G.A. Minutes 11-1-14
It seems to be getting colder every evening we meet at the CJM Memorial. Oh well….. Tonight we’re supposed to turn the clocks back an hour. Next time will be colder than it is now. We’ll try to stick it out as long as humanly possible; we’ll have to go indoors during the bitter cold winter months.
We don’t necessarily want to go indoors but realize we are fortunate to be able to do so. Many are forced to live outdoors year around. Every winter some of these folks are found frozen to death. This makes no sense in a country where many others own more than one home.
We’re just setting up the fire pit when we hear a loud call from across the street. It comes from one of our regular “problem children”, a young homeless man who is addicted to alcohol. We’ve never seen him completely sober but he’s quite funny and charming when he’s just slightly drunk. When he’s extremely drunk he becomes hostile and belligerent. There’s something we like about him even if we don’t know what it is.
Tonight he’s just beginning to get drunk. He comes over, sits down and begins a friendly banter with one of the female Occupiers. She laughs and joins in. The young man counts his change, determines he has enough to buy more alcohol and wanders off, promising to return.
It’s the first of the month so we had expected a pretty rowdy evening with the neighborhood “open drug market” in full swing. We’re surprised to find the streets empty and everything very quiet. We have only two street folks at our fire.
An Occupier who has spent much of his life in homelessness explains, “Many have bought a motel room for a few nights and seeing as it’s so cold, the dealers are probably making deliveries”. After several years, most Occupiers are still learning the ropes concerning homelessness.
An Occupier announces our friend who is running for the 8th CD will be holding a post-election get together at the Red Herring next Tuesday evening. She suggests we hold our regular Tuesday meeting at CJM and then go over to the event. Everyone thinks this is a good idea.
Another Occupier says there are going to be some follow up events re: the Council of Black Minnesotans. He doesn’t have all the details yet but one event will be another meeting at City Hall on Wednesday, November 12th at 7pm. The other event will be Friday and Saturday November 21st and 22nd at a TBA venue and will include people from throughout MN.
One more Occupier reports she has finally visited the Jefferson People’s House and asked the guy working on the day she visited about the possibility of holding our meetings in their space during the winter months. She was told that even though JPH has started closing at 5pm they are open to allowing groups the use of their space in the evenings. She was asked to email the JPH group with her request. She sent an email a couple of days ago and is waiting for an answer.
An occasional Occupier who lives in WI asks how things are going with our friend and his campaign for 8th CD. Another responds, “It appears that he has quite a lot of support. Voters will now have to decide whether they will fall for that old lesser of two evils game that says if you vote for the Green Party you are really giving your vote to the Republicans. I think if one doesn’t vote their conscience we will never have a chance to rid ourselves of the two party system”. Everyone agrees.
A regular street person says, “I can’t vote. I’m a felon so I can’t vote. We ask him if he has been out of prison for very long and if he is “off paper”. He says he is and an Occupier says, “Well then you can vote. You just have to apply to get your voting rights back”. The man responds, “Really? I don’t think my vote counts for much”. Another Occupier answers, “But you’re still a citizen and a person and you have rights. I think everyone should be allowed to vote. I think people who are still in prison should be allowed to vote”. The man responds, “If people in prison could vote I think there would be a lot less people in prison”. We all laugh.
As if on cue, a city fire truck in full regalia drives slowly by. As it departs it gives a couple of loud beeps. We all wave, unsure if those beeps were meant for us.
Our conversation continues and covers several topics: the new continuous war currently featuring ISIL, the question of what exactly is the American Dream, strange movies about women trying to look like Barbie that we have seen and hitchhiking stories including an explanation from the older Occupiers about what hitchhiking was like in the 60s.
We notice a DPD squad sitting across the street appearing to be watching us. He drives slowly down the hill, turns around and drives slowly back up the hill. Apparently wanting us to see he is watching.
The Native spiritual man who has joined us frequently over the last few months arrives. We pass the smudge dish around and he talks about raising children and of the importance of gently leading them in the right way. He is pleased with the way his oldest children have grown.
Another friend we have known for many years arrives. She is dressed up in her own way and has come to meet one of our Occupiers. They are planning on going off to a punk show.
The said Occupier hasn’t arrived yet. We say, “She’s probably stuck on Facebook and can’t get off”. We laugh as we know it’s probably true. We also know that many of us have the same problem. We try to justify this by commenting on how it is a convenient tool for local organizing. Also, if one has good FB friends one can learn a lot from very good articles. Blah,blah,blah…….
