Category Archives: Uncategorized

G.A. Minutes 8-24-13

G.A. Minutes 8-24-13
There are city roadblocks up at both ends of the 100 block of 1st Ave. E. tonight when we arrive. The people on the ledge at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial tell us the evangelicals down the block had their annual free music and food event a little earlier. It doesn’t appear that any of the folks hanging out have been converted.
It’s still in the 80s tonight so we’re taking it easy. We are only 3 Occupiers as we begin setting up. There is a 12 hour music jam going on at Sacred Heart; we suspect some of the Occupiers are attending. No one is in a hurry; we’ll sit around and see who turns up. The group of street folks is larger than average for this early in the evening; some of them we don’t recognize. Everyone is relaxed and friendly so we make small talk.
Another Occupier arrives and we begin our meeting. One person from our group went to the Idle No More assembly yesterday and she gives a report. Howling for Wolves is an organization dedicated to defending the status of wolves and operates throughout the state. The Northwoods Wolf Alliance also advocates for wolves but most of its members are based in the Twin Ports. The majority of members in both groups are of Anishenabeq descent. Many in NWA are also affiliated with INM. A wealthy Caucasian woman with aspirations of running for political office is also a member of Howling for Wolves. This woman has assumed the leadership of HFW and has decided to ask for funding from some of the big but rather conformist environmental clubs. She believes it will be easier to get the money if HFW ceases its demand for the repeal of the state wolf hunt. Although some agree, many have left the group. Repeal of the wolf hunt is central to protection of the wolves. Apparently, this same woman recently made an attempt to take over the Northwoods Wolf Alliance. It didn’t work but many “feathers were ruffled”. Forging NWA documents, the woman went to the tribal councils of several tribes in the area in an attempt to solicit funds. The Northwoods people were forced to take up much of their valuable time repairing the damage. Wolf supporters will be working separately now. This is sad as stopping the wolf hunt and retaining the wolves’ status as a protected species is of utmost importance.
Initially, the Occupier giving the report was charged by INM to write an article about the Enbridge Alberta Clipper pipeline for a local alternative newspaper. The article has finally been published. It can be found in this week’s Reader on page 24. Many readers outside of progressive circles have expressed surprise at the article’s information. They were unaware.
It was announced at the INM meeting that a press conference about the proposed Alberta Clipper project will be held on September 9th, 4:30pm in Canal Park. Many environmental organizations are scheduled to be there. Among those scheduled are 350.org and Sierra Club. These big organizations should draw much media attention. We all hope to attend this event.
Other issues discussed at the meeting were the ongoing dispute with the Gimaajii Center and status of the Cultural Staff and the Indigenous Commission.
Someone mentions Water Legacy needs people to get petition signatures next Saturday at the Bayfront Pride Festival. We all agree to go down and assist. This means we won’t have our meeting at the Memorial.
We researched the city ordinances we received from the DPD officer on Tuesday and weren’t surprised to find they had nothing to do with the issue of having a small safe fire at CJM. One ordinance gives the definition of a gas station and the other is the same one they gave us last fall about fires in city parks. We were halfway looking forward to showing our research to that particular officer tonight but think he’s probably off duty. The weather is also too warm for a fire.
Throughout our discussions people have been coming up for snacks. Some sit politely for a few minutes but aren’t interested or don’t understand the conversation. They wander off. When we take a break from talking, we notice the Memorial is completely packed with people. Many of the regulars; also a lot we haven’t met. They seem to notice we’ve “come up for air” so come over for smudging and visiting.
A woman we don’t know sits down and tells a story of almost everyone in her family either dying of cancer or committing suicide. Her husband has been severely injured in a hit and run accident. He is still alive. She goes to church a lot but likes to hang out at CJM occasionally. She looks for people who may be accepting of any help she can give. We suspect before her religious conversion, she hung on the street more frequently.
A man we haven’t met also talks about religion. He is African American and a believer in Christianity, Islam and Native Spirituality. He talks a mile a minute however, his conversation is interesting. He tells a story about not being accepted by any of the religions because he is a believer of many. His family consisted of believers of many faiths so he learned to understand them all. He is a single parent, raising a daughter of mixed ethnicities. His daughter experiences problems with schoolmates because of her enigmatic character. We all talk about the stupidity of prejudice. Somehow, this leads to a discussion about the role of African American music in the development of today’s music.
An Occupier reminds us it has been dark for a long time and if we’re going to get anything done tomorrow we’d better pack up now. Tonight the general vibe of the street is real good. If we were young and crazy we’d stay longer. We are crazy but we’re not young so we bid goodbye to the religious man and invite him to return. The police have cruised by a few times but appear uninterested. The place is still packed. As we leave, we hope the cops will be kept busy elsewhere. G.A. Minutes 8-24-13
