G.A. Minutes 9-28-13

G.A. Minutes 9-28-13
It has been raining off and on all day. The sky cleared about an hour before our meeting but the air is chilly and damp. We’ll need to get the fire going right away.

Our friends from the Native Alliance and from Socialist Action are already at the Memorial when we arrive. The Native Alliance is a recently formed group made up of Native people who are former employees of the Gimaajii Center. They decided to band together to provide much needed help to our city’s Native American Community.

The Gimaajii Center is the official city NGO that is supposed to provide housing and social services to these folks. They have all the funding and housing structures but are doing a very poor job of providing services actually needed in the community. Native Alliance has no funding, not even an office; yet they are the people who will accompany those in need when they have to go to court, Dr.’s appointments, meetings with government officials and anything else where a gap between Native culture and dominant culture exists. An N.A. person states, “We really want to be able to help everyone but for now we can only provide services to Native people.

Tonight they have brought individual packages of already cooked brown rice and vegetables. Of course, this food is given to everyone regardless of nationality. Ideally these food packages should be taken home and heated but hungry street folks are wolfing it down cold, using their hands for utensils.

We’ve been able to purchase a new load of firewood so can start up a big warm fire. A few friends from our local Socialist Action group are joining us tonight. They say they are impressed by the setup we have. We tell them we have been doing this for at least a year at the CJM Memorial so have found what works and what doesn’t.

They are curious as to what is going on with the Citizens Review Board. We explain we recently attended their meeting and were introduced to a police lieutenant who works at the Public Safety Department.

We are scheduled to meet with him in about three weeks and to present our official complaint at that time. He then reviews our evidence and presents what he thinks will be a good solution to the problem. If we are not satisfied with his solution we take the matter back to the CRB.

Apparently, this will be the procedure for all complaints submitted to the board. We add that we were dismayed to find 3 people from the DPD present at the CRB meeting. It appeared these people are in attendance at every meeting. We think the CRB was formed in order to defend citizens from abuse by the police so we wonder why so many of the DPD are allowed to attend the meetings. However, we plan to carry on with our complaint.

This discussion reminds an Occupier that they need to get a good picture of the fire and the fire container. It will be a good idea to have a picture of what the fire setup actually looks like and include it in the complaint package. Another Occupier takes out his cellphone and takes many pictures.

Many street folks have come to sit and get warm by the fire. Among them is our former camper who had been living in another town. She is upset about being kicked out of the Holiday Center earlier in the day. She is an older grey haired woman with a pleasing and peaceful demeanor. She says, “There are some tables and chairs off to the side in the open area where I have been going to sit and read the newspaper every day for the last few weeks. Today a security guard came and kicked me out, saying I can’t sit there anymore. I went across the street and asked a police officer if that was legal. He said it was because the foyer area was privately owned. I don’t get it. Nobody ever sits at those tables and I’m always very quiet and never bother anybody”.

We tell her we think the situation really sucks but the development company for the Holiday Center bought the right of way back from the City a few years ago and now will not allow anyone to “loiter” there. This includes people waiting for a bus during bad weather. We inform her that a very well-known homeless advocate was recently also kicked out.

She laughs and says, “Well now, that makes a difference. I feel much better as I now consider it an honor to have been kicked out!”

Another person of the street who we know well is sitting with us. She tells us she attended a meeting at CHUM earlier and that the subject of the meeting was the destruction of the Graffiti Graveyard homeless camp. An Occupier becomes very upset by this news.

She says, “What the hell is wrong with these people? The cops spent all summer destroying all the little homeless camps around town, telling the campers to go live in Graffiti Graveyard and now they’re trying to destroy that camp too? They know everyone is not able to stay at CHUM. Where do they expect homeless people to go? They’re certainly not willing to give them homes!”

Another Occupier says, “Don’t worry; they’ve been talking about razing the Graveyard for years. It’s probably just an empty threat”.

A homeless Native woman who is a regular and usually very boisterous fixture on the street silently circles our group; giving us her Native blessing.

