G.A. Minutes 1-29-13

G.A. Minutes 1-29-13

All of the Occupiers attended the Idle No More National Day of Action yesterday so the discussion begins by sharing our impressions of the event. INM put out the official notice of where and when the Round Dance would take place only a day and a half before the actual happening. They were able to turn out over one hundred people. How’s that for established community? We were all very impressed. Some of us joined in with the dancing, lots of pictures were published, several media outlets did interviews and many regular people took notice. We know, at this point anyway, our small group would not be capable of creating a gathering of this size. One Occupier says it is probable that Native people are the last line of defense in the fight to save our environment and planet. She believes treaty rights may be the thing that will stop the corporations from devouring everything on earth. She says western culture respects only money so land can only be preserved by purchasing it. Even then, the government can claim eminent domain and take away the purchase. Treaty rights are something else altogether. Perhaps Native people will stop the destruction of the earth. Another Occupier, of Native descent, states, “Don’t get overly excited. The government has been denying treaty rights since the day the treaties were signed.” He also mentions corruption among some Native leadership and relates some stories about the battles over hunting and fishing rights that took place in central Wisconsin about 20 years ago. He then says he has noticed Native youth seem to be in tune with their Native culture and aware of what is really at stake. This gives him hope.

The Native Occupier tells a story about attending a Pow Wow and seeing people throw their cigarettes on the ground. He was offended by this and explained to them why this was a wrong thing to do. A conversation about cigarette butts begins. Although butts seem to be such a trivial thing, they are not biodegradable and accumulate into billions and billions. Another Occupier suggests there be a one cent deposit paid on each cigarette. This deposit could be redeemed by saving your butts and returning them to the point of purchase. Homeless and other people, who were low on money but had time on their hands, could pick up the butts from the ground if they wanted to and make some money for their trouble. We may have to fine tune this idea a bit but it could work.

Somehow the subject changes into possible types of voting systems. Among the suggestions are: a voting period that lasts for a least one month, instant voting at any time and every citizen having a voting number that belonged only to them throughout their lifetime. Next we talk about the possibility that many of our countries so called national emergencies are man (read 1%) made in order to facilitate passage of oppressive laws. 9/11 and the Patriot Act come to mind. We wander off into a discussion about different types of socialism. An Occupier comments she has recently read an article claiming people have their rights and lefts mixed up. By this she means socialism, communism, fascism and other systems which require a lot of government supervision are considered to be on the right of the spectrum. Democracy and republic types of systems are centrist and different types of anarchy and libertarianism are on the left. Hmmm…… Nobody knows quite what to make of that.

An Occupier reminds folks about all the indigenous prophecies around the world. Most of these prophecies contain similar versions of a paradigm shift affecting all the people of the earth. They will be touched by a huge wave of compassion and will be able to see beyond a material plane. Everything will change and the world will be saved. She is encouraged because these prophecies are found in many indigenous cultures around the world and are predicted to start in the time period in which we are now living. We all agree, if this were to come about it would be most helpful.

We have been talking for over an hour when it is noted, a meeting hasn’t actually begun. Oh well, sometimes it’s just good to talk. Our conversations are a welcome change from the daily grind. The smokers go out for a break and upon return the last minute details for the January 31st movie showing at 7pm at the Zinema and the February 2nd all day tabling at the Clyde Iron music festival are taken care of.

If some of the people reading these minutes would attend one of our meetings, they would likely have a comfortable yet engaging experience. We won’t be having a meeting this Saturday so the next time we meet will be on following Tuesday. See you then.

G.A. Minutes 1-26-13

G.A. Minutes 1-26-13

We arrive to find two of the Occupiers jamming, one on banjo, the other on violin. Sounds good. We encourage them to continue but they’re ready to start the meeting. We’re all in good spirits as the weather is back to normal winter coldness, giving us a break from deadly way below zero temperatures.

Some of the Occupiers attended the Citizen’s In Action event today. They report they were able to make contact with a few people interested in hooking up with Occupy. They also report they found some of the information about organizing to be helpful. There is a short discussion re: Occupy’s unique position as an intermediary between progressive groups.