The Occupier arrives and we chat a bit. The two of them go off to the show.
A man we have seen before comes up to the fire. We have to grab him to keep him from falling in. He’s very drunk. We get him settled and he talks incoherently. He then begins to speak about vulgar topics.
The spiritual man gently explains the fire circle is a place of respect and the Memorial is sacred location. One should refrain from speaking disrespectfully. The drunken man accepts this correction and staggers off. We hope he doesn’t fall and crack his head open.
Our group now consists of the spiritual man and the Occupiers. We have a serious conversation about the difficulties of living and the importance of staying on a good path.
The young man who was with us at the beginning of our meeting returns. He appears to be more drunk but still in a good mood and says, “Hey, you forgot about me!” An Occupier jokingly responds, “No, you forgot about us!” The spiritual man and the young man are friends. We all laugh and joke a bit and the young man wanders off again.
It’s later than we normally stay, the fire is dying and we have run out of wood for the night. We’re going to have to pack up whether we want to or not. Once the fire dies we will quickly become cold. The Occupiers and the spiritual man exchange hugs.
As we are leaving one Occupier says to another, “I have some of our friend’s campaign signs in my vehicle. Should I put one in the memorial garden?” The other Occupier says, “Most definitely”. He puts the sign up and says, “I don’t know if many people will be able to see it from the street”. The other Occupier responds, “That’s o.k. This sign is for the people walking by”. We hope it will still be there when we return on Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 11-1-14
Tonight is our 1st meeting of the season back at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. Everything is quite clean. It’s been that way since last fall when somebody moved the big cement permanent garbage container from across the street on to the Memorial grounds.
The evening is mild with temps in the low 50s. The space is empty except for one street woman who we have been acquainted with for several years. We exchange pleasantries and begin setting up the chairs and beverages and getting the fire started. We’ll make a courtesy fire until the sun goes down; then we’ll crank it up for warmth.
Most of the regular Occupiers are present and we take our places, pass the smudge dish around and begin talking while waiting to see what will happen on our 1st night back.
An Occupier reports the mayor’s monthly open office will be on this upcoming Monday at noon. Another says, “Monday at noon? That’s a dumb time. Nobody wants to do anything on their Monday lunch hour”. One more responds, “That’s probably why he chose that time. I doubt he really wants to hear from regular people”. The 1st Occupier says, “Well I’m gonna go. I want to ask him why he hasn’t appointed the new applicants to the City commissions. He was supposed to appoint them in April. I also want to ask him about his back pedaling on low income housing. Another Occupier says, “Yeah, I want to get a few words in about Enbridge. I’ll meet you there”.
At this point we get our 1st visitors, 2 youngish guys we haven’t met before. They ask what we’re up to, smudge, get some drinks and sit down. They’re somewhat shy and very polite. Next a man arrives who says he’s a friend of one of the Occupiers who is not present tonight. He says he’s visited us in the past. We don’t remember him but of course invite him to sit. He says, “I don’t believe in any of the things you guys are working for but don’t be offended because I don’t believe in anything. All I care about is where I’m going to get my next bottle”. As he sits down, a very large bottle of alcohol falls from his coat. He quickly picks it up. Ordinarily we ask people not to drink around our fire because we know the cops will use peoples’ drinking as an excuse to stop and harass us. Seeing as tonight is our 1st time at CJM in a good while we figure we shouldn’t make any demands as we attempt to re-secure our place in the hierarchy. The man says he has lived in Duluth for 30 years. As a way of starting conversation an Occupier says, “So where did you come from when you moved to Duluth?” The man responds, “What does it matter where I came from? I was a different man when I came here. I probably would have walked up here and (making the motion of putting a gun to his head) pop….pop..pop…each one of you. I’ve been here 30 years and I’m different now”.
He then says, “Are you burning sage?” We nod yes. He responds, “Well you better put it out. You aren’t supposed to burn sage when there’s alcohol in the circle and the alcohol’s not leaving. If you keep burning it, bad things will happen”. An Occupier thinks for a minute and says, “Well I know one is not supposed to use it if they’re drinking but I suppose you would know so you’re probably right”. She puts out the sage.