A recently homeless man, friend of our former camper, expresses his frustration with being homeless. “Just bare survival takes up your whole life”, he says.

Our former camper tells him, “If you’re going to be homeless for the winter I know from experience that Crookston and Grand Forks have very good homeless shelters. I lived in the shelter in Grand Forks for 3 years and was treated very well. If you hitch hike down there you will be safe and warm”.

He says, “But I like Duluth. I was born and raised here. If you’re not homeless it’s a really nice place”.

An Occupier whispers to the camper, “I think he’s just trying to convince you that you should take him home with you”. The camper whispers back, “That is definitely NOT going to happen”.

We have realized for some time that we are getting very close to our imaginary curfew but the fire has been very alluring. We have lots of wood but have burned up the last of our sage bundles. The Memorial is not a city park so we don’t actually have to leave by 10pm but it’s a good cutoff point for us to make sure we get home at an hour that will allow us to get things done the next day. It allows the police to think they have us under control while it allows us to sort of keep them under control. They have passed by a few times during the evening but didn’t appear to be paying us much attention. We wonder how things will change now that we have filed an official complaint. That remains to be seen. We’ll be back next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 9-17-13

G.A. Minutes 9-17-13
Today is the 2nd year anniversary of Occupy. The movement began as Occupy Wall Street 2 years ago with the occupation and encampment at Zucotti Park in New York City. The basic concepts of the Occupy originators rang true with many Americans and Occupy camps sprung up across the nation and around the world. Of course, the autocrats would have none of this. With their hired law enforcement goons, politicians and major media robots they made a serious attempt to smash and destroy this movement. To those who remained glued to their television sets it appeared as though the demolition was complete. However, as a common Occupy slogan states, “Resistance is not futile”. Occupy and the ideals represented remain. Some of Occupy’s maxims are now part of everyday American language. Most groups throughout the country are smaller, consisting of only the genuinely dedicated. They are older and wiser.
Tonight we have too many things on our plate to have baked a cake or made any preparations for a birthday party. We just verbally acknowledge the day and wish each other Happy Birthday. We prefer working for meaningful change to making lots of noise and calling attention to ourselves. There will be time to party later.
We feel the first touches of autumn in the air. This evening the warmth of the fire will be a necessity. As we are setting up, one of the regular females from the street walks up and hands an Occupier a bag lunch. He tells her thank you and says to us, “They must have been so short staffed tonight at the Mission that they weren’t able to do any cooking. That happens sometimes”.
There are quite a few street folks hanging on the ledges and in the street. They are friendly but subdued. After their initial boisterous greetings they settle into quiet conversation in small groups. One of our former campers is with us again tonight. She had been forced to go to a shelter in another city and has just returned. It appears she has missed us. We have not seen each other for at least a year but with her many memory deficits she won’t have to do any catching up. We like her and are glad she has returned.
We do a quick overview of all the things we have to do in the next week or so. Every day except tomorrow was occupied and now we find we will need to attend 2 back to back events tomorrow. Everybody groans but realizes the importance of the events. One of our friends running for City office has decided to break all the standard campaign rules and actually speak out about serious and very important issues. He will hold a press conference tomorrow speaking about his opposition to the proposed sulfide mine and the proposed tar sands pipelines. He has told us, “I not so much concerned about winning the election as I am being a voice in favor of Mother Earth and those who love her. As a candidate I have a platform from which I can speak and I’m going to use it”. The press conference will be at the pavilion in Lincoln Park at 6:30pm. We’ll be there to back him up and then run off for a meeting with our friend running for a different City office. So much for a day off.
The older man from the neighborhood stops by. This time he can sit for a while. In the past he generally would sit and listen to our conversation. Tonight he does the talking. He tells us about a film showing he attended recently. The film discussed the concept of exponential growth. Through a series of graphs and mathematical equations it showed how 3% growth could become 75% growth in less than 100 years. One of the Occupiers attempts to engage him in a discussion about the current government election cycle as this had previously been the man’s primary interest. He is no longer interested in our one party disguised as two system. Something has changed for him. Perhaps he’ll continue to visit us and we’ll find out what has happened.
An Occupier reports the domain name for our website needs to be renewed. Another reports our firewood stash is just about gone. The Occupier couple offers to order another supply and to pay one half of the cost with the other half coming from our treasury.
The fire is low and we can feel a chill. We decide not to use any more wood as we don’t know how long it will take to get more. Anyway, it’s late, the night shift street workers are arriving and we have a full week ahead of us. We plan on being back here at CJM on Saturday, September 28th.