There are city roadblocks up at both ends of the 100 block of 1st Ave. E. tonight when we arrive. The people on the ledge at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial tell us the evangelicals down the block had their annual free music and food event a little earlier. It doesn’t appear that any of the folks hanging out have been converted.
It’s still in the 80s tonight so we’re taking it easy. We are only 3 Occupiers as we begin setting up. There is a 12 hour music jam going on at Sacred Heart; we suspect some of the Occupiers are attending. No one is in a hurry; we’ll sit around and see who turns up. The group of street folks is larger than average for this early in the evening; some of them we don’t recognize. Everyone is relaxed and friendly so we make small talk.
Another Occupier arrives and we begin our meeting. One person from our group went to the Idle No More assembly yesterday and she gives a report. Howling for Wolves is an organization dedicated to defending the status of wolves and operates throughout the state. The Northwoods Wolf Alliance also advocates for wolves but most of its members are based in the Twin Ports. The majority of members in both groups are of Anishenabeq descent. Many in NWA are also affiliated with INM. A wealthy Caucasian woman with aspirations of running for political office is also a member of Howling for Wolves. This woman has assumed the leadership of HFW and has decided to ask for funding from some of the big but rather conformist environmental clubs. She believes it will be easier to get the money if HFW ceases its demand for the repeal of the state wolf hunt. Although some agree, many have left the group. Repeal of the wolf hunt is central to protection of the wolves. Apparently, this same woman recently made an attempt to take over the Northwoods Wolf Alliance. It didn’t work but many “feathers were ruffled”. Forging NWA documents, the woman went to the tribal councils of several tribes in the area in an attempt to solicit funds. The Northwoods people were forced to take up much of their valuable time repairing the damage. Wolf supporters will be working separately now. This is sad as stopping the wolf hunt and retaining the wolves’ status as a protected species is of utmost importance.
Initially, the Occupier giving the report was charged by INM to write an article about the Enbridge Alberta Clipper pipeline for a local alternative newspaper. The article has finally been published. It can be found in this week’s Reader on page 24. Many readers outside of progressive circles have expressed surprise at the article’s information. They were unaware.
It was announced at the INM meeting that a press conference about the proposed Alberta Clipper project will be held on September 9th, 4:30pm in Canal Park. Many environmental organizations are scheduled to be there. Among those scheduled are 350.org and Sierra Club. These big organizations should draw much media attention. We all hope to attend this event.
Other issues discussed at the meeting were the ongoing dispute with the Gimaajii Center and status of the Cultural Staff and the Indigenous Commission.
Someone mentions Water Legacy needs people to get petition signatures next Saturday at the Bayfront Pride Festival. We all agree to go down and assist. This means we won’t have our meeting at the Memorial.
We researched the city ordinances we received from the DPD officer on Tuesday and weren’t surprised to find they had nothing to do with the issue of having a small safe fire at CJM. One ordinance gives the definition of a gas station and the other is the same one they gave us last fall about fires in city parks. We were halfway looking forward to showing our research to that particular officer tonight but think he’s probably off duty. The weather is also too warm for a fire.
Throughout our discussions people have been coming up for snacks. Some sit politely for a few minutes but aren’t interested or don’t understand the conversation. They wander off. When we take a break from talking, we notice the Memorial is completely packed with people. Many of the regulars; also a lot we haven’t met. They seem to notice we’ve “come up for air” so come over for smudging and visiting.
A woman we don’t know sits down and tells a story of almost everyone in her family either dying of cancer or committing suicide. Her husband has been severely injured in a hit and run accident. He is still alive. She goes to church a lot but likes to hang out at CJM occasionally. She looks for people who may be accepting of any help she can give. We suspect before her religious conversion, she hung on the street more frequently.
A man we haven’t met also talks about religion. He is African American and a believer in Christianity, Islam and Native Spirituality. He talks a mile a minute however, his conversation is interesting. He tells a story about not being accepted by any of the religions because he is a believer of many. His family consisted of believers of many faiths so he learned to understand them all. He is a single parent, raising a daughter of mixed ethnicities. His daughter experiences problems with schoolmates because of her enigmatic character. We all talk about the stupidity of prejudice. Somehow, this leads to a discussion about the role of African American music in the development of today’s music.
An Occupier reminds us it has been dark for a long time and if we’re going to get anything done tomorrow we’d better pack up now. Tonight the general vibe of the street is real good. If we were young and crazy we’d stay longer. We are crazy but we’re not young so we bid goodbye to the religious man and invite him to return. The police have cruised by a few times but appear uninterested. The place is still packed. As we leave, we hope the cops will be kept busy elsewhere.

