G.A. Minutes 9-25-12

G.A. Minutes 9-25-12

A small group tonight, mostly Occupiers. We get a report from the campers re: a visit from the DPD a few nights earlier. The non-campers are on edge as police harassment is a big pain in the neck. Fortunately the rumors are bigger than the actual story. Turns out it was 2 of the bicycle cops sneaking around when they thought everyone was sleeping. When they are confronted, they say they were looking for a skunk. Yeh, right. No one is stupid enough to go looking for a skunk. The bike cops quickly leave. Actually, we do have a skunk. She lives in the alley on the other side of the fence and noses around the camp late at night. She leaves us alone and we leave her alone.

The discussion turns to the subject of our supposed imminent eviction on Oct. 1st. The Occupiers who have been doing the legal research explain to the others why our encampment is legal and what must be done to legally evict us. We really don’t understand why the owner wants to evict us but realize, at this point in time at least, rich people are allowed to exercise their whims regardless of the consequences to the rest of us. At our last meeting with the owner, a police officer came by and told us if we didn’t leave on Oct. 1st we would all be arrested for trespassing. We know some officers have a tendency to make unsubstantiated threats but we have officially notified the DPD and other government people of the MN landlord/tenant statutes that support our right to be here. The owner and his representatives must follow the legal procedures to have us evicted. It appears they haven’t got much of a case but if they would follow these steps we would probably leave of our own accord as we know we can’t maintain the camp in winter. For some reason the owners’ representative has chosen harassment and bullying instead. It’s not working very well. We are attempting to secure safe housing for all the homeless campers and have had some success.

An Occupier announces she has a port-a-potty set up to be delivered to camp the next day. She asks for approval from the group and is rewarded with unanimous happy octopi.

One of the homeless campers has decided to return home to California. This is his first time in the north woods and he’s freezing already. He needs money for a bus ticket. We pass around the hat and come up with close to half of what he needs. We’ll keep working on it until we collect enough. He will do what he can do himself. We will miss him. He doesn’t tell much about himself but we can tell that he is highly educated and very intelligent. More than once he has given us special insight.

F.I.N.D. is sponsoring the movie “Pickaxe” on Thursday, October 4th, 7pm at the Zinema. Most of us are planning to go. We open a discussion about what movie Occupy should sponsor next. There are many ideas.

It’s getting late, some go home. There are musical instruments tonight. It’s been awhile since we’ve played music around the fire. An Occupier plays the banjo, a camper plays washtub bass, another Occupier on heating vent and plastic spoons. A woman with a beautiful voice sings. We’re gonna miss this place.

G.A. Minutes 9-22-12

G.A. Minutes 9-22-12

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

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

G.A. Minutes 9-18-12

G.A. Minutes 9-18-12

Standing room only again tonight. A little chilly so we get a good fire going in the fire pit.

First we do announcements. There will be an anti-Cravaak rally Thursday, September 27th at 4:30 pm in front of the Federal Building. All are encouraged to attend. Our friend, the homeless advocate, needs volunteers in October to administer the Wilder homeless survey. This survey will determine the amount of government funding for the homeless that the city receives. Sadly, she states, most of the funding goes to the large wealthy charities with boots on the ground operations like hers’ receiving very little. She requests that we help her out as she desperately needs the few crumbs they toss her way.

The September 17th Anniversary of OWS rally went very well. It was well attended; lots of good conversation, hungry people were fed. The DPD never showed up. They drove by every once in a while but left us alone. We were amazed by the amount of support we received from passersby and those driving by. The corporate media has spent the last year trying to convince the people that Occupy is dead. Across the country we said, guess what? Not true!

Then a discussion of our camp situation. Our port-a-potty has been stolen. At approximately 4 am on the morning of September 17th a camper heard some noise coming from the potty area and assumed the cleaning guy was emptying it as per usual. When campers awoke a few hours later they found the port-a-potty was gone. We filed a police report and the officer in charge was able to discover that the property manager had ordered the potty company to remove it. Upon contacting the company we were told the property manager had been harassing them for over a month. They became afraid and took it away. This is in spite of the fact that Occupy Duluth had been paying for it since last January. The campers now have nowhere to go to the bathroom. The property manager is in serious violation of MN landlord/tenant law. We doubt that she cares. She has been illegally harassing the camp since she was hired about 1 ½ months ago. Time to step up the legal action. October 1st is coming up soon. Everyone takes on tasks. It’s hard to imagine a person willing to deprive the poorest of the poor of the basic human needs. The again, it’s not so hard to imagine. It happens every day.

We open a discussion about what we will do when winter comes. We need to have an indoor place. Again, people take on tasks.

