Category Archives: General Assembly Minutes

Minutes from our General Assemblies

G.A. Minutes 12-19-15

G.A. Minutes 12-19-15
We enter Coney Island in a hurry tonight.  It’s cold outside; we take our coats and things off right away so as to get the chill off.
We laugh about how quickly we acclimate.  Last month we freaked out when temperatures went into the 30s.  This evening it’s about 15 degrees with a slight wind.  Last night was in the single digits with a strong east wind; we thought we would die.  Next month we’ll be happy if temperatures are at least above zero.  People are weird.
There will be only a few Occupiers tonight; many are off at Winter Solstice celebrations.  The actual Solstice isn’t until Tuesday but working class folks have to adjust their lives to suit their jobs.  It should be the other way around.
We get food and drinks and settle into the big booth.  An Occupier reports she has met with Em Westerlund, the new City Councilor for District 3 which encompasses West End, Central Hillside and a small portion of East Hillside.
The meeting was attended by a few other homeless advocate types.  Since then, the Occupier and Ms. Westerlund have exchanged several emails and scheduled a meeting with just the two of them for February 1st.  The Councilor appears interested in finding out what the powers that be are trying to pull with our CJMM small, safe and legal campfire situation.
The Occupier also reports that the newspaper columnist has expressed willingness to write about the fire situation.  She says, “I need to get a bunch of paperwork ready for both the writer and the Councilor.  I think I’ll wait until after Christmas and then get everything rolling”.
Our friend, the City official arrives.  He has brought some paperwork we requested.  He has been a big help to us for many years, a man who truly cares and practices what he preaches.
Our friend says, “So who’s going to the big Mayoral Inauguration on January 4th?”  An Occupier replies, “Well I don’t know, is there going to be food?  I hear Don Ness always puts on quite a spread”.
The friend replies, “Yes he does but now it’s going to be the new mayor, Emily Larsen.  I have no idea what kind of eats she’ll have served”.  The Occupier responds, “Actually, I don’t care what kind of food is served, I’m not going.  I don’t like artificial schmoozing”.
We discuss what we hope will happen when the new mayor takes over.  We know she has worked for years in poverty and homelessness areas.  We’ve heard she’s been known to kowtow to business interests.
An Occupier remarks, “She says she wants to make Duluth work for all its citizens.  She tries to give the impression that she will pay attention to poor people and people of color.  Well, she won’t have to do much in order to do more than Don Ness ever did.  If she’s really serious, one of the first things she will do is to fire the Chief Administrator”.
Our friend reminds us, “We will need to hold her accountable.  If she’s for real, she will appreciate it as being held accountable will help her stand up to forces that oppress POC and the poor”.
Someone brings up the topic of Chief of Police Gordon Ramsey’s acceptance of the new job as police chief of Wichita, KS.  We think this is not good, for us at least.
An Occupier states, “Yeah, we knew about this right away because we were contacted by someone from Occupy Wichita.  They wanted to know what we thought of Chief Ramsey.  I told them that he was still a cop so to keep that in mind.  However, he did make a show of expecting his police officers to be respectful and fair to all citizens of Duluth.  It didn’t always work out that way but the Chief’s attitude did keep the street cops somewhat in line. 
“I told the Wichita Occupiers that Ramsey is intelligent and very personable and the citizens will probably like him.  I said I wasn’t so sure about the Wichita cops.  I hear those cops are in the habit of murdering young black men whenever they feel like it”.
Somebody postulates, “So you know there’s a real chance that Deputy Chief Tuscan could be our next Chief of Police?”  We all let out a loud groan.  An Occupier exclaims, “Oh no!  That just cannot be!  He’s rude, threatening and doesn’t like to be challenged in any way.  What do we have to do to prevent him from becoming the next chief?”
Our friend tells us, “Well, they have to let Duluth citizens serve on the interview boards.  You could try that”.  We think that one of the Occupiers who isn’t present tonight would make a good candidate.  We’ll ask him ASAP.  We think several of us should try to get appointed however; our city is small enough that many of those in government know who we are.  If only they’d let us choose the new chief…… yeah right.
An Occupier asks, “So now that the big Climate Conference in Paris is over, what do you think will happen?’  Another replies, “We’re going to be really busy.  The people are going to be the ones who will save the planet.  All the government bozos are under the control of the 1%.  The strength of the greed disease amazes me.  The fossil fuel barons know that their gas and oil will destroy the human race but they just don’t care.  They don’t even care for their own future generations!  Their lust for material wealth blinds them to everything else.
“You all know that I’m one of the people who manage the treasury for Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance.  I’ve been having conversations with MN 350 organizers.  I think we will be working with them a lot more in the future.
“We need to help INM/NWA as much as we can with their NDN Taco Sales.  The profits from those sales are what will send folks to actions all over the area”.
The woman of the Occupier couple makes a request, “I’m gonna start cooking tomorrow for our dinner on Christmas and will have to cook for several days.  Do you think we could leave a little early tonight so I could get a little extra sleep?”
We are all looking forward to the warmth and camaraderie of a holiday dinner.  We will allow her to get some sleep and allow the staff to close up on time.
We plan to be back at the Coney Island café on Tuesday.    

