G.A. Minutes 10-30-12

G.A. Minutes 10-30-12

We find our assumption is correct. The city ordinance Officer Tuscan states forbids us to have a fire actually doesn’t mention fire. It refers to obstruction of walkways. Our fire with people sitting around it most definitely does not obstruct any walkway. We have been conscious of the needs of others. We’ve notified Officer Tuscan of our findings. As of the beginning of our meeting we have not received a response.

There is a biting east wind tonight; if we’re going to stay here we will need to have a fire. We realize the possibly of the DPD swooping down on us and causing us a lot of grief. Nobody is particularly interested in being harassed, ticketed or arrested but there is a principle at stake here. City officials should obey their own rules. They expect the regular citizens to obey the law; they should obey the law also.

We start up the fire and it is almost instantly comfortable. Immediately street people come over to join us. We don’t know a few of them; some are past visitors from the camp. An Occupier reports the evidence related to our illegal camp eviction has been dropped off at an attorney’s office and now we must await their opinion. We begin to discuss the eviction further but a Native woman wants to pray over the fire. She has recently lost her father and another person close to her and she needs to acknowledge her grief. We dig through our pockets to come up with some loose tobacco and some sage. We sprinkle these over the fire. She prays, we join her. We talk with her and her friends for a while and then they leave to catch a bus.

Our meeting resumes. We touch base with the initial plans for our movie showing. Our environmentalist friend has no immediate plans for any showing at the Zinema and has told us to pick any date we would like. We think Thursday Dec. 6th would be good.

Somebody mentions Tuesday Nov. 6th is the big election day. An Occupier invites everyone to his home on that evening for fellowship and watching of the election returns. Unanimous happy octopi. Most of us have little faith in the current political system but will probably still vote. We cancel next Tuesday’s G.A. in favor of the election gathering.

An unhappy looking man has been encircling our group. He finally comes into the circle and angrily says, “What are you doing here? You’re disrespecting the Memorial! Get out!”. We attempt to engage him in conversation but he refuses to converse. We realize that he is the friend of the man who was yelling at us a few meetings ago. That man has since apologized and seems embarrassed when we see him.

The general theory among us is this small group of men may think we are a bunch of white folks who have come to take over black folk’s territory. This is logical as it has happened to black folks very many times in the past. We would like the angry man to articulate this but he can only yell the same words over and over. He takes out his cell phone and walks away. When he comes back he says, “20 minutes to a half an hour. You better be gone by then!” Then he leaves. Hmmm….

We continue talking; a man from the neighborhood walks up and asks if this is the Occupy Duluth meeting. He joins us and begins expressing genuine concern over the amount of our precious youth who are down at the local head shop buying synthetic marijuana. It is now about 20 minutes since the angry man left us. We see a squad car drive by. Oh well. We are doing nothing wrong so continue our conversation. A police SUV drives by, shines the big light on us, flashes his colored lights a few times and leaves. A couple more squads drive by. Suddenly, four or five squads go zooming up the avenue. Something’s going on.

If we wait long enough, a street person will come by and tell us what’s happening. Unfortunately, we have burned all the wood, the coals are dying and we can feel the cold wind again. We decide to call it a night, we pack everything up and put out the fire. Just as we are climbing into our vehicles, four squad cars swoop down on the Memorial. They shine bright lights all over the place but don’t seem to notice or pretend not to notice us getting ready to drive off. Who know? We’ll be back Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 10-27-12

G.A. Minutes 10-27-12
Most of the regular Occupiers are here at the Memorial tonight. Some street folks stop by; they already know what we’re doing here. We get a visit from a former camper from Civic Center days. One man is sitting on the ledge passionately talking to himself. He stops, looks at us and says, “Occupy Duluth right?” We say, “Right.” He makes a fist, gives us a power salute, then resumes talking to himself and walks away.

We have snacks tonight but no fire. It’s chilly. We’re in the midst of” negotiations” with the DPD. Officer Tuscan is trying to convince us that it is illegal to have a contained, safe fire at the Memorial. He quotes some MN law, we refute it, then he sends us another one which is equally irrelevant. About an hour before tonight’s meeting we received a reference to a city ordinance. We’re betting it’s another rule that doesn’t apply to the situation at hand but we haven’t had time to review it.