We go over last minute plans for our film showing on January 31st 7pm at the Zinema. An Occupier comments he has just seen a short film about Occupy Sandy. He thought it was very good and asks if it could be shown before “American Autumn”. The Occupier tasked with making the arrangements states she thinks it’s probably too short notice to do that. However, she will ask just to be sure. The conversation moves on to the movie we will show next. Everyone wants to do something for the LGBT community. One Occupier makes a mental note to make a copy of the locally made LGBT movie she thinks would be a good choice. Another Occupier has his heart set on showing” Act Up”. All agree we would love show it however, there is a $250 fee to do so. We have no idea where we would get the money. It is suggested we attempt to team up with some LGBT groups, perhaps they would be interested in helping to make the showing possible.

We also make the last minute plans for tabling at Bigfoot’s Winter Shakedown at Clyde Iron on February 2nd. The show will go from 1pm to 1am. We will need to work in shifts and probably stop once the party gets into full swing. Everyone agrees, trying to have a serious conversation with someone who’s been drinking, is a big waste of time. It is mentioned that a new flyer needs to be made and some Occupiers make plans to meet tomorrow to do that.

An Occupier states on the next day, Sunday February 3rd, Brother Ali will be playing at Clyde Iron. Brother Ali is active with Occupy Homes from the Twin Cities and he expects there will be Occupy Homes people present. We have been trying to hook up with those folks for some time so maybe some of us should go to the show.

Our last item of business pertains to Idle No More. An Occupier says INM has not finalized their plans for the International Day of Action. She is waiting for the information and will contact everyone upon receiving it. The action is on Monday, which is not long from tonight, but Flash Mobs are pretty much a spur of the moment thing so everything will probably be fine.

We are going to be busy this upcoming week. We’d better head out so as to get an early start. Back to touch base again on Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 1-22-13

G.A. Minutes 1-22-13

There are just a few Occupiers tonight. The weather is still incredibly cold. Several people have called stating their vehicles aren’t running. Walking is out of the question. Homeless advocates are all on alert, searching for any homeless folks still outside. Only the coldest of hearts lack empathy for the homeless during weather like this.

An Occupier has returned from a month long sabbatical. He is anxious to know what has transpired and asks about our relationship building with other likeminded groups. We inform him of our progress stating things are not moving as rapidly as we’d like but they are moving.

He asks us what’s been going on with the homeless community. We tell him the second leg of the government census is about to start. Our homeless advocate ally had come to our former homeless camp in midsummer to explain the census and how it determined the funding for her homeless shelter. She had stated, “Of course, we only get the crumbs at the end of the food chain. The majority of the funding goes to the big charities. We really need those crumbs.” It’s now time for counting homeless in winter. Most are locked up in shelters with only the most determined folks still attempting to stay out on their own. All too often, these people are found frozen to death come morning.

Those refusing shelter have differing reasons for doing so. Some have experienced a lifetime of institutional abuse and just can’t be enclosed by four walls. Others have severe untreated mental illness and do not like being around others. Many just do not want to be found or identified. Whatever the reason, the official government policy states they should be counted and they should not be allowed to die in the cold. Strange, as they aren’t much valued when they’re alive.

The Occupier who has been making contact with the IWW tells us a little more about the “Wobblies”. Their organizational structure is very different than ours. They have all kinds of officers and even collect dues. We find this amusing. The older Occupiers are familiar with the IWW and believe their politics to be reasonable. Some of us give a little money to the young Occupier, become members and get official red cards and buttons.

Discussion switches to the subject of our local food co-op. We are disappointed with their choice of some products. These products are labeled as organic but we know they are really owned by major corporations. We also know these corporations were big donors to the campaign against the labeling of GMOs. This tells us these products contain GMOs. Can there be such a thing as an organic GMO? What a horrible thought! We agree we are pleased to have a large locally owned whole foods co-op in Duluth but feel they are politically uninformed. A former Occupier has recently been elected to the co-op BOD and is trying to introduce a larger world view. Unanimous happy octopi for her efforts.

