G.A. Minutes 11-29-14

G.A. Minutes 11-29-14

We’re at the Amazing Grace Café again. Again it is quiet and almost empty. We order bowls of their delicious soup and sit down at the big table by the fish tank.

The first thing we do is get a copy of the café’s music schedule for the month of December. We are all music lovers but we find it difficult to hold a meeting when there is a band playing on stage. We have to practically shout at each other in order to hear and of course, it’s extremely rude to be talking while musicians are performing.

It looks like most Saturdays will be available while most Tuesdays will be showcasing live performances. We decide to make the Amazing Grace our temporary winter quarters as much as possible and concentrate on finding alternatives when bands are playing.

Next Tuesday is one of the times that the café will not be suitable. An Occupier offers the use of his apartment for our next meeting and we gratefully accept.

An Occupier gives a quick rundown of upcoming December events. Another Sunday Sermon will take place tomorrow November 30th, 6pm at the Red Herring. It’s rumored Mr. Nice is going to show up and that he is considering running for public office again. Mr. Nice is such a fun guy.

On Wednesday December 3rd at 6pm the Jefferson People’s House will show the film “Breaking the Spell” a documentary about the 1999 WTO protests. After the movie they intend to have a discussion about property damage and civil disobedience as tactics for social change. We all plan on attending as this topic is right up our alley.

The next Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance meeting will be on Friday, December 5th 1pm at the Duluth Indian Center.

The Washington Studios Artist Co-op will hold its annual Holiday Show on Saturday December 6th from 11am-5pm. The Occupier couple live at this co-op so will be working at the show. They ask that the Occupiers please hold their Saturday meeting in the couple’s home so as to allow them to make an easy transition. We all agree this will be a good thing to do.

Loaves N Fishes will hold their annual Christmas party on Sunday December 14th from 2pm-5pm at St Paul’s Episcopal Church.

An Occupier asks, “Do you guys want to hear the scandal of the day?”

We say, “Sure, why not?” and she continues,

“So Jay Fosle, probably our most right leaning City Councilor, wrote on his Facebook page that the protesters in Ferguson are ‘savages’ and should be dealt with accordingly. When I was alerted I went to his Facebook page but it had already been deleted. It looked like a lot of stuff had been deleted. As you can imagine, many people are very offended by his comment”.

Another Occupier says, “So the African American people of Ferguson are savages but the police who have oppressed, abused and made their lives hell for many years are not? I know his term is up in about a year. I hope this comes back to bite him if he runs for reelection”.

Someone else replies, “I wouldn’t count on it. A lot of his supporters are probably racists too. Racism is alive and well in this country and also in this city”. We wish to ally with the African American community in Duluth but so far have not been told what is needed of us.

The Occupiers who are regular attendees at INM/NWA gatherings give a brief report on the progress of the timeline information being researched. They say, “We plan to show that wolves and other species were removed from the endangered species list in order to pave the way for mining, logging and other earth destroying projects. The delisting of wolves actually had nothing to do with the behavior of wolves at all. All that stuff about wolves killing too many livestock, attacking humans etc. is just a smokescreen.

“We’re finding a lot of evidence, in fact, so much that it’s going to take a while to organize it all”.

One of the Occupiers adds, “I’m told our senator Amy Klobuchar was a major supporter of the MN wolf hunt. I haven’t had time to check out this allegation yet so will have to get back to you when I get the facts.”

Some of the Occupiers attended the Citizen’s Review Board open house last Tuesday. One of them reports, “It wasn’t exactly what I had expected. Of course, the people from the DPD took charge of everything. They didn’t have an actual question and answer session like we were led to believe. There were quite a few people, including many black folks, present. People were divided into 5 groups and each group went around to 5 separate tables each of which was monitored by 1 or more members of the DPD.

Each table had a specific topic to be addressed like: What constitutes militarization of the police? How does the CRB operate? How does one file a complaint about a police officer? ….. and some other topics I can’t remember. All the groups were supposed to come back together for final discussion at the end but that didn’t happen. I think the final conclusion from all the citizens attending was something like, “Isn’t the system for complaints that is currently in operation pretty much like the fox guarding the hen house?”
The cops didn’t have much of an answer for that. They just said, “Yes”.

On that note we’re ready to call it a night. November has been a very busy month and we’re all pretty tired.
We’ll meet again next Tuesday at Michael’s apartment, 2021 W 2nd St #204. Ring the buzzer and he’ll let you in.

G.A. Minutes 11-22-14

G.A. Minutes 11-22-14
We’re meeting at the Amazing Grace Café tonight. It’s the best we could come up with on short notice. We had planned on attending a documentary film sponsored by Voices for Racial Justice to be shown at the Coppertop Church. VRJ had a last minute change of plans.

Actually it’s pretty nice here tonight. In the past we’ve found things less than optimal because of live music or loud voices of many people. Tonight the place is quiet, almost empty.

The atmosphere at the Grace is always comfortable, the staff always pleasant. One can order a cup of coffee or just serve themselves a glass of water. They can then sit all day or evening long without being required by anyone to make another purchase.
The Occupier who writes the meeting minutes reports she’s lost the minutes of the last meeting…..again. They went off into cyberspace never to be seen, at least in this lifetime.