We discuss whether to start a fire which will surely bring the DPD down on us. We decide to wait as we want to make sure we can reply to this latest attempt. It looks like we are playing some kind of game but it’s deeper than that. If we can show there is no law preventing citizen’s from having a fire for warmth in a public space in their own neighborhood, we have in some small way, made the statement that homeless people have rights. Of course, if we prove this, the City will make a law against this right as quickly as they can. This will emphasize their prejudice towards homeless people. Many citizen’s will support this law as hatred of the homeless runs deep. We’ll have to see where it all leads.

We’ll have to do our business quickly as it’s too cold to hang around for long. We know this is how the City means to stop our meetings at the Memorial. We also know that at some point we’ll have to meet indoors as winter, fire or not, will be freezing. However, Spring will come around eventually.

We discuss the legal situation as it relates to our eviction from our camp. Things are progressing. A local attorney has asked us to bring her all the evidence we have collected. We’ll do that first thing next week. We’re also searching for attorneys outside the Twin Ports as we’re finding the “good ole boy” network is alive and well in Duluth.

It’s time to get seriously working on our next movie showing at the Zinema. The Occupier who has taken on the lead role for this event is not with us tonight. The conversation is short.

Lastly, we talk about the large email list we have on our website. We can use it to publicize the movie but will need to find out which people still want their addresses linked to Occupy. The computer geeks among us explain how this can be done.

Time to go. Our noses are running, we’re starting to shiver. We have somewhere to go. Many of the street people sharing our coffee and cookies don’t. If they had a fire, their night would be tolerable.

G.A. Minutes 10-23-12

G.A. Minutes 10-23-12
We have a bunch of Occupiers and a couple of former campers too. It’s very windy and rainy. We’re about to start the fire when an Occupier arrives stating he has been talking to Deputy Police Chief Tuscan. Officer Tuscan informed him they have located an obscure MN statute which allows him to deny us the right to have a fire at the CJM Memorial. Past experience has taught us we need to be suspicious of the DNP and the City Attorney when it comes to legal assertions.
The question for tonight is whether we want to fight with the police right now or not. The weather’s bad, everybody’s tired. We adjourn to an Occupiers home to do computer research.
The next G.A. will be at the Memorial this upcoming Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 10-20-12

G.A. Minutes 10-20-12
We’re at the Memorial again. Fire’s going, snack are set out. We have a good amount of Occupiers. Throughout the meeting we have many folks from the street stopping by to see what we’re about. One Occupier has a good line, when asked what Occupy is trying to do, he says, “We’re trying to take over the government. So far we’re not doing very good.” This makes the people laugh and breaks the ice.

We talk about our stuff situation. A certified letter has been sent to the property manager. The letter requests that we arrange a date and time to go to the Ballroom and take all our stuff out. We will await her response. An Occupier has some of our camp stuff sitting in his living room. It’s kind of smelly. Tomorrow some Occupiers will go to his house and get everything.

We tried to get a room at UMD so we could show the Democracy Now presidential debate. We were unable to get the room so will have to settle for showing the debate at an Occupiers’ home. We won’t be able to open the event to the general public as the home is too small to accommodate a lot of people.

An Occupier tells us about the Wolf Walk that took place earlier in the day. It was quite successful. We talk about the wolf killing situation. An Occupier states she read an article that explained the wolf laws in Wisconsin. It stated it is very easy for farmers and ranchers to claim a wolf killed one of their livestock. The state then pays them decent money for their supposed loss. This explains the huge increase in reported kills by wolves over the last year. Some of the street people are astounded. Someone explains the deep spiritual connection between wolves and the Ojibwe people of our region.

A rather aggressive street person comes to talk with us. He is upset and says he has been sitting on the back wall of the Memorial with his friends every night for years. About a month ago, he began seeing us making a fire and sitting there talking with folks. He says making a fire is disrespectful to the Memorial and he is also angry because the Occupiers never came over and introduced themselves. We attempt to explain to him that we have contacted the Memorial BOD and our city official friend so have verbal permission to be there. We explain we have the fire to provide warmth for ourselves and as a way of inviting other people to come over and hang out with us. He’s not having any of it. He thinks we should have asked him personally. He’s very animated and does have a point of sorts so when he stops to take a breath, we apologize. He swings into a lecture about the history of the civil rights movement. We listen but as this whole thing has gone on for a very long time most of the Occupiers say their good-byes and leave. A few Occupiers remain, all the street people have gone. Eventually the aggressive man walks off.

