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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.    

G.A. Minutes 12-15-15

G.A. Minutes 12-15-15
Winter is here, sort of.  It’s been alternating between snow, rain and sleet all day and into the evening.  Temperatures are in the low 30s but there’s a strong east wind so it feels much colder.  We’re reminded why we decided to move indoors until spring.
We’re at Coney Island again after being absent for about a week and a half.  During the time we were absent we were quite busy.  We did a lot of cooking and took care of all the food for the Honor the Earth Miigwetch Tour, worked hard at a very successful Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NDN Taco sale and worked and participated in the Holiday Show at the Washington Studios Artist Co-op.
There are no customers at the Coney Island café when we arrive.  That’s probably a good thing because we have many Occupiers and friends present tonight.  We fill up the big back booth, spewing out into the isle.
The first thing we do is to update our Catholic Worker friends and others concerning the latest developments in the ongoing saga of our campfires at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. 
We tell them about the letter we received from the Deputy Chief of the Duluth Fire Department and about the responses from Deputy Chief Tuscan re: the 4 complaints we filed against the Duluth Police Department.
The Occupiers are amazed government officials are willing to put in writing that they are going to ignore the law and obey the commands of unidentified City employees and (presumably) wealthy community members.  The Catholic Workers are not surprised; they’ve been around the block more than a few times.
An Occupier comments, “So the question is, where we go from here?  I think one thing we need to do is show these letters to as many influential progressive type people as we can.  I’ve already contacted 3 City Councilors and have a meeting tomorrow with an incoming Councilor. Maybe some of these folks would be willing to get on board and help us”.
A visiting member to our meeting responds, “Well, if you could get them to arrest you then you could take it to court”.  The Occupier agrees, “I know, but they do not want to arrest us.  Maybe that’s because they have orders not to?  At least some of them must realize we’re not doing anything illegal”.
Another Occupier jokes, “Yeah because if 1 of us punched a cop or lit up a big joint we could get arrested but then we’d be getting arrested for that particular behavior and not for the fire. That wouldn’t help”.  Everyone laughs.
An Occupier says, “I also think we should contact a good writer, preferably someone who works for a high circulation alternative newspaper or something.  They may be willing to get the story about our fires out to lots of local people”.  One of the Catholic Workers knows a very competent writer and gives the contact information to the Occupier.
Someone else has a suggestion.  We all think it’s a pretty good one.  If things develop in a certain way we intend to use it. 
Our friend, the City official, arrives.  An Occupier gives him a copy of the Deputy Chief’s letter. Our friend tucks it into his pocket, intending to study it later.
The friend explains some of the history of CJMM to the visitors.  He also tells about an important African Heritage project that he has become involved in recently.
Somehow the conversation turns to the ill-fated Unfair Campaign of a few years ago.  One of the Catholic Workers was involved in the initial stages of that campaign.  She explains how the project was intended to show white folks the origins of racism against people of color.  Local people of color tried to explain to the campaigners that their project would backfire.  The POC stated that they (POC) would be the ones who would take the brunt of the backfire.
That’s exactly what happened.  Several anonymous and threatening racist incidents occurred shortly after the Unfair Campaign put up its first billboards.  The Campaign took down the billboards and was unable to come up with any alternatives.
An Occupier reports, “I received an email from someone who works for Adbusters the other day.  They contacted me though the Facebook page we don’t use anymore.  It seems they are trying to find out what all the Occupiers around the country are doing now.
“Seeing as I wasn’t sure the email was actually from Adbusters, I just asked them to join our current page, Occupy Duluth, and we could take it from there”.
Our City official friend has to leave.  An Occupier says to him, “We’re doing our Christmas Night dinner again this year.  You’re welcome to stop by”.
An Occupier who hasn’t been around in a while asks, “So what is Catholic Worker anyway?” One of the Workers answers, “Well, it doesn’t have anything to do with the Catholic Church.  It was started in the 30s by Dorothy Day.  Dorothy was very interested in politics but found working with socialists, communists and what have you to be lacking a spiritual component.
“Dorothy Day then joined the Catholic Church.  She soon realized she would be unable to pursue her political ideals while working in the church, so she founded Catholic Worker”.
The Worker goes on to tell us some of the many successful actions accomplished by Dorothy and her cohorts.  She explains Catholic Worker is anti-capitalist with a preference for living communally.  
An Occupier states, “You know I felt like Dorothy Day.  In my youth I worked in the movement in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I found discussing Marx and Lenin all day to be interesting at first but after a short while I was really missing a spiritual dimension and genuine companionship.  I dropped out and did other things but when the first WTO protests started happening I was thrilled and excited.
“If I hadn’t been raising a child, I would have left for Seattle immediately.  I had to wait for over 10 more years for Occupy to arrive but I’m where I want to be now”.
A man we don’t know who appears to be homeless, walks in, uses the bathroom and walks out again.  He gets no flak from the Coney Island staff…….Cool.
The clock on the wall says it’s closing time.  We have a lot more to talk about but will continue here, same time, same station on Saturday.
  

G.A. Minutes 9-26-15

G.A. Minutes 9-26-15
We are already wearing our warm clothes when we arrive at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening.  It’s foggy, temperatures are in the 50s and there’s no wind to speak of.