G.A. Minutes 6-4-13

G.A. Minutes 6-4-13
It’s very cloudy and looks like it might rain. We’re going to take a chance that it won’t. Last Saturday we met indoors as we thought it would rain. It never did. We like being outdoors at the Memorial so we’ll risk getting wet.

Just as we’re setting up the chairs and preparing the fire we receive a visit from one of the members of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial board of directors. This is his first time meeting any of the Occupiers so we all introduce ourselves. He says, “I can’t stay tonight but I just wanted to thank you for all you do and to say keep up the good work.”

One of our regular street friends stops by for a minute. She’s carrying lots of bags and is on her way down the street. One of the Occupiers has a small bundle of sage, he offers it to her and she lights it up and smudges as all and we smudge her. The wonderful fragrance wafts throughout the neighborhood.

Another Occupier arrives; one of our friends from the City arrives with him. They remind us the anniversary of CJM ceremony will be held June 14th at noon. The featured speaker will be a big surprise to many people. He tells us who it will be and we are sworn to secrecy. The Juneteenth celebration will be the next day at the Hillside Community Center. The Occupiers plan to show up and inquire as to how they can be of assistance.

Our City friend mentions the subject of possible funding for the renovation of the old Kozy apartment building. The building is directly across the street from the Memorial. Our previous homeless camp was pitched behind this building. Many of us have been contacted recently by another City official asking for our opinions on how we would like to see the old Kozy renovated. Most of us support the idea of housing for poor and/or homeless people.

Our friend explains the ins and outs of obtaining TIF funding for housing development. We express our usual concerns about developers gentrifying the Central Hillside and forcing all the poor and homeless out of the area. He tells us renovating the old Kozy and turning it into low and moderate income housing using TIF funds would be a sure fire way of keeping regular people living in the Central Hillside. He elaborates on some of the ideas he and others have for the project and we like what we hear.

The old Kozy housed many “difficult to house” people until it burned in a fire several years ago. Since then it has been standing empty. We all hope the project will work out and that some of the people burned out of their homes will be able to live there again.

Our friend tells us One Roof Housing is having a free meal catered by Duluth Grill and they are also giving away many plants that people can plant in their gardens. We are surprised we hadn’t heard about this event. He says” Oh, I guess it wasn’t very well publicized. Maybe that’s why there are so few people in attendance.” He and an Occupier decide to leave to get some of the food and plants. We jokingly say, “If they have any to go plates, bring us some”.

A boy on a bike rides up and asks for water. We give him some and begin to chat. He tells us he is homeless and that he sleeps on the front porch of one of his relatives. He says, “You guys are the ones who had that camp in the back of the Kozy last year. Hey, you really helped a lot of people”. We tell him about the free meal and he hops on his bike and takes off to get fed.

An Occupier reminds everyone about the Truth To Tell educational event to be held at UMD June 12th at 6pm. It will be a live broadcast of a panel discussion concerning the proposed PolyMet mine. One of our friends is a main organizer and would like our support. Besides, we are sure to learn things we need to know.
The Occupier begins to talk about the Penokee Hills situation when our City friend and the Occupier pull up.