We realize it is very close to 10pm and we remember that at the end of our last meeting we had said to the DPD Sargent we would leave the Memorial by 10pm. We don’t know if his demand is legal but we had agreed to it. We put out the fire and begin packing up. At exactly one minute after 10pm we are hit by a huge light from a squad car. Two other squad cars pull up immediately and all the cops jump out of their cars and come running at us. They have kind of an “Ah ha! We caught you!” vibe about them. One of them says, “You are in a city park after 10pm. Show me your I.D.s.” We tell them we think the Memorial is not a city park and one Occupier gives the cops his I.D. One Occupier states she has an I.D. but it is in her car. The third Occupier states he’s not sure it is legal for the police to ask for our I.D.s.

With that, the cops pounce on him, handcuff him and begin searching his entire person. One of the cops patting him down says, “I smell something funny. Smells like dead meat.” They throw all the contents of the Occupiers’ pockets on the floor. The biggest cop comes very close to stepping on the Occupiers’ cell phone. The female Occupier walks over and bends down to pick up the cell phone. One of the smaller cops says, “Ma’am, please don’t step behind my partner.” The big cop realizes someone is behind him, he turns and jabs her in the ribs with his billy club. She cries out. The smaller cops seem to realize that things are getting a little too rough and attempt to de-escalate the situation.

As usual, we now have two nice cops and one mean cop. The Occupiers say, “We would have been gone already if you guys hadn’t come along. This is a cheap shot.” The nice cops laugh and a friendly banter begins. The cops allow the Occupiers to finish packing up their things and taking them to their vehicles. The one Occupier is still handcuffed and the mean cop is taunting him about all the tickets and fines the Occupier is going to receive. One of the nice cops, who appears to be in charge, says, “Do you understand that when a person is doing something illegal, an officer has the right to ask them for their I.D.? It’s only when a person is just minding their own business that they have the right to refuse to give I.D.” The Occupier says he understands. The cop says,”O.K., uncuff him. We’re not going to give him any tickets.”

The mean cop is clearly upset by this. The female Occupier asks the cops for their names and badge numbers. The nice ones say, “Of course. Certainly.” They are Officer Keast #475 and Officer Roe #479. The mean one says, “No! I don’t like your attitude.” The Occupier realizes that it is illegal for the officer to refuse to give his badge number. She decides to say nothing and notes that his badge number is 413. She’ll find out his name later. With that, the Occupiers leave. As they head out they notice that the aggressive street man is back again. He’s ranting something about cops being racist. The occupiers say to him, “You know that as soon as we leave, the police are going to jump on you. You’d better split while you have a chance.” He doesn’t heed the occupy advice, and they hope he will be o.k. They know they can’t stay to see how things turn out.

G.A. Minutes 10-16-12

G.A. Minutes 10-16-12
A lot of Occupiers present tonight. Snacks are set out on the folding table, the fire’s going. Of course, we’re at the Memorial. An Occupier shows the letter she has written, to be sent to the property manager re: getting our stuff out of the Ballroom. Everybody approves. She’ll send it out tomorrow.

The second free storage place has been checked out and found suitable for storing our big stuff. We agree to organize ourselves and our trucks to get together for a day of hauling. We will wait for the property manager’s response. The whole thing will probably be a big pain in the neck.

The UMD Occupier is having trouble getting the system to function properly and give us a room for the Oct. 22nd Democracy Now presidential debate. Another Occupier remembers we have a friend in upper management at UMD. We’ll contact her and see if she can help. Oct.22nd is coming up soon.

An occasional Occupier reminds us that tomorrow is the 1st anniversary of the start of Occupy Duluth. He asks if we would like to have some type of remembrance at the Civic Center. We begin to discuss this but are interrupted by the appearance of a squad car.

