G.A. Minutes 3-5-19

G.A. Minutes 3-5-19

We’re back at Coney Island again this Tuesday evening; it’s still winter but we’ve entered the month of March so we think we may have gotten over the hump. There will still be snow and maybe even a blizzard or two but March storms are generally milder with temperatures above arctic range. Then again, climate change is now in full swing so no one knows what to expect for sure. That gives us all the more reason to keep our shoulders to the wheel and keep up the battle against the extractive industries, corporations and capitalism in general.

As for tonight, the sky is overcast, the temperature is somewhere in the teens with a moderate variable wind. In other words, if one is properly layered it’s possible to stand outside long enough for a cigarette and short conversation. If one is outside longer than that, jogging or jumping up and down will be required.

This evening’s gathering consists of the usual mix of Water Protectors, Anonymous peeps, local activists and Occupiers. One of the activists is sporting a serious “shiner”. Everyone is concerned and surprised; the purple eyed activist laughs, “Isn’t it cute? It’s hard to explain exactly how I did it but I smacked myself in the eye with the end of a shovel while attempting to clear the snow off my driveway for the gazillionth time this season”. An Occupiers emphasizes, “Ow! That musta hurt”. The activist confides, “Actually, it didn’t; maybe it was the couple of beers that I drank before I got started but I just kept shoveling until after a while I noticed that something was blocking the vision of my left eye. I went inside to check it out; it looked much worse then than it does now so I took a few pictures, postponed the rest of the shoveling and called it a night”. The Occupier comments, “I don’t imagine you might have had a few more beers in order to comfort yourself after your ordeal?” The research activist replies, “Well yes, I might have done that, I just might have”.

Changing the subject, a Water Protector/Anon who lives on the Fond du Lac Rez exclaims, “Just when I think my RBC (Reservation Business Committee aka/ the small group of enrolled members of the Fond du Lac Band of Anishinaabe/Ojibwe/Chippewa who rule according to the crooked capitalist, dominant culture system) can’t do anything more to piss me off, they piss me off AGAIN! Our tribe fought really hard tohang onto the Carter Hotel that is right behind our casino in downtown Duluth; the supposed plan was to rebuild it and rent out low income apartments to our many tribal members who are homeless and living in the city. Now the tribal government announced they’ve decided turn the space into a parking lot. WTF? We need homes for our people not private parking for the FDL bigwigs. I told our tribal chairperson the same thing earlier today; he sees me as a thorn in his side but SOMEBODY has to give him a reality check. I hate how our tribal government betrays our people while lining their own pockets”.

An activist quietly remarks, “Yeah, it is kinda weird. I notice there are a lot of Native American people in this country who are going whole hog about living their lives in tune with their traditional ways. However, for the most part, their tribal governments give most of the tribal benefits to themselves, their families and their friends. What’s up with that?”

An Occupier attempts to explain, “It’s all part of the plan begun by some of our ancient European ancestors. Have you ever heard of the Doctrine of Discovery?” The activist responds, “Yabut, I don’t remember what it was all about”. The Occupier continues, “It was a proclamation or something like that issued in 1493 by Pope Alexander VI that said any Christian anywhere in the world who came upon any land that was not occupied by another Christian, was perfectly within their rights to claim said land and to exploit said land however they saw fit. Once word got around about the Pope’s declaration, so-called ‘adventurers’ got financial backing from various kings, queens and wealthy merchants so they could travel around the world and ‘discover’ so-called vacant land and shit. It didn’t matter that the lands the so-called explorers ‘discovered’ had plenty of people and societies already living there; as long as the people did not practice official Christianity, they were labeled ‘savages’ devoid of any human rights at all.

“I’m sure you know something about the history of the “Christian conquerors” and their efforts to ‘civilize’ non-Christian peoples of the world?”

The activist nods in the affirmative and the Occupier continues, “Well, the conquerors did the same thing to all the indigenous people in the Western Hemisphere too; the British, French and Germans stomped on North America while Spain did the stomping on South America. I don’t know much about how things went down in South America but I know that in North America the indigenous folks were the victims of attempted genocide. At first the colonizers, thinking the folks were stupid, tried to trick them into trading their land in return for beads, mirrors and crap; when that didn’t work the colonizers tried to just kill them all.

However, many of the native people were fierce warriors and although the colonizers were more numerous and had bigger guns they were unable to kill all of the ‘Indians’. The next step was to try and schmooze the folks, sometimes giving them alcohol (a drug most indigenous peeps were unfamiliar with) with treaties written in a language the indigenous ones didn’t understand and that the colonizers didn’t abide by anyway. They rounded almost all of the Natives up though and corralled them in what were called ‘reservations’. On these reservations the residents were poisoned, starved and treated as less than human but in spite of it all, some of them still survived.

“So the next big idea was boarding schools, which brings us around to the late 1800s. The colonizers took the Native people’s children and put them in institutions around the country, generally far away from where their families lived. In these institutions the Native children were segregated from the rest of the world, forced to learn English and beaten for speaking their languages of birth, physically, sexually, emotionally and spiritually abused and taught about lying and being mean. Once the kids were grown and got kicked back to the reservation they had been completely stripped of their culture and found it hard to relate to their families or their surroundings. Many of the boarding school graduates turned to drinking alcohol as sort of a last resort.

“In the 1950s the plan was to relocate the “Indians” from the reservations into US cities. Most non-Native Americans were shocked to find out that indigenous people still even existed, believing that all ‘Indians’ had either been killed or had just died off. In the 1960s and 70s Native people in the cities began speaking out and demanding a better deal for themselves and for their people; so the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs), the US government and who knows who else came up with the concept of tribal governments. The catch was that these tribal governments had to function along the same lines as the government of the U S of A. If the tribal government didn’t adequately function in the plutocratic manner demanded they would not receive their federal government funding. So that meant corruption, lack of transparency, bribes, nepotism and all the other crap that goes along with the non-democratic, capitalist worshiping type of government we all live under in so-called America.

“So that’s why, much like our federal and state governments, tribal governments don’t do what is actually good for their people. Damn! I’ve really been running my mouth; I feel like I just gave sort of lecture. I may have some of the chronology wrong and I’m sorry that I talked so much. I’ll try to behave now”. The Anon/WP laughs, “Nah girlfriend, you’re o.k. and it is true that my RBC runs everything according to the ways of the dominant culture”.

Another Occupier switches gears asking, “So what did you all think of the Direct Action Training that we participated in over the weekend?” One of the activists responds, “I thought it was really cool. I was surprised at the amount of people who attended, some of them traveling all the way up from The Cities. I learned a lot, really enjoyed making new connections with like minded people and hope we do it again soon”. Everyone else agrees.

Someone inquires, “How about that announcement on Saturday from Enbridge stating they’re going to postpone the work on Line 3 for a year?” An Occupier exclaims, “Don’t turn your back on Enbridge for even one minute. They are some lying mother fuckers! I’m betting they’re hoping all the Water Protectors will just go home and smoke dope or some shit. By the time the W.P.s wake up…….SHAZAMM!! A brand new earth destroying pipeline will be up and running. It’s not gonna happen that way though, we’re gonna remain vigilant; am I right?” We all say, “Oh yeah, you’re definitely right”.

An activist says to a W.P., “I saw the video of you all over at the Husky Oil Refinery action yesterday. Thanks for doing that; it looked like it was freezing cold. You all were so bundled up that I couldn’t tell who anyone was; I just recognized your voice”. The W.P. Tells her, “Yeah, we planned it that way”.

The Occupier who reports stuff reports, “It looks like there will be conflicting actions this upcoming Friday. Socialist Action and the Feminist Justice League are sponsoring a picket in honor of International Women’s Day on the protest corner starting at 5pm. Anonymous Twin Ports, Northwoods 350, MN 350 and ALD are sponsoring a bank action at Wells Fargo in Cloquet starting at 3:30pm. I’m guessing we will each need to decide which action we’re gonna go to because given the travel time involved, I can’t see how anyone will be able to attend both of them”.

An activist ponders, “I wonder if FDL could just go to all renewable energy sources and leave all this unsustainable energy garbage behind?” An Occupier replies, “You might want to check out what’s going on up at the Red Lake Rez; about a year ago they announced they were going completely solar. I asked a friend of mine who lives up there if the announcement was for real and he said it was”.

We notice that it’s already after 8pm but the staff guys are just beginning their cleaning routine. As usual, we haven’t been paying much attention to our surroundings; we guess there must have been a lot of customers. We quickly clean up, pack up and pay up so as to allow them to turn off the outside lights and put up the Closed sign.

Some of us will go over to one of the Occupier couples homes in order to make signs for the upcoming bank action. We expect to be back at Coney Island next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 2-19-19

G.A. Minutes 2-19-19

We have no complaints about the winter weather this evening, although our lack of whining is relative; for the last couple of weeks we experienced several heavy snow storms, some sleet storms and temperatures well below zero. The snow banks are now so high that one needs to drive far out into the street in order to determine if any cars are coming. Folks who are walking need to walk in the street as gigantic snow piles combined with ice banks cover most of the sidewalks. The City snow plow drivers have been working pretty much 24/7 but every time they get all the streets and roads plowed and start preparations to load and haul off the excess snow, it snows some more and they have to start plowing everything again.

Many of our city’s well-off folks are complaining like crazy about all the snow the plows are forced to push up on their sidewalks and lawns. We know the snow plow workers are doing the best that they can; they have no control over how much snow we’re gonna get before winter is over. If the homeowners want to place blame on something we think they should focus on climate change and the fact that we live in Minnesota.

Tonight the temperature is in the high teens with clear skies and little wind; we can even view the full moon (aka Super Snow Moon). Our Grandmother (Anishinaabe name for the moon in all her stages) is marvelously beautiful. Looking at her and talking to her helps us keep our cool while attempting to cope with our way too long winters.

We expect there will be fewer peeps than usual at this evening’s meeting at Coney Island. Some have family matters to deal with tonight; others are having car troubles. As we push the tables and chairs together our gathering consists of 3 Occupiers, 2 members of the Anonymous crew, a Water Protector, the activist who is an expert researcher, the street woman formerly known as Ms. Fox and the city official.