A large group of people are sitting in a circle on the ground by the side ledge.  We are acquainted with a few of these folks.  They are in the process of getting shitfaced drunk and appear to be having great success.
We get the fire going, snacks out and people from the ledge and from the rest of the neighborhood gather around.  An old man from the Skinner says, “Man, this feels good.”  An Occupier cautions, “Well I don’t know how long this is gonna last.  We’ve been getting harassed by the police again.  They may show up tonight too.  If anybody here doesn’t want to be around the DPD, feel free to leave if they come.  We won’t think poorly of you if you have to leave”.
The partner of the stylish Native woman is on the sidewalk yelling at the sky again.  Maybe he’s talking to his God.  We expect he’ll finish in a while and come and sit with us and be normal (or whatever it’s called).
An Occupier reports, “I went to the Citizens Review Board yesterday.  It was a short boring meeting but afterwards I was talking with the BOD president and telling him about what the DPD and the FPD have been doing to us.  I told him we want to file a complaint against the DFD but don’t believe there is a process to do this.
“The president suggested we alert the City Councilors who support us as to what’s going on. The Councilor of the CJMM district is retiring soon but maybe I can alert another Councilor who also supports us.  I can also file a complaint about last Tuesday.  What do you guys think?”
Another Occupier answers, “I don’t see why we file complaints and play their stupid game”. The first Occupier replies, “You’re right, filing complaints isn’t going to get this fire circle much of anything.  It does call attention to the problem though.
“This is a small city so it won’t be impossible to get the word out.  First we file complaints like they want people to do.  It seems like we should file a lot if we have to.  Then we can tell the City Council what’s going on. 
“The City and the Council and their PR workers are portraying our city as one that cares about all its citizens.  The City Council has requested the Human Rights Commission to write a Homeless Bill of Rights Ordinance.
‘If the City Council won’t listen, we have friends in the media and many supporters in the general public.  If we get enough attention we’ll be able to get an out of town attorney and take the City to court.  They’re gonna look awful silly when exposed for the way they actually treat the homeless.”
Someone says, “Yeah, they support human rights but only for some humans.  ‘All people are created equal but some are more equal than others’.
The hesitant Occupier agrees, “Well, we’re non-violent so I suppose we should do it that way. We just have to be sure we don’t get too caught up in their game.  They like to play smoke and mirrors you know”.
The young African American man who visited on Tuesday gives some of the other street men a lecture about alcohol and how bad it is for everyone.  The street men all support this idea. Unfortunately, all of these men are regular drinkers and half in the bag as they listen.
Things are calm and quiet so of course……… here comes Ms. Community Cleanup.  She likes to be in the limelight so plunks down and starts bouncing around and talking loudly about nothing.  A squad car drives by.
Most folks are used to Ms. Cleanup’s personality but some are not.  It really bothers the stylish woman’s partner so they say goodnight.
As they are leaving, they are stopped by two DPD officers.  The officers begin questioning the partner.  The partner is stressed by this but he keeps his cool.  We all closely watch the interaction.
One of our former homeless campers arrives with packages of hotdogs and throws them on the grill.
A young Native man we don’t know is attempting to have a conversation with another Native middle aged former camper.  The former camper is in his 24/7 brain damaged alcoholic stupor. The young man calls the middle aged man a fool.  An Occupier complains, “Ah man, that’s rude.  That’s no way to talk to another human being”.  The young man doesn’t say anything but appears embarrassed.
The DPD officers allow the departing couple to take off.  One officer walks toward the fire circle.  An Occupier goes to meet him.  The officer states, “Well you know what’s got to happen now.  You’re going to have to put out the fire.  If you don’t, I’ll call the fire department”.  The Occupier asks, “Why is that?”  The Officer rolls his eyes and says, “Same reason that I told you last time”.
The Occupier asks for his name and badge number.  He’s Officer McShane #420.  A street man in the circle laughs, “You’re #420?  Do you know what that means?”  Officer McShane rolls his eyes again.
The Occupier tells him, “I recognize your face and your name but I don’t remember what you told me last time.  All you bald headed guys look the same but then I suppose that’s intentional”.  Officer McShane nods and replies, “This is City property.  You can’t have a fire on City property”.  The Occupier knows this to be false but also knows it’s pointless to argue with this guy.
She says, “Well we’re not going to willingly put out the fire so you’d better call the fire guys”.
Officer McShane calls and a big fire truck arrives in a flash.  The fire captain gets out.  He looks exasperated.  An Occupier asks him, “Aren’t you the same guy who was here last time?”  Yes he is and he’s #296, Captain Tim Pagelkopf.  When the Occupier asks him why he is going to put out the fire the captain replies, “It’s illegal to have a fire on City property and I have to do what Fire Marshal Grundahl tells me to do”.  He has his water sprayer and starts spraying the fire.
Another official car drives up and a big older cop with hair gets out.  The rest of the guys in the fire truck get out and stand around like last time.  Only this time they don’t look like they’re all ready to put out a fire.  They have blue uniforms on so they look like cops too.