The car parks and out pops a member of the DPD. He walks up, tells us he is our friend and just wants to hang out. Bye the way, would we mind showing him our I.Ds? Just so he can know who it is he is talking to. We say, “No thanks. We’ll pass on that.” He walks back to his car, comes back and says that we can’t have a fire as the Memorial is a city park and no fires are allowed in city parks. We say, “We don’t believe you.” He says he’s going to have to call somebody but doesn’t know what to say as we won’t show him our I.D.s. We say, “Tell them we’re Occupy. They know who we are.”

He goes to his car and another squad pulls up behind him. A female officer gets out and both cops come back. The second officer tells us the same thing the first cop did. An Occupier says, “Cops lie all the time, why should we believe you?” Then somebody mentions our illegal eviction from the camp. It’s hard to tell what was said as everyone was talking at once. The female cop was just as animated as the Occupiers. The other cop was just standing there looking friendly. Too bad the cops are not on our side (yet).

Somebody mentions our good friend who is a city official and one of the founders of the Memorial. The cops say if we can get an o.k. from our friend they’ll take his word and leave us alone. We call our friend and he says, “I’m on my way down.” The cops go back to their cars to wait and the Sargent cop pulls up and parks behind them. The street is getting really crowded with cop cars.

During all this, a woman from the street, who is obviously quite drunk, is running around and talking to herself. The cops pay no attention to her. We don’t know her but make room for her at the fire. An Occupier leaves to run down to the casino and use the bathroom. Other Occupiers say stuff like, “I have lots of stuff to do and had planned to be gone by now. I can’t leave. I’ll have to wait until this is settled.”

Our friend arrives and he and the cops talk for what seems like forever. The Sargent says in a loud voice, “They can stay and keep the fire for tonight but they have to be gone by 10pm.” Our friend comes over and talks with us. He says he is going to some type of city meeting with them tomorrow and will call us and tell us the outcome. We thank him and he goes off to his next stop. He is the closest thing we have to a hero. Two cops leave and one stays sitting in his car. It’s 8:30 pm and we put out the fire and pack up to leave. It would be nice to stay and enjoy the warmth but we’re exhausted by all the drama. We leave, wondering why things have to be so stupid. Maybe the cops are wondering that too.

G.A. Minutes 10-13-12

G.A. Minutes 10-13-12

We’re at the Clayton Jackson-McGhie Memorial again with a fire going and snacks to offer. It’s a short meeting but a long evening this time. We’ve discovered that Democracy Now! is not going to be doing a broadcast with some of the alternative candidates for the second presidential debate. They will be doing the broadcast for the third debate on Monday, Oct. 22nd at 7pm (CS time). An Occupier with appropriate connections agrees to book a room at UMD. We will hook up a laptop to a big screen TV and invite people to join us in watching the alternative debate.

We get a report from an Occupier re: the current status of our legal situation. We checked out the attic and found that it will work for some things but the stairway is too narrow to transport big things. We think we have access to another free storage space for the big things. An Occupier offers to take a look and see if we can use it. We will need to contact the owner of the Ballrooms’ property manager and arrange a day and time to get our stuff out. An Occupier offers to write an official letter. It’s going to be a big job; we would welcome anyone willing to help us. The other legal issues are a work in progress.

We have a lot of street people stopping by to get warm, have a snack and talk. The conversation generally goes like this: Street person: What are you guys doing here? Occupier: We’re having an Occupy meeting. SP: A what? O: You know, Occupy Wall Street. SP: Huh? Occupiers begin to explain what Occupy is all about; the street person quickly becomes bored and changes the subject. Oh well. We hope they will remember the name Occupy.

One woman tells a long story about her oppression living in government housing. Her life is strictly monitored. She is afraid to even talk to her neighbors. She fears being evicted, is denied her prescribed medication whenever the caregivers feel like messing with her. We hear this type of story from many formerly homeless people who are now in government housing.

A past regular camper who we haven’t seen in a while stops by. We say, “There’s a rumor going around that the cops took you outside of the city, beat the crap out of you and then left you to find your own way back.” He says, “What actually happened was, I was standing on the street when I felt an unknown person grabbed my shoulder, I reflexively raised my hand and made a fist. As I turned and saw it was a cop, his partner knocked me to the ground and I cracked my head on the sidewalk. I was bleeding profusely. The cops searched me and gave me a breathalyzer test. They said, “O.K., you can go now.” and they drove away. We wish the Citizen’s Review Board was up and running.