The Occupier who writes our meeting minutes exclaims, “I can’t believe I haven’t written any minutes for about 3 weeks, I’m kinda embarrassed”. Another Occupier tells her, “With all the stuff we’ve had going on, I don’t see how you could have found the time to do any writing. I mean, over the last 3 weeks we’ve helped with the Anons Operation Safe Winter every Saturday from 2pm-6pm at Peoples Plaza and Gitchigumi Scouts every Sunday meeting up at 4 pm at Peoples Plaza, dividing up in small groups and going out from there, We’ve done a film showing and really good discussion, 2 meetings about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Relatives, a lengthy training session about how to do patrols for MMIW&R, a rally and march for MMIW&R in Superior, WI that had just about as many cops bothering us as there were marchers, we’ve held our regular G.A. Meetings every Tuesday AND you made that gigantic hotdish for the Sobriety Feast. I can’t imagine why you didn’t have time to write”. We all laugh.

An Occupier says to another, “You went to the hearing today in Grand Rapids for the Four Necessity Valve Turners didn’t you?” The other Occupier replies, “Yes I did; there were some very good developments. The judge told them they were entitled to a 12 person jury trial where they could argue the Necessity Defense. They will have to jump through a bunch of hoops beforehand and it will probably be a year or so before they actually go to trial. but still, it’s kind of a victory because so far, the judges in this country rarely accept a Necessity Defense.

An Anon exclaims, “Those Catholic Workers just rock! Their entire lives are dedicated to saving humanity and all the plants and animals. I realize that their methods are somewhat different from ours; a lot of their actions are symbolic and directed at the power of the universe. On the other hand, our actions use a concrete strategy. Whatever….. I really admire Catholic Workers and their level of commitment; I think all of the Valve Turners are Catholic Workers, aren’t they? We don’t know the answer to her question

The first Occupier remarks, “I hope the Valve Turners will be able to get J. McEwen and JT Haines to be their attorneys for the trial. The defense they presented for our Occupiers/Water Protectors a few months ago was just about perfect”. The Occupier/Water Protectors who are present at tonight’s meeting agree with the first Occupier’s analysis about the abilities of their attorneys. Someone reports, “By the way, the next court date for the ‘Black Snake Killers’ is March 25th”.

The city official tells us, “Just so you know, the Duluth Transit Authority has 4 openings for full-time bus drivers right now. One can access the application process on the DTA website or Facebook page. A special type of driving license is required in order to drive a bus but if an applicant meets all the other requirements, the DTA will assist them in acquiring the special license. Tell all your friends, especially persons of color”.

An Occupier reminds us of the Direct Action Training we have been invited to attend on Saturday, March 2nd noon-6pm at the artists co-op. Another Occupier jokes, “Yes please, I believe that I am in need of some Direct Action Training as I am suffering from massive delusions. I still call myself a Democrat; I believe in the Two-Party System”. We all gasp, clutch our hearts and say “Oh no!” An Anon attempts to comfort him saying, “Oh my brother, we all love you and want to help you heal. Please attend the Training; it will set you straight and return you onto the path of righteousness and salvation”. Then we all take a moment to crack up.

We notice the staff guys beginning to clean up so we begin gathering up our dirty dishes and bringing them up to the counter. An Anon prompts, “This upcoming Saturday, February 23rd 2p-5p at Peoples Plaza may be our last #Op Safe Winter action for this year. We normally just do it on all Saturdays in February. I hope you will all attend and help us close out the year. Also, on Sunday, March 3rd, noon-2pm at Peoples Plaza there’s going to be a St. Paul Principles Gathering Breakfast; it’s sponsored by Anti-Colonial Land Defense, Gitchigumi Scouts and many groups from the Twin Cities. For those who don’t already know the St. Paul Principles (he begins reading):

1. Our solidarity will be based on respect for a diversity of tactics and the
plans of other groups.
2. The actions and tactics used will be organized to maintain a separation of
time or space.
3. Any debates or criticisms will stay internal to the movement, avoiding any
public or media denunciations of fellow activists and events.
4. We oppose any state repression of dissent, including surveillance,
infiltration, disruption and violence. we agree not to assist law enforcement
actions against activists and others.

An Occupier asks, “Do they want us to bring our fire?” The Anon replies, “Probably, as it’s sure to be cold out. I’ll check with them and let you know. It’s going to be a potluck so everyone who is able should bring something to contribute to the meal”.

As per usual, the staff guys are cleaning up; we clean up our stuff, pay our bill, leave a generous tip and head out the door. Some of us will stop by an Occupier couple’s place for a little R&R.

We expect to be back at Coney Island next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 1-26-19

G.A. Minutes 1-26-19

When the first two Occupiers arrive at Coney Island this evening, they come running through the front door. One Occupier exclaims, “Holey shit! This weather is unbelievable! My car thermometer is reading -19 and the sun only went down about a half an hour ago”. The other Occupier adds, “Yeah, and the -19 doesn’t include the wind chill; I’m guessing that the actual air temperature is closer to -40”.

When the Occupiers scrutinize the space, they see that it is completely empty. One of the staff guys tells them, “It’s been almost dead all day; we’re expecting our boss to call us any time now and tell us to just close up”. The Occupiers order some food and head to the area in the back of the restaurant. One Occupier comments to the other, “I doubt that anyone else is as insane as we are; we’ll have to wait a while to see, though”.

It turns out that there are others who are actually just as insane. Within a short while another Occupier arrives, then 3 activists and a couple of Water Protectors. The first Occupiers are comforted to find there are others who share their derangement.

As everyone sheds their many layers of outer clothing, an Occupier says to an Occupier/Water Protector, “I see you all are having a fundraiser related to your arrests when you chained yourselves to the Wells Fargo entry gate about a year ago. I hear that the benefit is going to happen on February 8th from 6p-9p down at Carmody’s”. The Occupier/WP replies, “Yup, we have to raise money in order to pay our fines. We were each charged with trespassing which is a petty misdemeanor and the judge fined us $135 a piece. That’s less than the $300 a piece that the City requested but still too much for each of us to afford on our own. After he issued the guilty charges the judge said to us and the courtroom, “There is a long tradition in this world of honorable and appropriate civil disobedience. This case is a perfect example. Keep up the fight”.

One of the activists exclaims, “Well then, why didn’t he just find you not guilty by reason of your ‘necessity defense’?!?” The Occupier/WP tells her, “I really don’t know. Maybe there was some obscure legal thing that our attorneys weren’t aware of or maybe he was just afraid of losing his job”. Another Occupier interjects, “The courts and the cops in ‘Merica’ are lowering charges for environmental and social justice cases frequently these days because they don’t want defendants to be eligible for a jury trial, especially if the defendants plan on using the ‘necessity defense’. I think they know that if the defendants are able to present the whole story, the jury will probably find them not guilty”. Another activist opines, “It might have to do with the fact that Wells Fargo is on private property. Trespassing charges are different on private property than charges on public property. Next time, try to find a major bank that is on public property”. We all laugh.

An Occupier reports, “The warming station in West Duluth has been open for about a week and a half now and I hear things are going really well. The information is being spread by word of mouth out there and the station has been getting 25-35 guests a night. Another Occupier inquires, “Are they still forcing the warming station guests to stay awake all night?” The reporting Occupier winks and says, “No comment”. She continues, “Some of the homeless ones are crediting the warming station with saving their lives. However, a few problems still remain; 10 pm is too late to open the station because it gets colder once the sun goes down and 6:30 am is too early to put people out to the street because the sun doesn’t come up until after 7 am. Of course, not opening the warming station at all unless the overnight temperature is predicted to be 0 or less is not fair either. A person can still freeze to death when the temperature is anywhere below freezing. One of the workers told me that when he comes to open the station a little before 10 pm he finds many homeless peeps hunkered down in their sleeping bags waiting for the place to be opened.

“Never fear though, the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition, Loaves N Fishes, the main CHUM outreach worker, some Catholic Workers and many others are pushing for these things to be remedied. As of right now, at least we have one warming station up and running”. We can’t argue with that.

Changing the subject, a Water Protector asks, “Hey, did anybody see the video that our friend, the WP elder and Fond du Lac band member put out today?” An Occupier pouts, “Yes, I did and it really pissed me off. That shit was fucking disgusting!” Others say, “Huh?” The WP tells them, “Three of our W.P.s went to the FDL casino out on the rez; they were attending an open house sponsored by Enbridge. The event was kind of a job fair and who knows what else; they had food and it was open to all FDL band members. All three W.P.s are FDL band members.

“Anyway, it was in a private room, there were tables scattered around with food and brochures and stuff; there didn’t appear to be many people in attendance, an Enbridge public relations type guy was standing around waiting for someone to talk to him. So the W.P.s mosey on over to talk; the PR dude tries to impress them by bragging about how Enbridge is there to help them learn how to start a business. Fortunately, (or unfortunately, it all depends on how you want to look at it) the W.P.s have some business of their own to discuss. Firstly, there is all the destruction of the environment and of cultural ways that have survived since forever issues. The W.P.s explain to the man why they really don’t like having Enbridge anywhere on their reservation; now that Enbridge and all their workers are present on native land, the dominant culture inspired, so-called tribal government (aka RBC), is requiring that actual FDL enrolled band members/Anishinaabe people apply for a permit before walking, standing or what have you, on any FDL land (especially in the woods or other so-called undeveloped land).

“Believe it or not, this is true; the genuine water protectors, traditional people and all other folks of Fond du Lac Indigenous heritage are not allowed to access THEIR OWN LANDS without a permit. Also, any people from anywhere who are not FDL members cannot access FDL land for any reason at all. Meanwhile, Enbridge workers have unlimited access to FDL lands however and whenever they choose. So the W.P.s don’t like this very much. Keep in mind, the W.P.s are speaking very politely and respectfully. The PR guy keeps interjecting, “Yabut, I can teach you how to start a business”. The W.P.s tell him they know that if or when Enbridge gets to working full out, Man Camps will pop up all over the place. They know that some of their children will be raped and/or abducted or lured into taking or selling dangerous drugs. The W.P.s don’t like this very much either.

