G.A. Minutes 11-12-13

G.A. Minutes 11-12-13
This is the coldest night so far this autumn.  It’s probably in the low 20s and we know that in another month or so we’ll wish for temperatures this warm.  Right now it feels pretty darn frigid.
We are very few this evening but we work quickly.  Everything is set up and the fire is blazing in record time.  People arrive from all directions.  They stand or pull chairs up within inches of the flames.  Many say, “This feels so good!”  Even the “business people” who usually stay on the sidewalks are here.  There are regular folks who we know by name and others we haven’t previously met.  Very few have actual winter clothing; most are wearing layers of sweaters and hoodies.  Some are without gloves.  All ages and ethnicities are present and everyone is pleasantly chatting.  Our hot espresso bean coffee is quite popular.
Seeing as there are only 3 Occupiers present, we think we will skip the meeting part tonight. Several outreach workers arrive and then another Occupier.  We decide to try and discuss a few subjects while the rest of the folks carry on with their own interactions.
When we were working on the light boards for the Overpass Light Brigade event the husband of a member of Northwoods Wolf Alliance contributed much to the project.  He made all 17 of the boards and put all the holes in them in his personal workshop and then sent these boards to us. He was unable to attend the actual Stop The Wolf Hunt affair so we would like to do something to show our appreciation.  An Occupier has purchased a thank you card and is given the go-ahead to send it.
The Occupier in charge of our website reports we have been the victim of an attempted hacker attack.  He managed to block the attack this time.  Hopefully the hackers will move on.  Another Occupier says, “Remember the time a few years ago when the white supremacist hackers crashed our Facebook page and then you turned around and used the same trick to crash their hacked page?”  Everybody laughs.
A longtime progressive organizer is planning a forum to be held in January.  He says his intention is to form a new third party or progressive electoral alliance.  He asks that Occupy Duluth be a co-sponsor of this forum.  We have much respect for this organizer but we don’t feel another organization is needed.  We think there are more than enough good progressive organizations already and what is needed is a way of bringing these existing groups together. We decide to decline the offer of co-sponsorship and instead to offer our name as a supporter and to commit to attend the forum.  We are involved in so many direct actions these days; we don’t have the time or energy to get involved in organizing a panel discussion.
Our Stop The Wolf Hunt OLB action created a lot of attention for Northwoods Wolf Alliance. NWA wants to take advantage of this opportune moment so are scheduling as many rallies and OLB actions across MN as they can.  Occupy Duluth is currently in possession of all the letter light boards.  We don’t know how many of the out of town NWA events we will be able to attend. We discuss ways in which we can reinforce and pack the boards for easy and secure travel.
The next NWA rally will be held this upcoming Saturday November 16th, 1pm at Maii’gan Corner aka People’s Plaza.
Native Alliance will be sponsoring a Celebrate Indigenous Month event but we’re not sure of the date.  Whenever it is, we want to attend.
The fire is down to the coals.  Many folks are still huddled around it, trying to get the last bit of warmth.  When we start to put the fire out, we find the big water jug that we always keep on hand has frozen solid.  Geez……  We’ll have to remember to keep it close by the fire when it’s super cold.  We all sacrifice our personal water bottles.  That works.  The weather forecast says things will warm up somewhat as the week goes on.  Hopefully things won’t be so cold when we return on Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 11-9-13

G.A. Minutes 11-9-13

It’s another chilly one tonight. We expect all the days and nights will be like this and then get progressively worse until sometime next April. Winter is rough but we always survive; unlike some homeless people who freeze to death each year. A person freezing to death, because of something as simple as the lack of shelter from the cold, is a fact of life in this nation. It’s just not right.

The gray haired woman is already at the Memorial waiting for us. She’s shivering and we hurriedly get the fire going, set out the snacks and chairs and take our places in the circle. We exchange friendly banter with her and she is soon warm, relaxed and laughing. An Occupier has brought hot dogs and all the fixings. We begin cooking these and our space is immediately filled with hungry people. Many express their appreciation. Among them is a man who tells us he had frequented the camp we had several years ago at the Civic Center. He looks vaguely familiar.

One of our Occupiers has been busy moving and has missed most of our activities over the last several weeks. We explain about all the effort we put into making the Overpass Light Brigade signs. We partnered with Northwoods Wolf Alliance and Idle No More Duluth for this action; however, NWA and INM were quite busy with additional duties so the Occupiers did most of the organizing and labor for the OLB event. It was necessary to keep the plan secret until just before the actual happening so we had to organize using undercover methods. We really didn’t know if we were going to be able to pull the whole thing off. Fortunately, all the people we asked to help came through for us.