Our two upcoming actions are briefly discussed. Everything is on track, the main artistic Occupier has returned so the making of a new flyer will happen soon. We’re looking forward to the movie and the big music event.

It’s time to leave. Someone says we’d better do it quickly or we’ll start talking about something else and another half hour will go by. We laugh because we know it’s true. We’ll be back on Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 1-19-13

G.A. Minutes 1-19-13

Anybody forced to sleep outside tonight will surely die. The weather people are forecasting wind chills of -35 to -45 degrees for tonight and for the next several nights. It even feels a little chilly at 3803 Grand Ave, the place where we are meeting. All the homeless people we know personally have some type of shelter tonight. We know there are others who remain outside. Housing is a human right.

Some of the Occupiers attended an Idle No More meeting this afternoon. They report the next INM day of action will be January 28th. There will be 3 separate actions, one in Duluth and the other 2 in nearby towns. It is yet to be determined if all 3 actions will take place on January 28th or perhaps the Duluth action will happen on January 28th and the other actions on 2 other days later in the week. Of course, drumming and Round Dancing will be a part of all the actions. Other topics at the meeting were making of their own media, civil disobedience and how to deal with getting arrested.

The Occupiers then discuss their own perceptions of INM. We are all in agreement over the decision to support them. The majority of INM are aware the capitalist, imperialist system is at the root of all their grievances. Occupy is focused on this system and all actions related to various grievances are governed by this focus. INM’s main focus is on preservation of the earth and Native rights. Their actions highlight these themes and acknowledgement of the underlying foundation of the deadly economic and governing system is something discussed in writings and private conversations. Occupy has the advantage of being able to boldly name the enemy. INM has the advantages of community, a common land base and sovereignty. We look forward to combining our efforts.

An Occupier mentions the Citizen’s In Action event which will take place next Saturday. Some Occupiers plan to attend this. One Occupier states she thinks this event will be focused on the current two party system. She is very tired of the two party system and prefers to support alternatives. Everyone thinks INM will have another meeting next Saturday. Each Occupier will decide for themself where they will go.

A discussion touching on many topics then breaks out. Among the topics are: how the Canadian government functions, basic Ojibwe language, the “White man’s way” or the capitalist system which the white people were the first to be cursed with and our opinions about the origins of capitalism. The discussion is interesting and we talk for a long while. Eventually someone notices the time and we call it a night. Off we go to briefly freeze our “noogies” off (what is a “noogie”?) and then to our warm homes. Some are warm and some are not. It’s not right. We’re working on this. Back again on Tuesday.

Not a single grain of rice.

I just came from a meeting of the citizen’s advisory council for determining the rules on which waters are to be protected from sulfite pollution caused by mining. It was the usual bureaucratic standoff. The rules of compromise make it certain that nothing useful can be done. Instead the participants are ushered into a hopelessly tangled conversation in which amateur activists try to protect a little of what is left, while company shills circle around them and make sure their companies are in no way restricted from business as usual. Same old story of death by a thousand cuts.

In this case it starts with the unchallenged assertion that it is impractical to protect every grain of rice in every pool of water. Who would find all those little water pockets? Who would survey them, who would conduct the almost countless number of tests that would have to be done, to prove that they are not already polluted, or prove that there is a chance they will become polluted? Is a whole lake or river to be protected because years ago someone says they saw a single stalk of rice out there?

The amateur activists reluctantly agree that a single stalk of rice in an entire river system should not have to be protected by an expensive regimen of testing and regulation. What about two stalks? No. So to determine which lakes have a right to be protected, the panel tries to define what acreage a lake must have to be to be included, and what density of rice plants is sufficient to make it a viable rice bed?

The company shills are able to laugh heartily when they see the old squeeze working for them again. They know that whatever ‘compromise’ is worked out, they will have won the right to pollute the water. Then they accidently pollute a little more, crossing the agreed upon lines, and after years of legal effort, some activist may be able to get a fine imposed. The company pays up happily. Cost of doing business. To a billion dollar industry, the little fine is no more than a traffic ticket would be to you or me. Meanwhile they keep breaking little rules here, middle size rules there, until the land is so polluted that no one will care anymore what they choose to dump there. The environment the activists thought they had protected is lost.