So the conversation goes on like this for five or ten minutes then all of a sudden, a shit ton of rez cops show up. The cops form a line between the W.P.s and the PR man. The W.P.s say, “WTF?” One of the W.P.s has met the PR dude many times in the past so she kind of knows him. She calls out to him over the shoulders of the rez cops. “Ah come on Bob! (or whatever his name is) Really??? Really???” The PR guy just keeps fading away, acting like he’s being swept away by a river current or something. Then the cops inform the W.P.s that they are being trespassed out of the casino which is on THEIR OWN LAND. The W.P.s consist of two grandmas and a young mother; I mean, I suppose they could have had suicide vests strapped to themselves but………PROBABLY NOT.

Every time any of us are forced to come into contact with any Enbridge employees, we are amazed by their ridiculous behavior. Are all people who worship money as stupid as they are?

One of the activists who are present at this evening’s meeting is a woman from a First Nations community in Manitoba. She has spent a large portion of her life looking for, supporting and defending Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives. Most of the problems and solutions in Manitoba are similar to those we experience in our northern Minnesota area however, she and her colleagues have been fighting the good fight for over twenty-five years. In the Twin Ports area, the real grassroots work is just beginning. The First Nations woman can’t help but tease us; she sees we are really dragged down by this arctic weather. The Manitoban woman laughs, “This is nothing; back home we have this kind of weather for three or four months in a row”. Some of us think, “Wow! She is really tough”. Others think, “Remind me to never go there”. The woman activist intimates that she will need to travel around for a bit but promises to return in time for the next MMIW&R Search Training and Patrol on February 13th.

The staff guys are deep into their cleaning routine; we take the hint and begin packing up. The Occupier who reports stuff reports, “Just a couple of quick things, the Anons will need our assistance this Saturday, 1 pm at Peoples Plaza, for the kickoff of Operation Safe Winter; Gitchigumi Scouts will be doing outreach and patrol on this upcoming Sunday. Meet up at Peoples Plaza at 3 pm. Also, remember that next Tuesday we’ll be having a short meeting here because we’re going over to the artist co-op to watch the documentary, Trouble: Killing the Black Snake.

With that, we all head out, gingerly and screaming like the big whiny babies that we are, because it’s just TOO DAMN COLD! We expect to be back at Coney Island, for a while at least, next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 1-15-19

G.A. Minutes 1-15-19

We expect a pretty small turnout for tonight’s meeting at Coney Island; some folks who regularly attend have informed us they are having car trouble. Others are not coming out because it’s just TOO DAMN COLD. Perfectly understandable, the entire Twin Ports area is covered in a sheet of ice making driving or walking quite treacherous.

The temperature at 6pm or so says 10 degrees but a strong north western wind is pushing the air temperature well below zero. As has been stated many times in the past, we all can take refuge inside our meeting place and in our humble but warm and comfortable homes. The homeless ones who have been left out on the street will have to sleep in building doorways, under the freeway, in a covered parking lot or any place they can find that isn’t already occupied by another unhoused person. Then, to top it off, these homeless folks will not be able to get a full night’s sleep because it’s actually too cold to sleep and sooner or later a non-homeless person will see a homeless person going into some place to try to at least get out of the wind chill.

Said non-homeless person will then call 911 to report a homeless person having the nerve to try to protect themselves from the extreme cold. Cops will show up and tell the homeless person to “move along”. That’s not very nice but after all, homeless people are creepy and no one who has a home should have to ever see them. NIMBYites abound.

All this misery could be avoided if the City and County would just open the promised warming station at the senior center out on W 58th St. However, the Duluth City Council recently voted to only open the warming station when the temperature hits 0 degrees; the overnight wind chill was not a consideration. We think that none of the Councilors have ever experienced being homeless and stuck out on the street all night long during our winter months; we doubt that any of them would be willing to try it out for even one night.

We’ve been told that all the Councilors received quite a lot of “push back” (that’s the latest word that City employees and NGO folks use now days; it’s almost as popular as “absolutely”) concerning the establishment of a warming station anywhere in Duluth but come on, is there anyone who would be willing to do what is right and just instead of what will get them reelected or what will keep them in their high paying job?

Actually, we know someone who always does what is right and just instead of what is expedient. In fact, he is our friend. Although he is highly skilled and qualified, he never gets offered any of the so called important jobs. He pretty much knows everything that goes on in City government and many go to him for advice but when there’s an opening for a so called important job he applies but is never hired. We think all the “suits” know that our friend is always gonna take the path of truth and justice no matter what. We hear that there’s even a word for folks who are willing to lie and/or be dishonest in order to keep their well paid positions; it’s called being a “team player”.

Anyway, our gathering this evening consists of 3 Occupiers, 2 Water Protectors who are also down with the Anonymous crew, a local activist who is a very good researcher, another local activist who specializes in doing a lot of the “grunt work” for some local NGOs and her teen-aged daughter and an activist who has recently moved into Duluth and is trying to find out what goes on around here.

The Occupier who usually takes the minutes of our meetings apologizes, “Sorry that I have appeared to be slacking over the last month or so but it couldn’t be helped. Two of the missed Tuesdays were Christmas Day and New Years Day; I thought we had a very productive meeting last Tuesday with all the new people from afar. Holding a vigil outside in the freezing cold for our fellow Water Protector and his family was so meaningful, especially with the WP who came over from The Rez to assist with the ceremony. I had big plans for telling the story of last week’s meeting but after making that big casserole for the Sobriety Feast, going to the Human Rights Commission meeting, taking care of some of my responsibilities at the co-op where I live, attending a planning meeting and 2 events for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives and going to the Honor the Earth’s Open House, it was suddenly Monday afternoon and I’d only written a few hundred words. I decided to take a really long nap. However, I promise that if I don’t get the minutes from this meeting out, I’ll move into an Assisted Living Facility”. We all laugh.

One Occupier says to another, “So when are they gonna actually open the warming station?” The other Occupier responds, “I really don’t know; one would think it would be pretty soon. The weather forecast is for night time temps to be well below zero for at least a week. As I’ve mentioned in the past, this warming station idea came from our grassroots movement but as soon as the City and the County came on board, grassroots folks were excluded. It seems like they’re more concerned with the needs of the NIMBYS than with the needs of the homeless. I’ve heard that when they do finally open the station the hours will be from 10pm til 6am. I’ve also heard that while they will need some volunteers, they’ve actually hired a few peeps via CHUM who are or who have been homeless. Those peeps will be like the supervisors or something. The next Homeless Persons Bill of Rights meeting is this upcoming Thursday, 6:30pm at Dorothy Day House; I’ll be able to find out more then”.

The first Occupier adds, “I read in the Duluth News Tribune that the warming station is not going to allow sleeping there”. We say, “What???” A WP/Anon quips, “Sleeping by the supervisors or by the volunteers?” We all crack up. The first Occupier explains, “No, there’s to be no sleeping by the homeless people who are trying to stay warm”. An activist exclaims, “You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me. Being able to sleep unmolested is the biggest need that most homeless folks have. The Occupier agrees, “I know. Like I said, grassroots folks are not being seriously consulted about anything. The guy that I consider to be the biggest moron of the whole bunch was quoted as saying that there would be no sleeping because the building wasn’t designed to house overnight guests”. The activist opines, “Well then, they should have found another building”. The Occupier agrees, “Yeah, I know”.

An Occupier and the researcher/activist sit at a table next to the rest of us; they are looking at various legal documents and maps and trying to find the location of the original survey markers on a particular spot of our Mother Earth that provides the foundation which 4 W Superior St (aka Peoples Plaza) sits upon…… or something like that. We know that their research is focused on tracing the history of that specific piece of ground from just after it was stolen from the Native Americans until the final easement with the so called City of Duluth was signed.

The researcher comments, “Whenever I do serious research I come across little interesting tidbits almost by accident. This time I found out that a citizen can go to speak before the City Council and speak on every topic on the agenda. One is given the chance to speak for 3 minutes before the Council discusses and possibly votes on each agenda item. If a person were clever enough and had an important idea they wanted to get across, that person could find a way to connect each agenda item to the idea they wished to present and be given an actual half an hour or more of speaking time over the whole evening. Hmmm…. If I were to do it I’d talk about affordable low income housing”. She also gives us information about the lack of camping restrictions in public parks versus city parks.

A Water Protector opines, “I really liked those training sessions about Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Relatives that we participated in over the last couple of weeks. I look forward to doing it again next month; the indigenous woman who was the main presenter has some serious detective skills. I think she’s been able to find the remains of every loved one she’s been asked to look for and that’s after the cops tell the families they’ve followed every lead and come up with nothing. After completing her investigation she said she usually finds the remains within a few hours. I think that’s because she actually cares whereas the cops don’t”.

One of the activists remarks, “You know that I generally watch you guys from the sidelines and I totally admire and support all the work you do but I’m confused; I have watched you do homeless outreach and minor government disruption for years and I definitely get the fight against Enbridge pipelines, Polymet mines and all other environment destroying stuff but now you’re helping out with trying to find MMIW&R. I support that too but it seems like you’re going kind of out in left field; what’s the connection?”

An Occupier smiles and explains, “Oh, everything is definitely connected, that’s just a law of nature or a fact of life or something. You see, when the fossil fuel and other earth destroying corporations are allowed to put in a pipeline or a mine or something they generally do it in rural areas or other places where there are a lot of poor people. In order for the company to get its project up and running it needs to hire hundreds, sometimes thousands of predominately young male workers who come from all over the country in order to work in the relatively well paying jobs.

“The company builds a bunch of very basic houses or trailers or whatever for all the workers to live in. The common name for these big housing areas is Man Camp. So then you have a bunch of mainly young guys working out in an area that is removed from all the diversions of city life. They have a lot of money to spend and nowhere to spend it; that’s where the drug dealers and sex traffickers come in. The dealers bring in every type of drug imaginable, though I believe that meth and heroin are the most popular; the sex traffickers bring in primarily young girls and boys, sometimes little children and even babies and offer them to the workers for just about any type of sexual act imaginable.