They are bringing us plates of food from the free meal! Someone says, ”Oh man, you rock!” We are all hungry and very grateful. We chow down immediately. There is a lull in the conversation while we “occupy” some really good food. When we come up for air the Penokee discussion resumes. The older man from the neighborhood sits down to listen. A woman we don’t know walks over and says, “Are you folks Occupy Duluth”? When we say yes, she says, “But I thought Occupy was a bunch of kids”. She then begins to talk about the Book of Revelations and the 2nd coming of Christ. She gives everyone religious pamphlets.

We listen politely and accept her pamphlets but the older man will have none of it. He says, “Why are you telling us this b.s.”? She says goodnight and leaves. After she is gone the older man throws his pamphlet in the fire. He always gets upset when someone talks about spiritual things.

Anyway, back to the Penokee situation. The Penokee Hills is near the Bad River Reservation in Wisconsin. It is a very pristine area with many clean rivers and streams. A mining company is attempting to build a mountaintop removal iron ore mine there. The Bad River Band with assistance from various other Native bands is fighting this proposed mine. They are battling to save the land, water and environment from pollution and destruction.

The Bad River Band holds treaty rights to the area of the proposed mine. The current governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker is completely in the pocket of the corporations and is trying very hard to ignore treaty rights and to push the mine through any way he can. This coming weekend, June 8th and 9th, the mining company (G-Tech) is planning on making some exploratory drills in the area.

Bad River is asking for help from all supporters. They need as many allies as possible to join them in protesting this drilling. We would like to go there so discuss logistics. When will we need to leave and how many people can fit in the Occupy couple’s vehicle? Will another Occupier be willing to drive his vehicle if we can get gas money for him? The older man says, “I won’t be able to go along but I’d like to contribute to the gas money.” He gives us a generous contribution. That pretty much settles it. We should be able to go.

Rain drops are becoming noticeable. We pack up and head for home. If we go to Bad River there will be no G.A. on Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 4-9-13

G.A. Minutes 4-9-13

There are just a few of us again this evening. Some of our Occupiers are back at the apartment we are using for our May Day event projects. They are working on a banner and a big puppet head.

We immediately begin talking about our May Day event. So far, we have one half of a big banner made and about 5 big puppets in various stages of development. There are only 3 weeks left until May Day so we realize all other projects must be put on the back burner. A final push will be needed in order to be ready for what could be a very big happening. Everyone agrees, from now until May Day, all G.A.s will be held at the Occupier couple’s apartment. They will be working G.A.s, if there’s something important that must be discussed, we can talk while we work.

Someone comments that First Nation Elder, Ray Robinson, ended his total fast last night after about 5 ½ days of fasting. We’re glad he didn’t fast until he died. An Occupier asks if fasting is an effective means of protest, especially given the absolute callousness towards First Nations shown by Harper and his minions. We know fasting can be beneficial for the individual, both spiritually and physically. We think fasting as political protest may have run its course. Of course, these are our personal opinions and we will keep them to ourselves. Native people need our support, not our advice.

Enough talk, what is needed now is action. The Occupiers leave, going off to look for low priced drop cloths to use as puppet clothing.

This writer will attempt to give a weekly report on the progress of the May Day work in case anyone is interested. You know, you could stop by and help.

G.A. Minutes 3-19-13

G.A. Minutes 3-19-13

Just a few of us tonight and we find it necessary to face up to a terrible reality……….. SPRING IS NEVER GOING TO ARRIVE! There was another March blizzard yesterday and everything is covered in white with a coating of ice again. Bummer.

Beginning conversation is about May Day. A small meeting is scheduled for tomorrow morning at a union leader’s office. People intend to kick around a few ideas about what they would like the May Day event to look like. We know there is a conflict between Occupy and some union leaders when it comes to mining issues. This conflict is not going to be resolved anytime soon. We hope everyone will concentrate on the issues we do agree on. The Occupiers will continue to reach out to the groups they agreed to contact and hope to have another larger planning meeting in a week or so. Among things that need to be decided are whether to hold the event at People’s Power Plaza or Portland Square. Someone suggests that seeing as May Day will be on a Wednesday this year, there will be more people in the Plaza and downtown areas. Other more neighborhood centered events could be held on weekends at Portland Square.