The battle was lost from the first salvo. The main focus of the committee is trained upon determining how many lakes can be defined into the protection equation. It is assumed, long before the meeting starts, that the problem is to protect the rice. That is why the environmentalists are pinned to the ropes. That is why we have been fighting a losing battle for generations. Corporate interests set the agenda. Environmentalists are on the defense, trying to protect what little remains. Corporations are happy to dance around and pick us apart.

Why do we have to protect the right of rice to grow where it can? Why is it not the task of the mining corporation to prove that their activities will cause no harm, no harm of any kind, not even a little maybe potential harm? They expect to make huge profits or they wouldn’t be here. Let them prove they are not going to harm the rice, not a single stalk, not a single grain. Then when they prove themselves harmless, they can ask us, they can ask the rice, for the right to do what they want.

G.A. Minutes 1-15-13

G.A. Minutes 1-15-13

We’re back at 3803 Grand Ave. again. We’re hoping that new people will join us now that we have a comfortable meeting space. Tonight it’s all the regular people again.

We continue our discussion about the lack of public bathroom facilities in the downtown area. An Occupier informs us there is a Skywalk Administrator with a city office and everything. Maybe we can get some information there, such as what is public area and what is privately owned and what are the laws governing all this. Another point is, even if an area is privately owned; if taxpayer money has been used to support the private owners, do the owners have the right to deny citizen’s the use of an easily accessible and visible bathroom. A very lengthy discussion develops with everyone telling what they can remember about the creation of the Tech Village. We know that the City spent 3.5 million dollars to build the skywalk overpass that connects to the Village. Most of us remember that quite a big stink was made around the late 1900s about the amount of tax dollars needed to build the Tech Village. We just can’t remember the details. More investigation is needed. We will do this and then determine if this is an issue we wish to address. We all agree, the fact that homeless people and poor people are denied use of bathrooms yet cited and possibly arrested when they are forced to relieve themselves outdoors just doesn’t make sense.

The movie “American Autumn” has been given to the Zinema, the event page has been sent out and flyers are in production. Everything is coming along fine but an Occupier reports she has seen a notice for another film to be shown at the Zinema on January 31st at 7pm for a one time showing. This is the exact time and date of our movie. She is trying to get more details. The Zinema has two movie theaters so this is not a big problem however, seeing as the other movie appears to be an interesting music production, we know some of our supporters will want to see both films. Oh well, there’s not much we can do about it now.

An Occupier states she has discovered the City doesn’t actually have a noise limit for amplified music. The decision to declare amplified sound in a public space unacceptable is at the discretion of the police officer. Really? This means the DPD lied to us when they attempted to destroy our May Day event at the People’s Power Plaza. What a surprise! This issue has been brought up in the past. We will need to address it. May Day isn’t far away.

The lengthy discussion about the Tech Village has taken up much of our time. An Occupier without a vehicle realizes he has only 20 minutes to make his next appointment on the other side of town. We hastily say our goodbyes and head out. Back again on Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 1-12-13

G.A. Minutes 1-12-13

We’re glad to be in from the cold again tonight. A bitter cold wave is just beginning. People without adequate shelter will be in danger of freezing to death and there are quite a few shelterless folks in Duluth.

We start off by taking a look at the movie American Autumn. The filmmaker has generously allowed us to download his movie and to show it free of charge. We’ll drop it off at the Zinema tomorrow and then begin to work on publicity. It’s a meaningful film and we hope a lot of people will be able to see it.

An Occupier tells a story. He arrived at the People’s Plaza yesterday around noon to wait for the Idle No More marchers to arrive. He needed to use a bathroom so ran across the street to the Tech Village. He found the bathrooms were locked so asked the security guard to let him in. The guard asked him which business in the Tech Village he was intending on visiting. When he told the guard he just needed to use a bathroom the guard refused to allow him, stating the bathrooms were on private property, for use of business people only. The Occupier returned to the Plaza. He was very uncomfortable and also very upset. “What is wrong with people?”, he said, “How can they deny another human being the use of a bathroom?” Another Occupier reminds him of a nearby restaurant that generally turns a blind eye to non-customers using their bathroom. So his problem is solved. It would not have been so easy if he had been an obviously homeless person. Lack of an available bathroom is a constant when one is homeless. We’ve had this conversation before. So what can we do about it?