An Occupier asks one of the fire guys standing around what he thinks of the situation.  The fire guy answers, “Actually I can’t see anything wrong or dangerous about your fire”.
The captain is done spraying and starting to leave when the cop with hair starts digging in the fire pit.  He turns a log over and sees it still has burning embers.  He calls the captain back and makes him spray some type of smelly white foamy stuff on the logs.  The stuff sprays all over. It gets the food wet.  The flyers about the still missing story telling woman are toast.
The cop with hair has Olson written on his shirt so an Occupier questions, “Officer Olson, please give me your badge number”.  Officer Olson says, “I’m not a cop and I don’t have a badge!”  The Occupier responds, “Well then, please give me your DFD number”.  Officer Olson says, “No!” and stomps off.
So all the City employees leave.  Most of the street folks have stayed through the whole ordeal.  We’re all sitting around, starting to feel cold.  This is where it starts getting unbelievable, but it really did happen.  Chief Gordon Ramsey comes walking into the Memorial.  He recognizes one of the Occupiers and walks over to her.
“So how are you doing tonight?” he asks.  The Occupier responds, “We were doing fine until your police and fire departments came and put out the fire we were using to keep warm”.  The Chief says, Oh really?  Who did this?”  The Occupier gives Officer McShane’s name and number.
“So what’s the history on this?” says the Chief.  The Occupier tells him, “Three years ago your police harassed us about our fire, we filed a complaint, you wrote us a letter and your cops left us alone for about a year and a half.  Starting a couple of months ago they started up again.  I think it has something to do with one of the co-chairs of the CJMM BOD.  Gordon Ramsey agrees and the Occupier continues, “So when did the co-chair of the CJMM BOD start running this city?”
Chief Ramsey suggests, “We should have a meeting about this”.  The Occupier agrees, “Yeah, we could probably do that”.
The Chief takes his leave.  It seems he is cruising the hood.
It’s getting late but nobody wants to go so we just sit and talk.  Some of this year’s new regulars straggle in.  The street man with the drowsy nickname tells a story.  He begins, “I remember the first time I met Chief Ramsey.  I was living in a motel.  I met him in the hallway and he said, “Don’t you know who I am?”  I stood up all tall and shit and answered, “Don’t you know who I am?”  We all crack up and the man continues, “He let me go though and I was drunk too”.
We really have to go now.  It’s very late and the Occupiers all have stuff they have to do tomorrow.  In fact, they’re forced to take a PTO day for next Tuesday as everyone has other things they must do.
We’ll be back at CJMM on Saturday.  Campfire and all.
    

G.A. Minutes 8-11-15

G.A. Minutes 8-11-15
We’ve been absent from the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial for over a week; we’re happy to be returning this evening.
If the weather is a harbinger of things to come, our meeting tonight will be very pleasant.  The sky is clear, temperatures are in the 70s and there’s a very light, cool breeze.
Many people are already in the space and scattered up and down the street when we arrive.  They help us to quickly set up the snacks and chairs.  All the chairs fill immediately.  We notice that everyone in our circle is someone with whom we are well acquainted.  Some are new friends; others have spent much time with us in previous years.
Several squad cars quickly pull up across the street.  A few people from the circle go over to see what’s happening.
No big deal.  The middle aged Native man with very long hair is drunk again.  He can’t walk.  He lives in the “wet house” and this is usual behavior for him.  The officers will just take him home.
An African American couple who we don’t know is standing on the sidewalk.  They are watching the minor drama.
Several officers are walking back to their vehicle.  One of the officers is a tall African American male.  The couple is quite surprised.  The man calls out, “What?  They have a black cop?!?”  The cop smiles and waves.
An Occupier in the circle calls out, “They have 2.”  The African American man on the sidewalk looks amazed.  He says to the cop, “Will you come over to my house for dinner?”
The Occupier says to the circle, “Back when I was young they had a different black cop.  The stylish, older, Native woman asks, “You mean B—–?” and the Occupier responds, “Yeah, he was the meanest man who ever lived”.
The children’s cheerleading class that meets in the old Encounter Center is getting out.  Parents and children fill the sidewalk.  A small child is running, top speed, down the hill and towards the intersection.
The parents all scream, then we scream and then all the folks on the street scream.  The child stops up short and begins to cry.  At least she didn’t run out into the busy street.
An Occupier reads a poem written by Rumi.  Everyone listens; then the Spiritual Man translates it into the language of the street.
Suddenly the woman from Mississippi comes walking down the street.  She is seriously ranting.  Her southern accent is hard to understand at times but she is swearing like we can’t believe.   We had no idea she cussed like that.
She just won’t quit.  Back and forth she goes, screaming at the top of her lungs. An Occupier comments, “I think she just gets really frustrated with all the goings on down at the Skinner building.  People are always fighting and the DPD practically lives there.  HRA won’t let her move into senior citizen public housing where she would be more comfortable.  They say she’s too young for that.  She’s actually not as old as she looks and acts”.
The behavior of the Mississippi seems to trigger something.  The Main Obnoxious Woman is with her boyfriend on the back ledge.  She says something to him; he goes up to the Spiritual Man and shoves him. The Spiritual Man pushes the other man off of him then puts his hands behind his back and says, “I’m not going to hit you”.  The Spiritual Man’s female friend jumps between them yelling, “If you gonna hit him you gonna have to come through me first”.