“A large portion of the corporate, earth destroying projects are located in or near Native American reservations. Many of the young people living on the reservations are quite poor and easily impressed by the so called luxuries that the sex traffickers (also called pimps) dangle in front of them. A female Native American friend of mine who advocates for victims of sex trafficking has a saying ‘manicures, pedicures, new shoes and tattoos’. In saying this, she means to show that some of the things that we city folk think of as just normal can be very alluring to naive young people living on reservations.

“The pimps are quite skilled in knowing which children will be the easiest to seduce. Generally, the young ones who are the most lonely, bored, isolated and lacking in adequate nurturing from their families are those targeted. At first, the sex traffickers may lure these poor kids with flattery, giving them presents and pretending to love them. They may get the children addicted to a particular drug and after a while demand that the addicted one do something in order to pay for the drugs they are now dependent upon. The pimps also use fear, violence and induced feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness to force compliance from their adolescent victims.

It’s common for traffickers to haul these basically kidnapped and deceived kids far away from where they originally lived. A sex trafficking victim may find themselves passed from man to man and trailer to trailer “out in the middle of nowhere” having no idea where they are. When they’ve been used up in one area they are then drugged or terrorized into some type of transport and hauled off to the next Man Camp. If the trafficked one should try to escape, they will be severely beaten, possibly even killed. Once the pimp feels he (the pimp is not always a he) has no further use for his prey, he will try to sell the child to another pimp. It’s also quite common for a trafficker or drug dealer to murder the youth and dump the body in a shallow grave. Anyone ‘back home’ who actually cared for the ‘disappeared’ juvenile may search for decades in order to find out what happened to them. Most murdered victims of sex trafficking are never found.

“So you see, when Water Protectors and their allies fight to save Mother Earth, the water and the air, we know that the earth destroying, corporate projects will bring Man Camps and all that they entail into an affected community too. That’s why we include a demand for the end to MMIW&R along with all our other demands”. The activist replies, “Oh. My. God. That is so horribly awful! I did not know about that connection; I will proudly carry a No More MMIW&R with you all any day!”

An Occupier notices the staff beginning to clean up and reports, “Looks like we should be fixin’ to leave soon. but first I wanted to tell folks who weren’t at the meeting last week, about the partner of the Stylish Native Woman. We were just packing up to go when The Partner came in; it was just as cold then as it is tonight. He just had on a pair of light sweatpants, a t-shirt and was wearing his coat wide open; he didn’t have any gloves or a hat. His eyes were all wild and shit, you know how he gets when he’s in the middle of a major schizophrenic breakdown. The only coherent thing he said was, “IT’S COLD OUTSIDE!” We tried to give him our gloves and hats but he wouldn’t take them. The more we tried to talk with him, the more he seemed to forget who we were and start acting afraid of us. So we all decided to leave except for the Fire Magician who stayed behind to see if anything could be done to help”.

The Fire Magician adds, “Yeah, he went out onto the street and I followed him from the distance of about a block. I think he knew I was there though and it seemed like he was trying to hide from me. I followed him for a while as he went up and down the street; I eventually just walked home because I thought I was doing more harm than good. It sure would have been good if there had been an open warming station in the area. We’ve looked for him on the street since then but haven’t seen him”.

The first Occupier continues, “I don’t know for sure but I’m gonna take a guess as to what’s going on. We know the Stylish Native Woman has been having some serious health problems over the past year. Someone told me that she had been taken out on a stretcher and into an ambulance while having dinner at the Mission earlier that evening. The last time we actually talked, she told me she spent a couple days in the hospital about a month ago after having a collapsed lung and being diagnosed as diabetic. As soon as she was stabilized they dropped her off back at the CHUM. So we know that The Partner is not stupid and the Native Woman is around 20 years older than her partner. We also know how the partner responds to stressful situations; I’m guessing he was coming to the conclusion that the Stylish Woman may not live much longer. Just imagine! They are both so intelligent, kind hearted and so dependent on each other yet powerless to protect each other from ‘the suits’. I wonder how we can help them?’

We really have to leave now; the staff guys have lives too. As we head out the door a Water Protector reminds us, “Until we all get arrested we’ll be doing Hold Down the Port every Sunday at 6:30pm; meet at Peoples Plaza and then go to the chosen location”. An Occupier adds, “ The annual Martin Luther King Jr. March leaves the Washington Center at 10am, next Monday, January 21st and marches to the DECC with the presentations starting at noon”. We all say, “Right on”.

We expect to return to Coney Island next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 12-18-18

G.A. Minutes 12-18-18

If Minnesota winter weather was anything like it has been for the last 2 weeks or so, there would be one hell of a lot less whining in this city. When the first Occupiers, Anonymous members, and Water Protectors roll up to Coney Island this evening, the temperature is in the upper 30s with an occasional light breeze. The majority of the snow melted about a week ago. That’s not too shabby for mid-December.

As we are getting ourselves settled, an activist who was introduced to us a few months ago arrives. We’re happy to see her; she attended our meeting last week (we have no minutes for that one) and listened as we talked about the Human Rights Complaint concerning the security goons that have been contracted by MN Power supposedly to watch over the big MN Power building. The situation is an old story to people who regularly read our minutes but it boils down to the fact that we want them to open the Peoples Plaza vehicle entryway that they illegally closed off.

The activist, who is an experienced legal researcher, graciously offered to assist us by trying to determine the history of the easement agreement between the City of Duluth and MN Power as it concerns Peoples Plaza. Tonight she brings her initial findings.

An Occupier states, “I believe I’ve already told everyone that I turned in our Human Rights Complaint at the Human Rights Commission meeting last Wednesday. It contained the text of our complaint and the contact info for myself and the 3 witnesses. I said I would get the easement info and copies of all the ordinances, statutes and fire codes to them later. I doubt our complaint will even be looked at until the beginning of next year”.

Another Occupier exclaims, “Man, last night’s City Council meeting was certainly fucked up!” Some are not sure what she is talking about; the Occupier continues, “Well, as per usual, Essentia Health is going to make changes to our Central Hillside neighborhood again. They’re gonna build a huge high rise office building in the area where most of their other main buildings are and they want a 15 story luxury apartment building to go with it. Essentia says it needs to have fancy apartments in order to attract world-class doctors and such to come to Duluth. Some rich development company from Madison, WI has agreed to build the luxury building but they are demanding 6.2 million dollars of Duluth TIF (tax increment financing) funds to do it”.

An Anon asks, “What are TIF funds?” The Occupier continues, “That’s kinda hard for me to explain but it has something to do with an agreement that the City will charge the luxury building owner-less property taxes than normal until 6.2 million dollars of tax breaks are used up. The City said that would take about 25 years. As far as I know, all this was pretty hush-hush until very recently.

“Even the City Councilors weren’t given the complete information package until just before the meeting. Anyway, once the word got out a few days before the Council meeting the regular people in Central Hillside were furious. I’m sure the Councilor’s email boxes just about blew up. I mean, we’ve only been begging, pleading and demanding a lot more low-income housing in our hood for over 10 years. Considering the huge need, we’ve received very little. The majority of people living in unsubsidized housing in the hillside and working as much as they can are damn near starving to death in order to pay the ridiculously high rents for generally substandard housing.

“So, once the word about the ripoff of Duluth taxpayer money got out, everyone was meeting, writing and preparing to speak out at last night’s Council meeting. The general consensus was that if the building was to be allowed, there would have to be a certain number of low-income units included within it. It was also to ask/demand that the Council just table the whole issue until more information could be obtained”. The Occupier explains to one of the youngbloods, “To ‘table’ something means to put it on the back burner to deal with later”.

“About an hour before the general Council meeting there was a smaller meeting with representatives of the developer. Someone mentioned to them that they would need to have some low-income units; the developers said that if they had to include even one low-income apartment, they would not do the project. Nice huh?

“So when the City Council meeting started, most of the general public (it was standing room only with peeps standing out in the hall too) were unaware that all of the low-income stuff had already been shot down. Several guys from most of the building trades spoke in support, of course. They need good privileged jobs you know and will do just about anything to get them, the rest of the world be damned. Then speaker after speaker tried to get the Councilors to stand up and do the right thing.

“Once word got out that the developers refused to even consider any low-income units the general public in the Council Chambers became even more pissed off and/or depressed. Many of them just walked out; those of us who stayed to hear the Councilors official vote were quite disgusted with the whole thing. At first all the Councilors, one by one, expressed their anger and frustration at not being given the luxury apartment information until it was too late for them to really study it. Then they voted 6-2 in favor of going ahead with the project; actually, I should say that the vote was one and a half to six because one of the Councilor’s no vote was proceeded by his saying he would vote yes. I think he only voted no because he could see the thing was gonna pass no matter how he voted”.

One of the Water Protectors quires, “Well, why didn’t they just tell the developers no, they couldn’t have the TIF funds unless they accepted some low-income tenants. The developers may have reconsidered and if they did not, there are always other developers”. The first Occupier agrees, “As I saw things unfolding, that’s what I thought too. I wanted to go up and speak then but the speaker sign up list had already been removed so I couldn’t sign up”.

Another Occupier comments, “This manner of doing things has become the new norm in this country. A group representing the super rich shows up in the government offices of a city that is struggling financially. They offer to invest in a project that will supposedly benefit the city and its citizens but will do it on their terms only. The government officials are enticed by the amount of money being offered so they accept the terms of the super-rich. It then turns out that the rich folks lied, the project doesn’t just not benefit the city or its people, it actually harms them. The city and its people start bitching and the super rich group gathers up all the profits they have swindled and goes off to victimize the next city. Someone adds, “I’ve always been partial to the slogan Eat The Rich. We all nod in agreement.

The Occupier who reports stuff reports, “I’m afraid I had a few of my facts wrong. Earlier I reported about the warming station that is being worked on for homeless peeps that are stuck outside on the deathly cold winter nights here in Duluth. After Lee Stuart (director of CHUM) came out publicly in support of warming stations and the government types figured they’d better do something, nobody called Loaves N Fishes to clue them into the fact that the City and County “suits” were meeting covertly to form a plan.

