Now were gonna have to go through who knows what to get it back.   I checked this morning and found that the ordinance they charged him under states one must only show ID when found to be committing a crime or about to commit a crime.
“I couldn’t find any City of Superior ordinances that said anything about fires.  If the Superior fire department follows the WI Fire Codes, which they probably do, then a recreational fire on public property is not illegal.  I’ll do some more research before the court date”.
An Occupier reminds us, “Speaking of our marvelous judicial system, the Duluth 7 will be going to court this upcoming Thursday.  There will be a support rally for them at noon in front of the St Louis County Court House”.
A well-known and well respected local musician who has occasionally visited our fires arrives. He says he only stopping in for a minute and asks, “Did any of you go to see Bernie Sanders? I had a gig so couldn’t go”.  We tell him no, none of us attended.  We chat a bit and then our musician friend leaves.
One of the Occupiers comments, “I suppose there are a lot worse politicians than Bernie but I just don’t trust anyone from the Democrat or Republican parties”.
Another replies, “He has a few really good ideas but seems to be lacking in some areas.  I’m unclear where he stands on the whole Israeli Occupation but I hear he supports BDS.  I also think he’s too cozy with the ‘Merican war machine”.
An Occupier exclaims, “There were many local media pieces about yesterday’s rally.  Did you notice they all included the Enbridge official statement that we progressives are the ‘vocal minority’ and most of what we say is false?  They go on to say, ‘The people of the Twin Ports realize Enbridge is good for the community’.
“I don’t watch commercial TV but I’m told Enbridge just plasters the air waves with commercials about how wonderful they are.  Of course never mentioning what it is they really do”.
Another Occupier agrees, “Oh yeah, they have tons of commercials.  So does Polymet. Polymet even sponsors the big hockey tournament up on The Range”.
The first Occupier sighs, “And the majority of the community who don’t really know us are continuously told how violent we are.  Of course there’s no evidence of that because we are SO not violent.  I guess they do that because they can’t kill us all without looking bad.  At least not yet anyway”.  We all laugh.
Someone says, “Before I forget, I spoke with the main homeless outreach worker today.  She told me CHUM doesn’t close at 4pm anymore, it’s open until 6pm.  She also said that if a person who hasn’t been banned arrived late and really needed to be able to sleep there, they could call the outreach number (461-8505).  The outreach workers will try to get the person a bed.
“Also, we need to remind everyone that the Superior organizer is holding the first Forum on Racial and Cultural Understanding at the Superior Public Library on February 2nd noon – 2pm. Childcare will be provided”.
An Occupier remarks, “I think it’s so cool how we progressive types are from different cultures but we all get along”.
Another agrees, “Yeah, I know, like how in traditional Anishinaabe culture it’s considered impolite to say no.  When I’m working with a traditional person who I don’t know well and I ask them a question, sometimes they just don’t answer me.  I don’t know if they are saying no or if they didn’t hear me.
“I don’t want to be an idiot so I just go and ask one of my close Native friends what’s going on. They go talk to the traditional person and usually come back to tell me the answer is no but give me the reason why.  Then we all easily go on about our business.
“Of course, my Native friends who walk in both worlds have no problem telling me no whenever they need to”.  We laugh.   
The Occupier then says, “You know what?  I need to go home and get some sleep”.  She gets no argument from the others.
We check our pockets for spare change to put in the tip jar.  The jar is already very full.  It must have been a busy afternoon.  We stuff our few bucks in and head out into the unseasonably dull night air.
We hope to be a larger and more alert group by next Saturday.  If you join us, we could buy you a cup of coffee or some herbal tea or something.  You could bring homemade cookies….. Well, o.k. maybe not.  You never know though, an interesting conversation could happen.    

I got arrested today.

I got arrested today.  I didn’t hurt anyone or rob anyone or call anyone bad names or damage anything or threaten to damage anything.  I was calm and polite and did my best to cooperate in so far as I am able.  The officers stopped me from building a perfectly legal small safe campfire in a safe way in a safe place and with no one objecting to my proceeding except for the officers themselves.