G.A. Minutes 12-5-15

G.A. Minutes 12-5-15
It’s back to Coney Island again tonight.  Temperatures have been in the high 40s all day and it’s still pleasant, for this time a year, by evening.
Every parking space is taken for blocks around; the street is just packed with people.  There are the usual street people hurrying from one place to the next but the majority of the pedestrians appear to be frequenting the many downtown clubs and/or the casino.  Coney Island even has five or six customers.
Get it while you can folks, winter will be here soon. 
A young man of the street calls out to a few Occupiers who are preparing to enter the café meeting place.  They recognize the young guy as being one of the people who occasionally sat on the outer edge of our Clayton Jackson McGhie recreational fires.  He was always too under the influence to participate in conversation.
He’s quite under the influence of something tonight. He’s walking crooked which makes us wonder if the Coney Island staff will throw him out.  The staff people don’t seem to notice or if they do, they don’t care.  We think, that’s a good sign.
The guy slides into the oversized booth with the rest of us.  He wants food and money.  We give him some of the food we have purchased at the front counter and one dollar. 
We begin a serious conversation.  The street dude quickly loses interest and staggers out the door.  Many of the area street folks are intelligent and pleasant.  We hope some of them will join us during our winter hibernation.
An Occupier asks, “Seeing as I’ve been ill and absent for the last month or so, will you explain what we’ve done and will be doing?”
Another Occupier answers, “We’re going to be busy this week I think.  Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance is sponsoring the last leg of Honor the Earth’s Miigwitch Tour: Building Our Resistance to Enbridge Pipelines.  The event will happen in Rm 200 in the Chemistry Building at UMD, Tuesday December 8th from 5p-8p.
INM/NWA will be providing the feast and they need us to be up there by about 3:45p to help set up and carry in the food”.  Almost everyone says they will be able to help.
The Occupier continues, “Also, the protesters, the Duluth 7, who were arrested at the sit-in at the Enbridge office during the Stop the Enbridge Invasion rally last month are being arraigned at the St. Louis County Court House at noon on the same day, Tuesday the 8th.  They need supporters.
“I won’t be able to be there because I volunteered myself to provide the coffee for the evening’s feast.  I’ll be grinding up the beans of our good “occupy coffee” around the time of the arraignment”.
Everybody grins.  Most will be at the arraignment.
Someone else comments, “Don’t forget about the INM/NWA NdN Taco Sale this Friday, December 11th at All Nations.  We’ll be helping there too. 
Another replies, “No problem.  We always work hard but it’s fun and when we’re done we all get to eat a free taco”.  We all agree no problem.
We get the previously absent Occupier up to speed on what we’ve been doing with Black Lives Matter/Justice City Coalition.  An Occupier reports, “Justice City has some interesting plans in the works.  There’s talk about involving City officials and Duluth citizens in some round tables or town hall meetings.  Of course, the purpose would be to educate them about the real lives of black folks.  I don’t have anything definite to tell you all right now though”.
We tell the absent Occupier about the silly official responses we’ve received from the DPD and FPD regarding our small, safe and legal campfires at CJMM.  We discuss what our next moves will be.
One Occupier states, “I suppose the DPD, FPD and CJMM BOD believe we’ve accepted their responses and have decided to discontinue our fire meetings.  After all these years, they still don’t realize we have common sense.  One can’t keep warm enough at our small fires to sit long during the winter”.
Somebody adds, “Every once in a while somebody tells me they feel displeased with Occupy because Occupy is no longer holding protests outside the banks.  I disagree with that opinion because across the country Occupy groups have evolved since then.
“We may not have taken over the banking system yet but the idea of the 99% vs 1% is imbedded in the U.S. culture and in many other cultures too.  Before Occupy, I knew something was wrong and I had a feeling it had something to do with rich people having too much money. When Occupy revealed the actual facts and figures about the way the worldwide system robs and oppresses humankind, it opened a door and a window for a lot of us.  Now the real work is beginning”.
An Occupier agrees, “I’m really glad that many indigenous people throughout the world were aware of all this stuff way before we were.  We have to remember to let them lead the way”.
Another asks, “So how is the Homeless Bill of Rights Ordinance coming along?”  The Occupier who goes to the Human Rights Commission responds, “It’s taking forever.  The Commissioners keep getting distracted with other human rights issues.  Sometimes I want to say, ‘Look, get a pen and paper and start writing 1…..2….3…  Write down 10 or 12 things you think should be in the Bill then discuss and work from there’. 
“A couple of years ago I was asked to apply to be on the HRC.  I did but apparently our current mayor doesn’t like me.  He didn’t appoint me.  Now I’m glad he didn’t because I can get a lot more done from the outside.  It’s too bad because there are some really well-meaning people on the Commission”.
The most elder Occupier says, “Commission is just another word for co-option.  The Man takes all that good energy and neutralizes it”.
The conversation bounces over to the subject of the currently descending price of gasoline.  An Occupier comments, “It worries me.  The general public will forget about climate change and sustainable energy if they can get plenty of gas for a really cheap price”.
Another hypothesizes, “I wonder if they’re lowering the price in order to starve so called ISIL and other so called terrorist groups.  Those groups reportedly have taken over a lot of oil fields and oil infrastructure.  If the price of oil is really low, those groups will have a harder time supporting their armies etc.”
Someone else replies, “Who knows?  Whatever it is, I know the 1%, as usual, is up to no good”.
All the customers are gone.  All the Occupiers are very tired.  We think we should leave a little early and get some sleep.  There is a lot of good work to be done.
As we are leaving we put a few bucks into the workers tip jar.  We appreciate them letting us sit for hours.
The female of the Occupiers couple mentions, “I almost forgot.  Next Saturday we have to work the Holiday Show at our co-op.  We’ll be exhausted by the time it’s done.  Would you guys be willing to just come to our apartment and hang out?  We have a lot of musicians living in our co-op and they will be kicking it in the performance space all day long.  There will be art and craft vendors, good food and a new show in the Gallery.  It will be fun”.  We answer, “No problem”.
So it looks like we won’t be meeting at Coney Island until Tuesday, December 15th.  Maybe you will join us?
 

G.A. Minutes 11-28-15

G.A. Minutes 11-28-15
The first two Occupiers entering Coney Island tonight are wearing big grins.  As they were on their way and driving down Superior St, they spotted Mississippi Woman.  She was dressed in a Santa Claus outfit minus the beard.  Considering it’s the end of the month, they assumed she was hustling for spare change.
At the end of the month most everybody in the neighborhood is down to zero where money is concerned.  The street people are doing a serious hustle. 
Mississippi Woman always has a unique style but dressing like Santa in order to coax a few bucks out of the hipsters and the bar folks really takes the cake.
Coney Island has only a few patrons when the Occupiers arrive.  It certainly doesn’t have the excitement or commotion like CJMM but it may have to do for the next few months.
Coney Island in Duluth has existed as a greasy spoon type café for almost 100 years.  It still has the old fashioned look; all the old booths and most everything else is made of wood.  The menu is the same with the addition of some items that could be considered healthy.
There’s a large booth tucked away in the back, the place is managed by young hipsters; the background music is excellent.  We hope a lot of the folks who used to frequent our fires will decide to join us here for a while.
As we are settling in, an older man who has been a part of the Catholic Worker movement for a very long time arrives.  We’ve all interacted with him via social media so know he’s been very excited since the Pope’s Encyclical was presented.  He tells us he’s been taking the publication around to various Catholic churches attempting to start a conversation.  Apparently neither the parishioners nor the clergy are at all interested.
The Catholic Worker tells a few stories about adventures he’s had during his long life.  He says he attended Climate Convergence event today and plans to attend the Climate Hike tomorrow.
A few of the Occupiers had planned on attending the Climate Convergence but it turned out they were just too tired from the Black Lives Matter/Justice City Coalition march and rally on Friday. 
This event followed on the heels of the BLM/JCC event of a week ago.  The demand of Justice for Jamar is still the same but several days ago a small group of white supremacists showed up at the camp outside the 4th Precinct in Minneapolis.  When they were asked to leave, one of them fired a gun into the crowd of BLM activists, wounding five. 
The Mpls cops of the 4th Precinct were slow to respond.  Some of the cops told the demonstrators getting shot served them right.  It only goes to show what the BLM people have been saying all along.
Marches and rallies for BLM have been happening all over the country, especially over the last few days.  Duluth’s event was successful and received attention from all of the local major media sources again.
The African American population in Duluth is relatively small.  Yesterday’s march contained very few black folks.  The African American female leader of the BLM/JCC tells us many of these folks are afraid to march or express their real views in public.  Those of us given white privilege are obligated to speak out about racism and complacency.  We are obligated until all this injustice is a thing of the past.
An Occupier reports she has finally received responses from the DPD concerning the four complaints she filed about the illegal harassment of our CJMM recreational fires.  The responses to three of the complaints said our complaints were unfounded.  The response to the complaint about the threatening behavior of Officer #464 was noted in his file but no disciplinary action was deemed necessary.  A copy of the letter from the Deputy Fire Chief was included with the rest of the paperwork.
“Give me a break!”, moans an Occupier, “They can’t dispute that our fire is legal according to all their various laws so they tell us a corporation called The City and some anonymous community members don’t want a fire at CJMM so there’s not going to be one?”
“It’s not over yet”, replies the reporting Occupier, “I imagine no one is surprised that there’s one set of laws for regular people and another for “The City” and his/her community members.
“We now have something in writing.  We need to ‘show and tell’ all over the place.  I’ve made contact with several City Council members and with a retired attorney.  I haven’t called the Occupy attorney from out of town.
“These worshippers of the 1% like to drag things on forever hoping the common person will just go away.  Things are definitely not over yet”.
Another Occupier tells us the next step in the Stop the Enbridge Invasion is a tour of places on the proposed pipeline route by Honor the Earth.  They will be in Duluth on Tuesday December 8th and Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance will definitely need our help in managing the feast/potluck.
Someone mentions Loaves N Fishes will be having their annual Christmas Party on Saturday December 13th 2pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal.
Another reports she’s been going to Socialism and a Slice with peeps from Socialist Action down at Pizza Luce’, 6:30pm every last Monday of the month.  “I talk with intelligent, humorous folks I don’t get to see very often.  I’m going again tomorrow; maybe some of you will join us?”
One of the Occupiers is moving from one apartment to another this upcoming Tuesday.  He doesn’t have a vehicle so really needs our help.  We will arrange our day to accommodate him.
An Occupier muses, “When we do these actions and events we need to see results.  We need goals”.  Another Occupier pats him on the arm and answers, “It’s going to take a long time. Our grandchildren and great grandchildren are the ones who will see the results.  Remember the 7th spark and the 8th fire and all that?  We just need to stay focused and remember to keep love in our hearts.  Keep on keeping on, blah,blah,blah”.  We all laugh and agree.
It’s almost 9pm, the place is empty, the staff has cleaned everything and they’re standing around politely looking like they want to go home.
Well, o.k. then….. Time to go.  We expect to be back, same time, same station next Saturday.
 