Speaking of other events, an Occupier states he would like to bring back the Really Really Free Market event. It could be held at a different Hillside or West End park throughout the non-winter months. It could be combined with other activities such as music, potluck, art creation and speaking. Everyone thinks this is a great idea. An Occupier comments she believes there are a lot of people in the Hillside and West End who want to see the Really Really Free Market start up again but no one is willing to take the lead in making it happen.

A few of the Occupiers who are here tonight are some of those who have been out of town for many months. We give them an update on what we have been doing since they left. This update centers on our experiences at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. We had an interesting and fun time there and are looking forward to going back. After hearing our adventures, the returning Occupiers are excited too.

An Occupier says she thinks it would be a good idea to develop a broad plan as to what we would like to accomplish when performing various actions. Everyone has suggestions. One person wants to address the “food desert” issue in the Central Hillside. Another is interested in housing and homeless issues and still another is interested in addressing the unspoken but rather obvious plan of rich developers to turn the Central Hillside downtown area into a stereotypical tourist trap with a “yuppified” Central Hillside neighborhood. The homes of Central Hillside have views of the lake and some rich folks don’t think poor people deserve a good view. The plan seems to be to force current Hillside residents to move to West End. Someone reminds us that West End is now called Lincoln Park. We laugh because we know the name Lincoln Park was made up by Chamber of Commerce types years ago in hopes that this would encourage “a better class of people” to move there. So far it doesn’t seem to have worked very well. We’ll stick with West End. West End has its good points, also has a view of the lake once you get up the hill a bit, but the view is marred by large amounts of freeway, railroad tracks and coal piles. Besides, it already has enough poor people and doesn’t need all the feeding centers and homeless shelters moving in. The original speaker requests us to each show up to the next meeting with our own version of a one year plan of action and accomplishment.

People are getting tired and hungry. We quickly go over developments concerning the next film we will show. Nothing much has changed but people have a few more ideas for places to look. One of the returning Occupiers offers to help the Occupier tasked with finding a film.

Now it’s time to go home, eat something, get a little sleep and hopefully have beautiful dreams about the coming of Spring. Apparently, that’s where Spring resides…….. in our dreams.

G.A. Minutes 3-12-13

G.A. Minutes 3-12-13

We’re back at 3803 Grand Ave. We were forced to cancel our two previous meetings as both last Saturday and last Tuesday were visited by some pretty strong blizzards. As meeting time approached on each evening, it was snowing and blowing heavy enough to cause white out driving conditions. Hopefully these storms will signal the last of winter as everyone is filled with anticipation of spring.

It’s standing room only tonight. A group of our Occupiers who had left town to see what was going on in the rest of the country are with us this evening. They have returned from their adventures and may be back to stay. Everybody is delighted to see them. It’s time for lots of welcoming and hugging.

A discussion related to where we have been and where we are going breaks out. Some say Occupy was too lacking in structure and serious revolution will only succeed under conditions of strict organization, attention to image and accurate methods for evaluation of results. Others support development of alternative living systems such as community gardens and meeting spaces and sustainable energy systems. A few more say both approaches are needed. There is a difference of opinion but the conversation is friendly, respectful and inclusive.

Someone asks, “What do we see as some of the mistakes we have made and what can we learn from these mistakes?” There is general agreement that challenging the police and other authorities just for the sake of challenging them is counterproductive. We’ve learned a more sensible method is to understand the actual laws we challenging and we’ve learned that defiance should have a goal and a purpose.

The discourse evolves onto a discussion about the needs of Nature versus the needs of Labor. An Occupier talks about the actions of some union members in relation to local mining issues. He gives an example of a union leader who is only concerned with good jobs for his members and unconcerned with mining’s effect on the environment. Another Occupier states,” Being able to show that leader good jobs producing sustainable alternatives would be a solution to this problem.” Another Occupier says, “First we seize the means of production, then we turn it into something better.”