To be fair they were very nice respectful officers who seemed to me to be more than a little embarrassed by having to arrest an old man who had only hoped to warm himself by a perfectly legal small safe campfire.  I understand they are public employees doing a difficult job under stressful circumstances and my own safety depends on them.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been thankful on the streets of Duluth for an officer’s presence.  I do some social activism for the poor and homeless on the streets and my safety depends upon the calming of lots of hurt, damaged, and troubled human souls who have been shoved to life and death margins on the streets of our cities.  Some have even been driven to what I can only describe as purposeless violence which surely must deserve some psychiatric diagnosis.  But I am not qualified for that.

I am qualified to build small, safe campfires for warming and cooking purposes, and I have read every law and code and ordinance there-to pertaining, aside from having built probably thousands of such fires in my life off the grid.  That life is over for me now but I remember the utility and practice of small safe fires.  The fact is the law specifically forbids the imposition of regulation on this type of fire.  No one has to ask for a permit to warm themselves or to cook their food.

The fire department and the city parks department is right to be concerned about the building of any fire that is a danger to public safety.  Fires which are too large or are built near combustible materials or threaten to cause damage to property should indeed be suppressed in any safe community.  In fact, this is so strong an idea that the necessary conditions for a small safe fire are set down in the law and are not a matter of anyone’s opinion.  That law descends to us through the state and national fire codes and safety standards, which are word for word the same as that found in international codes as well.  Each of those sources states clearly that small safe fires are not to be subject to any regulatory permitting procedure.  Any person who needs a small safe campfire for warmth or food and who is capable of building such a fire in a good way with good fuel is actually protected by public law, and law enforcement officials have no jurisdiction to enforce imaginary laws against them.  So I assert, and it may be we shall see.

The question of the fire is actually the lessor one in my opinion.    More important to me is the question of officers trying to enforce not law, but their own opinions.  I believe my arrest was a case in point.  The nice officers may have decided my fire threatened somehow a danger to someone and so required their attention.

They told me I looked like I was about to ignite an illegal fire.  I explained to them that my intent was to light a small safe campfire which is perfectly legal.  They asked for my identification.  I asked if I was breaking a law.  They assured me that my fire was illegal by city ordinance.  I asked for the number of the ordinance so I could look it up.  They didn’t know of any.  So I asserted my right to a small safe blah blah blah campfire.  So they arrested me.  So.

They searched me of course.  My ID was in the wallet I generally keep in a zipped pocket.  They opened my wallet and searched through it for my ID.  They found my drivers license and began asking me questions about my name and address and all of that.  I decided I needed a lawyer and explained to the officers that I did not intend to answer any questions without a lawyer.

Since the officers could think of no law under which I should be arrested, they decided that refusing to give an officer identification is an offence in Superior.  So the ticket I eventually received from the nice counter lady at the jail was under the title “OBLIGATION TO PROVIDE IDENTIFICATION TO A POLICE OFFICER” sic.  The paper said it was a violation of Ordinance 86-7.

You can google it yourself.  My reading of it is that an officer can ask for ID if there is a crime or violation of ordinance, or if it appears such a violation is about to occur.  The supposed violation justifying the ID check was the fire.  But there is no law or ordinance against my fire.  So they asked for my ID, on the basis that a violation was about to be committed.  But how can there be a violation of the ID ordinance if there is in fact no ordinance against my fire?

The nice officers acted in a strictly professional manner and I can honestly say that nothing they did caused me any more discomfort than is offered any other citizen in the hard plastic back seat cell of a squad car.  The fact is there just is no way a person could sit comfortably there, even without the handcuffs.  Not only is the seat hard plastic but so also is the part of the cage in front of you, and I, at least, could find no way to ease myself in there without over-stressing joints, tendons, knees and elbows, nor either was there a way to keep my backbone perpendicular to the seat, but had to ride one hip or the other in turns, with the old disks grinding.  Luckily for me it was a short if uncomfortable ride.

What happens next?  I go to court in Douglas County Wisconsin on February Tenth.  I will submit a condensed form of this story to the judge and ask that the charge be dismissed.  I expect that is what will  happen.  Of course, I am open to any suggestions……

BTW I have no way of knowing who reads this or what they may think of it, unless you leave a little happy heart or a raspberry or something.  Please do.  It does get lonely sometimes in this big dark place.  Thanks.