A man we have met many times in the past arrives. At 1st we don’t recognize him because his beard is much grayer and he’s wearing a stocking cap. As he gets closer we see exactly who it is. One of the Occupiers had previously established a rapport with him so there is hugging and such. Our new arrival opens the conversation by repeating a tired old refrain we have heard a bazillion times before. “See those 3 black guys up there? They have a Memorial. What about all the Natives who were murdered? What about all the unspeakable crimes committed upon Native women and children? Where’s our memorial?” We respond as we always do with, “Oh man, both Natives and African Americans have had unspeakable crimes committed upon them. You’re taking it out on the wrong people. That’s just what “the man” wants; all the groups of regular people fighting for crumbs so they won’t notice who their real oppressor is”. Of course the new arrival already knows this and agrees. He begins talking about Mother Earth, Father Sky, respect for women and we all have a long conversation about spirituality vs religion. The drinking man becomes bored with all this and leaves. We fire up the smudge pot again.
Soon people are coming up right and left. Some we know, most we don’t. Among them is an infamous woman of the street who had lived at our previous homeless camp. The last time we saw her she was screaming and accusing one of the Occupiers of beating her up, putting her baby’s daddy in prison and causing her to miscarry. Then we heard she went to jail for a while. Well she’s back and it appears she’s still crazy. Tonight she hugs the Occupier and says, “I forgive you”.
Another unknown man with a gift for street slang sits down next to a female Occupier who is experiencing one of her 1st CJM meetings and politely begins hitting on her. He says, “You know, when I get with a woman, I’m there, I’m really there”. She takes it all in stride. When we tease her about it after he leaves, she says, “Oh he wasn’t such a bad little guy”.
As darkness descends people start wandering off to wherever. We get one last visit. This is from a pretty young woman who is in a zombie like state of drunkenness. She plunks down, looks quite unhappy and begins making demands. It takes us a minute to understand what she is saying but we finally get that she wants a lighter. We give it to her; she puts it in her mouth and then looks confused. She says, “I want…. I want..” An Occupier says, “A cigarette?” She smiles. We give her one and she smokes then suddenly jumps up, goes to the table, lays a rag down, pours coffee creamer on it and then apple juice on top of that. A female Occupier says, “Hey girlfriend, what are you doing?” She says, “I didn’t know, I didn’t know”. She grabs the rag, smears the mess around, throws the rag in the fire and leaves. The female Occupier says to the novice female Occupier, “A lot of evenings end like this. A young woman who is zombie drunk comes in, acts really weird and leaves. We always worry about what will happen to them after they’ve left”. Someone retrieves the rag and cleans up the mess. The female Occupier says to another, “We’d better watch our time”.
Throughout the entire evening we have observed a DPD SUV driving around and around the block and scoping us out. He never stops but makes it obvious he is watching. We guess he’s gotten the word from the Chief that we are not to be bothered. Just in case, we will always carry a copy of the letter signed by the Chief of Police in our supply box.
We figure the DPD is just hoping we will lose track of time and stay past 10pm. They will then swoop on us and charge us with being in a city park after curfew. We know the Memorial is not a city park and we don’t have to be out by 10pm but it’s not an important battle to fight. It also gives us a reason to go home just as the “2nd shift” of street folks are arriving.
The novice Occupier says, “So what happened to our meeting?” We laugh and someone quickly says, “There’s an Idle No More meeting next Friday, noon at Randy’s. Honor the Earth has a Love Water Not Oil event at Clyde Iron at 7pm Tuesday, May 27th. We need to find out when the DFL is having their big conference at the DECC and see if any other groups are going to attempt to protest. Skip Sandman is running against Nolan in November on the Green Party ticket and needs volunteers. We still need to find a way to hook up with some Native leaders or elders and get some lessons about being good allies and we should have further discussion about the proposed idea for a bench”.
With that we start packing up and putting out the fire. The police officer is making his rounds again. He’s probably disappointed because it’s only 9:30pm so he won’t be able to bust us. Oh well, we’ll be back on Tuesday. We’d like to say to him, “There’s always hope”.
G.A. Minutes 4-5-14
We’re meeting at the small gallery again. Weather wise, today was the most pleasant day we’ve seen in about 6 months. We put out a general call for progressive activists to show up tonight and plan our yearly May Day event. Seeing as the open-air is pretty darn agreeable we wonder if anybody will appear.
They appear; we find more chairs and crowd together tightly. There are 2 people we don’t know well; everyone else has been connected to Occupy one way or another since the beginning of the movement. Everyone takes a turn reporting to the others what they have been up to for the last year or so. Some have worked closely together with Occupy while others have gone off to do union organizing, work in organic gardening or travel the country.