This goes on for a short while but the Main Obnoxious Woman’s boyfriend doesn’t hit women so he leaves. The Main Obnoxious Woman has already left.  She took off right after she whispered whatever she whispered to her boyfriend.
Small groups of people scattered up and down the street begin, one after the other, to yell at each other. 
Those of us in the circle are confused by all this.  We look at each other and laugh, sort of.  An Occupier takes the sage bundle, blows hard on it and goes around smudging everyone and everything in the whole area.  Things calm down after that.
An Occupier gives the latest “fire report”.  She says, “I had a meeting with the Fire Marshal on Thursday.  The contact officer for complaints against the DPD asked me to do that.  It was basically a waste of time.  The Fire Marshal just gave her own personal and very erroneous interpretation of all the MN fire laws.  She tried to get me to run around and suck up to various other City departments.
“I thanked her for her time, left a copy of all the documents that prove the legality of our fire and left.  When I got home I sent her an email recapping what we had talked about and informing her we would be restarting our fire.  If she could find any law we were actually breaking she could charge us with it.
“And you know what else? She told me the Fire Department doesn’t operate under the MN Statutes or City ordinances but under this big book called the MN Fire Codes.  The general public isn’t able to access this book.  They have to purchase it online for about $77.  Isn’t that some shit?  I as much as told her so too”.
Another Occupier adds, “That’s what the Fire Marshal did to us when we were at our first camp at the Civic Center.  She had us running around trying to comply with all sorts of regulations.  Then the DPD showed up and tore down our camp”.
An additional Occupier reminds us, “Northwoods 350 is holding informational and phone banking sessions to work against Enbridge in MN.  The working groups will be meeting Mon-Fri of this week and next week, 4p-7p at Studio 15.  Also, Loaves N Fishes will have their annual block party on Sunday, August 23rd from 1p-4p.
With the business now over, an Occupier directs a question to the circle.  She says, “I have never been able to figure out why the young guys sag their pants”. The Spiritual Man responds, “Originally it was a black thing.  The black guys saying to the white man, ‘Kiss my ass’.  Now everybody does it so it means ‘Kiss my ass’ to The Man”.
The Occupier replies, “Wow.  That’s so simple and it makes a lot of sense”.  The grey-haired woman comments, “Well couldn’t they just hang a little sign from their belts?  Then their butts would stay warm”.  We all crack up.
A friend of the Main Obnoxious Woman’s boyfriend comes to join our circle.  He wants to explain some things to the Spiritual Man.  He tells him how the Woman taunts and manipulates her boyfriend.  He doesn’t understand why the boyfriend puts up with her behavior but it is what it is.  The Spiritual Man is willing to make amends.
The skies are darkening earlier these days.  As they darken, the air becomes cooler.  An Occupier says to another, “If I’d known it was gonna cool down like this I would have suggested we start a small fire.  Now I suppose it’s too late”.
As we are packing up we notice a regular street woman, who we have known for years, passed out under the tree on the back ledge.
As we discuss what to do, the Lakota man from the Black Hills comes to sit beside her.  An Occupier says, “I’ll ask him”.
The Lakota man tells the Occupier, “I guess you’d better call Detox”.  We do so and a couple of Occupiers stay to wait for the cops to arrive.
We intend to be back at CJMM on Saturday.
 

G.A. Minutes 6-23-15

G.A. Minutes 6-23-15
The air in the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is actually hot when we arrive. The sun is shining brightly; there’s a slight breeze and the temperature is in the low 80s.
Small groups of people are scattered up and down the street. They’re standing anywhere they can find a bit of shade.
We move slowly as we set up the things for the evening. A couple of regular street friends come over to help. We’ll wait to light the fire until the sun is behind all the buildings.
As soon as we set out the snacks, people descend on the table from all directions. We’ve brought several dozen hard boiled eggs and a big bucket of cookies; everything is gone in about 5 minutes. We recognize most of the folks who are eating but we don’t really know any of them.
Oh well, the Mission must have run out of food for dinner tonight. They serve 2 meals a day, 7 days a week. We’ve been told that the Mission’s food is not very flavorful or nutritious but seeing as they feed so very many people, it’s understandable.
We rarely are able to bring large quantities of food but we do bring the same quality of food that we feed ourselves.
We see one of the Occupiers who lives up the hill walking down. We don’t recognize him at first but as he gets closer real realize he has shaved off his full beard. We’ve never seen him without a beard. He looks good.
The employment councilor from CHUM arrives. As usual, many street folks crowd around him. When they are finished, he comes to sit with us in the circle.
As we begin to converse, the older woman from Mississippi settles in next to the CHUM worker. She is very talkative and takes his full attention.
When the CHUM man says goodbye, the Mississippi woman keeps talking. We think she may be telling her life story. In all the years we have known her, she has not talked with us like this.
The problem is, her voice is very soft, the other people in the Memorial are all talking and laughing and many cars are driving by. We can’t hear a word she says. So we just sit there smiling and nodding. She’s got a few years under her belt so the story takes a while.