The fire is dying, it gets darker earlier these days. Folks wander off to their tents, their homes, the alley people to their secret cold places. Each of us with our thoughts, questioning man’s inhumanity to man.

G.A. Minutes 9-15-12

G.A. Minutes 9-15-12

Very few people tonight, mostly Occupiers and two regular campers. September 14th has come and gone. In the early afternoon, the property manager showed up with the owner, two cops and a few other men who didn’t say who they were. The owner said you don’t have to leave today but I want you to leave by Oct. 1st. This is contrary to what he had said in our previous conversations. The property manager and the cops say, “ Yeah, and if you don’t leave you will all be arrested for trespassing.”

With this knowledge in mind and because we are few, we have an informal chat about what the heck is going on. We note that at no time did any of the official people say anything about our legal rights or about the landlord/tenant rights in Minnesota. The handbook is lengthy but easy to read. Surely they must know the laws. The property manager has said, “This is not a residence. You have no rights”. We doubt this is true. An Occupier offers to take the handbook to one of our attorneys. He offers to explore other legal avenues.

The most important thing right now is September 17th. We go over our plans one last time.

The alley campers and alley people have been disgruntled over the last couple of days. There’s a rumor going around that the Occupiers are about to become another arm of the police force. When one is sleep deprived with nowhere to live, paranoia runs deep. We have been posting a “guard” at the gate each night to prevent drug and alcohol crazed alley people from invading the camp while campers are sleeping. Occupiers are tired. Non-camping Occupiers go home while the campers go to bed or take the first shift at the gate.

G.A. Minutes 9-11-12

G.A. Minutes 9-11-12

It’s standing room only tonight. An Occupier announces that Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president is speaking at UMD Thursday at 6pm. Everyone is encouraged to attend.

A well-known homeless advocate and a social worker from a major charity organization are in attendance this evening. They have some winter coats which they pass out. The social worker invites people to sign up for housing. We appreciate her help however; most of the homeless people are already on every housing waiting list in the city. Many people believe homeless people are in their situation because they are too lazy, stupid or drug addicted to take care of themselves. That is not always the case. Lack of affordable housing and our” winner takes all” capitalist society are major players in many homeless people’s lives. The homeless advocate informs us she has been in touch with the DPP. They informed her they were not planning on becoming involved with the so called Sept. 14th event as threatened by the property owners’ property manager. Could it be they actually are aware of the laws governing landlord/tenant relations? She gives us other good advice which we will certainly take.

We move on to a report about the progress of planning for our Sept. 17th event. There is a lot of work to be done but things are going smoothly. We hope many people will attend.

Next, some Occupiers report on the latest meeting with the property owner. The owner has changed his mind again. This time he says we don’t have to leave and his property manager has her own agenda. We find this strange, as the manager is his employee. He is disappointed the Community Outreach Walk has not been seriously implemented and wants us to get going on that. We say we will try but we are conflicted about this as we are not willing to play the role of police. The alley neighbors have enough problems with police as it is; they don’t need another group telling them what to do. The owner seems to think if we have the Walk, it will “clean up the neighborhood” and make the people in the alley behave. We think the problem is a societal one and will not be solved by a small group of Duluth Occupiers. The owner expresses disappointment in the way the camp is developing. He says, “Allowing a bunch of homeless people to get together is not necessarily a good thing”. We don’t say it, but we wonder exactly who it was that he thought was going to want to live in our camp. Again, to be continued……..

A regular camper wants to read something he has written. He reads and we all listen. Unfortunately, he has his jaw wired shut so we can’t actually understand anything he says. We know he is a very good writer, we’ve seen his work. When he is done we all clap very loudly.

An alley visitor asks where Occupy is going with this camp and everything. The advocate and the social worker also want to hear our thoughts on this subject. We tell about our winter in the Paul Robeson Ballroom and the police and city harassment that lead us to the decision to establish a camp. We say that we are not actually homeless outreach workers; we have a larger vision which includes fighting the capitalist system and eliminating homelessness completely. The camp was intended as a notification to the city that homelessness is a major problem and as an opportunity to grow some crops and learn to feed ourselves. We were overwhelmed with requests from alley people asking to live in our camp. We had to turn many away. A first time visitor to our meeting tells her story of a few months ago. She was homeless and alone. She asked to live in our camp and was turned away (probably because we were full), went back into the alley and was mugged later that night. We explain the energy involved in maintaining the camp has kept us from direct actions. We know we will be unable to keep the camp during winter. We are conflicted as we know when we leave; the majority of people camping with us will be sent back into the alley. We know we will probably not be allowed back in the spring and the lovely land, with lots of flowers and growing things will revert to the way it was, a place for the workers to throw their junk, a place where they throw rocks at alley people who try to rest there. The discussion is going strong but the alley people are not used to meetings and are on mental and emotional overload. When someone gets up to go to the bathroom, the alley people get up to leave. The meeting just sort of breaks up. Some go home or back to their secret sleeping places. Others stay and talk in small groups. It’s dark now but not yet cold enough for a fire.