     

G.A. Minutes 11-21-15

G.A. Minutes 11-21-15
We’re at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial again.  It seems like we were here just yesterday.  Oh wait a minute…. We were here just yesterday.
We assisted our allies from Black Lives Matter, Politics Off My Body and a few other groups with a rally and march that coincided with Duluth’s annual Christmas City of the North Parade.
The title for the rally was Justice City of the North.  The focus was on another young African American man executed by the police.  This time it happened in Minneapolis.  The murdered man was lying face down on the pavement with his hands cuffed behind his back.  His name was Jamar Clark.   A cop put a gun next to the young man’s head and pulled the trigger.  As horrifying as that sounds, it occurs in epidemic proportions here in “Merika”.
Last night it was the Occupier’s job to keep a fire going for a few hours for the event which took place at CJMM.  A fire was pretty much mandatory as last night was really cold.  Afterwards many of the participants went a block down the hill and made a surprise entrance into the parade.  We were told the parade crowd was mostly appreciative of what the marchers had to say.
After the parade some folks came back and sat around the fire and chatted with some of the street folks.  The rally was a success and was covered by all the local major media.  It received some national attention too.
Tonight is even colder.  The temperature is somewhere in the teens with not much of a breeze. The leaves have all been off the trees for several weeks and all the animals who go south for the winter are long gone.  It hasn’t snowed yet but that’s sure to come soon.
We think this may be our last weekly fire until spring.  If we get a mid-winter thaw we could come back for that; but it’s getting to the point where our little fire won’t keep folks warm enough to sit for long.
We really hate to leave because our battle with the City and its masters from the 1% about the people’s right to comfortably make use of common spaces has not yet reached a conclusion.  
The street folks who haven’t found a place to stay for the winter are showing signs of desperation.  If we hear of anywhere that could be a possibility we’ll look them up and give them the 411.  After 3 years of making fires at CJMM we know a lot of street folks well enough to find them on the days we’re not at the Memorial.
Most of the Occupiers are not actually homeless.  None of us has a fancy house but most have some place that has heat and running water.
When the temperatures become so cold that our little fire can’t keep us warm, we have to go inside.  By homeless standards that probably makes us wimps.  It appears that the majority of the street people appreciate our weekly fires so we’re guessing they don’t call us wimps behind our backs.
So anyway, we find folks waiting for us when we arrive.  Everyone pitches in; getting the fire started is the most important thing.  One of the Occupiers is always assigned that task. Another always fires up the sage bundle.  Many of the neighborhood regulars know our set up routine by now so things are ready quickly.
Among those waiting are Drowsy Man and his girlfriend.  It looks like she’s recovered from her overdose adventure.  They seem to be getting along o.k. for now.
The gray haired woman is present along with a somewhat regular Red Lake guy and a middle aged African American man who we don’t know.
Some get coffee, cookies and hard boiled eggs.  Everyone scoots up close around the flames. Another African American middle aged man who we don’t know comes staggering severely up to the circle, crashes through and falls directly on the fire pit.
WTF?  In all the years we’ve been meeting here, no one has ever fallen into the fire.  An Occupier screams.  Everyone else keeps calm.  Two people grab the guy, who is now lying across hot coals and flaming logs, and stand him up.  Someone else puts the fire pit back together.  The people who are most likely crazy grab burning logs with their bare hands and throw them back in the pit.  The Occupier tasked with taking care of the fire brings a shovel and a dustpan, sweeps up all the stray coals and ashes and puts them back in the fire.
Then we all sit back down and look at each other in amazement.  Drowsy Man says, “Man, the fire was rollin’ so nice.  Now we have to start all over again”.
A DPD squad goes by slowly.
Lots more people arrive including our big white former camper, the man who’s always laughing, the Native/Mexican man who rides a bike, Ms. Community Cleanup, her best friend and one of the neighborhood schizophrenic girls.
3 squads drive by; they look over at us but it appears they’re going somewhere else.
An Occupier gives the others a copy of the letter she received from the Deputy Fire Chief the other day.  The letter is in response to the meeting several Occupiers had with the fire chief about a week ago.  At that meeting they showed the chief all the fire codes, state statutes and city ordinances that support the legality of the small, safe fire at CJMM.
The chief was unable to provide any information that refuted the Occupiers claims.  He was unaware that the City was the owner of CJMM.  He attempted to read each regulation separately and only in part and then use his interpretation to prove the fire is illegal.  Each time the Occupiers read him the whole of the law.
The chief pretty much boxed himself into a corner and then said, “Let me investigate this further and I’ll get back to you”.
The Deputy Fire Chief’s response letter, when boiled down to language of common people, says, “We’re not going to follow the law.  The City and its 1% masters have decided they don’t want you to have a fire at CJMM so therefore, you will not be allowed to have one.  Too bad for you”.
After reading the letter, an Occupier comments, “Wow, this is really lame”.  Another answers, “I know but this is the first actual answer we have received in 3 years and it’s in writing.  I sent a copy to our friend on the City Council and they said that at least we now know who our opponent is.  I say, “To be continued”.
We decide to meet next Tuesday at Coney Island and begin “the continuing”.
An Occupier exclaims, “Hey, the Stop the Enbridge Invasion feast, rally and march we helped out with on November 2nd really rocked, didn’t it?”  We all agree that it truly rocked.  A couple of Occupiers attended a recent local follow-up meeting and report that concerning Enbridge, there will be many more actions to follow.
One Occupier is sitting next to the Native/Mexican man, she says to him, “We’re gonna try meeting at Coney Island on Tuesday.  You’d be welcome to stop by”.
The man responds, “You know, once a person has been at this homeless thing for a while, being indoors feels real weird.  I think they’re seriously trying to kill us now though.  They’ve closed up all the entrances under the freeway and to the steam pipes.  We can’t go to the shelters but we have to be able to stay warm somewhere.  It’s getting really rough”.
Most Duluth homeless people are from cities or towns.  Outdoor winter camping is something they don’t know how to do.
5 or 6 squads go racing by.  They’re not using lights or sirens and they’re not even glancing at us.
Another former camper, the Native woman from FDL, arrives.  She’s quiet drunk and crying.  It seems she’s still serious about wanting to stop abusing everything but she’s hasn’t been having much luck.  She seems to be a bit afraid of leaving the life she’s been living for so long.  We’ve been trying to hook her up with a Native healer that we know.  So far things haven’t worked out but we’ll keep trying.  Anyway, tonight she needs a ride home.  An Occupier agrees to drive her.
The fire is dying.  It’s early enough to put on a few more logs but the Occupiers are cold and tired.  The rest of the people are too.
So we’ll check out Coney Island (107 E. Superior St) on Tuesday and see what happens. Come on down and pay us a visit.  Don’t worry if you don’t have any money.  We’ll buy you a cup of coffee.  
 