“One of the government folks, who is secretly a supporter of grassroots workers, quietly told one member of the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition about the meetings. That particular grassroots person now attends the warming station meetings and that’s how the rest of us get our information, Anyway, the first experimental warming station will be set up at a senior center on 58th Ave W”. Everyone displays confused looks and the Occupier continues, “Yeah, that’s what I thought too. Lee Stuart or someone else insists that there are homeless people out that way who don’t want to come into the center of the city and that there are no types of services or shelter for them. I have no idea if that’s true or not but I know that a couple of people who have visited our recreational fires have said that it is true. Whatever……apparently this will be an experiment and if no one comes to keep warm out there, they’ll move the station to somewhere in West End (aka Lincoln Park).

“The warming station won’t open until sometime in January; it will open on every night that the forecast is for -0 temperatures from 8 pm till 8 am. They’re gonna staff it with volunteers. I might sign up to volunteer once in a while depending on which hoops they’ll want the volunteers to jump through beforehand. Their plan is certainly not ideal but I’m thinking. seeing as we were expecting the warming station idea to take years to start up, in reality, things are moving quicker and we’ll all just have to learn as we go”.

An Anon/Water Protector reminds us, “We’re gonna be making No Line 3 and other anti-fossil fuel and treaty rights banners tomorrow out on the Rez; we can use everyone’s assistance”. Some of the Occupiers and others will be able to help.

The Anon/WP tells us, “Things are getting weirder and weirder out at our rez; Enbridge has their new pipeline pieces piled all over the place on OUR land. Enbridge workers are tiptoeing around and digging in the ground. Our FDL police force has barricaded the roads to all of our usual spiritual and cultural places, telling us we can’t go there. However, the thing is that it’s OUR LAND. When we go there or to the commercial places with our signs and music and stuff, every cop in the area shows up. I mean Cloquet, Carlton County, our own tribal police and probably others that we don’t know about. They harass us and try to think up things they can arrest us for.

“All of this stuff is completely illegal. Enbridge is not supposed to have any pipes on our land until all the permits are issued but even more importantly, our rez cops, rez administration and Enbridge are all in violation of the 1854 Treaty. Treaties are the Supreme Law of the USA. The Treaty says that the Anishinaabe people will retain, forever, the right to hunt, fish and gather in all their lands and in their ceded lands too. Know what I’m saying?” Everyone says, “Yeah, we do”.

The staff guys are cleaning up again; we figure we’ll surprise them by leaving before they have to give us gentle hints. As we’re packing up, an Occupier informs everyone, “We’ll be having a recreational fire and a feast again at our place on Christmas Day (which is next Tuesday). Y’all are welcome to come over”.

G.A. Minutes 12-4-18

G.A. Minutes 12-4-18

A small group of Occupiers drag their asses through the side door of Coney Island; they are the first people to arrive for the meeting this evening. One of them comments, “I always hate the time of year that happens after we have to turn our clocks back and then it continues until Winter Solstice. It’s just too dark; it makes me want to just crawl under my bed covers and not come out til spring”. Another Occupier agrees, “For real. Today the sun didn’t come up until about 7:30am and it was gone again by 4:30pm, it’s not fair. If people had any sense they would hibernate all winter like the most intelligent animals do”.

This remark cracks the other Occupiers up; an Occupier replies, “With all the capitalism and war mongering that the 1% and their minions have going on, mass hibernation would never work. There’s many different time zones in the world and half of the planet has winter while the other half is having summer. People would be worried that if they went to sleep the other half of the planet could come and steal their shit. What’s even worse, the awake half probably WOULD come and steal all the sleeping peeps shit. We’d first have to have a major paradigm shift before any mass hibernation could take place”. The postulating Occupier inquires, “Yabut, is it a good idea?” We say, “Yup”.

Lack of light is definitely not a problem at Coney Island; the place is always lit up like the biggest Christmas tree in the world. In fact, the excess lighting is kind of annoying but…. Whatever, the staff guys always seem genuinely happy to see us even though we don’t order mass quantities of food and we take up the whole back end of the restaurant. After several years of searching, Coney Island is the only place we’ve found that is willing to accommodate us. It sure beats freezing our asses off while trying to hold a meeting in a doorway or a parking garage until someone calls the cops and they roll up and tell us to “move along”.

Once the first Occupiers get settled, one of them tells the others, “It looks like we’re gonna get a warming station for folks who get stuck outside during the coldest days and nights of this upcoming winter”. An Occupier exclaims, “Whoa! Do tell”. The Occupier who is in the know explains, “The Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition has been trying to push the City and/or some of the area churches to provide a suitable space for a warming station. We even offered to staff the place ourselves but we got pretty much the same answer from everyone we contacted; they said, “A warming station is a very good idea but we’re not able to provide a space at this time”. Then about 2 weeks ago there was an article in the Duluth News Tribune. A reporter interviewed Lee Stuart (director of CHUM); Lee stated that there was a great need for one or more warming stations during the winters in Duluth.

“This was a huge big deal. Over the past 10 years or so, there has always been a need for warming stations but Lee Stuart refused to admit it. She’s always been, understandably, protective of CHUM but CHUM has never been willing or able to house or accept all homeless people. CHUM has a lot of rules that some of the homeless ones are unable or unwilling to accept. Therefore, every winter homeless people would be found frozen to death.

“Anyway, once that article came out, the City, County and some of the major NGOs started networking behind the scenes. They scheduled a meeting for the middle of last week and at the last minute someone figured it might be a good idea to contact the lead guy at Loaves N Fishes and put him in the loop. He frantically called around to the Coalition members hoping to find someone who was able to attend that meeting and, fortunately, he was able to find someone. I was told that the City is gonna provide the space and the County is gonna wiggle its budget around in order to hire a couple of people at $15/hr. to staff the station. That’s about all I know right now; I’ll find out more at the next HPB of R Coalition meeting on this upcoming Thursday and report back to everyone”.

Another Occupier opines, “I’m really happy that there’s gonna be a warming station but the way it’s happening kinda sucks; it seems like this is the way everything happens. A whole bunch of grassroots, ordinary people can work for years trying to get their so-called representatives to provide something or do something that the ordinary people think is very important. The so-called representatives smile and offer platitudes but they never do anything to provide for the people’s needs. Then one person in a position of power speaks out publicly stating that the people’s need is valid and all the so-called representatives run around like crazy trying to at least look like they’re meeting that need. I mean, WTF?…… ordinary people are the reason that the so-called representatives have their well-paying jobs and their prestige and all that. The people in power just seem to want to take care of each other. “It makes me feel so mad that I feel like I want to go and tip over all their desks and tables and stuff”.

Another Occupier suggests, “I suppose you could go tip over a few tables if you wanted to but I doubt you would get the result you were looking for. The cops would come and arrest or maybe even shoot you; seeing as you’re a white person they probably wouldn’t kill you right off the bat but you’d still be in jail and in need of considerable bail money and a high-powered attorney. To top it off, all the major media would talk shit about you and you’d actually hurt your cause and the so-called representatives would just call the janitors to put the tables and desks right side up again.”

The Occupier who proposed tipping stuff over answers, “I know, that’s why I haven’t actually done it but don’t you all just get so pissed off about the minions’ obstruction that you want to throw things?” We all say, “Yeah”.

A group of Water Protectors, peeps from Anonymous and an elder Native organizer arrive. Someone orders a carafe of coffee and a bunch of cups; the Native elder and a few Occupy elders entertain the rest of the folks with stories from the old American Indian Movement (AIM) and other adventures from back in the day when the elders were living in Minneapolis.

Some of the Occupiers attended an event a few days ago. It was sponsored by the Native elder and some Water Protectors and concerned the ever-present trauma related to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives. A woman from the Sahnish Nation (North and South Dakota) has an organization that searches for murdered and missing Indigenous people. The Sahnish woman and her assistants have participated in searches throughout the northern hemisphere. Among the many things she talked about were the fact that very few police departments participate in a meaningful way in trying to locate murdered and missing Indigenous folks. She also said that in our Twin Ports area, many Indigenous women and girls go missing but even MORE Indigenous boys and young men do so. The Native organizer asks an Occupier, “If I bring the Sahnish woman here again, would you be interested in attending another event?” The Occupier enthuses, “Oh, for sure! I’ll invite all my friends too”. The Occupier thinks to herself, “I wonder if we could ever find the remains of The Woman Who Tells Good Stories?”

A few of the W.P.s are planning a trip down to the so-called southern border of the so-called USA. They will bring along medical supplies, people who are bilingual and people with medical expertise. An Occupier wants to go along and whines, “Damn! It will be warm at the border; I’m bilingual and have medical expertise too. Too bad that my old ass doesn’t have the physical stamina to endure a long ride or non-stop work with little sleep. It’s not fair”.

An Anon inquires, “Hey, is tomorrow supposed to be a national day of mourning because of the passing of George Bush Sr.?” A W.P. tells him,”Yeah, ‘fraid so”. An Occupier adds, “I won’t be doing any mourning. All I ever saw was just another soulless politician”.

We notice that the staff guys have everything cleaned up, we’re the only remaining customers and the guys are just standing quietly waiting for us to notice……again. It takes us a while because we can’t stop talking and it’s so cold outside that we all have tons of clothing to put on.

Some of us have an activity planned for tomorrow; it will require sage but we don’t have any yet. An Occupier couple has a bunch of extra sage at their house so we all pile into our vehicles and head over to gather sage….so to speak.

We expect to be back at Coney Island next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 11-20-18

G.A. Minutes 11-20-18

A couple of Occupiers and a couple of Anons arrive together for our meeting at Coney Island this evening. Last week the weather was cold; tonight the temperature is about the same. Last week a slight dusting of snow covered everything outdoors; tonight there are 3 or 4 inches of snow in place of the dusting. We suppose that’s good for the hunters and skiers but for us it just makes driving or walking up and down the side streets a death defying experience.

The next group of folks to roll up are the Stylish Native Woman and her partner, the veteran homeless guy with the deep voice and his girlfriend and the long time homeless woman known on the street as Fox. We think this is great because every year we tell all the homeless and/or street people where we’ll be during the winter months and invite them to join us. It appears that some have finally taken us up on our offer. We ask them if they’re hungry but all have just come from eating dinner at the Mission. We pour them cups of the very boring coffee that is a staple here at the restaurant.