About six squads are zooming up and down the street and avenue with no sirens and their lights flashing. This is probably their idea of fun. They sure aren’t noticing us. Good. Maybe the Memorial has some kind of magic around it that makes Occupiers invisible to police. That would be nice. It gets close to 10 pm and the Occupiers who are staying at the CHUM must leave in order to make curfew. The rest of us stay and watch the fire. Things are quieting down, the coals are dancing, it’s time for change of shift for the cops. We pack up and get ready to head on home, realizing we are very lucky to have homes to go to. Another night in the hood. It may seem strange to some, but we’ve grown to like it here.

G.A. Minutes 10-9-12

G.A. Minutes 10-9-12

We’re at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial tonight. A mid-sized group, all Occupiers with various people from the street coming in and out. We have a fire going and some snacks set out. This attracts the street people which is our intention.
We talk about the recent presidential debate. Some of us watched the Democracy Now version which included the candidates, Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson. The Democracy Now broadcast was better than the regular debate so we plan to find out if Amy Goodman will air the next two debates with additional candidates. If so, we will try to get a room at UMD, hook up a laptop and T.V. and invite people to join us.

Conversation turns to the subject of our next movie at the Zinema. One of our friends from a respected environmental group has also been showing movies so we need to check with him before scheduling anything. Zinema has told us we can have a showing each month. An Occupier suggests we show something pertaining to the LBGT community. Everyone thinks this is an excellent idea.

An Occupier brings up the topic of renting a storage space as we have a lot of stuff from the camp. We also need to get our stuff from the Ballroom. A few of the camping Occupiers made homeless by our illegal eviction also need somewhere to keep their possessions. One of the effects of homelessness is not being able to own basic necessities. A person can’t have more things than they can carry on their back and even this must be carefully guarded. Our camp offered many homeless people their first feeling of security in years. The Last Resort provided respite for society’s most marginalized. The loss is mourned by quite a few. Another Occupier says he has an attic available. This is great! We need to use our meager funds to support direct actions.

The subject of direct action leads us to discussion of our idea for the next one. We exchange a few phone numbers of comrades in like-minded assemblies. We’re going to need a lot of help with this one.

We’ve been talking and keeping warm by the fire for several hours. Some Native men came by, shared their French fries and sang an Ojibwe song. No cops. A squad drove by, stopped for a moment, then drove on. Judging by the sounds of the sirens over the last hours, they’ve been busy. It feels comfortable being back in the hood.

G.A. Minutes 10-6-12

G.A. Minutes 10-6-12
Just a few people tonight, 4 Occupiers and 1 regular camper. It’s quite chilly at the Civic Center. We have a portable fire pit and a working fire extinguisher. We get a fire going. Ahhhh….. much warmer now.
We talk about the legal stuff re: eviction of our camp. The Occupier charged with doing investigation says the attorney she talked with wanted to know how much money Occupy wants in damages. We all agree, we don’t want money, we want acknowledgement that the eviction of our camp was wrong. We were not given the proper legal process. The wealthy property owner seems to think that homeless people have no rights. We need to teach him that his wealth does not give him immunity from considering the needs of the less fortunate. The Occupier has an appointment next week with another attorney. She will keep investigating.
We then discuss an idea for a proposed action. We agree it is a good idea but we will need to involve several other groups for maximum effect. Sounds like a plan.
As Occupy is currently homeless we don’t see each other as often as we’d like so we begin conversing about life in general. There’s good coffee and snacks, we’re enjoying each other’s company but wait a minute……. what’s that? A DPD is circling the Civic Center. Once, twice, he stops after the third time and comes walking up to us. “You can’t have a fire on public property” he says. One Occupier demands to be given the exact ordinance number that states this supposed fact. The officer says, in a hostile tone, “I can’t give you that but I can call fire marshal and he can give you all a citation.” We all “vibe” the aggressive Occupier into chilling out. We need to pick our battles. Now is not the time. We start pouring water on the fire and a supervising officer pulls up next to the first cop. The fire was burning nicely, so putting it out will take awhile. Both officers walk up to us and the second guy says,” You can’t have a fire in a public space without the express written consent of the fire marshal”. We know from past experience that you never can find a fire marshal when you need one but maybe we’ll try. Something to put on our things to do list. Now it’s cold and there’s lots of smoke. The officers leave but we still take our time, just out of orneriness, I guess. We agree to hold the next G.A. at the Jackson-Mcghee Memorial. We’ll make a fire there and see what happens.