G.A. Minutes 9-14-13

G.A. Minutes 9-14-13

Our meeting may be rather short this evening. The forecast is rain all evening and throughout the night. The sky is overcast and grey with sporadic light sprinkles as we arrive.

It’s decided we will just put out a few chairs and sit for a while to see what happens. The usual suspects are present along with a few former campers who we have not seen in a long time. We spend some time hearing about their life events of the past year. Sounds like things are pretty much the same for them as they were a year ago.

An Occupier reports she had come across a member of the Duluth Citizens Review Board a few days ago. The Occupier told the CRB member she had finished the composition of our complaint against the Duluth Police Department. She also described the general outline of the complaint. The CRB member asked for a copy and the Occupier dropped off the copy today. When she dropped off the copy she visited with the member and found out the member had a meeting on Friday with the Chief of Police.

At the meeting, the CRB member discussed our complaint with the Chief. He told the member the City had wanted the CJM Memorial Board to address the issue of our small safe fire. The BOD had not done so and this is how the issue became the responsibility of the DPD. This is contrary to the information from Officer Rish we had been shown a few weeks ago.

He also cited another irrelevant city ordinance. We’re not surprised. The Chief then said the crux of the problem was the fact that by making our fire we were inadvertently saying that homeless people could build small safe fires in public spaces. We really crack up at this statement. It’s like…. Duh? There’s nothing inadvertent about it. That’s the purpose of our entire confrontation over the past year with the DPD. Homeless people and others should have the right to make small safe fires in public spaces! The member will take our complaint to the CRB and they’ll discuss it. We’ll be there too.

Laughing in the rain is fun. It’s coming down a little stronger now. We quickly review a few things like, the events about human trafficking are next Thursday 7pm at Trepanier Hall and next Saturday somewhere to be decided in Superior WI. The next CRB meeting is Tuesday, September 24th, 5pm at the Harrison Community Center. That means we’ll have a meeting at the Memorial next Tuesday and then we’ll need to be gone for a week. We have other things that need to be talked about but at this point it’s seriously raining. We gather up our things and run to our vehicles.

Just as we are about to take off a squad pulls up and on officer we don’t recall seeing before runs up to an Occupier’s car. She stands in the rain and says, “I was just wondering why you folks were sitting there. Do you know this is a dangerous area and many people here do bad things? It’s good that you come here and sit because that keeps the bad people away,” The Occupier doesn’t say anything, she just smiles. She wonders if the cop is really that naive or is just pretending to be. It almost makes her prefer the gruff threatening cops. Almost.

G.A. Minutes 9-10-13

G.A. Minutes 9-10-13

Today is primary election day for Duluth City Council at large and Duluth School Board candidates. Some of us arrive late; we made the extra effort to vote for our friends who are running for some of these City offices.

Luckily we’re not going to need to clean up the Memorial grounds this evening. A small group of young men brandishing brooms and garbage bags are just completing the task. One has a YMCA badge around his neck. He appears to be the leader. We thank the men and invite them to have some homemade lemonade and sit with us. The guy with the badge says,” O.K. boys, I think we can rest for 10 minutes. An Occupier notices the big garbage container is missing. The men say there was no container on site when they arrived. We’re not surprised; we figured the City would remove it quickly. The street people of the neighborhood enjoyed the luxury of a trash container at CJM for about 2 weeks. There is a concerted effort in Duluth and in all American cities to deny homeless people the ability to comfortably congregate in any public space.
An Occupier informs us one of our friends who is running for City office is having a post primary election gathering. Our friend’s message to us is, “You guys should end your G.A. early and come and get some free food”. We decide to just play it by ear and see how things go.