The first thing we need to do is to look at the City of Duluth laws. We know that a lot of places that are actually public spaces are off limits for homeless folk. We need to find out exactly what is private space and what is public space. We’ll ask one of our friends in city government for advice.

We toss around other ideas, most of which are in the fantasy stage right now. How about establishing another homeless camp? Wouldn’t it be great to pass a city ordinance stating all fast food places had to pay for pickup of the trash generated when their customers throw the food packaging all around? Homeless people could be hired to pick up the fast food garbage. Unfortunately, homeless people who are receiving some type of meager government benefits might not want this job. The social services would be sure to deduct the money from the poor person’s benefits. Actual Welfare is available only to the rich.

Everyone agrees, there are two main reasons why public space is denied to those who need it most. 1.) Lack of compassion for fellow human beings. 2.) Insurance companies.

A few Occupiers have made a commitment to have dinner on a weekly basis with some of the members of an established homelessness advocacy group. We hope to form a closer relationship with them and perhaps develop some meaningful actions.

We finish out the evening by expressing our thoughts about the Idle No More march we participated in yesterday. The turnout was impressive and the march was noticed by many people. Most non-progressives are unaware of the issue; this march should start the conversation. An Occupier says she was asked by several pedestrians what INM was about. She had the pleasure of explaining our struggle for the life of the earth.

The conversation is winding down. Time to go home, rest and start another day. We’ll see what progress has been made when we meet here again next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 1-8-13

G.A. Minutes 1-8-13

Our surroundings tonight are more luxurious than what we’re used to. We’re in an actual home with soft chairs, an easily accessible bathroom and running water. When one is homeless, the things most Americans take for granted are seen as luxuries.

We have a new person with us tonight. She says she had been following our meetings for some time on our website and decided to come to an actual meeting. This is good. We give her a quick review of various Occupy hand signals, explaining that these signals are very useful in large groups. In smaller groups we usually don’t use them except to raise our hands when we wish to speak.

An Occupier says that Idle No More will be having a rally Friday, January 11th starting at noon at the Civic Center. From the Civic Center they will march through downtown, ending up at People’s Power Plaza where they will have a Round Dance. All supporters are welcome to participate. Another Occupier asks people what they think Occupys’ role is in relation to INM and if we think we are actually welcome there. An additional Occupier states, “In the sixties and seventies, when AIM and other strong Native rights groups were coming into being, Indian people were adamant about Indian things being for Indians only. This made sense. Historically people of European descent dominated Native people, robbing them of their culture and stealing their material wealth. To make things worse, once being Indian became cool again; the white people pretended they were Indian too.

However, things are a little different now. Of course racism and all the other injustices still exist but some white people have attained a deeper understanding of the fact that ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’. INM is challenging the entire capitalist system and will need all the allies they can mobilize. They have made it clear they welcome non-indigenous supporters”. The Occupiers who will be available express their intent to be at the rally.

The next item on the agenda is our film showing at the Zinema. The Occupier working on this states when she tried to download the movie from the Internet she found permission to do this is required. She contacted three separate sources and is waiting for a response. A discussion begins concerning other films that could be shown should the American Autumn producers not respond. It is suggested that “Rise Like Lions” be shown again. We agree it was a fantastic movie and many people were unable to attend the first showing. We speak about our original plan to show an LGBT oriented film and our newest participant tells about a movie produced by a local LGBT activist. No one was aware of the existence of this locally made film. We are intrigued. An Occupier offers to contact the activist in hopes of viewing it.

The Occupier who is allowing us to meet in his home tells us about the library he has put together from all the books Occupy Duluth has collected over the past year or more. He has made a complete list of all the contents and has set up a lending system. Everyone expresses their appreciation.