The smokers go out for a break and when they return an Occupier is explaining his desire to organize a Worker’s College. Everyone who is willing can teach the skills they possess. The returning Occupiers agree to teach classes about the things they have learned from their travels.

Next comes the subject of May Day. It is agreed the group would like to organize a community event. We would like to hold it in a city park and to invite as many groups as possible. It is agreed May Day represents the struggle of the workers of the world. It also represents the renewal of Spring and lost pagan traditions. We hope we can invite groups that celebrate either of these representations. A lengthy list of possible people and groups is made and each Occupier is tasked with making a certain number of contacts.

Someone checks the time and we realize we’ve been talking much longer than we thought. We exchange more hugs. Filled with new energy, we head out with plans to meet again on Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 12-22-12

We’re still here. At the skywalk, but also on the planet. According to some, yesterday was supposed to be the end of the world. We weren’t too terribly worried as we had checked out what actual Mayan wise people had to say.

As we gather tonight, two Occupiers tell us they have just returned from an Idle No More flash mob. Idle No More was originally formed by Indian people from Canada. It was formed in response to a new law recently passed by the Canadian government. This law removes Native sovereignty from a very large area of land. The passage of this law will allow the Canadian government to open these lands for tar sands drilling, fracking and other life killing practices. As keepers of the land, Canadian Indians have chosen to fight against this.

Mr. Harper, the recently elected prime minister, appears to have a few things up his sleeve. The law was rammed through parliament Tea Party style. At no time were Native people consulted. Of course there is a media blackout about all this but the Native people of the U.S. and all over the world are joining the fight. Some non-native people are just now finding out.

This past week has seen Round Dance ceremonies taking place in public spaces all over Canada. A ceremony had been planned in Duluth for over a week. Today business owners posted on the planning website stating that Duluth Native people and their ceremony would not be welcomed at any time. Flash mob tactics were then employed at two separate locations. They were successful.

The two Occupiers attended the final ceremony as individuals. As they told the group about their experience, one homeless Occupier stated, “But what does this have to do with Occupy and homeless people?” Another Occupier said, “The condition of the earth is of huge importance to every human being on the planet. Our survival as a species is dependent upon it.” There are very few people at the meeting tonight so a temperature check on Occupy’s position as a group is not taken. Individuals will support Idle No More as they see fit. We think we should take the role of observers and if more help than that is needed, Native people will let us know.

The discussion has gone on for awhile, everyone is tired. An Occupier reports the Zinema has given the o.k. for our showing of American Autumn. We had originally planned the showing for January 3rd but realize this date is only eleven days away. We think January 24th could work but will now have contact them again to find out if that date is o.k. It seems this is taking longer than it should but we don’t expect to be able to talk with anyone until after Christmas.

The Occupier couple is having a bonfire party on Christmas Day. Most Occupiers are planning to attend. When Christmas is over, they’ll get back to business. After a lull in activity it looks like there will be plenty to do in the near future.

Occupy Duluth returns to skywalk

December 2012

We meet on the skywalk because it is too cold to meet outside. Bring a chair if you need one, because the skywalk has no seating. Please note that the skywalk was built with public tax money and belongs to the citizens of Duluth, just as the public sidewalks do. This and a very few other spaces in the city are the only remaining vestige of the ancient idea of the commons, which still remains the physical basis of all our public liberties. We have a constitutional right to assemble there, and we do so to discuss and debate current issues of vital concern to us all.

Meeting on the skywalk has all sorts of interesting by-play. We have been asked to leave and informed by security guards, maintenance personel, low level managers, and the guy who sweeps the floors that we are tresspassing on private property. Even members of the public have frowned at us, informing us with the false information that no loitering is permitted in the skywalk. This opinion has no basis in law and the Duluth Police Department has refused requests to remove us. Still, the idea that citizens engaged in legal business cannot use public spaces is unfortunately common.

Even worse, the same guards, employees, and passers-by who have told us to leave are also certain that they have the right and responsibility to deny access to other minority citizens, especially poor people, and most especially, poor people of color. Many poor people have been intimidated and threatened with police action, to the extent that they no longer feel they have a right to use the public facilities. This denial of human and civil rights is a crime, illegal under federal, state, and local laws.

