G.A. Minutes 3-29-14

G.A. Minutes 3-29-14
We’re in the small gallery again and it appears progressive activities may slow a little for the next week or so which means we may have a few consecutive meetings. The weather is beginning to warm, things were melting again but another snow storm is possible by Monday. Fortunately today’s good temperatures have brought out a few more Occupiers than usual and everyone is in a good mood.
An Occupier reports that NORML is tentatively looking for a larger space to hold meetings. The Occupiers who live in the WSAC building reply there may be a room that is larger than the small gallery and could possibly be used. They will check with WSAC members and the reporting Occupier will check with NORML. Seeing as some Occupiers also attend NORML meetings, communication should be simple.
Another Occupier brings up the subject of May Day…….again. She says she thinks we really should do something for this important day. Everyone says we really want to do something but we are all over extended. People from other progressive groups have the same problem. The Occupiers says, “Let’s make a list of what tasks would have to be accomplished in order to do something small at the People’s Power Plaza/Mai’igan Corner. Then make a list of groups and/or people who have expressed interest in having May Day. We make these lists and when we finish, actually having an event doesn’t seem impossible. We agree we will each contact some of the groups on the list and see if they will agree to each take one task. We’ll give ourselves until Saturday and then look at the results.
Someone says, “I was going to bring up the subject of the Global Convergence from Earth Day to May Day and say we really should participate in some way. If we do May Day; that makes my statement irrelevant.
One of the Occupiers has been contacted by members of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial BOD. The CJM Memorial is the space where we hold our meetings with the small safe fires. The BOD members requested that we meet with them and we sent the message as to the times and places of our meetings and invited them to stop by. Apparently they don’t want to do this but want us to attend their meeting. This is the point where tonight’s discussion begins. An Occupier says, “There’s no way we should go to their meeting. You know they’re just gonna give us a bunch of crap about having our meetings at CJM. I don’t care what they want. They’re just a bunch of rich people hanging out at Country Clubs and being on the CJM BOD because it looks good on their resumes. Remember when one of the main street guys asked us if CJM was built so white people could feel good about themselves? Remember we had to say yes because it was true?” Another Occupier says, “I was told that some of the new BOD members don’t think anyone should be having meetings, cookouts, music or art events or anything except important ceremonies at CJM”. The first Occupiers says, “All I have to say to them about that is ‘bite me’. Remember when the Black guy from the street said he was really baffled by white people because they would just show up every once in a while, ignore all the street people and have some type of speeches or something and then leave never to return until their next weird event?
“So you build an open space in a neighborhood filled with homeless people. The homeless people are kicked out of all the stores, the Lakewalk, the streets, the parks and everywhere else in the city except for the quarter block area surrounding the CHUM center and some people are even kicked out of there. There’s one small open space (CJM) in the entire neighborhood where a homeless person can just sit and rest or talk for a while and you don’t want them to go there either? We know the CJM BOD has no legal jurisdiction whatsoever over CJM and we’ve already spent over a year arguing with the DPD before they had to admit we had a legal right to build a small safe fire, give out free food and a chair to sit on to homeless people for a few hours. I don’t think we should do anything that makes it appear like we’re giving any credibility to what the BOD has to say. If they won’t come on our turf then there will be no meeting with them”. When the first Occupier finally takes a breath, others say things like, “We’re the ones who are doing the more important work for this city and we don’t have time to rearrange our schedules to go to their meeting. They can postpone their workout at the gym or whatever and come to see us”. We agree to request the Occupier who was contacted to ask them why they want to meet with us and to tell them they’ll need to do it on our schedule.
To change this emotional topic, someone says, “I just heard the UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights paid a visit to Leonard Peltier yesterday”. Another says, “That’s great! He shouldn’t have been imprisoned in the first place.” Someone else says, “Well you know, many Native people don’t feel that way”. The younger Occupiers say, “What!” The older Occupiers explain about the murder of Anna Mae Aquash and the fact that the identity of the murderers has never been agreed upon within the Native community. Some say it was the FBI and others say it was some of the men from AIM. This conflict is still unresolved among some of the older Native activists to this day.
We become quiet for a moment and then notice that again tonight, it has become very dark and many hours have gone by. We gather up our things and go off with plans to meet here again on Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 3-22-14