 

G.A. Minutes 1-23-16

G.A. Minutes 1-23-16
We’re happy to see that the lights are on at Coney Island as we begin arriving this evening.  Last Tuesday we found everything dark and a sign on the door apologizing for needing to close early.  We figured the afternoon guy just didn’t show up for his shift again.  The day guy gets really pissed when that happens.  Can’t blame him for that.
Everyone is wearing winter coats tonight but minus the hats and gloves.  There’s been a reprieve from the dead of winter; it looks like temperatures will be in the 20s and 30s for the next week or so.  We expect to go back into the deep freeze again in February but with climate change becoming more noticeable every year, we can’t be sure.
As we wait for more Occupiers to arrive, the Occupier recently arrived from the east coast tells us stories about her many years spent in homeless outreach.  She’s led a very interesting life.
As the conversation morphs into the topic of homelessness in Duluth, we tell her about the CHUM main homeless shelter.  She is shocked at hearing the many rules homeless people must follow in order to be allowed a space at CHUM. 
“So if it was winter and for some reason or other I was unable to make it to the shelter until after 4pm then I would not be allowed in?  I’d have to fend for myself in the cold?” she asks.
“Well yeah, you would if you hadn’t stayed at CHUM the night before.  If you had stayed the night before then you would have until 9pm to get back in,” we answer.
“CHUM is pretty big on the ‘homeless ones taking their own personal responsibility’ idea.  It’s pretty much a one size fits all situation.  Of course, that works out better for some folks than for others”.
The east coast Occupier is shocked.  The rules at homeless shelters back east are not as strict.  Another Occupier explains, “Yeah, that ‘MN Nice’ that you hear about is real. It can really bite you in the ass”.
The Occupier who has written the letter to the Duluth News Tribune arrives.  We pass around copies of the letter.  Everyone thinks it’s very good.  We’re not surprised as he’s an excellent writer.  He agrees to make one minor technical change and then send it in right away.  He figures it will take the DNT a month or so to actually print it.
Another Occupier has agreed to write a letter to the Reader.  She passes around a copy of a rough draft.  She tells us, “right now I’m just working with word count and a general tone.  The actual letter might not turn out like this.  Considering all the things we have going on, it’s going to take me a while longer but I’ll get on it as fast as I can”.
An Occupier tells a funny but sad story.  He’s been aware of a homeless person sleeping in the basement of his apartment building as of late.  The Occupier is busy working and raising three children so hasn’t had time to interact with the basement sleeper.  He had planned on just letting the guy go on about his business.
However, the basement contains storage units belonging to each of the apartment building residents.  This morning the Occupier noticed all the storage units had been ransacked.  The homeless guy was the culprit. 
The Occupier comments, “I felt really bad but my storage has a lot of my life memories in it.  I kind of know this guy though so I know he’s not gonna leave my stuff alone just because I ask him to.  I had to call the police to get him to stop”.
It turns out basement sleepers’ name is Bernie Sanders.  The Occupier has to call the police and tell them Bernie Sanders has been sleeping in his basement and the Occupier wants him to leave.
When the cops arrive they think they’re “being had”.  Everything turns out o.k. in the end though.  Bernie Sanders has a particular classification that will get him immediate help for his homeless situation.  The Occupier agrees to assist the cops in making sure the guy gets housed ASAP.
We make a few lame jokes about why Bernie Sanders may have come to town a little early.  These jokes do not deserve to be repeated.
The next 2 days will be taken up with Stop the Enbridge Invasion events.  We will all be going to the traditional Anishinaabe drum ceremony and feast tomorrow, 5pm at Peace Church.  After the feast we will participate in direct action training in preparation for the rally and march on Monday, January 25th starting at noon in front of the Douglas County Court House in Superior WI.
An Occupier states, “I was at a small meeting in Superior last week.  One of our friends was saying Enbridge recently held a meeting for the general public of Superior. About 150 people showed up and almost every one of them was opposed to the Enbridge pipelines.  Of course, there was no mention of this fact in the media”.
Another Occupier asks, “Did you hear that our friend, the Native spiritual advisor, is going to run for County Commissioner of District 3?”  Someone replies, “Oh good. Most of the County Commissioners are serious rednecks and they have a lot of power.  It would be such a relief to have another person of good character in one of those seats”.
“I have some bad news”, an Occupier tells us, “I have it on good authority that a particular Deputy Police Chief will soon be offered the temporary position of interim police chief as soon as Chief Ramsey leaves”.
Everyone groans.  Somebody responds, “Oh no!  That will be terrible!  He will be completely opposite from Chief Ramsey.  He does a good job of speaking on camera and in public but behind closed doors he tries to intimidate regular folks.  He’s a bully”.
Another adds, “You can forget about cops being required to treat poor and/or homeless with any kind of respect.  I know they don’t actually do it much now but they’ll be much worse under that particular Deputy Chief.  We need to find out what we can do to bring this fact to light.  I’m sure we’re not the only ones who feel this way”.
An Occupier states, “Sorry to change the subject but remember the Duluth 7 go back to court on Thursday, January 28th.  There will be a support rally at noon in front of the St. Louis County Court House.  Those folks were brave to offer themselves up for arrest at our last Stop the Enbridge Invasion.  We need to be there to back them up as they decide to plead guilty or not guilty”.
Several hours have passed and our attention is beginning to wander.  As we speak, a major winter storm is descending upon the east coast.  The Occupier from the east comments that the past 3 or more winters in New England have produced more snow than ever before.  She asks if Duluth is having normal winter weather this year.
We tell her that we don’t actually know what is normal anymore.  The conversation moves on to indigenous prophecies around the world, sustainable agriculture, eating food native to ones’ locale and climate change refugees.
An Occupier exclaims, “Well, you know the good old slogan of ‘Merika……  ‘We don’t HAVE refugees, we MAKE them’”.
There’s a different guy at the counter tonight.  It’s 8pm but he doesn’t lock the door or anything.  Maybe he doesn’t know he’s supposed to close?
We talk a while longer then decide to call it a night.  We’ll be hooking up for the next 2 days and then, providing that the staff shows up, back here again on Tuesday.
 