G.A. Minutes 11-7-15

G.A. Minutes 11-7-15
              The weather this evening is the coldest we’ve experienced since we packed things in for winter last year.  Temperatures are in the upper 30s with an occasional breeze.
              Ordinarily we’d be talking about packing up the fires at the Clayton Jackson Mcghie Memorial for winter around this time.  However, we’ve been receiving so much illegal harassment since the big drama on the 4th of July that we need to stick around and defend the people’s right to use of public/common space.
              The homeless ones tell us they’re grateful for the warming fire, simple snacks and chance to partake in meaningful conversation.  They don’t often experience feelings of relaxation or safety in their daily lives.
               Most of the Occupiers have previous and/or current experience being homeless.  Most feel a moral obligation to call attention to injustice.  We can see that everything is connected.  An old song tells it like it is …..”None of us are free…..One of us is chained?….  None of us are free”.   
                While receiving praise from folks on the street is gratifying, it makes us feel kind of embarrassed. 
                  The first to visit the fire circle tonight are a group of young Native men.  They are all close friends and live in a camp or a building close by.  One man goes around the circle smudging everyone.  He then asks us if we have a Bible.  We don’t.
               They’ve been having a conversation about women and continue it around the fire.  They have been discussing one of the young men’s infatuation for a particular woman and also the confusion all of them have about relating to women in general.
             One of the men asks if women deliberately try to be seductive.  They ask us what the Bible teaches about the relationship between men and women.  We find this all to be rather weird but the men appear to be serious.
             A few of the Occupiers have past experience in bible studies but the deep questions the men are asking do not have immediate yes or no answers.  They want us to tell them about sin and judgement; we can’t really help them there.
An Occupier offers, “Women are the life givers, for that they must be sincerely respected”. 
             The Ho Chunk man arrives.  The young men all know him. They say hello and then the Ho Chunk man nods off in a chair close to the fire.
             A couple of middle aged African American women from the Skinner dance on in.  They’ve probably been drinking; they’re playing music on a cell phone and are singing along.
             An Occupier comments he had heard that the older, very thin African American man from the Skinner had died a few days ago.  One of the women verifies this is true and everyone is saddened by the news.
            The Skinner woman tells us, “It was his 59th birthday on Monday and he passed away on the following Wednesday.  He was already in bad health but we think he died from something he smoked”.
            An Occupier who has recently moved back to the area appears.  He tells us he is trying to save a disabled vet who lives in his building from being evicted.  He lives across the bridge in Superior, WI where social services are much less than they are in MN.
            One of the women from the Skinner knows all the ropes in Superior so she gives advice about all possible resources available there.
            An Occupier reports he spoke to the drum keeper from the drum group that drummed for the Stop the Enbridge Invasion rally last Monday.  The drum keeper told him there would be another rally against Enbridge in Superior in two weeks or so.
            Another Occupier comments, “Oh good, I was so hoping that was gonna be the next move. Some people want to go after Nolan about this and we should do that too, but I think Superior is the next logical place to go”.
            The Occupier who generally takes the G.A. minutes apologizes for neglecting to write them last Tuesday.  She says, “I and another Occupier were scheduled to meet with the Deputy Fire Chief the following day.  I needed to get a full night’s sleep before that meeting so I just went home from CJMM and went to sleep.
            “It turned out the dude wasn’t even there.  I think that was because the appointment for the meeting was made for me by the Fire Marshal.  She probably didn’t make sure her boss knew he was meeting with us.  I get a bad vibe from her and I think she’s been listening to the lies some of the CJMM BOD member tell about us.  Anyway, we rescheduled for this upcoming Thursday and I’ll be sure and contact the Deputy Fire Chief beforehand myself”.   
            An additional Occupier reports, “The Idle No More-Northwoods Wolf Alliance NdN Taco Sale was pretty wild yesterday.  We were short 3 of regular helpers and had almost no publicity because the guy who takes care of that went into the hospital for emergency surgery. Everyone was really tired when it was done but things turned out o.k. and we even made a small profit”.
              A young white girl, known to a few of us, sits down.  She seems nervous and exclaims, “One should never take drugs for mental illness.  I’m a paranoid schizophrenic and they’re always trying to give me drugs.  The first year I was homeless I was really scared; when I found a place to try and sleep I would jump and wake up every time I heard a sound.  The main homeless outreach person is trying to have me committed to St. Peter’s for life”.  She stands up abruptly and leaves.
            The Drowsy Man and his cousin Birdman roll up.  Drowsy Man is upset; he states, “My old lady is in the hospital.  I left her alone for just a few minutes and somebody gave her 2 lines of heroin.  She started to OD.  I was trying to keep her awake while calling 911.  I had to call a couple of times before an ambulance came.
            “Seeing as I spend so much time on the street, I think I should get some of that Narcan.  I sure wish I had some last night”.
            An Occupier with medical experience tells Drowsy Man he can get Narcan for free at the Needle Exchange office on W 1st St and 1st Ave W.  She explains the method of injection to him.
            The Skinner women are still playing music on their cell phone.  A song comes on and all the African Americans in the space say, “Oh yeah, this was the Skinner Man’s song”.  They begin to dance.
            We don’t know the song and the cell phone acoustics are not good so we can’t really understand the lyrics.  One thing we do hear is “Why work hard if you never can play?
           A young African American man, who we don’t know but see around often, is meditating on the fire while swaying to the Skinner Man’s song. 
            The Crabby Old Man walks quickly and unseen up to the swaying manfrom behind, puts his finger, as though it were a gun, to the swaying man’s head and says, “Stop talking all over about my business!” 
The swaying man snaps alert and mumbles something.  The Crabby Old Man calls out as he quickly walks away, “And it can happen…JUST LIKE THAT”.
             The story telling woman still has not been found.
            It’s about 8pm and we notice a squad car drive slowly by.  The CJMM space is now filled with many of this year’s regular fire circle attendees.
            Conversation becomes light and casual.  A DPD SUV drives by.  We put a few more logs on the fire and everyone scoots up close.
            Around 8:50 pm the police SUV is back again.  One Occupier says to another, “It’s very close to 9pm, do you think we should pack it up?”  The other Occupier answers, “I suppose we might as well.  I sure don’t feel like dealing with the
City’s nonsense this late into the evening”.
            Everyone helps us put things away.  An Occupier reminds, “We won’t be here next Tuesday. We are meeting with 1 of our City Councilors.  We’ll show him all the facts and details about the illegal harassment of our fire”.
            As we are about to drive off, we see a big red pickup truck.  It has ladders attached, lots of flashing lights and says Duluth Fire Department on the door.
             One of our vehicles drives around the block to check things out.  When our vehicle comes around again the fire truck is parked across the street. Its lights are still flashing.  CJMM and the streets around it are completely empty.
We plan to be back next Saturday.        