We had enough people to hold the signs, the freeway overpass we picked turned out to be a very good choice, the weather cooperated, the lighted signs were quite impressive, there was good media attention and we had only one brief visit from only one curious police officer. After the action, much to our surprise, pictures of Stop The Wolf Hunt appear to be going viral. The pictures taken by several photographers were up on the internet about an hour after we were finished and up until we left to attend this evening’s meeting they were still being viewed and complimentary comments were coming in from all over the country.

We are also proud of the fact that although we performed the majority of the work we were able to allow the two Native groups to receive most of the credit. This is as it should be. One of the major problems organizations composed of people of color consistently have when attempting to work with groups composed of people from the dominant culture is the problem of the dominant culture group trying to take over and/or take credit for the work of the non-dominant culture group. We hope we have proved ourselves to be good allies and perhaps gained some “alley cred” in the Twin Ports area.

We also tell the recently absent Occupier about an Annishinaabe wolf ceremony we were invited to attend earlier in the day. These types of ceremonies are usually not discussed outside the actual participants in the ceremony. After the ceremony there was a feast. We were honored to be invited.

An Occupier reports she sent an email on Thursday to the DPD lieutenant who had told her he would be mailing out a letter to her one week after their meeting of October 24th, 2013. This letter was supposed to state the DPD would no longer be harassing the Occupiers about their small, safe fires at the Memorial. The Occupier had not received the letter as of November 7th, 2013 so she sent an email to see what was up. She received a prompt return email stating the police chief was conferring with the Duluth Fire Department and she would receive the letter within one week. The Occupier laughs and says, “You know the DPD is never going to admit that Occupy was right about anything so they’ll probably say they’re not gonna boss us around anymore but we’d better be sure to do what the fire department tells us to do”.

A tall young man we haven’t met before walks up and starts yelling, “What are you doing here? Are you here to respect those boys that were hung!?! You are white people. This is a place for black people. Why are you here!?!” He then begins to repeat himself. We look at each other and kind of roll our eyes. We’ve heard this many times before, understand what it really means, have had many discussions with the black men of the neighborhood about the general idea and thought this had already been settled.

When the man stops to take a breath we say, “Yes. The reason we are here is to honor those boys who were hung”. That’s all it takes. The man calms down and begins to talk like a normal person. He tells us he is from Chicago; he had never heard about the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial and has never seen anything like it.

He says, “So the police really let you have this fire here?”

We say, “They do now”.

As we say this, 2 cops come walking up. The female cop asks another young man for his I.D. The tall man begins talking to the cops and tells them how much nicer they are than Chicago cops. Telling them how Chicago cops beat people, take their money and lose their paperwork. Telling them how he knows Duluth cops never do stuff like that. We silently think except if you’re a homeless person.

The cops agree with the man. They think they’re really nice people too. We think they were quietly driving by, heard the man yelling and used that as an excuse to see what we were up to. The officers practically fall all over themselves wishing us a pleasant good evening. Oh well…..it could be worse.

The woman with the beautiful voice who is from Las Vegas arrives. She sings us a song again and it sounds very good. We all clap. She sings another song and begins to preach about Jesus. She pulls out a big bottle of hard alcohol and waves it around. An Occupier advises her to put it back in her coat and be discreet as if she doesn’t there is no telling what might happen. She tries to have a discussion with an Occupier who professes to be a Buddhist or an atheist depending on what day it is. She proves to be no match for him and wanders off.

The man who had visited earlier and who had frequented our Civic Center camp returns. He is accompanied by a few friends and also by his mother. They have some bags of blankets and things and some food. They ask who they can give everything to. We tell them we are not equipped to manage things like that but if they leave the things on the back ledge people will use them.

They tell us they don’t want to join any group but they want to help the homeless and ask us for advice. We advise them the best we can and give them some cards of people who will take their donations. One of the friends says, “So if we showed up here, built a fire like yours and served hot chocolate and stuff it would be o.k.?” We tell them yes it would. When we get the letter from the DPD we’ll give them a copy. This could get interesting.

As we are packing up a pair of those traveling Mormon guys who wear suits, carry Bibles and ride bicycles come up. They say they just stopped by to invite everyone to their church service tomorrow morning. Their church is located quite a way up the hill. An Occupier wants to ask them if they will be sending a shuttle down to pick up all the people for church. She also wants to ask them why they waited until all the people of color had left before they came over.