An Occupier says to the Stylish Woman, “So if you’re just coming back from the Mission, I guess that means you’ve been allowed to go back in there?” The Stylish Woman replies, “Yes it does; we’ve also been allowed back into CHUM. This past week was so incredibly stressful and none of it made any sense. We had to sleep outside for almost a week which was close to impossible; it was just too cold to be able to sleep. One night, a woman with mental health issues, who is a regular at CHUM came in drunk. They threw her out in the street; I don’t understand how they can throw women out especially at night when they know the woman has nowhere else to go. We let her sleep with us that night, hoping she could at least get some body heat.

I don’t understand how they could throw me out, at my age with my health problems. They know me too; I never cause any problems but I imagine they don’t like it when I stand up for my partner when he’s being treated unjustly. Anyway, we tried to talk with the CHUM staff to find out why we’d been kicked out but we could not get an answer. Then one day KBJR 6 showed up with a bunch of cameras and were trying to interview the staff and the residents of CHUM. They were asking about the fact that once the temperatures fall below freezing, homeless shelters are supposed to let everyone in, at least for the night. The staff said to the cameras that yes, they did allow everyone to stay there when it was very cold. A staff member came and told us that we were going to be allowed to stay at CHUM again. When we asked the lead staff person why we had been kicked out in the first place he told us that someone had reported we were shooting heroin and smoking marijuana in the bathroom”.

We say, “WHAT!?!!” An Occupier opines, “I wouldn’t think you even know how to shoot heroin”. The Native Woman answers, “That’s true, I don’t”. Her partner adds, “I’ve seen it done and I suppose if I had ever wanted to do it I could have but since I had my fingers amputated last winter, I doubt I’d be able do it now”.

Another Occupier explains. “I’ve been watching the goings on at CHUM from a distance for 5 or 6 years now. While they are certainly to be commended for even trying to do what they do, I’ve seen that some of their workers don’t treat the clientele fairly. They will throw one person out for “bad behavior” while allowing another person to display the same behavior without suffering any consequence at all. Management seems to back all accusations by the staff no matter what; I think they need more thorough staff training or maybe to only hire staff who are decent human beings”.

We all laugh. An Anon remarks, “Do you think there’s a test for that?” An Occupier continues, “I know that they hire their workers from the people who have been residents of CHUM and then “gotten their lives together” so one would think those workers would still remember what being homeless was like”. An Anon hypothesizes, “Sometimes when a person, who has never had power before is given some power, they might not know how to handle it at first”.

The Stylish Woman tells us, “Yeah, that’s kinda how it is; one worker tells you one thing and another worker tells you the opposite”. We know that, like many others, the Stylish Native Woman and her partner fight for bare survival every. single. day.

The girlfriend of the man with the very deep voice reports, “In just 3 more days I’m getting my apartment! I can hardly wait!” We congratulate her while realizing that the girlfriend being given an apartment is going to bring changes to their relationship. For a variety of reasons, that we don’t know about and don’t really want to know about either, the Housing Authority is not gonna let Mr Deep Voice live with his girlfriend. Still, we hope everything works out well for them.

Ms Fox gets a phone call and calls out to everyone, “Does anybody have $3 they can loan me for a bit?” An Occupier gives her the money and Ms Fox says to her phone, “Call my sister and tell her that I’m on my way and I have $3”. Off she goes.

The city official rolls in. After settling in, he asks an Occupier, “Are you and others from the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition still planning on showing up at the Duluth Transit Authority’s board meeting this month?” The Occupier responds, “Yup, I haven’t figured out what I’m gonna say yet but I’m planning on being there”. The official man advises, “Remember, the DTA is not connected to city government, it’s a privately owned service”. The Occupier smiles, “Oh, I didn’t know that; it changes my perspective somewhat. It wasn’t looking like I was gonna have much time to do research before the meeting so thank you for that information”.

The city man comments to another Occupier, “Hey, thanks for coming to the first public recording session of my radio show, what did you think?” The Occupier replies, “There were a lot of good ideas put out there, I just wish it had been longer”. Another Occupier confides, “During the question and answer session I had a question but I didn’t ask it because I didn’t want to disrespect you or cause a ruckus”. The city man answers, “Wow, what was it that you wanted to ask?” The Occupier tells him, “Well, it would have gone something like this….. Given that the Duluth school system has been recently discovered to have taken considerable federal funds that were specifically intended to be given to schools of mainly low income students and giving most of these funds to schools of mainly high and middle-income students. And, given that this misappropriation of funds has been going on for a long time. Under the administration of the current school board, can we really have hope of implementing any of the excellent programs and goals spoken about here tonight?” The official man exclaims, “Oh, you definitely should have asked that question! That’s exactly the type of thing we want to hear from the general public. The Occupier laughs, “I’ll remember that next time”.

A few Water Protectors arrive; they’ve had a stressful day. Their dog got lost for almost 24 hours. The young canine had recently met a new friend who was older and had been around the woods a few times. They went off chasing a rabbit and then couldn’t quite remember where it was that they started from. The dogs were in the general vicinity and with the help of neighbors and looking all night and day the dogs were found just before the group was scheduled to come and hang with us. A WP reports, “The poor things were freezing, dehydrated and had to be carried at first. We were so relieved to find them”.

After everyone is settled, an Occupier inquires of a WP, “Do you know the story of Chief Buffalo and his treaty land that sits under most of what is now downtown Duluth?” The WP responds, “No I don’t. I’m not Anishinaabe but I’m always interested in good information”. The Occupier explains, “During the process of making the Treaty of 1854, Chief Buffalo was given the right to reserve a parcel of land from the ceded territories that he would like to keep for himself and for his choice of members who had done special service for the tribe. A large part of the land that he chose is where the City of Duluth is now situated. This is written right into the treaty in the section that establishes the other reservations in Minnesota and Wisconsin”. Another Occupier adds, “Yeah, there’s this thing called the Ethnographic Study. The Duluth Indigenous Commission received a grant and hired a way cool professor dude from UMD to interview the elders and search historical records. He made the Ethnographic Study; I could make you a copy. You would have enough reading to take up your spare time for months. It’s a very interesting, true story. It turns into a sordid tale after Chief Buffalo dies just before the War Between the States, and in the ensuing confusion, his white son-in-law claims and then fraudulently sells the land, even though the treaty specifically states that the Government will prevent these lands from ever being sold”.

The smokers go out for a smoke and while they are doing so, the rest of the crew comes out too. They are carrying everyone’s packs and other accouterments. One of the non-smokers reports, “They’ve started their winter hours; they now close at 8 pm”. We say, “Oh, we didn’t know that”. As everyone is fixin’ to leave, someone calls out, “Is anyone going to the DECC on Thursday?” She doesn’t get an answer. It seems folks still haven’t decided whether to sit quietly and eat turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing or to observe a day of mourning related to all the lies we’ve been told.

Anyway, we expect to be back at Coney Island next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 11-13-18

G.A. Minutes 11-13-18

It is really freaking cold tonight, the temperature is in the low teens and promises to go lower than that before morning. There’s a slight dusting of snow everywhere; it appears that winter has arrived and is planning to stay. We think most Duluthians are not real happy about this; there are a lot of advantages to living in Duluth but an overly long winter is not one of them.

Of course there are winter sports aficionados who live here too but we don’t have any friends who share that particular form of craziness. We believe it to be rather self indulgent, especially given the times we are living in. We do not wish to explain to our grandchildren why we were “fiddling while Rome burned”.

Anyway, the first group of people to arrive at Coney Island this evening consists of two Occupiers, two Anons, one straight-up Water Protector and a guy who is vaguely connected to Loaves N Fishes. We are just getting settled when the front door opens and a whole bunch of people come tumbling in. Now we are many and fill up several booths and many tables.

The Occupier who usually takes the meeting minutes sighs, “Well, I did it again for the second time in a month; I was unable to write minutes from our last meeting. When we have a big group like this, with everybody having good ideas about really interesting stuff and everyone talking at once, I just can’t keep up. Maybe if we all tried to focus on just one topic at a time and gave each person the time to express their view, we’d be able to accomplish more. We all agree and pledge to follow these guidelines. The cynics among us think “Good luck with that”.

A Water Protector comments, “The really good thing that happened at our last meeting was our discussion of The St. Paul Principles”. The St Paul Principles are a simple set of rules to be agreed upon between separate groups who have consented to work together toward a particular goal. The Principles are 1.) Our solidarity will be based on respect for a diversity of tactics and the plans of other groups. 2.) The actions and tactics used will be organized to maintain a separation of time or space. 3.) Any debates or criticisms will stay internal to the movement, avoiding any public or media denunciations of fellow activists and events. 4,) We oppose any state repression of dissent, including surveillance, infiltration, disruption and violence. We agree not to assist law enforcement actions against activists and others.

Everyone finds these principles to be clear and to the point. An Occupier has made copies of the short statement and hands them out to the group. She figures people will have an easier time remembering the principles if they can have a copy of them at hand; it will be especially helpful when one’s cell phone needs charging.

Changing the subject, someone remarks, “So I see that the trial of our fellow Water Protector, expert and teacher of traditional Native ways didn’t go as planned?” An Occupier answers, “No it did not; the plan was to bring in Anishinaabe treaty rights”. She explains to those who are unaware, “The MN DNR and other federal and state agencies have been saying that Native people are subject to the same hunting and fishing laws as the rest of citizens of the United States. However, that’s not true. The Anishinaabe bands signed treaties with the United States when they ceded much of their land over for general usage by the colonists. The 1864 or 1865 treaties, I can’t remember which, or maybe it was both, say that the Anishinaabe people shall maintain the rights to fish, hunt and gather in the ceded lands, whenever they want to, forever and ever and ever….. So that means that Ojibwe people can do these things at any time.

“The USA government regulators have been ticketing and giving fines to Native people for hunting and fishing outside the so-called official government ‘seasons’ for a very long time. Now days, Native folks are deliberately and visibly hunting and fishing out of season on ceded lands in hopes of being “caught” by some type of nature cop. The Native peeps can then bring their case into the US court system and argue for their treaty rights. That’s why, over a year ago, our friend the traditional teacher, threw a gill net out on a lake in one of the reservations up north during the off season. However, the court system used a cheap shot on our friend”. We say, “What a surprise!” She continues, “They just charged him with a few minor technicalities and didn’t address the trying to fish out of season issue.