We’re back in the small gallery again. Yesterday was the 1st day of spring so of course we had 6+ inches of snow dumped on us. That’s pretty normal for this area. When we were here a week ago we were saying that, by looking at the way everything was melting, we’d being going back to the CJM Memorial soon. It doesn’t look that way now. It’s supposed to be cold for the next few days and then the melting will begin again.
Our good friend, the City official, is visiting with us tonight. We haven’t seen him in several months so have lots stories re: corruption and intrigue within the halls of our so called government to catch up on. We know the authorities are rotten to the core but the extent to which this is true still amazes us. Our friend tells us many “for our ears only” stories and we are again, astounded. Our mayor really disgraced himself a few days ago and will possibly not be reelected. We ask our friend if he will run for the office. He laughs heartily and declines.
An Occupier gives a report on the NWA conference in Bemidji that a few of us attended. She says nearly all the speakers, organizers and most of the participants were local Anishinaabe folks. The speakers each presented a unique viewpoint related to Anishinaabe culture and Ma’iigan (the wolf). The Occupiers attending learned a lot and are glad they made the trip.
Almost all the Occupiers attended a public hearing last Thursday concerning the proposed Enbridge Alberta Clipper Tar Sands pipeline. Enbridge wants to greatly increase the capacity of the current pipeline that runs from Canada to Duluth MN/Superior WI. Another company wants to take that tar sands oil and ship it in barges across Lake Superior. This public hearing is supposedly to solicit the opinions of the residents of the Twin Ports. Those speaking in favor of Enbridge are all wearing suits or business attire and stand to make a lot of money if this pipeline increase is allowed. They speak of the financial benefits the project will bring. Those opposed wear various types of clothing and speak of precious water, air pollution, climate change and the need to preserve the planet for future generations. At first it appears the crowd is evenly split but as time goes on it becomes apparent the supporters are greatly outnumbered.
The climax is reached when a group of residents from the Fond du Lac Reservation begin speaking. They say that although their tribal chairperson signed an agreement with Enbridge a few days ago to allow the pipeline which runs across their land to increase capacity, the agreement will not stand. They say their chairperson did not have the authority to singularly sign the agreement and she is in the process of being removed from her position. They remind Enbridge that there are already 2 Enbridge pipelines on reservation land that had been placed secretly years ago. They demand Enbridge remove these pipelines and also ask, “So you’re having this big meeting with all these Duluth people. Where was our meeting? How come you didn’t come out to our reservation and hear what we had to say?” The whole table of well-dressed white men from Enbridge is speechless. They have no answers. When they leave, they don’t look too happy.
Another Occupier mentions there will be a forum about Native people, their allies and methods for working together at UWS 4pm next Tuesday, March 25th. Should we cancel the G.A. and attend the forum? Unanimous happy octopi.
Someone says NORML will be having a presentation at the Zuccone 7pm Sunday March 30th.
One more Occupier states another good Public Resistance email has been received. She makes sure she has everyone’s email addresses so she can send it out. She also reports that the city of Victoria, Australia has just passed a law saying that any form of protest is illegal and punishable by 2 years in prison. A short discussion about the possible type of constitution in effect in Australia develops. The Occupier says as far as she can tell, Occupy Victoria continues to protest.
We bring up the topic of May Day again. It seems many progressive groups want to do something for May Day but no one group feels equipped to take the lead. The Occupiers also are too over committed to take on such a project. One Occupier says, “If nobody gets anything together my partner and I will take our big May Day banner and go down to People’s Power Plaza/Ma’iigan Corner and hold it as long as we can tolerate”.
We notice it is quite dark outside. Many hours have passed. We pack up; call it a night and plan to meet at UWS on Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 3-15-14

G.A. Minutes 3-15-14
We’re back at the small gallery again. It’s been 11 days since our last official meeting and tonight there are very few present. This evening is also the first exploratory meeting of MN NORML. The NORML meeting is at the same time as our G.A. and some have chosen to attend. Recently there has been a rather large effort in the state legislature to get a bill legalizing medical marijuana on the books. After many years of waiting it appears the moment may have arrived. All the Occupiers are excited about this possible first step to complete legalization for a relatively harmless and highly effective plant. The Occupiers at this evening’s G.A. plan to quickly run through the business at hand and then walk down to catch the marijuana meeting.
An Occupier reports there has been a lot of activity in the Northwoods Wolf Alliance/Stop The Wolf Hunt camp over the last week. The owner of Howling For Wolves has submitted a bogus wolf bill to the state legislature and this bill was passed out of the first legislative committee a few days ago. Upon first read the HFW bill appears to be in support of wolf protection. On closer read it becomes apparent the bill actually allows a MN wolf hunt to continue indefinitely while giving jurisdiction over wolf killing to the MN Department of Agriculture. The Dept. of Ag. Is very pro wolf killing. The bogus bill also makes room for a permanent government position as a “wolf negotiator”. This position could easily be filled by the owner of HFW. Of course, NWA is pulling out all the stops in order to notify the legislature and the general public about the true nature of the proposed law. This is a real David and Goliath story as NWA is a predominantly Anishinaabe grassroots organization while HFW is owned and operated by a wealthy white woman with a paid staff, a lawyer, an accountant and a lobbyist.
On Tuesday, March 18th there will be a big NWA rally in Bemidji and some of the Occupiers are planning to attend. Occupy Duluth will do everything they can to support NWA.
The same Occupier announces Loaves N Fishes will hold their annual Ceili Dance on Monday, March 17th 7pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Admission is free and she encourages those staying in town to attend. “The space is huge, there’s a full band and very many people show up to dance the Irish line dances. Even if you don’t dance it’s very entertaining to watch everyone else.”
Another Occupier reminds us that on Thursday March 20th 6:30pm somewhere in the Holiday Inn on W. Superior St the first public hearing on the proposed Alberta Clipper pipeline will be held. This issue is hugely important as it is as big and as dangerous as the Keystone XL. We all plan to attend.
On Friday March 21st at noon in each time zone the World Wide Smudge In will take place. Wherever one is at that date and time, they should be prepared to fire up some sage, sweet grass, tobacco and/or cedar and smudge themselves while offering prayers and or good thoughts for the coming of the new age of peace and equality etc.
It is also reported Idle No More has issued a call for people to organize May Day events using the theme Decolonize in the USA. Some of the young members of the dominant culture have been talking about having a May Day event but as far as we know they haven’t come up with anything concrete. We all agree to offer the INM people our physical support and use of our banners, signs, cooking equipment and whatever else we can find if they decide to do the Decolonize event.
The business is pretty much done. The Occupier couple says, “Go ahead and run down for the rest of the NORML meeting. We’ll pack all this stuff up and see everyone back here again next Saturday”.