However, she decides to cut them a break. It’s been a long night. We’ll be back Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 11-5-13

G.A. Minutes 11-5-13
The sky is completely dark as we enter the Memorial tonight. November is here; the time of year we huddle together, mourning the absence of the sun. It’s chilly but bearable if we get the fire going right away. Soon we’ll have to go inside for the winter. Soon but not yet.

The street and CJM appear devoid of inhabitants but as soon as we have the flames blazing, we see our gray-haired woman friend approaching. She is quickly followed by another woman who has visited previously. Other folks appear and all our chairs are promptly filled.

A young woman who had lived in our homeless camp walks up. This is a very pleasant surprise. We have not seen her in over a year and have been somewhat concerned for her wellbeing. She and her male cousin came up from the Twin Cities during the start of the Summer of 2012. They had expected to stay with family members. When that didn’t pan out, they ended up sharing a tent in our camp.

The two were inseparable. They were hip hop artists and would entertain us at night with their original music. They were friendly, kindhearted and loved by all. At one point, they had to return to the Cities for a few days. We said goodbye, expecting them back in a week. Within days the young male was ambushed and murdered. His female cousin was a witness to his murder. Because of this, the murderers were trying to find and kill her too. We took up a collection, bought a bus ticket and brought her back to camp. She was quite traumatized. She cried much of the time and began drinking regularly. We could see that she was extremely depressed. We were told she was talking about suicide. After the illegal eviction of our camp we lost touch with her. However, she was not forgotten. Now here she is again. Apparently she went back to the Twin Cities, hoping she would be safe. That was not to be so she’ll be living in Duluth. We exchange phone numbers and she gives us the link to a music video she has made. She seems more healthy and stable than when last we met. This is good.

The outreach workers stop by to chat a bit and to leave a package of snacks for anyone who might be hungry. These outreach workers specialize in caring for homeless youth and our young friend had just informed us that she was now 21 years old. The workers say they are allowed to help people who are younger than 22. We make a note to hook our friend up with these workers.

The workers leave and the conversation becomes focused around the fire. An Occupier comments on a recent article exposing the practice in some U.S. cities of rounding up all the homeless people and putting them in locked FEMA camps.

Someone says, “That’s totally unconstitutional!”

Another answers, “Yeah, but that doesn’t stop them from doing it. What about Indian reservations and Japanese internment?”

The grey haired woman says, “What did homeless people do during the depression of the 30’s?” An Occupier responds, “They built their own camps called Hoovervilles and the government came and burnt them to the ground”.

Another Occupier comments on the lack of Christian spirit among Christians and a discussion begins about all the mean and hateful things that are written in the Bible. Someone says, “The Bible is weird. It has good things too but it’s been written by so many different people and translated so many times, who knows what it really says. Anyway, there’s lots of other things besides the Bible. What about the 7th Spark and the 8th Fire, the Mayan Prophecies or the White Buffalo? One can go with gloom, doom, darkness and death or with light, healing and reclamation”. Everyone agrees, following the light is the way to go.

One Occupier tells another about the hard work everyone put in last weekend making the Overpass Light Brigade signs for this upcoming Friday’s action. They all have little blisters on their hands from using the glue guns. The homeless folk at the fire ask what we are talking about. We explain about the de-listing of the gray wolves and the fact that 6 states including MN are allowing hunting, trapping, torturing and killing of wolves. The MN wolf hunting season begins on Saturday morning and we are planning a Stop The Wolf Hunt action on Friday evening. The homeless people don’t think wolves should be killed either and they ask if they can join us. We give them the details of the action.

A young man wearing shorts comes running up. We make room for him by the fire; give him some hot coffee and the snacks left by the outreach workers. He tells us he’s just come from the Casino. Luckily he wasn’t noticed and was able to sneak in and use the bathroom. He speaks of the difficulty of finding a place to use the bathroom when one is shabbily dressed and without money. We have the conversation we have had many, many times about the absolute lack of bathroom facilities for homeless people and of the fact that it is illegal to relieve oneself anywhere else. The City has cops in the alleys making sure homeless people don’t pee there but won’t provide anywhere that they can pee.

A woman wearing a tiny shirt, sporting a bare midriff plunks down. She says she’s just arrived from Las Vegas and she sings us a song. She has a beautiful voice. Just as quickly as she arrived, she is gone.

One of the Occupiers is fighting off a cold. She suggests we pack up a little early tonight. As we do this we can tell the homeless wish we would stay longer. We know that we are all going home to warm beds. We’re not sure where the homeless ones are going.

We plan to change that situation.