“The United States court system does not want to try a treaty rights case because they know they would lose. Our US Constitution states that nothing, not even He Who Shall Not Be Named’s magnificent executive orders, supersedes a treaty. Even our wacko Supreme Court does not want to tackle the issue”.

Another Occupier adds, “But they still want the Natives to behave like the mindless, consumer slaves that they expect the white folks to behave like; so that’s why they have their minions give tickets and fines and stuff”.

An Anon quires, “Hey, you know what?” We say, “What?” He answers, “All those Native Chiefs and everyone behind them were really smart. Given the situation they were in, with their backs to the wall and all that, they still managed to find a way to preserve something for their people. Amazing”. A Water Protector explains, “Well, it’s about, you know, the SEVEN GENERATIONS”.

Another Water Protector opines, “Speaking about the seven generations, it’s been reported that Enbridge is now doing actual work on their despicable Line 3 tar sands pipeline out on the Fond du Lac Reservation. I think it’s time to put our boots on the ground”. Everyone agrees with him; another Water Protector begins to make a list of other groups who may be willing to put their boots on the ground with us.

We start a conversation about what type of action we should conduct first; then we look around and notice that, although we are taking up most of the back end of Coney Island, there are customers scattered around here and there. The staff people also come over regularly to see if we need anything.

A Water Protector suggests, “I think we need to have this discussion somewhere that is not so public”. An Occupier agrees, “Yeah, I think that’s a good idea. Seeing as Occupy originated as a movement where everyone is welcome, whenever Occupy Duluth holds a meeting we need to hold it in a space that is easily accessible to the general public. However, I think this Occupy meeting is now over?” Everyone agrees so we pack up and get ready to move to a more secure location.

The staff people are surprised to see us leaving so early; we don’t explain anything, we just clean up our mess, leave good tips and promise to see them back at Coney Island next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 10-30-18

G.A. Minutes 10-30-18

We’re meeting at Coney Island this evening just like we did last week. Last week it was raining but this evening the temperature is in the 40s with no forecast of rain. It’s too bad that the weather people didn’t let us know in advance that it was gonna be like this; over the past week, every day they forecast that it would definitely be raining tonight, except for this morning that is. Early in the day, the weather people reported there would be no rain in the evening. Wonderful….. When the Occupiers discussed the situation many hours ago, the Food Bringing Occupier commented, “There’s just no way I can have all the food ready to go by tonight. It takes me almost a whole day to make a big pot of healthy and tasty soup and gathering and preparing all the other stuff too? It’s not possible”. So that’s why we’re meeting at Coney Island again.

The first arrivals to the restaurant are a couple of Occupiers and a few people from the Anonymous crew. Among them is the Occupier who writes the meeting minutes; she tells us, “Well, as you probably know, I didn’t write any minutes from last week’s meeting; there were just too many people and they divided into too many small discussion groups for me to keep track of what was being said. I think most were talking about the City Council shut down but even so, there were so many different angles to the discussions, it was too much for me”.

In case you live on another planet (or maybe just don’t live in the Twin Ports area) you might not know that the City Council meeting on October 22nd, 2018 was shut down by a peaceful group of people who we may or may not know. All the folks involved in the shutdown were wearing Guy Fawkes masks or bandannas over their faces which obscured their identities. The Occupiers have adopted a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy concerning the masked one’s identities; the actual issues surrounding the shutdown are much more important than who the disguised individuals where.

Anyway, much of Duluth was deluged, for the next several days, with the opinions of our citizens concerning the shutdown. There appeared to be two main camps; one camp was completely scandalized by the behavior of the those involved in the shutdown. This group said things like, “How dare they ignore all our City government’s principles and protocols! They all needed to get in line with all our other citizens and wait their turn for their three minutes to speak. Those masked people are nothing more than a bunch of thugs!” The other group who were basically in support of the shutdown said things like, “What does it matter? It was already a given that the majority of our City Councilors were going to vote in favor of letting the cops have riot gear. All those speeches given by Chief Tusken and all those so-called Comment Sessions were a sham. Tusken was pushing real hard to get that gear asap; government bureaucrats and elected official types are all afraid to go against the police. The only ones who will stand up to the cops are the same people who traditionally get their heads beat in by them. It was time to end the charade”.

Most of the Occupiers attended the October 22nd Council meeting; they observed that the Council Chambers were packed. It was standing room only with many peeps trying to listen from out in the hallway. They heard many different left-leaning chants with the main one being, “No Line 3! No Riot Gear for the DPD!” The Occupiers observed that after the initial shock of seeing the people doing the shutdown, almost all the regular people in the Chambers were chanting right along with the folks who took over the meeting. At our last meeting (without minutes) an Occupier told everyone, “Many people have been asking me for my opinion. What I have been telling them is that when people feel they are being completely ignored and marginalized, their only recourse is to throw a fit. All the other options have been tried and proved insufficient”.

After the disguised people took over the Chambers, all the City Councilors ran off and hid somewhere. After an hour or two of their space (actually it’s the general public’s space but most have forgotten that fact) being taken over, the Councilors returned, turned up their microphones real loud and defiantly (some councilors anyway) voted to approve the riot gear. The vote was 6 in favor, 2 opposed and one councilor not present. The Occupiers figured it would be something like that sooner or later and appreciate the 2 Councilors who kept the promises that they made to our marginalized communities. We think the absent Councilor MAY have voted against the gear but we have no idea what prevented her from attending the aforementioned session.

Meanwhile, back at Coney Island, an Anon remarks, “I wonder if we could start doing film screenings as a way to do fundraising and to hook up with more interested people?” An Occupier adds, “We used to do that years ago at The Zinema; they didn’t charge us any type of fee so we actually made money. After a while they changed management teams though and the new people required us to guarantee that a certain amount of moviegoers would turn up. We couldn’t do that so couldn’t do fundraisers there anymore. However, Peace Church is very generous with letting social justice groups use their big basement space. You’d need to have your own equipment for showing films and maybe a movie screen too; I can’t remember if they have a screen or not”. The Anon replies, “That’s good to know, I’ll check it out”.

The smokers go out for a smoke break and while they are doing so, the Stylish Native Woman and her partner come walking down the sidewalk. It appears that they are very tired; the smokers give them each a cigarette and invite them in to join the group. The couple accept the invite and take seats in one of our booths. The Stylish Woman looks rough but, as usual, she’s coherent and friendly; The Partner, who suffers from schizophrenia, is currently unable to speak but he’s calm and sort of collected.

When an Occupier asks the Stylish Woman how they’ve been doing, she sighs and tells him, “Not very well; I’ve recently been trespassed out of CHUM so now have nowhere to go to sleep when it’s cold out”. The Partner was trespassed from CHUM several years ago but until this past year or so, he was fit and strong; the Stylish Woman is considerably older than her partner and suffers from many things that most older folks are plagued with. When things on the street got to be too intense, she was always able to find a chair to sit in and a bed to sleep in at CHUM. Things at the CHUM can get really crazy too but are generally not life-threatening.

The Woman continues, “Also, a few weeks ago, I was walking up the hill, everything was wet and I slipped and hit my head on the cement. When I woke up I was lying in a pool of blood and it was raining. An ambulance came and took me to the hospital; they kept me there, told me that I’m diabetic and that I had a collapsed lung. So they put a tube in my side and an IV in my arm and let me rest for a while. When they were done, they told me I was o.k. and that I should leave. Also, today I was permanently trespassed from the Mission so have nowhere to get regular meals either”. We say, “WTF!?!”

We have always known the Stylish Native Woman to be soft spoken, caring, intelligent and peaceful. We ask her for details and she explains, “Tonight I had finished eating, took my tray, my dishes and a cup to the washing area. I put the cup up on the shelf like I’m supposed to and started to walk away. I heard a crash and turned around to see what it was; one of the workers accused me of throwing a glass against the wall, then he told me that I was trespassed from the Mission forever”. This makes no sense to us; we know that The Partner is kind and completely harmless but his schizophrenic hallucinations can get to be a bit much at times. However, the Stylish Woman causing a problem? That’s very hard to believe.

On an individual basis, the Occupiers have tried to offer help to the couple in the past. However, the couple are very self-sufficient and although they are always grateful for the offers, they prefer to take care of their own problems. The Occupiers silently vow to look for one or both of them whenever we cruise the neighborhood.

Suddenly, the front door swings open and a whole bunch of Water Protectors, Anons and Occupiers roll in. We quickly push more tables and chairs next to the booths that we’ve been sitting in; once everyone is settled a conversation about Operation Safe Winter starts up; #opsafewinter is something done every year by the Anons. They collect warm clothing, blankets and stuff like that, crank up their music and start a big fire in their fire pit in front of Lake Place Park. As the homeless and/or street people cruise by, the Anons offer these folks things that will help them keep warm. Of course, this stuff is very well received, an Anon reports, “Last year I gave a guy a whole package of new white socks; he was so happy that I thought he was gonna cry”.

The Water Protectors and some of the Anons are planning a trip down to the Wall of Forgotten Natives Camp in Minneapolis in a few days. They’re in the process of collecting things to bring to this camp. The Wall of Forgotten Natives Camp started out when a few Native homeless ones put up a tent next to a wall beside a freeway; from there more homeless Natives came and pitched tents too. The camp just kept growing and growing. We’re told that there are around 250 people camping along the wall now. We hear that some type of loose organizational structure has been formed.

We don’t know much about the politics or what kind of response the camp is getting from the City of Minneapolis but maybe those who will drive down there in a few days will bring us back some answers. We figure that if the City government is fairly liberal then the Mayor, City Councilors and whoever else will act all friendly and concerned and what not. They’ll make big speeches and promises and plans; they may even find housing for a few chosen ones. However, once the campers guards are down, the City will send in its cops and wrecking crew to demolish the camp. Then the campers will be back out on the street, right where they started.