One of the Occupiers has completed the task of composing the wording for the complaint we will file against the Duluth Police Department. She brings copies, everyone reads them and with the exception of a few minor changes in grammar, they approve the wording. The Occupier will complete the complaint form; get a few signatures from other Occupiers who have agreed to sign as witnesses and then deliver the official complaint to the DPD and to the Human Rights Commission.

The Occupier who was having trouble with his internet and television access is still having trouble. He wants to be able to just plug his T.V. into the wall and watch the free channels. The cable company tells him that is not possible. They tell him he has to pay $30 a month in order to receive any service at all. “What about my right to access information? What about my right to be educated?” he says. Of course this leads to a discussion of the grand corporate rip-off of the entire world.

The sun has set and the air is cool. Time to start the fire. We know we are inviting a visit from our latest Officer Friendly. Oh well…… somebody’s got to stand up for the people’s right to use public space.
Almost everyone attended the Resist Tar Sands event yesterday. It began with a 4:30pm press conference in Canal Park. We were forced to move twice during the conference as almost all the area is owned by various businesses and each threatened to call the police, accusing us of being on their private property. It appears Canal Park has been completely taken over by businesses catering to tourists. With the exception of the Amazing Grace Café, the general public is no longer welcome. How strange that the business people are more concerned about being indirectly associated with a moment’s mild controversy than concerned about the fact that our beloved Lake Superior is threatened with irreversible damage from Tar Sands oil.

However, in spite of the harassment, the press conference went well. When we were done we grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed up to Teatro Ziccone for an evening of speakers and discussion. Many environmental groups from across northern Minnesota attended. We were especially pleased to make face to face contact with many of the Occupiers from Occupy MN. Plans for several more resistance gatherings were begun. It’s wonderful to know that many people are concerned and working on the Enbridge pipelines issue. We definitely need the help. Most people living in our Twin Ports area are unaware of the Enbridge tar sands menace.

One of the Occupiers has not had a chance to vote. He runs off to do so and when he returns, says his polling place was completely empty except for the workers. All of the Occupiers had that same experience when they cast their ballots earlier in the day.

As we’ve been talking we’ve noticed the occasional squad car drive by. Sometimes they appear to be in a hurry; other times they slowly cruise past. We’ve got the flames going fairly high tonight so we’re sure they can see the fire. If they decide to stop, we are prepared. We have copies of the real definitions of the city ordinances they quoted us during their last visit.

The LSS homeless outreach workers who visited us during our last meeting are back tonight. We are all pleased to see each other. They sit down and we begin a meaningful conversation about the educational and judicial systems and many other things too numerous to mention. The air is just cool enough to make the fire feel comforting, the workers are smudging, street folks are getting their drinks and visiting. Everyone is in a good mood. Guess we’ll forget about the free food offer and just sit and relax for a while.

Off on the back ledge some African American men are harmonizing. They defy all stereotypes, sounding like a bunch of drowning cats. We don’t laugh, neither does anyone else. It’s all good.

G.A. Minutes 9-3-13

G.A. Minutes 9-3-13

The weather is quite pleasant this evening. Warm but not hot. We think it will cool down when the sun sets so we decide to wait until then to start our fire. We notice the big garbage can is still here and it’s full of garbage. The Memorial grounds are very clean; we won’t have to do any picking up before we begin. This fact refutes the common myth about homeless people being slobs who are unconcerned with their surroundings. We haven’t been at this location for a week. Simply having access to a waste receptacle has allowed the neighborhood folks to keep things neat.

The Memorial is about half full as we arrive; the occupants are predominately African American. As we set up, a middle aged African American man who we haven’t met comes over. He says,” I’m not used to seeing white people here. This place is dedicated to black folks. You’re welcome to be here, it’s good to see you”. We are not used to this.