As the city attorney suggested in court last week, just imagine the headlines if the city allowed the disabled and the poor to use public spaces as freely as real citizens. Yeah, just imagine. So now our city attorney is letting imagined newspaper headlines dictate to the law? And people who are supposed to be protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act are thrown out into the street? We all know that the weather in Duluth is often uncomfortable and can be lethal. Imagine the headlines if one cold winter morning a disabled homeless person, denied access to common warmth, is discovered frozen to death on the locked doors of the skywalk in front of Wells Fargo.

We are nearly all one paycheck from life on the street. That frozen corpse could be your own.

Essay on homeless Duluth.

201211100946

Our overnight homeless houseguest Scotty left my house a few minutes ago. I feel like I know him pretty well….he was one of the Occupy Duluth campers at Paul Robeson Ballroom Kozy Courtyard last summer. Summer is gone now, and so is the camp we built. That makes three times we have been evicted. The forecast is wind and rain, soon to turn to snow.

I know where he is going. There is a liquor store a few blocks away, and he has a few dollars in his pocket. He needs a 40 oz. beer every morning. Later there will be synthetic weed to smoke. The homeless folk can be counted on to share what they have. It sure isn’t much, but they share it.

There is a homeless camp near the lake. Several people crash there every night. There is a tarp to sleep under and other bodies to help you keep warm. There is almost certainly alcohol and smoke.

Last night my homeless friend and his buddy joined the peace signs on the corner of Lake Street and Superior, a wind driven and dangerous place to stand. They had been released from Detox in the morning and were well on their way to going back in again. The shelters will not admit anyone who shows signs of intoxification.

Traffic is heavy. There is a crowd of us there every Friday night, holding signs of peace and hope. The drivers know us. They see us here every week. Many of them honk to voice support of our suggestion that peace is better than war.

Street folk are beginning to swell our numbers. One of our steadfast pillars of dedication to the cause, who carries an American flag and a sign asking passersby to honk for peace, was afraid Scotty would fall in the street and be run over. I tried to explain to him that many of these folk have been homeless and drunk for years and years. They are survivors and refugees. Stumble drunk they may be and senseless on synthetic, but they know to stay out of traffic. For the most part.

Another homeless man showed up, someone I have not met before. He says his name is Randy. He is a sight, with one blind eye that stares at invisible walls and a homeless uniform of assorted drab motley. He grabs a sign and dances out to the median, going right up to the stoplighted drivers and pressing his face to the closed windows. Of course we know that someone will call emergency to complain. He is committing a fatal error by acting in a way likely to scare tourists. That, of all things, will draw cops fastest.

Another of our regular sign wavers runs across the traffic lanes to talk some sense to him. He eventually waivers and surrenders to the prodding and they rejoin our little group on the corner. I can see that a few of our stalwarts wish homeless and intoxicated volunteers would just go away. I don’t blame them for that. I have worked with homeless refugees in camp all summer and I have seen what can happen, what will happen. There is plenty of damned frustrated anger to go around, and when it bursts out it is most often directed at other refugees, or sometimes at the property of people who do have homes to go to.

The weather is getting worse and my partner suggests we should take our summer camp friend home with us. I agree. We already have one semi-permanent homeless guest, staying with us until she can get back on her feet. She is an old friend from pre-homeless days and has a part-time job near our apartment. She is trying to get hired on as a regular employee, and she is working to get her own place soon. We love her and she has pretty much taken over the cleaning and most of the cooking, but our apartment is small and a little crowded with four people.

This morning Scotty wakes up and I give him a cup of coffee. He says he slept really well on our couch, is grateful to be dry and warm and safe. We talked for a while about trying to get the city to allow a full scale refugee camp, and about what it would take to organize the homeless folk to demand shelter as their right. Never mind the codes and regulations. If the city cannot shelter them, then they should have the right to be left alone to make whatever poor accommodation they can build themselves. There is no reason to deny them warming fires and tents. It is all they have. This is an emergency. People are dying on the street.