After she leaves an Occupier says, “So I suppose you heard that Congress passed the TPP today? They passed it with just the 60 vote minimum they needed. I know they were bombarded by constituents telling them to vote no. Bummer”.
Another Occupiers answers, “Yeah, I heard. I’ve also heard that some of the rulers of the Asian countries don’t like it. Maybe in the end it won’t be agreed upon. I hope so. It sure does show that our congress people really don’t give a damn what we want”.
An Occupier who hasn’t been around for a week or so asks, “So what do we have coming up in the next weeks?”
One other Occupier responds, “Well, remember we have to go way out in the country to pick up a big load of firewood. We’ll be leaving at 11am on Saturday morning. It will probably take most of the day to get it all done.
“Homeless advocates are still working on the Homeless Bill of Rights Ordinance. I attended a meeting last week and the next meeting will be at the Human Rights Commission July 8th at 5pm.
“Loaves N Fishes is working on a survey which they want to get out to at least 100 real homeless people. They think they know what should be in the ordinance but they want to poll the people to be sure. I imagine we’ll be needed to help with the survey”.
“This month’s Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NdN Taco Sale is going to be on July 10th. Our help is definitely needed there.
“The annual Veteran’s Pow Wow is going to be July 10th – 12th out at Big Lake/Mash Ka Wisen. I really hope we can go out there on Saturday July 11th. It’s my favorite Pow Wow”.
An additional Occupier comments, “I’ve been reading the Pope’s Encyclical. I’m about 3/4s of the way through. It’s actually pretty good for a Pope. So far, most of what he’s been talking about is the environment and the need to care for it. It’s reads like a combination of a junior high science book and the traditional ways of Native Americans”.
The Native woman who tells good stories stops by to smudge, walk around the circle and give hugs. We don’t see her very often anymore. She’s partnered up with the crabby old African American man who gave us so much trouble during our first year at CJM. The crabby old man isn’t so crabby these days.
The space has been somewhat empty for a while but now all the people who were present at the start of our meeting plus a lot more people arrive. It’s standing room only.
We assume that most are drinking and/or drugging but their behavior doesn’t show it. Everyone is moving slow, talking softly and pleasantly and finding a seat wherever they can.
The main homeless outreach worker drives by, beeps loudly and waves. Everyone waves back.
Another Occupier arrives. He’s returning from his choir rehearsal and reminds everyone his choir and 2 other choirs will be giving a free concert this Sunday, June 28th 4pm at Leif Erickson Park.
The just arriving Occupier brings a tasty blueberry cake, sets it on the table and it disappears in minutes. The other Occupiers are the main culprits.
Our friend, the Central Hillside socialite and all around fun person, drops by. She tells us about her new house and all the things she’s been doing lately.
An Occupier remarks, “I see that a movie called “We Are Many” is going to be released in England soon. It’s about all the demonstrations held around the world before the start of the 2nd Iraq war. Maybe the Zinema will show it and we could go”.
Someone adds, “Yeah, I would like to do that. I remember I was living in another city during that time and we had a really big rally against that war”.
Someone else says, “Here in Duluth we had well over 1,000 people at the Civic Center rallying against it”.
The first Occupier continues, “The amount of people worldwide who got out in the streets to protest was huge! G.W. Bush and his cronies just didn’t care though. They went ahead and did whatever they wanted. Now that it’s supposedly over, it’s been proven without a doubt that we were right”.
Another answers, “Yeah, but the bunch of bozos trying to run this country don’t care about that either”.
It’s been dark for a while now. When someone checks the time, we find that it’s just about 10pm. The folks in the Memorial help us pack up.
One Occupier whispers to another, “I hope everyone stays this mellow after we leave”.
As we drive off, we observe several large groups of street peeps scattered on the sidewalks further down the street. They’re pretty loud and definitely “under the influence”.
Hopefully all will survive this first hot summer night without too much drama. If not, we’re sure to hear about before we come back next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 5-30-15

G.A. Minutes 5-30-15
It will be a big fire night again at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. We’ve got chilly weather with daytime highs in the low 50s and an east wind.
Some of the “usual suspects” are sitting on the back ledge. The mood appears to be calm and friendly all around.
We set everything up but the street folks don’t join in right away. It’s only Occupiers at the fire as we start off this evening.
An Occupier is looking at his newly purchased tablet computer. He says, “I bet that police camera up there is connected to Wi-Fi”. Another Occupier teases, “Why don’t you play around until you find the password and use the DPD Wi-Fi to get on the internet?” The Occupier answers, “Oh sure, I’ll do that right now. In about a half an hour the NSA will show up and I’ll be arrested for spying, but you guys will have my back, won’t you?” We all laugh.
One other Occupier comments, “Did you hear about that former Speaker of the House that just got arrested? The charge is lying to the FBI. Hello??? Lying to the FBI? The FBI lies to everyone else all the time”. We laugh again
Another Occupier arrives. He says, “I’m just returning from the Saturday jazz session at the Saratoga Club. The music was really good.
“I’ve tried inviting some of my female friends to join me there but when I do it seems like they’re offended. I don’t understand. I know it’s a strip club most of the week but on Saturdays it’s a completely different atmosphere.