G.A. Minutes 1-12-16

G.A. Minutes 1-12-16
We are now beginning the dead of winter.  As far as we know this happens every year.  Even though we all have warm homes this year, we still complain.  Our homeless ones don’t have time to complain; they’re busy doing whatever it takes to survive.
Every year some of our homeless ones don’t make it; they’re found frozen to death somewhere.  The homeless outreach people bust their butts trying to find all the homeless ones.  They never completely succeed. 
Some of our citizens, who have the means to provide buildings with homes for everyone, hear about the frozen ones.  They click their tongues, “Tsk, tsk.  So sad, so sad”.  Most don’t do anything else though.   They just wait until next year then make their noises again.  Christmas is over you know.
The first Occupiers arriving at Coney Island are bundled up from head to toe.  They disrobe, order food and slide into the big back booth to wait and see if anyone else will arrive. 
The Occupier who is recently arrived from the east coast has been a Catholic Worker for much of her life.  While waiting for others to arrive, she tells those present a little about what C.W. is about.
She says, “Basically C.W. is about following the teachings of Jesus Christ.  It’s not about following all the rules and customs of the Catholic Church but about following Jesus.  You know, like not going after material things but ‘doing unto others as you would have them do unto you’, ‘love your neighbor like you love yourself’, stuff like that.  Lately there’s also been a lot of emphasis on supporting sex trafficked people”.
When she has finished talking, another Occupier comments, “I think this is really good music the staff is playing over the sound system.  They’re playing KUMD.  The DJ who does the Tuesday night show on KUMD lives in our artist co-op”.  Everyone agrees the music rocks.
Several more Occupiers and our friend, the City official arrive.  They’re bundled up too.
After everyone is settled, an Occupier reports, “I’ve received an email response from the writer who writes articles for the Reader.  If you remember, he was recommended to us as someone who might be willing to do a story about our fire at Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.  He said that he was pretty sure the editor of the Reader would not accept an article about this topic.  He suggested we try submitting a letter to the editor in the Inbox column.  Apparently the Inbox is more accommodating concerning subject matter”.
She turns to the Occupier who is tasked with writing and says, “If you write the letter to the Duluth News Tribune, I’ll take a shot at writing to the Reader”.  The Occupy writer agrees.
An Occupier exclaims, “It really chaps my hide that our government and our so called leaders don’t follow the laws they expect us to follow.  They just do whatever they want and then act horrified when a citizen steps up and points out what they’re doing”.
Another Occupier adds, “Yeah, the cops and the fire department do that too.  It’s like they’re just another gang.  I can’t tell who the leaders are and who the criminals are”.
An Occupier finds it necessary to apply for a few government benefits to get through a time of severe poverty.  This Occupier talks about the serious difficulty getting a social service worker to even answer the phone.  Everyone has a similar story to tell.  We take turns.  Someone states, “It’s like the main thing they’re concerned about is that someone may get a few extra bucks they’re not technically or legally entitled to”.
Another Occupier agrees, “Yeah, and in the meantime really needy people become homeless or die because they can’t get access to their life saving medications”. 
Someone mentions the fact that our good MN state senator is not going to seek reelection for the next term.  Two well-known local politicians have applied to run for the senator’s position.
An Occupier sighs, “I’m not sure which one of these candidates I should vote for”.  The City official suggests, “Just take a close look at which one has done the most for the poor and other marginalized people in our city.  If you look closely you will find the answer is quite obvious”.