G.A. Minutes 10-31-15

G.A. Minutes 10-31-15
It’s been raining off and on all day; by evening it has tapered down to a very fine mist. Temperatures are in the low 40s without any wind when a couple of Occupiers arrive at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.
We don’t expect to see most of the Occupiers this evening as it’s Saturday night and also Halloween.  On a regular night with the weather being like it is, we may have decided to meet indoors.  Seeing as it’s Halloween and we know the street folks would like to be able to celebrate like everyone else, we elect to stay and make a fire.
A few of our usual visitors are visible in doorways up and down the street.  The first to arrive at the fire circle is a former camper who we see from time to time but we haven’t actually spoken with him in quite a while.
He’s stressed out and says he had to beat up two separate people earlier today.  He tells us that he refuses to tolerate having his women friends beat up by their boyfriends.  If this happens he will severely beat up the boyfriend.  Once he does this, the boyfriend doesn’t beat up the woman again.  He believes he is called to defend battered women.  He recommends we read a book entitled “Biological God”.  “It changed my life,” he says.
The Occupiers just listen, as it seems the former camper needs to vent.  One Occupier gently asks, “Do you think you’ll continue your studies in firefighting school any time soon?”  The camper sighs, “You know I just don’t know what I’m doing.  Ever since my Mom died, I can’t seem to make sense out of anything”.
The next to arrive are a group consisting of the partner of the stylish Native woman, the cousin of the infamous street woman and a man she is with tonight.
The partner is also stressed out.  He and our former camper converse regarding the source of the partner’s stress.  Apparently the partner and the stylish woman were betrayed by someone they had considered to be a friend. 
As is common with long term homeless people, the couple has a spot in the neighborhood, hidden from view, where they sit and rest, away from the judgmental glares of passersby and police officers.
All the street folks know where the couple’s spot is.  Everyone respects the privacy of one another’s spots.  Last night the betrayer called the DPD and reported where the couple could be found.  This caused the partner to have a nervous breakdown.  The camper states, “It’s not right what he (the betrayer) did to you.  He’s been homeless and on the street in the past.  He knows what it’s like”.
The partner doesn’t remember everything that happened and he hasn’t been able to find the stylish woman since.  He exclaims, “I just want to see her and to know she’s o.k.” 
The drowsy man enters with his small entourage.  He’s complaining about his girlfriend’s attitude again.  He announces he’s going to the back ledge to “finish off a 40” and invites those in the circle to join him.  The cousin and her man oblige.
The fire is burning real nice; people in the fire circle gaze and contemplate. 
A DPD squad pulls up and Sgt. Zwank gets out.  He walks up and makes the comment, “I suppose you know why I’m here, right?”  An Occupier replies, “Not really.  I can’t figure you guys out anymore”.  Sgt. Zwank continues, “It’s illegal for you to have a fire here and if you do, we have to tell you to put it out”.  The Occupier rolls her eyes and says, “Actually it’s not illegal”.
The Sgt. responds, “What is this really about?”  The Occupier answers, “I believe it all started a few days before the 4th of July.  One of the co-chairs of the CJMM BOD misread something I had written and decided I had dealt him an unforgivable insult.  Since then this fire and I have been the victims of his revenge”.
Another Occupier adds, “We are of the belief that all citizens are responsible to obey the laws, not just those who have lesser political clout.  Our fire is not illegal so we are not willing to put it out.  We are trying to show your bosses they are breaking the law”.  Sgt. Zwank jokes, “Could you get that done soon?”  
A couple of the street folks attempt to protest.  As soon as they do, Sgt. Zwank asks them for IDs.  They quickly leave; we always tell folks they are free to leave whenever cops show up. We don’t think less of them for doing so.
So the fire department arrives, 2 big fire trucks with lights flashing.  The fire people are wearing different outfits again, matching tan Carhart raingear.  The fire department has a lot of clothes.
Fire Captain Scot and his friend put out the fire.  The just do a courtesy spray.  The fire is still burning; it’s also raining again.
An ambulance comes rolling up, lights and sirens blaring.  An Occupier comments, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”  ……  Never mind, the fire trucks are blocking the street and the ambulance can’t get by.
The circus departs and we’re left sitting in the rain chatting with the stylish Native woman, her partner, the preacher from the storefront church and a couple of friendly hippies.  The preacher and the hippies are incredulous that anyone would forcibly put out our lovely little fire.  Most people are flabbergasted when they hear about it.
The Spiritual Man joins us; he gives us words of encouragement and some chocolate chip cookies.
The rain lets up but the Occupiers are thoroughly soaked.  We will pack up, go home, dry off and live to fight another day.
We expect that day will be Tuesday.       