“Someone told me that strip dancing is somehow connected to trafficking”.
A female Occupier responds, “Oh yeah, stripping is a precursor to sex trafficking. When one is a dancer, the customers always want to see someone new, so after one has stripped in all the clubs for a while the customers won’t give them money anymore. Then the dancers have to move on to something worse if they want to stay in that type of business.
The arriving Occupier replies, “I didn’t realize that. Maybe some of my woman friends are under the impression that I support people being trafficked. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just wasn’t aware of the whole story”.
The folks on the ledge begin to join the fire circle. They get their coffee and snacks and move up close to the heat.
Our friend, the African American gay young man arrives. He is “hammered”. He kneels beside the fire and begins singing a popular song from the 90s about a woman who finds true confidence and freedom after her lover leaves her.
He’s giving an all-out performance. If he wasn’t so drunk, he’d be pretty good. He sings almost on key while striking pose after pose. Some of these poses appear to be very difficult. We hope he doesn’t knock over the fire pit. His balance is perfect.
The Occupiers are kind of impressed. The street folks have seen his performances many times already.
When he finishes his performance he stands up and begins acting like his normal self. That’s when he almost knocks over the fire.
The performing man brings a large group of very drunk people of the street with him. Most are known to us and all appear happy and in good spirits.
An overweight Native young man who we’ve seen in passing sits down. He asks if anyone can spare him some tobacco. He says, “I don’t know why people around here are so cheap with their tobacco. Tobacco is meant to be freely shared. It’s a big part of our culture.
“I’m from the country and have only been in this city for about 3 months. I’m very into our Native ways.”
The Occupiers have a pouch of tobacco and rolling papers which they always bring when they are at CJM. It’s meant for the use of anyone who needs it. We offer it to the large Native man.
A DPD squad has been occasionally driving slowly past the space. Every time the squad passes by, the man who recently lost his baby’s momma to a heroin overdose, waves at it.
We are only about halfway through the usual meeting time but the food and drinks are completely finished. We still have a warm fire and good conversation going.
One of the Occupiers reminds everyone that we won’t be at the Memorial next Tuesday because we’ll be attending the Clean Water event at our friend’s club up the street.
On next Saturday some of us will be taking the Northwoods 350 bus down to St. Paul for the big Tarsands Resistance March. Northwoods 350 is asking for $20 for a seat on the bus. However, for those who are unable to contribute $20, funds are being raised to allow everyone to come along.
Someone says, “Remember it will be Juneteenth on Saturday June 21st. We’ll need to attend and see what we can do to help out. There’s also going to be a Juneteenth celebration in Superior, WI on Friday June 20th”.
An Occupier reports, “I won’t be able to attend Juneteenth this year. I’ll be up at the Midsummer Festival at Mesabe in Hibbing”.
An African American woman and 3 young female children enter CJM. It appears they have not previously visited the Memorial. The children are in awe of the sculptures and writings on the wall. The woman takes pictures.
She and her children are friendly towards us. An Occupier goes over to converse and discuss the writings with her.
The infamous street woman has been sitting with us for most of the evening. She has managed to keep from drinking for many months now.
Tonight she has a cold and is coughing frequently. An Occupier says to her, “You probably need to drink lots of liquid and crawl into bed”. She answers, “Yeah, I know. I need to go home but my joints are aching so bad that it’s gonna be painful to walk and I’m 50 cents short for bus fare. I’m hoping someone will lend me their bus pass”.
The Occupier looks to see what is left of the money that has been donated over the last few meetings. There is exactly 50 cents. She gives it to the woman; the woman leaves for home immediately.
The large Native man asks why people are going on a march. We start a conversation about pipelines, Enbridge and such.
The man comments, “Pipelines are a confusing thing. The oil companies hire a lot of Natives to work on their pipelines. Natives are really in need of jobs”.
An Occupier responds, “But wouldn’t it be better if we got our energy from the sun? People could have jobs working on sustainable energy systems. The technology is already there; it just will take the will power to make the switch. If we did that, we wouldn’t have to destroy the planet”.
The big man smiles and answers, “Oh yeah, for sure. The sun is for everybody and it’s free. The companies don’t like that very much”.
He asks for details regarding the Tarsands march. Maybe he will attend.
It’s after 9pm and the streetlights have just come on. The fire was big tonight so we have many coals to watch. We begin packing up.
Seeing as many of us will be in the Twin Cities next Saturday, we probably won’t be back until Tuesday 6/9 or Saturday 6/13.

G.A. Minutes 5-2-15
We’re back at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial again tonight. The pleasant weather is still holding up. Temperatures were in the high 60s today and will probably remain in the 50s throughout the evening.
The Memorial is empty when the first Occupiers arrive. An Occupier comments, “I don’t expect we’ll have too many people around tonight. Many street folks got their small checks over the last day or two so they’ll have purchased the recreational substance of their choice and will be off getting high somewhere until their money runs out”.
We don’t expect many Occupiers tonight either. It’s the biggest night of Duluth’s annual Homegrown Music Festival. Most Occupiers are music fans and will be out listening to their favorite bands.