The original plan hatched by the core group of Occupiers was to hold the event at the People’s Power Plaza/Mai’igan Corner. One of the occasional Occupiers suggests going to the Civic Center instead. He says, “Seeing as May Day is on a Thursday, if we do things in the late morning or in the afternoon there will be plenty of people around. We’d probably have more of a chance to actually connect with folks than we would at the Plaza”. Everyone thinks this is a good idea.
We kick around many ideas as to what will be the central theme of the event. There is much joking and laughter before we settle on poverty and homelessness. A regular Occupier says, “This idea connects well with what we’ve been doing for the last 2 years. You know, having our meetings at CJM and all”. An initial discussion about whether we’ll have food, music, amplified sound or other things is begun. Another regular Occupier says, “Remember, the Civic Center is officially a city park so you’ll need to study the City ordinances concerning city parks to know what you legally can and cannot do. If you are prepared with that knowledge things will go a lot easier”.
Everybody agrees we should meet again soon to work out the details. Next Tuesday is suggested but a regular Occupier reminds that we had planned to attend Dr. Vandana Shiva’s presentation 6pm at the UMD Kirby Ballroom. The next suggestion is for next Saturday, April 12th 6pm in the small gallery. A regular Occupier says, “I’ve already committed to man the NWA table at the Fond du Lac Pow Wow next Saturday but you guys could go ahead without me”. This Occupier is the one who generally writes the meeting minutes. There might not be any minutes taken for next Saturday’s meeting.
G.A. Minutes 4-1-14
This evening we are at the Amazing Grace Café. At our last meeting we had forgotten that the Wildwoods group uses the small gallery each 1st Tuesday of the month. Fortunately someone remembered so we were able to reroute everything in time. The musicians are playing loudly and the place is packed. Having our meeting will be challenging but we’ll make the best of it.
One of the Occupiers arrives somewhat upset. We find we have to almost shout to hear each other. We crowd around the table and lean forward in order to hear what he has to say. Most of us had attended the NORML presentation last Sunday evening at the Ziconne. The upset Occupier was with us. We felt the presentation was reasonably worthwhile; apparently the upset Occupier did not feel this way. He says, “I’m really worried about the possibility of marijuana becoming legal in MN. I’m afraid people will smoke it and then go driving and have accidents and kill others. I’m afraid they’ll smoke it and then neglect their children. I tried to express my concerns to the speakers and organizers after the presentation but they just ignored me or said my worries were insignificant”. We have known the upset Occupier for years so we know that sometimes he just needs to be validated. We listen and suggest that some of these things will be monitored by having the same type of regulations that are currently in place related to alcohol consumption. As we listen more we begin to realize his main concern is with the drug testing equipment used nowadays. Another Occupier says, “That’s the main reason I am so opposed to employer mandated drug tests. The test can’t tell if a person is stoned at the time of the test or if they had some weed days or weeks ago.” The upset Occupier says, “That’s what bugs me. If a person is driving while too stoned they won’t be charged with intoxication because it can’t be proved they were too stoned at the time of the test.” An additional Occupier replies, “I think we’ve already found that punishment is not a very good way of altering people’s behavior. We’re attempting to usher in the new paradigm. As this develops folks will be more loving, trusting and respectful of each other. This may take care of a lot of bad behaviors and the suffering that causes bad behaviors.” Upon hearing this, the upset one calms down. He says, “You’re right. Love is the answer. I know that, I just forgot. I have some things going on in my life right now that are difficult to deal with.” We all emphasize with him.
The coffee house is so loud we decide to just quickly go through announcements and postpone other subjects until next time. On Thursday April 3rd several activities will take place. NORML has a meeting at 5pm at Pineapple Arts, the Green Party has a meeting at 5:30pm at Randy’s and one of our organizer friends is recommending an organizing forum that will take place at 6pm in Rm 510 of the Dewitt Seitz building. We’ll each pick the event that most interests us.
On Saturday April 12th there will be an all-day Pow Wow at Fond du Lac Community College. One of the Occupiers has volunteered to watch the NWA table and asks if the Occupiers would like to cancel the G.A. that day and come on out to the Pow Wow. Everyone thinks they would like to do that.