G.A. Minutes 10-2-12

G.A. Minutes 10-2-12
The owner decided to not obey the law. On Oct. 1st at approximately 11:30 am (the time that most campers go to the feeding center for lunch) the property manager showed up with 6 DPD officers. The officers order all those in the camp to leave or be arrested for trespassing. Several campers stay awhile but eventually leave. The owners’ workers begin tearing down the camp. One Occupier plants himself in a chair, refusing to leave. The police appear somewhat uncomfortable; they beg the Occupier to leave. One officer takes the Occupiers’ I.D. and gives him a ticket for trespassing, he still won’t leave. Another Occupier arrives; the cops block the gate, refusing to let her in. “Tell this guy to leave,” say the police. “He should do whatever he thinks best” she responds. A few campers come back from lunch, a homeless advocate arrives. People stand outside the gate and a casual conversation begins. “You guys should just leave now and you can take this whole thing to court later,” the lead cop says. “That would be great,” says an Occupier, ”if only the judges weren’t corrupt and more worried about their campaign contributions than they are about administering justice.” “So what do we do about all our stuff?” asks the same Occupier. The one mean cop says, “You all left so it’s abandoned property. We’re going to take it to the dump!” One of the owners’ workers shouts,” We’re going to put everything in the Ballroom. You can come and get it later.” Several police say. “We’re regular folks just like you.” We respond. “Then why are you not on our side. Why are you protecting illegal actions by the wealthy?” The property manager is passing out a piece of paper to the cops. The campers ask for a copy, she refuses. The cops also refuse to let the campers see their copy. The campers already know what the paper is; they’d seen it weeks ago. It’s a few sentences from the definition section of the MN landlord tenant statutes. It actually supports the Occupy case. Suddenly the police grab the Occupier who is refusing to leave. They physically drag him the few feet it takes to get out of the gate. The cops all block the gate with their bodies. “O.K.” says the lead officer,” you guys should leave. You can take everything to court later.” Most camp people leave for the moment.
The next day we begin our regular meeting. We are again homeless. We’re at the Civic Center, just like old times. A reporter from a local newspaper is with us; he asks people to recount the events at the camp and asks, “Do you think the owner was pressured by the City to do this?” We don’t know, if he was, he never said anything to us. We are very disappointed. We had hoped he’d do the right thing. Guess we’ll be going to court.
We begin to discuss how we will move forward. One Occupier will begin the legal stuff; the rest will work on other things. Another Occupier says she has just come from the camp. She found it empty with all the camp property where it was the day before. Meeting adjourned. We have work to do.

G.A. Minutes 9-29-12

G.A. Minutes 9-29-12
Mainly Occupiers again tonight, 2 campers. One camper tells a little about his life. He has many health problems. He is in his early 40s and says he has been homeless since he was 13 years old. We note that most of the homeless people we have met tell stories of sad and abusive childhoods.
We go over legal issues another time. One Occupier has been researching the MN landlord/tenant statutes. She says that being a lawyer must be very boring. She can find nothing that goes against our legal tenant rights, everything is pretty much as stated in the MN landlord/tenant handbook. There is a meeting scheduled with a pro bono attorney and several other attorneys are waiting to hear from us. The Occupier has been exchanging emails with the owner. The owner has been rather rude, his attitude very different from the one he has presented in all the time they have known him. He states he may be willing to obey the law, if he feels like it, that is. We hope he will feel like it as then we can part ways in a peaceful manner. All we can do is wait until Oct. 1st.
We make jokes about our situation and then the musical instruments come out. A banjo and an accordion tonight. We ask if they are playing Klezmer music and are told it kind of like that only it’s dance music. Sounds great. The fire is going strong, we relax.