We take our time setting up. As we do, Ms. Community Cleanup stops by. She says, “I just got out of jail an hour or so ago. Last night at about 4am I went into the casino to use the bathroom. All the security guards came running, jumped on me and threw me to the floor. Then the police came and took me to jail. The guards were really rough with me and now my hand and my knee really hurt”.
We ask her if she had been trespassed from the casino in the past. She responds, “No, but I guess I am now. Damn, I was just using the bathroom. What was I supposed to do? I have bodily needs and there was nowhere else to go”.
We shake our heads in bewilderment. It never ends. Where are homeless people supposed to go to the bathroom? The CHUM Center is open from 8am til 4pm. Other than CHUM, there is no place in the city that will allow the homeless to use their facilities. Some homeless people are even 86’d from CHUM. So what are they supposed to do?
If they attempt to relieve themselves in the bushes, alleys or doorways the police will ticket them and eventually take them to jail.
Homeless people have bodily functions just like everyone else. So what are they supposed to do?
Another Occupier arrives carrying a bag with hot dogs and all the fixings.
The occasional Occupier who lives out of town appears, then a woman who is probably not homeless and a well-known homeless man and his dog. We invite a quiet man who we haven’t met in the past to join us. He agrees but insists on giving us a dollar before he will sit.
An Occupier says, “It seems like almost no one is around but just throw those hot dogs on the fire and I bet we’ll see people appearing from all directions”.
He is correct. As soon as the smell of the meat cooking on the grill hits the air, another 10 or so people arrive. All are folks we already know. They stand around talking and waiting for the food to be ready. We feed them all; they thank us and wander off.
Except for the man who is always laughing. He’s still laughing but not as much as usual. Tonight he has a lot on his mind. Apparently his pregnant girlfriend is angry with him again.
He explains, “When I came home last night she was waiting for me. She was yelling and throwing things. I don’t know why. I never know why when she gets this way. I don’t think I can take it anymore. Anyway, so I tried to leave but she came after me. I ran through the building, out of it and into another building and she was still chasing me.
“Nine months pregnant and she can still run like that! She must be doing meth again. I finally got away but had to sleep in my car last night. I have nowhere to sleep now but I’m not going back. I’m 47 years old. I just can’t keep living like this.
“I notice that for the last couple of weeks she’s been hitting on some other guy. Just about to give birth to my child and she’s hitting on some other guy!
“She won’t be able to keep the baby, she takes too many hard drugs and she’s already lost her two other kids. Those kids live with their Daddy.
“I guess I’ll end up a single parent. I got to figure out how I’m gonna do this. This is a serious situation”.
We all agree that this is very serious and verbally offer him support. We only know him through our contact at CJM over the years but we’ve met his girlfriend and think his story must be at least partially accurate.
An Occupier reminds us that the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NdN Taco Sale is this upcoming Friday.
She also reports that on Tuesday, May 26th we will need to attend the City Council meeting at 7pm. Funding for the proposed Housing Access Center is on the council’s agenda and we need to show our support.
Someone else mentions the documentary “30 Years of Punk Politics” will be shown on Wednesday, May 6th 7pm at the Jefferson People’s House.
Over the last hour or so we’ve noticed several squad cars cruising the neighborhood. They don’t even glance over at us as they drive by. A young man who is sitting with us says, “Yeah, they’ve stopped me twice tonight. They’re looking for someone”.
So far, this evening has been very calm. As if to break this spell we are visited by the most obnoxious street woman we know. There are very few street people we find intolerable but this particular woman is one of those few.
We’ve just put more hot dogs on the grill. She plunks herself down and demands that we give her one. An Occupier offers her the first one done but she refuses it. She growls, “Nah, I don’t want that one, it’s too burned. Give me a different one!”
We give her a different one and look up to see seagulls flying overhead. Seagulls always know when people are eating.
An Occupier remarks, “They want our hot dog buns but bread isn’t good for seagulls so we shouldn’t give it to them”.
As if on cue, the obnoxious woman begins tearing hot dog buns apart and throwing them to the birds. Immediately, all the seagulls in the entire city descend on the Memorial. We roll our eyes and sigh.
The woman has a boyfriend with her tonight. This is very unusual. The boyfriend is older than her, polite and soft spoken. She is a little less obnoxious than usual. Not much, just a little.
As the sky darkens, the parade of Homegrown attendees begins. A band rocks out at our friend’s club down the street.
The folks in the parade look over at us. We wave and some wave back. We invite them over but they’re not interested. Many appear afraid of the company we keep.
We think that what they are doing is not that much different than what the street folks are doing. The Homegrown folks just drink more expensive alcohol.
We think it’s time to leave but many are mesmerized by the fire. Ms. Obnoxious is dancing with her boyfriend to the music of the band.
We’ll let the fire burn down all the way and then we’ll be back again next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 4-11-15

G.A. Minutes 4-11-15
The early evening air is exceptionally pleasant as we arrive at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial an hour or so before sunset.
Temperatures are still in the 60s, there’s no wind to speak of and we don’t even need our coats yet.
We set things up but don’t light the fire. We’ll wait until the entire space is shaded.
While the first arriving Occupiers are unloading chairs and such from the vehicles, a lone Occupier sits by the fire pit.