G.A. Minutes 3-4-14

G.A. Minutes 3-4-14
Tonight we’re at the Amazing Grace Café. We’re glad to be here, especially because they have good food. Those of us who haven’t had dinner can order homemade soup and healthy sandwiches. Those who aren’t hungry can still have coffee that’s as good as the fresh ground whole bean fair trade stuff we serve at our other meetings.

Unfortunately the same disadvantages to meeting at the Café remain. The place is packed and the band is tuning up as we arrive. The weather has improved somewhat but it’s still too cold to meet outside. We have no other ready alternatives so we’ll just have to make the best of it.

One of the Occupiers hasn’t been around for about a week so he begins telling us what he’s been up to. He met a woman who is dying from cancer. She would not be dying if she had been diagnosed earlier but seeing as she couldn’t afford medical insurance early diagnosis wasn’t possible. He also has an uncle who is having prostate surgery. This uncle thought something was wrong with his body for a good while but could not see a Dr. until ObamaCare kicked in. By that time he already had prostate cancer so is having the diseased prostate removed. If it hadn’t been for ObamaCare he probably would have died. The Occupier says, “What is wrong with this country? One can’t even get medical care if they don’t have enough money”. Most of us have personal stories to tell of times when we had no medical insurance.

The Occupier tells us about a recent meeting he attended at the Community Action Duluth office. The topic of the gathering was the discipline system in current use by the public school system. Specifically the question of whether teachers have the right to search a student’s locker whenever they choose. Apparently the opinions of the people at the meeting were evenly divided with half thinking a search was o.k. under any conditions and the others thinking the teacher would need to notify the parents beforehand.

This leads us into a discussion about the civil rights of students in the public school system. Another Occupier says she thinks she remembers a big debate many years ago concerning the rights of Americans under the age of 18. She thinks she remembers the issue being taken to the Supreme Court and that the case was decided in favor of the people under the age of 18. One more Occupier says, “You know, I think we still all have a lot of civil rights on paper but in reality the cops, courts and government just do whatever they want to and so far no one has been able to stop them”.

An Occupier has questions about what is going on with the Anti-Sex Trafficking groups. He says there seems to be a lot of money being put into that issue right now. An Occupier who has been spending time working as an ally to our friends in main grassroots Indigenous Anti-Trafficking groups answers, “Yeah, there is a lot of money being put into this issue at the moment but as usual it just a fad. All the money is going to the big professionals who have no life experience of having been trafficked or having friends or family members being trafficked. The big groups that consist mostly of white people just use the money to pay themselves good salaries, have nice offices, go to conferences etc. No help of any value is being given to the trafficked women and when the fad is over, everything will be the same as it was. Statistics show that at least 80% of trafficked women are Native American with African American women coming in 2nd and white women in the rear. Yet no money is being given to Indigenous anti-trafficking workers.

These workers are the people who have actual life experience with trafficking and know what the victims need. The white groups are working more or less from a Christian world view while a lot of the trafficked women are coming from a different spiritual perspective. The typical kinds of things offered by the non- Indigenous groups are many times offered under the punishment method i.e. ‘if you make a mistake you’re out of here’. Indigenous culture does things differently. It’s been proven that for Indigenous women the Indigenous method works. Personally, I believe that so many cops, judges and politicians benefit one way or another from trafficking that they don’t want to see it stopped.