G.A. Minutes 10-27-15

G.A. Minutes 10-27-15
Apparently, daytime temperatures will be in the 40s now.  At least until things get even colder. Tonight we have a fairly strong, cold wind to add to the mix.  Guess we’ll have to sit close.
The space at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is empty when we arrive.  We see a few folks up and down the street but they’re too far away for the Occupiers to be able to tell who they are.
We’ve barely started setting up when the man with dozy type nickname, his main sidekick, who we’ve christened as Birdman, and the drowsy man’s girlfriend of the week arrive.
As usual, they are drinking.  The girlfriend is yelling, “Come on man, give me a drink!”  The drowsy man answers, “No.  Every time you get drunk you start hitting me”.  She keeps demanding; finally the he gives in and lets her drink.
Then guess what happens….. She gets drunk and starts hitting him.  She says, “So every time I get drunk I start hitting you?  So is that what it is?  You wanna fight?  Come on you p—- a—- n—— (she lets loose with some seriously insulting name calling).  Then she puts her fists up like a boxer and starts swinging at the man.  He dips and dodges saying, “Come on now, stop it”.
The Occupiers look at them like they are out of their minds; they continue their drama on down the block.  Of course, street people and others come out of the woodwork.  Everybody has to watch the fight.  Humans are a sorry lot, sometimes.
Reports from those who know tell us this particular couple’s battle end when he finally punches her.  They separate for a while then continue their drama until he punches her again.  It stops when he hooks up with another girlfriend.  Once that girlfriend leaves, the couple starts the dance all over again.  This couple is young; we can only hope they grow out of it.
An Occupier says to another Occupier, “I just received an email from one of the City Council members.  The councilor is asking to meet with us at 5pm on November 10th.    I accepted the invitation, will you go with me?”  The second Occupier agrees to attend the meeting.
The drama is still going on loudly around the corner.  Many street people join us at the fire. They’re looking for something more than drama.
There are several people we have not met until now.  One middle aged Native woman seems familiar to us but we can’t quite place her.  She tells us her name; we are amazed.  She is the beautiful woman who always cries when she’s been drinking.  She tells us she’s not drinking tonight and hasn’t done so for several days.
An Occupier comments that the woman’s face looks very different when she’s not drinking. She answers, “Yeah, several people have told me that.  I guess I must look angry when I drink”.  The Occupiers replies. “Actually, I always thought you looked sad”.
An African American man with a marijuana leaf on this hat tells a story about getting beat up for no apparent reason by some guy who was just driving by the liquor store.  The guy had 2 little kids in the backseat of his car.  They sat and watched as the guy beat up a stranger.
The moral of this story according to the man with the 420 hat is, “A person should not do bad stuff in front or their kids.  When the kids grow up, they will do the same stuff to you.  Children are not responsible for stupid shit that we, as adults, do”.
One of the street folks in the circle says to another, “I feel really relaxed here.  Don’t you feel relaxed?”  Everyone agrees with her.
An Occupier questions, “I know we’re having problems finding a good place to meet when it’s too cold to be at CJMM.  I wonder if we could try meeting at Coney Island?  It’s pretty centrally located and doesn’t have a white privilege vibe”.  The other Occupiers say they think it could be a possibility.  The first Occupier agrees to go and scope out the place.
Another Occupier reports, “I received a call on my voice mail today from the Fire Marshall.  She wants to set up a meeting with me and the Deputy Fire Chief.  She suggested the afternoon of November 4th.  I can call her back tomorrow but I want someone to go with me to the meeting”.  One of the Occupiers offers to accompany the requesting Occupier.
The neighborhood retired man arrives.  As usual, he stands outside the circle and observes the interactions.
It sounds like the drama is returning.  The drowsy man, his girlfriend, his sidekick and their small entourage come arguing up the sidewalk.  As they enter the outer parameter of CJMM, an Occupier calls out, “Oh no, don’t bring that shit over here!”
They don’t listen and march right into the circle.  The drowsy man asks the girlfriend to sit down and listen to him.  He calmly advices, “We are gonna  have to break up.  You keep hitting me; I don’t like that.  I don’t want to hit you and I don’t want you to hit me.  You can’t seem to stop though so we’re gonna have to break up.
The girlfriend is sitting up straight and acting obedient.  “Oh no”, she cries, “You love me, we shouldn’t break up”.  He answers, “I am not a P—A—N—–.  I don’t like it when you call me that”.  The girlfriend blurts out a couple more racist slurs.
An Occupier states, “You cannot bring that kind of talk into this circle.  You need to leave”.  The girlfriend replies, “I’ll be good”.  The Occupier retorts, “No you won’t, you cannot control your own behavior”.  “Yes I can” says girlfriend.  The Occupier states firmly, “NO YOU CANNOT”.
During this interaction, all the street people in the circle are trying to convince the drowsy man that he is disrespecting the circle and should leave.  Drowsy Man is coming up with every excuse he can think of to avoid getting up and leaving. 
An Occupier explains, “Dude, this is not about you.  It’s about her.  She can’t control herself and she is with you.  She follows you everywhere you go so if you leave then she will leave too. 
This explanation seems to satisfy Drowsy Man and allow him to save face in the fantasy world where he is king.  He walks off, girlfriend follows.
The neighborhood retired man has just received an important lesson in how a community can police and provide justice to its own without interference from “The Man”.
The employment counselor from CHUM walks up.  Tonight he is promoting an event that he is planning for tomorrow at noon.  He says, “I’ll make a big pot of chili and there will be prizes”. After he leaves, some of the street women laugh and say, “There will be prizes!  He just wants us to show that we’re interested in improving ourselves”.  One woman says to another, “Are you gonna go?’  The answer is yes.  He’s a nice guy and they like him.
Our friend, the neighborhood socialite stops by.  Upon noticing her, the partner of the stylish Native woman whispers to an Occupier, “Is that my ex-wife?”  The Occupier assures him that the socialite is not his ex-wife.  The partner is visibly relieved and responds, “Oh good.  I saw she was someone I didn’t know and it’s been so long that I can’t remember what my ex-wife looks like”.
Drowsy Man and Birdman return.  They are minus the girlfriend.  Drowsy Man is off signifying with a group of his African American acquaintances.  Birdman is standing just outside the circle talking on his phone.  He’s telling the person on the other end about this evening’s goings on.
An Occupier hears him say, “I’m at 3 (n-word) park”.  3 “n-word” park is a slang term for CJMM used by the less conscious street folks.  The Occupier turns to the stylish woman and says, “I find it particularly fucked up when even THEY use that expression.  The stylish woman just shakes her head.
The beautiful not-drinking woman comments, “I wish we could have this fire all night”.  An Occupiers responds, “We do too but we have stuff we have to do tomorrow and besides, we’re going to run out of wood for the night before too long”.
Someone reminds us about the Stop the Enbridge Invasion event planned for Monday, November 2nd, noon at the Central Hillside Community Center.  At first the street folks are confused, “Enbridge what?” they say.  We start explaining about pipelines and wild rice and they all get it right away.  “Oh yeah, we want to go to that.  Tell us again, when and where is it?”
We think that if we had some flyers about the event maybe some of the street people would actually attend.  We’ll ask the event organizer for flyers.
The big clock chimes 9pm; the last of the wood is burning down.  Everybody helps to pack up. We expect to return to CJMM on Saturday.     