On Tuesday April 29th another organizer is holding a forum called Effective Organizing vs Ineffective Organizing. It will start at 4pm in Rm 1004 of Swenson Hall at UWS. We think we’ll probably cancel the G.A. that day too and attend the forum.
That’s enough business for tonight. We sit, listen to the bluegrass music and chat about the problem of corrupt judges within the American judicial system. Before long, a server starts turning off lights and we know it’s time to leave. We’ll meet back at WSAC on Saturday.
G.A. Minutes 12-31-13
It’s New Year’s Eve and we’re having a G.A. at the Amazing Grace. A bit unconventional but seeing as we haven’t been able to meet for over 2 weeks, we thought meeting tonight was a good idea.
Some of our people will leave early as they are volunteering to help out at a CASDA fundraiser. CASDA is the main sexual assault/domestic violence protection agency across the bridge in Superior, WI. Those of us who remain generally shun the New Year’s Eve party and bar scene referring to it as “amateur night”.
Temperatures plunged a few days ago and haven’t risen above zero since. There is no end to this frigid weather in sight. Homeless advocates and concerned others are on high alert. The CHUM center isn’t picking and choosing its residents this week, all are admitted. A few homeless folks are in the hospital and in danger of having their frostbitten limbs amputated. The remaining Occupiers won’t be hanging around under the stars this evening. When the café closes we’ll drop those without vehicles off and all will scurry home to dive under blankets and maybe stay awake long enough to welcome the New Year. It appears this new year will be promising.
Some of our allies went down to the Mall of America this morning. They planned on attending the 2nd annual Idle No More Round Dance Celebration. A few days before the scheduled event some of the people believed to be leaders received unsigned letters telling them they would be arrested if they attempted to hold the Round Dance. Idle No More and their allies were rightfully quite offended upon receiving these letters.
Mall of America’s practice of regularly allowing Christian groups use of the space for celebration of Christian and dominant culture rituals, while terming Native celebration political protest, smacked of racism and ethnocentricity. INM decided to go ahead with the planned Round Dance. As the Occupier couple was leaving to attend the G.A. they were notified that 2 women classified by the MOA as leaders had been arrested. One of these women is a very close ally of the Occupiers.
The couple was informed MOA security had been stationed at every entrance and were stopping and searching people at random, turning away whomever they chose. They decided to bring their laptop to the G.A. so as to keep tabs on the situation.
During the meeting it was determined to be a “courtesy arrest”. The 2 INM women were released within the hour. This will surely become a legal matter. As we discuss the issue we wonder what criteria was used for searching and turning away those entering the mall. We also wonder about the fact that MOA was built with a lot of public funds and that it sits on ceded territory. We are disappointed that what could have been a joyous, inclusive and healing occasion was turned into one of racism, mistrust and hatred by MOA.
An Occupier reminds us the next INM meeting is Friday, January 3rd at Randy’s.
The discussion evolves into one about another issue we have partnered with local Native people to address. The wolf and the wolf hunt. We participated in 2 more Ogichiidag Overpass Light Brigade actions during the past 2 weeks. One was at Bentleyville in Duluth and the other in Bemidjii. Both were successful and received good media attention. 2 more actions are planned; one will be in Ely and the other in Grand Rapids. The dates haven’t been decided upon but they will probably be sometime in January. The MN and WI hunts are now officially finished. They finished early as the hunters had reached their government approved killing quota.
We wonder what Northwoods Wolf Alliance strategy moving forward will be. Seeing as we are allies of NWA, our ideas and opinions are always heard however, strategy will be decided by our Anishenaabe partners. We will wait until our next INM/NWA meeting to find out what will happen.
We know there will be another Wolf Rally on Saturday January 4th at Lake Ave and Superior St. It has been suggested there be a ceremony for the honoring of all the wolves who were killed. The local spiritual leader will be consulted as to what is appropriate.
An Occupier has recently earned a Bachelor’s degree in science but has been forced to take a part time job at Target in order to meet basic survival needs. He tells us of his disapproval of the management’s blatant anti-union propaganda. This leads us into a discussion about the short sightedness of many unions and then into a discussion of our racist and classist judicial and prison systems.
The Amazing Grace Café is closing a little early tonight. Hopefully this is so the workers can have some time to celebrate their New Year. They are all young and eager to party. The Occupiers are older and like to party also but their parties are of a different nature. We exchange good New Year’s wishes all around and if we’re not needed elsewhere, we’ll be back on Saturday.
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