The final agenda item concerns the February 2nd music event where we will be presenting an Occupy literature table and discussion opportunity. An Occupier says she was thinking we might invite INM to table with us but upon reflection thought the idea was impractical. The group discusses this idea for awhile and decides the logistics involved would be too complicated. We would have to make arrangements with the music promoter also; drummers and a Round Dance could be a distraction from the planned music event. Some of us would like to invite INM to join us for an event but we will wait for the appropriate time.

The meeting is over, people break into little conversations. Our visitor says goodnight. We hope she will return. There will be much work to do over the next month; we’ll be back here at the Grand Ave. apartment on Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 1-5-13

G.A. Minutes 1-5-13

This will probably be our last meeting at the skywalk for a while. The Occupier who is willing to open his home states he would be happy to have us use his space for our meetings. He is willing to allow us to make his address public. We will need to do this as our meetings are always open to the general public. The police have been leaving us alone, perhaps because they know we will take the time to study the laws. However, the skywalk has just not been working for us. The general public does not seem to be interested in participating in skywalk meetings. A few of our Occupiers have also drifted off since we’ve been meeting here. Time for a change. As of next Tuesday, we will be meeting at 6pm at 3803 Grand Ave.(Duluth). There’s a big Buddha statue outside the front door. Then every Tuesday and Saturday at 6pm at that same address.

We have the o.k. from the Zinema to show American Autumn on January 31st at 7pm. Finally! An Occupier volunteers to download the movie and get it to the projectionist well in advance of the showing date. We will need to put out an event page and get literature together for tabling before the movie. People take on tasks.

We begin a discussion about Idle No More. An Occupier has been in an online discussion with a woman from Idle No More in Colorado. The INM woman has been having problems with the Occupy group in her area. She feels they did not look on Native folks as capable of independently taking on important tasks. She is also upset because they have been posting INM upcoming flash mob events on the internet. When the INM folks show up for a flash mob the police are waiting for them. The Occupier tells her she has seen these posting also and believes they are sent by InterOccupy. She suggests INM contact InterOccupy and ask them to stop these postings. The Occupier has always found InterOccupy to be very accommodating.

One of the Occupiers at the meeting doesn’t understand what a flash mob is. Others explain it is an event that is arranged primarily by word of mouth. People agree to casually meet at a particular spot and begin a demonstration, performance, ceremony or whatever. The people appear to spontaneously begin this event. They continue for a short amount of time and then they all quickly leave. If the police have been called, by the time they arrive, the flash mobbers have gone. INM, which is primarily a North American indigenous people’s movement, has been doing a flash mob drum circle and Round Dance in large public and private areas. The questioning Occupier thinks that a flash mob is not a good idea as he thinks the people should stay and peacefully confront the police. Others explain, each group needs to use the tactic which is most effective for them. INM is a movement which is fighting for the protection of the earth, for the enforcement of treaty rights which had been guaranteed for eternity. Oil and gas companies have been attempting to infringe on Native lands in Canada, U.S. and throughout the world. Oil and gas companies are responsible for climate change and destruction of the planet. True indigenous cultures are the original keepers of the land. Their struggle is our struggle. We would like to work with INM.

The smokers go out for a smoke break and when they return the conversation is about the synthetic marijuana market in Duluth. The former head shop, Last Place On Earth, is now the source for these synthetics. Jim Carlson, the owner of LPOE, states he is selling this product to highlight the need for legalization of real marijuana. Selling this product has also brought him a lot of money. We agree there are many sides to the issue. None of the Occupiers have smoked synthetic nor are they interested in doing so. They notice that people who smoke it behave strangely, synthetic also appears to be addicting. They know many people smoke synthetic to get high while still being able to test negative for illegal substance use on the mandatory drug tests given at their slave jobs. This leads to the subject of mandatory drug testing. All agree that these tests are a major violation of our civil rights. We have noticed every year more of our civil rights are casually taken away. Our lives are beginning to resemble George Orwell’s “1984”. Just before we really take off on this subject, an Occupier reminds us that one of our homeless Occupiers is leaving in the morning for his home state. We adjourn to an Occupiers home so we can spend some time with our departing friend.