G.A. Minutes 10-24-15

G.A. Minutes 10-24-15
One might consider this evening a perfect autumn evening for sitting around a campfire. Providing one has a campfire. 
If no campfire is involved, a person would need to keep moving in order to tolerate being outdoors on a night like this.
The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial space is almost empty save for the young and very large Native man and his friend.  There aren’t many folks moving on the streets either.
The Occupiers purposefully get the fire started and everything set up.  As soon as everything is done and folks have taken their seats, the Occupier tasked with communicating with the various government entities that want to keep their less privileged citizens “under control”, introduces a letter she received from DPD Chief Ramsay.  “So what do you make of this? She asks.  The letter basically says the Chief believes too many people are unnecessarily calling the police whenever they don’t like what is going on at CJMM.  The Chief says expecting the cops to show up continuously is bad for relationships between the DPD and the Central Hillside neighborhood.
An Occupier comments, “Well it looks as though he’s supporting the fact that we have regular community campfires however, he doesn’t say he’s going to make the government bad actors back off from us.  Another Occupier suggests, “Guess we’ll just have to wait and see”.
The tasked Occupier states, “Well I’m glad somebody from the City has seen fit to at least act like they have some type of common sense.  I think we should still attempt to meet with the Fire Chief and the City Attorney.  It would be good for us to establish our legal right to meet here”. 
The Occupier who has been living out of town arrives.  He tells us he’s living in the Twin Ports area again.  We’re all pleased to hear this.
A man from the street comments on the sage we are burning and a conversation ensues related to the various types of sage, growing methods and such.
An Occupier mentions the recent allegation that McDonald’s poison/ fast food corporation has a policy of not serving homeless people.   
Another Occupier adds, “I’m told our own local whole foods, organic co-op has asked its customers to refrain from purchasing food and giving that food to homeless people”.
Someone exclaims, “What!!!”  Another says, “Hey, this is something we can do something about right away”.  Someone else agrees and says, “The first thing we need to do is talk to the management and the workers and find out if this accusation is true.”
The partner of the stylish Native woman is having a meltdown again.  He’s walking across the street and cussing out God or someone.  This is a fairly regular occurrence with the good hearted partner.  It appears that at times, he becomes so overwhelmed with frustration and anger that he just has to let it all out.  He doesn’t want to subject innocent people to his rants so he walks away for a while.
When the overwhelmed fellow calms down he takes his place in the circle.  As usual, he apologizes.  We say, “Ah man, don’t worry about it.  Come on in”.
A local organizer who has been our friend for years stops by.  He wants to make sure everyone knows about the Stop The Enbridge Invasion event scheduled for Monday November 2nd.  We tell him we all plan to be there.
Another Occupier arrives.  He brings a woman who is a professional singer along.  She has just finished performing and has come to check out our fire.
Many people are now filling the CJMM space.  Little groups of folks conversing are scattered about.  Everyone is giving off good vibes.
The partner asks the Occupier who reads poetry and such to give a reading.  The Occupier replies, “Well I didn’t have anything prepared for tonight but I have this book about all kinds of circles.   You know, like fires circles, prayer circles, ceremonial circle’s and stuff like that”. 
He hands the book to the partner and continues, “A major point is that climate change is already here.  In another 20 years or so we will have refugees fleeing drought and storms. They’re going to want to live here and we’re going to have to become a whole lot more neighborly if we’re going to survive”.
An Occupier states, “So I see our friend, the City official is hosting Keith Ellison at St Mark’s Church.  Mr. Ellison is supposed to be speaking on the State of Black America.  So then I see that Rick Nolan is going to show up too, so now our friend has to hustle to find a larger space”.
Another adds, “I think that what is meant when one says that an event has been co-opted.  Is anyone here interested in hearing what Rick Nolan has to say about the State of Black America?”  We all roll our eyes.
Somehow the conversation gets around to discussing the issue of homeless people being thrown out of CHUM.  A homeless man explains, “It’s not the problem that someone has been thrown out of CHUM that is the issue.  It’s the problem that it is done just on the whim of any one of the CHUM workers.  They each have different standards and some of them are just on power trips and take pleasure in tormenting homeless ones that have severe mental illness”.
The best friend of Ms. Cleanup bounces in.  An Occupier asks him if he has seen Ms. Cleanup this evening.  He replies, “Yeah but she just got hauled away by 5-0”.  The Occupier says, “Oh no.  I’ve had her backpack in the trunk of my car since last week when she got hauled away. Best friend answers, “Just give it to me.  I’ll take care of it”.
A Native woman in the circle comments that she is the sister of the still missing story telling woman.  An Occupier puts her hand on the woman’s shoulder.  We all sigh and shake our heads.
The neighborhood retired man drops by.  He jokingly makes an attempt to get us excited about next year’s presidential madness sponsored by the 2 party equals 1 party shysters.  We all laugh. 
The crowd has dissipated; we are all standing up close to the fire with the palms of our hands over what remains of the flames.
The man who is always laughing drives up.  He’s on his way to somewhere but stops in to see what we’re up to. 
The court hearing that will decide whether he can gain custody of his infant daughter is going to be held in 4 days.  He appears confident he will prevail.  We all hope he is correct yet, we realize the ease with which the CPS organization robs people of color and the poor of their offspring.
The Ho Chunk man stumbles in.  He says he was sleeping soundly under a bush but the cops rousted him out.  He missed the last bus to where he has his camp so will have to try and keep out of sight until early morning when the buses start up again.  The bus system in the Twin Ports leaves much to be desired.  We offer him food and strong coffee.
It’s that time again…….  The coals are dying.  We pack up.  An Occupier offers to give the Ho Chunk man a ride to his camp.  The man happily accepts.
We expect to be back here next Tuesday.     
 

G.A. Minutes 10-17-15

G.A. Minutes 10-17-15
It’s mid-October and we still have green leaves on some of the trees.  We wish we still had the type of weather that’s supposed to go along with green leaves.  No such luck, the temperature is in the low 40s without any breeze.
Tonight, as we roll up on the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, we start the fire first; then we set up chairs and snacks.  We are a group consisting of 3 Occupiers and 1 gray haired woman.
The gray haired woman is 76 years old but she can carry 4 metal folding chairs at once and set them up without help.  Way cool.
Several young Native people walk up.  They are family members of the woman who tells good stories.  She still has not been found.  It’s been 2 months since she’s been in contact with anyone.  Not being in contact with her family is very unlike the story telling woman. 
The young people take seats and chat for a while.  One of the young men tells us he “fell off the wagon again today”.  An Occupier advises him to just get up and start over again.  The young man replies, “Yeah, that’s what my counselor keeps telling me”.
An Occupier reports, “Next Tuesday is the Solutions to Poverty Forum at the Dom.  I don’t have much faith in our current government system but I think it will be interesting to hear what the City Council and the mayoral candidates have to say.  Do you want to go?”  We decide yes, we want to go.
Another Occupier asks, “Do you want to hear the most recent news about the DPD, DFD and our fire?”   Everyone wants to hear so she continues, “I received an email from Chief Ramsay a few days ago.  He says he’s going to confer with City staff this week and will contact me next week so we can meet.  I talked with Rep. Eric Simonson last Saturday.  He asked me to try and set up a meeting with him and the DFD fire marshal.  I called him to get his times of availability but he hasn’t responded yet.  I also got an email response from another City Councilor who supports us.  He wants a meeting too.  I hope you guys realize, I’m not going to all these meeting by myself.  At least 1 of you is coming along.”  An Occupier volunteers to attend meetings as necessary. 
As we are talking and warming, different types of sirens are going off almost constantly throughout the neighborhood.  Several squads with lights flashing are zooming around.
Someone comments, “I see where the governor of Hawaii has declared a state of emergency related to homelessness”.  Someone else replies, “We have a homeless state of emergency here too”.
The circle is filling up now.  The man who is always laughing arrives accompanied by the very large Native young man and several of his friends.
One of the friends asks the question, “I don’t understand; why don’t they want you to have this fire?   One Occupier explains, “It’s really only a very few people in power in this city.  I guess they think we’re not high class enough to be seen in public like this”.
Another person in the circle responds, “The cops are like that too.  They don’t know what the laws are; they just make things up and try to bully you”.
The infamous street woman and the tall street woman with the teardrop tattoo beside her eye join in.  The infamous woman looks rough.  She says her stomach ulcer is acting up.  She went to the hospital but was told because she drinks and takes drugs; the hospital wasn’t going to help her.
Then, as per usual, with the exception of the Occupiers, everyone stands up, says goodnight and leaves.
The flames burn high and hot as the neighborhood retired man enters the circle.  He wants to talk about the Democratic Presidential Debate that was on TV a few days ago.  Unfortunately none of us watched it.
Someone comments, “I read today that Bernie Sanders has come out against the occupation of Palestine.  I think it said he was critical of the Israeli government”.  Someone else jokingly responds, “Gee, Bernie Sanders must really hate himself”.  We laugh.
One Occupier says, “I’d pay more attention to him if he hadn’t joined the Democratic Party. Time will tell but I think there’s something fishy about the whole thing.  I’m just gonna do what I always do, vote for Jill Stein”.
The Spiritual Man arrives in the circle so quietly; we don’t notice him at first.  He talks about his closest brother who died of a heroin overdose about 8 months ago.
A skateboarder, with purple lighted back wheels, comes squealing around the west corner of CJM.  His wheels hug the wall past the side ledge and the back ledge, where he ducks under the tree.  He hits the bump (this is where most fail) at the top of the ramp going out on to the street.
We all hold our breath while he skates around the Memorial and when he hits the bump, nails it and gracefully cruises out to the street, we erupt in a big cheer!  The skater waves and rolls on down the road.
A squad car driving at normal speed cruises by as the CHUM employment counselor appears. The CHUM counselor is on his way home to his family but stops by to watch the coals die.
With the fire going out, the Occupiers notice how cold it actually is outside.  We think how in the world are these folks gonna manage to stay out and socialize on a Saturday night?  For some of them, their choices are very limited.
An Occupier gives her extra pair of gloves to one of the street women.  We say goodnight and that we’ll return on next Saturday.  
 