An Occupier says, “I just don’t understand why a person would want to sell themselves or want to buy another human being.” The Occupier who has been working with trafficking says, “The women being trafficked are almost always forced into it. It’s not something they want to do. The ‘Johns’ generally have some type of pornography addiction. Some think the answer would be to legalize prostitution but that has proven to not be the answer. Under legalization the pimps and johns get a break but things stay the same or get worse for the trafficked women”. Another Occupier says, “I guess the real answer is to have a different type of society where people have no interest in those types of behavior”.

The conversation then shifts to the subject of climate change and the destruction of our planet. An Occupier says that only 3% of the water on earth remains fit for human consumption. We question why the billionaires would want to pollute that remaining water with mines, pipelines and such. The only answer we can come up with is the power of greed.

The Occupier who is about to become a member of the Duluth Human Rights Commission reports the first draft of the Homeless Bill of Rights was presented to the commission at the last meeting. Members of Loaves N Fishes were present at this meeting. The Occupier says she thinks the only way this thing is going to get off the ground is if Loaves N Fishes plays a leading role in the formulation of the resolution and/or ordinance. She says the commission president appointed committees to study homeless issues. She doesn’t think this was a good idea as it will just cause things to drag on forever. She thinks it would have been a better idea to define main homeless issues and then to ask for experts in these areas to make some sort of presentation and then answer questions from the commission members. However, because she is not yet a commission member, she didn’t say anything. She hopes she will be able to provide some direction once she becomes a member.

There are a few announcements for the week. Tomorrow at noon our friend, a well-respected local organizer, will be making a presentation about sex trafficking of Indigenous women at the UWS Student Union Rm 201. On Thursday, March 6th there will be a Solar Forum at the Pilgrim Congregational Church 6:30 pm – 8pm. An Occupier reminds us the Bee Hive Collective; a group of environmental artists will be giving a presentation at Prove Gallery on Saturday March 8th at 7pm. Would we like to attend as a group? Everyone says yes.

As we are about to move on to the next topic a server walks up to our table and informs us they are now closing. We look around….. How strange, the band is gone and the place is empty. We didn’t even notice. We quickly pack up and plan to meet again Saturday at Prove Gallery.

G.A. Minutes 3-1-14

G.A. Minutes 3-1-14

We’re at the WSAC small gallery again and not expecting many Occupiers to turn up. Some folks have to take buses or walk and the temperature is in the not fit for man nor beast category this evening. Will it ever end? Here in the “Great White North” everyone says this by the time March rolls around. However, yesterday the local newspaper and puppet of the 1% had a headline that said “Duluth Has Coldest Winter In 139 Years”. As far as we know there has not been a homeless person found frozen to death this year. That’s probably because of the heroic efforts of our good friend the main homeless outreach worker and Loaves N Fishes and their crew.

As Occupiers start rolling up, an Occupier we haven’t seen in many months rolls up with them. We are very happy to see her. She’s been absent related to health concerns so is out of the loop. We take the time to fill her in on a few of our adventures. We’ve participated in so many actions, meetings and events we can’t even remember them all but we do our best to recount the memorable ones.

An Occupier reminds us we will need to hold our next Tuesday meeting at the Amazing Grace Café as the little gallery space where we are tonight is going to be used by another group. Other announcements include on Monday March 3rd Friends of the Boundary Waters will be sponsoring an event from 7pm-9pm at the Rafters on UMD campus, the date for the Bemidji wolf rally has been changed but the new date hasn’t yet been posted and the homeless outreach community is looking for volunteers to staff their early morning coffee and warm up gatherings for homeless people at Gimaajii and Elim Church.

The mention of homeless outreach segues into a general discussion about homelessness. Someone says, “How can this country throw away 40% of its food, have 5 empty homes for every homeless person and some of the most advanced medical care in the world yet have people who are hungry, homeless and without medical care?”

Another responds, “I’m sure I’m not using the correct psychological terms but I believe there is some type of evil magic that comes along with having too many materials things or too much money. Once a person accumulates a certain amount, they become overwhelmed with greed and just keep demanding more and more. They lose their capacity to share and their compassion for others.”

The returning Occupier asks what type of plans are being made for May Day. We say that we have put the word out we will be happy to participate and we have many things from last year’s May Day that we can contribute but we are over-extended and need someone else to take the lead this year. So far many have said they would like to see an event but no one has offered to take the lead. One of the Occupiers had offered to attempt to recruit throughout the progressive community but reports he hasn’t found any group willing to accept the challenge.

Some of the Occupiers have plans to attend a poetry reading and say they will need to leave early. The Occupier who has been asked to become a member of the Duluth Human Rights Commission has some things to report but says she can easily wait until our next meeting. The poetry fans leave and the rest of us pack up.

We plan to meet again next Tuesday at 6pm at the Amazing Grace Café.