A group of youngish African American men and women walk by. They have small children in hand and smaller ones in strollers.
One of the men warily calls over to the lone Occupier, “So what do you think about all this?” He gesture towards the 3 metal sculptures on the wall. Sculptures of the 3 young African American men who were lynched on this corner in 1920.
The Occupier responds, “Well I think what happened to those innocent guys is pretty sad. However, I know that kind of thing happened in this country at least a gazillion times and as far as I know, this is the only memorial about lynching in the whole country. So in that respect, I think it’s pretty good”.
The young man smiles and says, “Thank you” and the group continues their walk.
As we take our seats the street man who makes wooden flutes comes to join us. We notice he seems a little wobbly. He says, “I’m a little drunk tonight but I’m o.k. I never get mean or stupid or anything”. He and an Occupier carry on a conversation about their gambling addictions.
The regular street woman who tells really good stories arrives. We haven’t seen her since last fall. She’s very smiley and happy as she tells us she’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer. “Are you gonna be here for the evening?” she asks. When we tell her yes she says, “I’ll come back and I’ll tell you a good story”.
The Memorial space is now completely shaded so we light the fire. We still don’t need our coats.
By now we’ve also been joined by a regular man who lives in the apartment building on the corner and a couple of regular middle aged Native women.
A young girl comes over and asks for apple juice. She is followed by a group of boys who are about 8 to 10 years old. They are carrying long sticks and baseball bats and they all go to sit on the back ledge.
Suddenly one of the Native women begins yelling at them. Some of the kids yell back. A boy runs up and hits our plastic garbage can with his bat.
The woman screams, “That’s it! I’m calling 911”. She pulls out her phone and begins talking. We think maybe she is just pretending to call.
The children go running up the hill. The woman runs after them.
The largest and probably oldest of the boys remains on the ledge. An Occupier walks over, sits beside the boy and they talk.
After a short while the children return. They come to our table and we offer them sandwiches, juice and oranges. One of the boys tells us, “That lady was trying to hit us and says she’s gonna call the cops”.
We’re confused by the whole thing. They seem like normal kids to us.
An Occupier reminds us about the benefit at the Red Herring tomorrow starting at noon. The benefit is for the people who lived in the Applewood Knoll apartment building that burned to the ground last week.
She also informs us another friend of ours had a serious fire in her private home just last night.
As usual, a large group of people suddenly arrive. Among them are an Occupier and her boyfriend. They bring a large crockpot of homemade vegetable stew and warm garlic bread. Everybody chows down.
Once their bellies are full most of the large crowd of people wander off.
The woman who also lives in the apartment building on the corner stops by to visit. She keeps an eye on CJM and regularly cleans the area. We’ve known her for years.
It’s the first time we’ve seen her this year. She looks much older and although it doesn’t seem possible, she appears to be even thinner.
We’re quite sure she doesn’t abuse substances so we wonder what is up.
She explains that someone has attempted to set her up and get her evicted from her apartment.
“I let some people into my apartment. They were well dressed and had good jobs and I thought they were nice. One of them hid some kind of pipe in my house when they left. The next day my landlord came in, found the pipe, told me it was drug paraphernalia and said I was gonna be evicted. He wanted me to sign a paper saying I accepted what he was saying.
“I told him it wasn’t mine, I had no idea how it got there and I wasn’t signing nothing”.
We begin offering advice but it seems the thin woman already has things under control. She comments, “I know what to do to defend myself but this is so stressful and it pisses me off”.
An Occupier states, “This is a perfect example of why we need to have the Housing Access Center again”. Another Occupier asks, “What did the Housing Access Center do?” The 1st Occupier replies, “It was a place where one could get information about all of the low income housing projects all at once in one place. It was also a place where landlords and tenants could meet with a moderator and work out their differences. Now days, about the only option landlords have is to evict”.
Another woman we have known for a few years sits down. As usual, she’s drunk. We’ve always thought she was quite beautiful but it seems her alcoholism is robbing her of her looks. She’s wearing a lot of makeup now.
Apparently, she’s recently fallen and cracked a rib. The hospitals won’t treat her because she’s always drunk. That makes no sense to us but we hear that same story from many.
The drunken woman has always seemed to have some sort of oppositional defiant disorder so we’ve given up trying to give advice. We just listen.
Eventually she catches the eye of a man who is probably not of the street and they walk off together.
The woman with the good stories returns but she’s very drunk now. She’s crying. She walks clockwise around the circle, blessing us all as is her custom and then sits down. Between sobs she says loudly, “I have breast cancer and they’re going to cut them off”.
An Occupier with experience in the medical field attempts to comfort the woman and explain that she may have other options.
The Occupier’s genuine concern appears to comfort the storyteller. She hugs the Occupier and stops crying.
A group of Native men, some of whom we know, join the circle. They can’t smudge because they’ve been drinking but they appreciate the smell of the burning sage.
The women who had chased the children earlier return. It seems all the men and women are related. They laugh and tease each other.
We all watch the fire turn to coals. Then it’s time to go.
Everyone wants to know when we’ll be back. We don’t have anything really pressing coming up in the next few days and the good weather promises to be around for a while.
We think we’ll be back on Tuesday.