G.A. Minutes 10-13-15

        G.A. Minutes 10-13-15
        We think it’s pretty cold tonight but we know there will be many colder nights to come.
        Temperatures are in the upper 40s; the air is still.  Half of the leaves have turned their autumn colors.  Springtime will not appear again for at least 100 years.
         A small group of the usual suspects are huddled together on the back ledge.  They’re drinking covertly; they need to keep warm.  When they notice a couple of Occupiers arriving, most pitch in and help get everything rolling.
         The first person to sit up close to the fire is the man who’s always laughing.  The last time we saw him he wasn’t laughing much.  He’s laughing as per usual this evening.
         He’s still got the same problem but he’s handling it.  His new little baby has been in the clutches of Child Protective Services for 4 months now.  The laughing man has jumped through all the hoops they have given him.  He contacted the community organizers we advised him to contact and now has good counsel.  His court date is at the end of this month.  He feels confident he’ll get his baby back.
        The man who’s always laughing is African American; his baby’s mama is petite and very blond. An Occupier comments, “This whole thing with CPS has been fishy from the start.  I’m guessing there’s a lot of racism involved”.
        Laughing Man answers, “Oh yeah, that’s for sure.  I’ve been living with racism all my life.  You just gotta deal with it”.
        Ms. Community Cleanup and her most recent best friend come bouncing off the back ledge. The best friend is incoherent and trying to leap over the fire.  We’re not having any of that.
        Ms. Cleanup is in her drunken personality so is sizing up all the males in the circle.  When she chooses one, she will taunt her prey, attempting to make him angry.  If she succeeds, she’ll laugh and run away.
       The other people drinking on the back ledge come over to get food.  We don’t know them and they don’t say much.  They just eat.  We’ve brought 38 hardboiled eggs and they are gone within 5 minutes.  Oh well…… people are hungry.
        The man with the pickled brain stands close to the fire.  At times it seems he has a lot to say but can’t manage to get it out.  He says, “Thanks for doing this”.
        A DPD squad drives by; shortly after that, another one does the same.  An Occupier opines, “They’re starting a little early don’t you think?”
        The CHUM employment counselor walks up.  “So I heard they don’t want you to have this fire anymore?” 
        An Occupier answers, “Yeah, we heard that too”.  We all laugh.
        Then another squad car pulls up and 2 officers get out.  They walk over to the back ledge and begin talking with the people.  We think they’re some of the regular cops that are being forced to put out our fire.  It’s dark so we can’t really tell.
        Best Friend is still doing his incoherent leaping routine.  The cops try to get him to stop but he just gets worse.  The cops cuff him, take him out to the sidewalk and tell him to sit down.  He sits down, rolls around on the sidewalk and then stands up.  The cop who is trying to control Mr. Friend is having quite a time.  We think he won’t hit or tase the friend because he knows we are watching.
        When Ms. Cleanup realizes the Best Friend is being arrested she does everything she can do to get herself arrested too.  The second cop knows her well and keeps telling her to stop. 
        When she runs up and pushes him, he’s finally had enough.  He cuffs her too.  She begins crying, “What did I do?  What did I do?” 
         The second cop rattles off a bunch of scary sounding charges.  Another squad car arrives. Looks like backup is needed.  Things calm down. All the cops drive off, taking Ms. Cleanup and Best Friend with them.
        Except for the folks in the fire circle, the Memorial is empty.  The CHUM counselor offers to give a few of the street folks a ride to wherever they are going to sleep for the night.
        Our friend, the neighborhood retired man appears.  After friendly greetings, he inquires, “So I see the police and even the fire department have been bothering you and your fire?”  He looks around nervously and continues, “Do you think they will bother you again tonight?’  
         We tell him we don’t know.  He wishes us good luck and hurries off. 
         The middle aged woman who called the DPD last year every time someone looked at her funny joins the circle.  We’ve seen her a few times this year.  She’s been much subdued and she seems to have misplaced the chip on her shoulder.  We think she is still homeless though.
        The old man from the Skinner sighs, “This is so nice, just looking at the fire and meditating”. We all sit in a compatible silence for a while.
        The Preacher drops off a couple of bags of cheese curls and we pass them around.
        A young woman we have just met this evening remarks, “So what is this all about?  How come you guys get to do this?”
        We explain the history of our fire to her.  We tell her what has been happening with the DPD and the FPD since July 4th.
        An Occupier adds, “What this whole thing is really about is the use of public space, common space.  You know, “The Man” tries to tell you that you work for him and you belong to him. You’re supposed to just keep your nose to the grindstone, spend all of your life working and making money for him.  If you’re not working you’re supposed to stay in your own little box and be distrustful of your neighbors.
        “Well that’s not true.  People are meant to be together and there must be common spaces where people can be together as long as they’re not hurting anyone else.  So we’re just exercising our right to common space.  The fire is just something that keeps us warm and brings us together”.
        The Skinner man agrees, “Yeah, we have rights”.
        Another squad drives by.  In a short while another one cruises by ….. real slow.    For whatever reason, it looks like they’re going to give us a break tonight.
        The big clock on the old Central school strikes 9 o’clock.  The fire is down to the last coals.  We pack up, with plans to return on Saturday.