The newly arrived Occupier observes, “Before I arrived here I had always thought Duluth was a very progressive city.  Now when I look at the statistics and watch people’s daily lives, I see it’s not very progressive at all”.
The City official concurs, “Yes, you are correct.  Did you know that the unemployment number for Duluth’s white population is 3 to 4% while the number of our black citizens who are unemployed is 22%?
On another topic, he continues, “By the way, I want you folks to know that a coalition is being formed with the objective of holding the new mayor and city council accountable to their campaign promises.  Meaning the promises they made about truly paying attention to the needs of our city’s most marginalized citizens”.
The hipster guy, who appears to be staffing the place by himself, begins clearing off the salt and pepper shakers from all the booths.  Then he starts mopping the floor.
An Occupier looks at the clock, “Oh crap!” She says, “I hadn’t noticed how much time had gone by.  Just let me hip you to a few things before we go.  The Superior Organizer is holding a pre-meeting concerning the next Stop the Enbridge Invasion action.  It will be on this upcoming Saturday in Superior from 3p-5p.  I’m gonna go, anybody who wants to ride with me just say so.
“When that meeting is done, I will pick up everyone who needs a ride and we can shoot over to Peace Church for the Jamin With MLK event.  I want to get there as close to 6pm as possible because I’m going to be good and hungry.
“Also, the Superior Organizer will be holding the first Community Forum on Racism and Cultural Understanding on February 2nd 12p-2p at the Superior Public Library”.
Our friend, the City official inserts, “WPR will be recording some Town Halls on the same subject.  I don’t know the times or dates yet though”.
Now it’s really time to let the accommodating staff person go home.  We’ll be at Peace Church on Saturday then back here at Coney Island next Tuesday.
 

And another thing…

Sometimes I wish the bureaucracy would let us alone to do our actions and have our public meetings and talk freely in a public place with as simple a human amenity as a small clean wood fire suitable for cooking or heating at any public park, if such an installation is available in steel or stone, and regardless if a citizen wants to build said small entirely legal fire in a device suitable to holding and containing any coals or ashes such that no permanent trace is left of where the fire has been.

Yes, it would be pleasent to avail oneself of warmth, hot beverages and food in public spaces large enough for an open discussion of current civic, political, and social issues.  But I don’t have access to such a space in my personal life, and access to relevant public spaces nearby is denied to our group by large armed police officers and suitably equipped fire crews, who come at the order of “some people in our town” who don’t want a fire at a publicly owned memorial.  More properly, I would venture our group believes “some people in our town”  don’t want at all any mixed groups of people gathering at a memorial for social and potentially political conversation with the neighbors, a chance to meet and get to know the people we ordinarily encounter only in passing on our streets.  If we give in to “some people” on our right to have a safe legal fire, they next will say we cannot share food, and if we give them that, they will say we can not smoke a cigarette or burn fragrant herbs for smudge.  They will go so far as to ban loitering if we make no protest. There  have even been suggestions to fence the memorial in, which is to fence ordinary neighborhood people out.

 

It doesn’t matter that the law is carefully written to express that simple clean fires for heating and cooking purposes do not require a permit in public parks and other public spaces.  The legality of such fires is not decided by the law, but by the opinions of “some people in our town,”  backed up at public expense by emergency personnel, even though there is no demonstrated emergency at all.