That’s the way things have gone, historically, here in the Belly of the Beast. Someday, somewhere, a camp will be demolished but the people will quickly build a new one, when that one is demolished they will build it again. This concept will spread across all parts of the country and mark the beginning of the end of so-called real estate and many other evils of the capitalist system. That will be nice.

Someone says to a Water Protector/Occupier, “I hear that your trial, stemming from the lockdown at Wells Fargo, went well”. The WP/Occupier responds, “Yes, it went very well”. Our lawyer’s presentations and the witnesses they brought with them were amazing. The Prosecution didn’t have much to say at all. Now we have to wait for the judge to make his decision; he said he would make it before Christmas. I find it hard to believe that any judge would find us guilty of wrongdoing but I know that some judges are corrupt so we can’t take anything for granted”.

An Occupier reports, “The city official told me that the Duluth Transit Authority buses will be free on November 6th, which is mid-term voting day”. Another Occupier comments, “Oh cool, I hope the word gets out to all the bus taking people. Maybe some folks who had decided not to go to their voting stations will change their minds”.

The Occupier who is a single parent opines, “I think we should restart the CCC (civilian conservation corps) like they had during the Great Depression. Our country’s economic system is always going up and down. When the economy is up, most people are able to find jobs doing all the things that need to be done. When the economy is down, there are very few jobs although there are still all the things that need to be done. If we had a CCC program, the government could hire people who need jobs and all the things could still get done”.

Another Occupier laughs, “The economy goes up and down because we live under a capitalist economic system. If we had a different economic system things would stop going up and down”. The single parent laughs too, “Yeah, that is the bigger picture, isn’t it?”

One of the Water Protectors has a really big desire to make banana bread. The rest of us have a really big desire to eat banana bread. The problem is that the Water Protector who wants to bake doesn’t have a loaf pan. He’s also about to head out of town for a bit. An Anon/WP has a loaf pan that he can use but she’s not going out of town. Maybe, whoever can be the first to hook up a loaf pan with the traveling Water Protector, will be the one who gets to eat banana bread?

We’re starting to get silly now; the staff is beginning to clean up. We don’t know if they’ve had a lot of customers or not; we’ve been kinda in our own world for a few hours. We pack up, pick up around the tables we have used, help to replace them where they were when we came in, leave tips and head out to our various abodes. We think we’ll be back at Coney Island next Tuesday but if we get some tolerable weather we’ll be building a fire. Your guess is as good as ours at this point. We shouldn’t be too hard to find though.

G.A. Minutes 10-16-18

G.A. Minutes 10-16-18

It’s really cold tonight at Peoples Plaza; we were not expecting this. The weather people said the temperature would be in the high 30s and it is…. but this wind is definitely a killer! It’s coming from the west/northwest and it’s super strong, taking the air temps down by 20 degrees or so.

To make matters worse, when the first Occupiers drive up on the sidewalk at the Plaza’s edge there are no helpers obviously available. There are a couple of homeless appearing guys hanging out on the east ledge but they’re not making any moves that look like they’re gonna help us. The Food Bringing Occupier comments, “Well, we’re here now and it is what it is; let’s just start slogging away and see what happens”. So she and the Fire Magician begin slogging; at the rate they’re able to slog, setting up will take a long time.

After a while an African American homeless couple stop to help them. The female of the couple apologizes for being slow, she tells us that she’s recently been diagnosed with pneumonia. The male of the couple is seriously busting his butt though; he doesn’t stop until everything is up on the site. Once that’s done they begin to take their leave, saying they’re going off to find a sleeping place. The Occupiers notice that they have only one blanket between them; they’ve recently scored a couple of very good army blankets by way of the city official. The Occupiers give one of them to the homeless couple.

Just as the Food Bringing Occupier puts the final touches on the food table, a large group of Anon/Water Protectors and other Water Protectors arrive. They bring a shit ton of food too; it’s the kind of food that many street folks crave, like pre-packaged cheese burgers, chicken sandwiches and stuff like that. The Water Protectors also bring several big boxes of bananas. As soon as the favorite food goes on the table, the first wave of homeless ones appear and go to town on the preferred eats. They don’t stop until it’s all gone; almost everyone takes a banana too.

The Fire Magician has started the small charcoal grill to be used for keeping the homemade soup warm. Many Water Protectors stand around it, trying to get a bit of a heat source at least. Did I mention that it was cold this evening? The Fire Magician gets to work on getting a fire going in the fire pit; first birch bark is strategically placed, then kindling and finally the logs in a placement that seems to vary from fire to fire then WHOSH!… flames rise up. The Water Protectors quickly move to the real fire and say, “Yes! This is just what we need!” Once they are sufficiently warmed up they move away in order to let the other people get warm.

Another group of fire circle enthusiasts roll up; among them are Chicago Man, the partner of the gay, former street man, a couple of peeps from the Anonymous crew, several Occupiers and The Anarchist. Chicago Man has cut his hair short and naturally curly then dyed it blue. He opines, “I was feeling a little depressed so I thought I’d do something to make myself feel happy”. We think it looks really good. The former street man’s partner declares to one of the Occupiers, “You people inspired me to stop drinking and drugging”. We think, “Not to say that people can’t change and he does appear to be sober tonight but given the problems we had with him and his meth addiction last year, we’re gonna adopt a wait and see attitude with this one”.

An Occupier asks the Occupiers who are responsible for managing our firewood supplies, “So when are we going to go out to the country to get our yearly load of firewood?” The questioned Occupier replies, “Well, we called out there to make an appointment a few days ago. They told us they had received at least three times the amount of orders than they had received in the past. They said that as of right now they were completely out of firewood. They said they are currently working on procuring more and put us on their waiting list. No worries though, we have enough firewood left to see us through next spring”.

The Occupier who likes to report things reports, “Please remember that the trial for our Occupier/Water Protectors and the Water Protector from the southwest will happen this upcoming Friday, October 19th, 9am at the St Louis County Court House. I know I told everyone it was gonna happen on the 10th but I was obviously wrong. I’m not sure where I got the wrong date from; maybe I’m getting that Old-Timers Disease”. We all laugh.

“Also, when we canceled our fire circle last Tuesday so we could attend the Riot Gear Open House Comment Session I was hearing a rumor that the City Council was gonna table the vote on approving or not approving the Duluth Police Department’s request for Riot Gear. I heard that same rumor last Thursday at the last Comment Session. So anyway, I emailed Em Westerlund, the Councilor for my district and she told me that to table the vote or not will be decided by a vote from the whole City Council at the beginning of the next Council meeting on Monday, October 22nd, 7pm in the Council Chambers in City Hall.

“So I guess we’ll just have to show up prepared to speak or whatever and if they table the vote we’ll probably just leave”. An Anon remarks, “I hope they table the vote. The DPD has been really pushy and manipulative throughout this whole process. They want riot gear and they want it NOW!” A Water Protector adds, “Yeah, and why now? It wouldn’t have anything to do with No Line 3 protesters and such would it? Chief Tusken says they would never use the gear for anything like that. He says he hopes they never have an occasion to use it and that it will just sit on shelves until it rots. Yeah right! I think that many cops are victims of arrested development; did you ever give a kid a new toy and then tell him not to play with it? I rest my case”. We all sigh and nod our heads in agreement”.

The Occupiers, Anons and Water Protectors begin a conversation about climate change. They take turns listing all the climate disasters that have taken place in the last ten or so years. Someone exclaims, “I don’t understand why the capitalists can’t see what is right in front of their noses”. Another opines, “I think they are blinded by greed. They just want more and more and more. More money, more stocks, more mansions, more sexual conquests, more whatever. Greed is a very powerful and dangerous force”.

The retired neighborhood man drops by. As usual he’s talking about voting, the upcoming elections and such. We converse with him as best we can but the two parties = one party ying yang is not our strong suit. For those of us who do vote, we know we’ll be voting for Skip Sandman for 8th CD and then for the other most progressive candidates on the ballot. An Occupier confesses, “I don’t even know why I vote anymore but I do”. The retired man finds her statement to be amusing. As usual, when the man takes his leave, he leaves us a generous donation. An Occupier says to another, “I guess we could say he is our Patron?” The other Occupier answers, “Yeah, I think we could; over the years, the majority of the money we’ve had in our treasury has come from him”.

For the most part, the homeless and street people in the circle have been just listening to our conversations while eating and keeping warm by the fire. Yelling Man and his girlfriend are here too; Yelling Man has been nodding off and on. He’s probably tired. We hear some guy across the street loudly cussing up a storm; he’s using every swear word known to mankind. Yelling Man goes to the top of the Plaza stairs and starts yelling at the swearing guy. He hollers, “Why don’t you come over here and say that?!?” The swearing guy screams even louder. An Occupier exclaims, “No, don’t get him to come over here; you go over there!” Yelling Man laughs, “Don’t worry, he has Tourettes Syndrome, I’m just messing with him. He’s not gonna come over here”. Yelling Man is the only one who finds this situation funny.

The chronically homeless man with the deep voice and the girlfriend with PTSD comes up asking for a bowl of our homemade tomato, rice and vegetable soup. An Occupier looks in the pot and sees that it’s almost empty. She tells the man, “There’s not much left and it’s probably cold but I will heat it up for you”. The deep voiced man replies, “That’s o.k., I’ll gladly take it just the way it is”. The Occupier scrapes the bottom of the pot and comes up with enough to fill his bowl; then that’s the end of the soup.

It’s a little before 9pm and most of the homeless ones have gone off to their sleeping places. The rest of us are huddled up close to the glorious warmth of the fire. We figure we’ll sit around and let the fire die down somewhat before packing up and calling it a night but then suddenly, KABLAM!!….. a huge gust of wind blows everything off the food table, sends burning embers flying around the circle and even knocks over a few chairs.

Yikes! Everyone runs around picking up all the stuff that is blowing around the Plaza. An Occupier opines, “I think Mother Earth and Father Sky are hinting that it’s time for us to leave”. We still have enough fire worshipers around to allow us to quickly pack up and then jump into our vehicles.

This time of year we never know if we’ll be able to hold a Tuesday fire circle or not. Everything is up in the air (yeah I know, bad joke). If you don’t find us at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday, we’ll be up at Coney Island on 1st St.