G.A. Minutes 9-8-12

G.A. Minutes 9-8-12

There are a lot of people again tonight, both Occupiers and people from the alley. We have everybody introduce themselves as there are many people we haven’t met before. The alley people tell their stories, most of the stories are very sad, some are downright tragic.

We have only two things on the agenda tonight, so it’s down to business. We go over our plans for Sept. 17th. Some things have been done already, mostly the planning stage is over and now it’s time to for implementation.

On to discussion of the camp situation. It turns out that the owner of the camp property is in agreement with his property manager and wants us to leave; he stated this in a phone call with one of our Occupiers a few days ago. We find it all very strange as in our meeting with him a few weeks ago he said everything was fine. Another of our Occupiers has been researching landlord/tenant law and states that we have quite a few rights in relation to this situation. During the phone call, the owner expressed his desire to abide by the tenant laws, this means that we won’t be leaving by September 14th as demanded by the property manager. We have no wish to fight with the owner as we appreciate him allowing us to use his space for almost a year. However, his request that we tear down the camp is very sudden, not based on any logical reason and we have many homeless people at camp. They have nowhere to go. All are on some type of social service waiting list. The social services are completely overwhelmed by the large amount of homeless people in our city. As far as we can tell, the City is doing nothing to remedy the problem. We are getting the usual response from the general public of “not in my backyard” and “just make them go somewhere out of my sight”. We will attempt to negotiate further with the owner and will contact some of our Occupy friendly attorneys for advice. We especially need the owner’s property manager to leave us alone. To be continued…..

The meeting is over, most of the non-camping alley people have left. The night is rather chilly and some of the campers say they have trouble sleeping as they are cold. It’s time to start looking for winter coats and more blankets and good sleeping bags. We have enough money to pay the port-a-potty bill, but not much left over. The need in this city is huge, as usual donations would be greatly appreciated.

G.A. Minutes 9-4-12

G.A. Minutes 9-4-12

We have a rather large group tonight. Some of our Occupiers have returned from their summer jobs. We are glad to have them back.

Earlier in the day campers received some type of flyer from the property manager. It stated everyone and everything must be removed from the camp by Sept. 14th. We are unclear what this is all about and will contact the owner. Here we go again.

Discussion continues re: the Sept. 17th event. Occupy Monsanto will be joining us at 4pm.

The compost pile needs to be moved as we no longer have access to the parking lot area. We note that many campers to not understand how to recycle or compost. We explain this process to those who are asking.

A plan is made for laundering camp blankets and such. An Occupier offers to give us access to a place where laundry can be done for free. This will help as we are always short of funds.

The meeting ends and as usual, folks break into small groups and interesting conversation. The evening is cool again. Most people say they prefer it this way.

G.A. Minutes 9-1-12

G.A. Minutes 9-1-12

It looks like our meeting will consist of mostly camper people from the alley tonight.

One man has a personal friend who happens to be a Duluth police officer. He has known this friend since childhood and thinks he’s a great guy. He wants to invite him down to camp (minus his police uniform) to visit and hang out. An Occupier and an alley camper are visibly upset by this. “No way,” they say, “we should never willingly allow any cop in our camp!” These people have had many experiences with police lying and brutalizing them. While they know that there are individual officers who are decent human beings, once a cop, always a cop is the motto they live by. Seeing as Occupy does not operate by majority rule and several people are adamantly opposed to the invite the police idea the subject is tabled. It won’t be brought up again unless these people change their mind or stop coming to meetings.

We make more plans re: Sept. 17th. We have decided not to give details about our plans in the meeting minutes as they are open to anybody. If you want to know more, come to a meeting, ask around. You might get an email about it.

We talk about ways to improve tarp coverings in the camp. We think we don’t want to put too much energy into it as when winter comes, all the tarps will have to come down.

A camper has given us a donation from her meager pay. This is wonderful as now we can pay the port-a-potty bill for the month. Another camper makes a donation from his equally small income. We’ll put that aside for next months’ bill. We are always in need of donations.

The business is over and the meeting breaks up. People move into groups to relax and talk. The night is a little cooler than it has been so we put on light jackets and things are very pleasant.