When we first began meeting in this space, African Americans were quite suspicious of us and asked many questions about what we were doing. Some told us we needed to leave. We explained we were Occupy Duluth, were planning on holding meetings twice a week and that we all lived in the surrounding neighborhood.

Over time some of the black people sat with us at our fire. They joined the conversations and began to accept our presence. Now days, folks say hello when we arrive. Tonight is the first time an unknown African American man has welcomed us. Cool.

A man doing homeless outreach for Loaves N Fishes drives up. Many of those in the Memorial area know him. They greet him warmly. One of the Occupiers has also known this man for many years. The man passes out bottles of water to all those that want them and then comes over to visit with the Occupiers. Some of us had attended a Loaves N Fishes meeting last week. It was mentioned at the meeting that outreach workers would be basing some of their operations in the CJM Memorial area.

An Occupier reports she has contacted the chairperson of the Citizens Review Board and received instructions as to how to file a complaint against the DPD. She received a complaint form and she explains the complaint must first be given to the Chief of Police. The Chief will be expected to provide a remedy to the problem. If the remedy is unsatisfactory or is not actually implemented, the complaint will then go to the Citizens Review Board.

The Occupier says she’s glad minutes of each Occupy meeting have been previously recorded as now there is accurate documentation of each interaction with the DPD concerning our small, safe fire. She asks if she should fill out the form and bring it to the next meeting for people to review. Everyone agrees she should do that.

One of our Occupiers has been absent from our meetings for about a month. During this time he has had no access to the internet or to television. He wants to know what’s been going on. We tell him about the latest events related to Syria. At this point, all we know for sure is that anything the U.S. government says is sure to be a lie.

The conversation becomes one about technical things concerning internet and TV hookups. The non-technical Occupiers just space out and watch the goings on with the street folks. The Memorial and surrounding streets are now quite full. We give the absent Occupier an update about recent developments of the wolf groups.

We decide the air is now cool enough to start a small fire. We have copies of the real wording of the city ordinances that the police officer provided us with a few meetings ago. If the DPD should decide to harass us, we will be able to show them where they went wrong.

The fire blazes quietly and we receive a visit from 2 homeless out-reach workers. They work for Lutheran Social Services; some of us have previously met them. The workers are quite impressed with our fire, beverage setup and burning sage bundle. We all look forward to future collaborations.

An Occupier reminds everyone about the 4:30pm press conference in Canal Park on Monday, September 9th. The press conference will provide further awareness about the pipeline plans Enbridge is trying to sneak in under the radar of the Twin Ports area general public. The Occupier stresses the importance of everyone who can possibly attend doing so. Several national environmental groups are sending speakers. As he is telling us these things, we notice a squad car driving slowly by. The squad doesn’t stop.

Another Occupier reports the next 2 meetings of Idle No More will be September 16th and 26th, noon at Randy’s. Water Legacy will need us again this Saturday to do petitioning at Harvest Fest. That means we won’t have a G.A. this upcoming Saturday. Mending The Sacred Hoop will be holding a forum on human trafficking on September 19th. The next CRB meeting will be September 24th, 5pm at 3000 W. 3rd St. He thinks the next Indigenous Commission meeting is September 23rd somewhere in City Hall. Someone mentions that the March Against Monsanto is coming up next month and that we should bring out the 2 faced puppet again.

Suddenly we hear very loud yelling. The Memorial is just packed with people so it takes a minute to determine where it’s coming from. The wife of the man with the partially amputated leg has come to take him home. He doesn’t want to go. “A grown man should have enough sense to not be out in the street arguing with a bunch of kids!” she says. He’s yelling too but she’s yelling so loud we can’t hear what it is that he’s yelling. She leaves. She must have said something that embarrassed him because he’s still yelling. One must not lose face on this street. Oh well…….. The fire’s dying, it’s dark and time to go home. We’ll be back on Tuesday.