“Well, they have made their choices,” I heard a cop say. He meant that if they have to sleep in the bushes, it is because they will not stop using street drugs and alcohol. They could stay in the homeless shelters, crowded and restricted as they are, if only they wouldn’t take drink and smoke to ease the pain. If you want other people to help, you must fit their definition of good being. Never mind what it takes to survive on the street. Be good. Santa only brings gifts to good children. Be good or be damned.

I don’t want cops to think it is their job to divide the good from the vile. I myself don’t know enough about other lives to make choices for them. Even the desert fathers, masters of self-sacrifice, warned us that our judgment would come back at us. You will be judged, they said, as you have judged others.

I am not religious, but my spirit recognizes wisdom. If you judge them evil and deserving of punishment, you too will be judged the same, that is, evil and deserving to be punished. Pointing out the errors others have made, you reveal the evil resident in your own heart. I do believe we, as a human culture, must love and care for the least of our brothers and sisters as we care for ourselves, or we risk losing our own humanity.

So how do we shelter the adamantine homeless? The problem resolves itself, even if some of the homeless will have no shelter but the bush. If we cannot build and regulate a shelter for these stubborn indigent, we can and must at least let them build such shelters for themselves as they are able. Give them a place, we have plenty of places. Give them plastic sheeting and set up sanitation and feeding stations for them. Do not banish your own heart. Sometime before the end, you are certainly going to need it.

A climate change?

Maybe it was the hurricane. Anyway tonight the police did not stop to make us douse our fire.

But the real victory tonight was that we got into serious conversation with some neighborhood folk, who came to challenge us for disrespecting the monument, but left saying we were all right. I think they came to accept that we are looking for ways to effect real change, not just for us but for everyone. We might have some fun while we are here, but we are not here to have fun. We are reaching out to the community, we are serious, persistant, dedicated. We need you. We are still here. We are not going away.

Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson, and Isaac McGhie were circus workers, strangers in town. I believe they must have known the good company of a warming fire and a cup of coffee at some time in their short lives. I hope so. Everyone deserves to have the right to whatever warmth is available on a cold night. I hope their spirits know we mean no harm. I hope they look on us with sympathy and kindness, even though they themselves found none of that in our Duluth. Thank you, Mabel, Tracy, Barry, Tom, Carl, and the other folks who have stopped to talk to us. We want to learn from you. Tonight, I believe we may have made a start on that.

G.A. Minutes 9-22-12

G.A. Minutes 9-22-12

Only six people are here tonight. 3 campers, 3 Occupiers. We are all somewhat “shell shocked”. Last night a major fiasco took place in the camp. A person from the alley came into the camp, there were no Occupiers in the camp at the time and the alley person knew some of the alley campers. They all began drinking alcohol and smoking something that smelled like incense. By nightfall they were crazed. The person from the alley began fighting with one of the alley campers. Several tents were destroyed; the fight went up into the alley. Innocent neighbors were punched in the face and the DPD arrived. Lots of them. The alley person and 2 campers were hauled off to jail. All the rest of the alley campers ran away. Occupiers arrived but the damage had already been done. The first thought was to just close down the whole camp. The Occupiers depart with the plan of returning the next day and taking down the camp. Only the few reliable campers remain on the premises.

Upon returning the next day, the Occupiers find the reliable campers have cleaned up the whole camp and rearranged the remaining tents. “We have no place else to go. Believe it or not, this is the safest place we’ve had in a long time”. They say,” We’d like to keep the camp for as long as we can.” The meeting starts out with all these things in mind. We discuss what can be done to remake our camp so things like this don’t happen again. All of the old alley campers have already been allowed to pick up their belongings and have also been told they can’t live in the camp anymore. We’re sure they will be back in the next few days begging to be let back in. We’re conflicted because we know their stories and their problems. We have empathy for them. However, if we harbor people who have no interest in Occupy ideals and are simply looking for a place to crash, we invite the Friday night type of problem to become the norm. We decide that our camp should remain much smaller and we will be very careful about taking in new campers. Then we start planning our next steps to protect ourselves from the evil property manager. It’s quite cold tonight; we sit close to the fire. When the people who have homes eventually leave, they know that the campers are going to have an uncomfortable night. We know they will be doing better than their comrades who are sleeping under a bush.