She thinks she’s figured out the problem this time though. It looks like her word processing program has a glitch. It seems if she exits the program too quickly after saving the final edit the whole thing gets sent to some type of impenetrable prison from which there is no return. Maybe she will eventually remember this fact and stop making the same mistake. It’s a good thing Occupiers are a forgiving lot or maybe it’s just that no one else wants to take on the secretary task.

The Occupier with the newly acquired housing voucher is still having trouble finding a place to live. He’s still being slowed down by the housing (aka background check) fees. He can only afford about two applications per month. The property management companies take a long time to give him an answer and they get to keep the housing fee whether they have an immediate place for him or not. At this rate, finding a home may take a while.

In the meantime he is forced to live at CHUM. He’s an older man with many health issues. He’s not cut out for life at CHUM and has been sent in an ambulance to the ER once already.

Another Occupier who is also homeless confesses he was unable to vote in the last election. He has a valid ID but no address and was unable to find anyone to vouch for him. He was turned away by the election officials.

A conversation about our voting system begins. We hear most places are not renewing their voting machine contracts. This means the majority will return to paper ballots. We know there are a wide variety of ways votes can still be tampered with and elections can be hijacked.

One of the Occupiers comments on recent posts being put up on social media by another Occupier. The Occupier making the posts comments, “Most of that stuff comes from Popular Resistance and Acronym TV. Remember that film ‘Occupy Autumn’ that we screened at the Zinema a few years back? The guy who made the film is one of the original organizers of Occupy Wall Street. He gave us the film for free and told us we could show it as many times as we wanted to. He and other original OWS people have formed a newsletter and video organization. I’m still in contact with him and I receive lots of really good articles and stuff”.

An Occupier says the Citizens Review Board is having sort of an open house on Tuesday November 25th at the Community Action Duluth office. The CRB is not too happy with the fact that all citizen complaints must first be filed with the DPD and then the DPD picks what they want to present to the CRB. An open house is being held in hopes of receiving citizens’ comments.

The Occupiers remarks, “I think we should attend. When we filed our complaint with the CRB we were unaware of the process so went directly to the CRB and explained our problem. The DPD then took our complaint and eventually got back to us with favorable results. We then reported these results to the CRB. I don’t think we would have received favorable results if the CRB has not been informed about our complaint beforehand. We should go and tell everyone our story”.

Someone states that the second meeting of the predominantly African American group which is discussing possible responses to be made when the decision to not indict Officer Wilson in the murder of Michael Brown of Ferguson, MO is announced, will be held in the City Council Chambers on Monday, November 24th at 5pm.

Somebody else says, “So do you know what happened with VRJ and why we didn’t go to see the documentary”.

We say, “Yeah”.

The Occupier continues, “Well you know that VRJ people who no one had met before were coming up from the Twin Cities for the event. They and some of the people of color from Duluth decided they wanted to have their first meeting with only other people of color. They asked that white folks respectfully refrain from attending this first meeting. The POC would put the documentary up on youtube so everyone could view it.

Some of our local white folks (she mentions a few names) were very opposed to this idea. When POC wouldn’t back down the white folks decided they were going to hold their own “Ally Meeting” before the POC meeting. Everything should be over by now. I’ll call one of our POC friends later to see how things went”.

Another responds, “Some Allies. It sounds like the white folks were more concerned with their own sense of self importance than with the needs of their POC allies. I mean, historically POC have rarely been able to have a meeting between themselves where they would not have to worry about offending some white person. The T.C. POC and the Duluth POC had not met each other before today, maybe they wanted to be able to talk frankly about what they’re up against. You’d think the white folks would be a little more gracious”.

Someone checks the time. It’s 8:57pm. Yikes! We have to get the Occupier staying at CHUM back before curfew. We grab our things and run out the door.

We’ll hook up again Tuesday at the CRB meeting.

G.A Minutes 11-11-14

G.A Minutes 11-11-14
We find the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial completely covered with 3 inches of snow upon our arrival tonight. There’s a cold wind and temperatures are in the low 20s.
Almost all the Occupiers are present. Word has gotten around that this will probably be our last meeting at CJM until spring. That fact is enough to get everyone bundled up and out in the frigid air this evening.
As we’re setting up an African American gay man who had been a regular visitor to our fire for years calls out to us. We haven’t seen him since last spring so are pleasantly surprised see him now. We all give him a hug and say, “Man, where you been?” He tells us he was sentenced to four months in the Work Farm and was just released today.
He’s taking a couple of street men to a new homeless camp. He asks them to wait a bit so he can chat with us. He’s sounds more confident than he has in the past and has plans to apply to college. The main homeless outreach worker is going to help him. We are pleased to hear this.
After the newly confident man leaves, an Occupier reports there are two interesting events happening tomorrow. One is the second meeting of the group connected to the Council For Black Minnesotans. It will take place on the third floor of City Hall at 7pm.
The other is a film sponsored by Water Legacy. It’s going to be at the Red Herring, also at 7pm.
Another Occupier reports the Jefferson People’s House has declined our request to hold our meetings in their space during the winter months. They don’t have the staff to manage after hour events on a regular basis. Oh, oh…… It looks like we’re going to be homeless again. Fortunately our homelessness is theoretical rather than factual. That is a big difference.
Someone else tells us there will two events next week which we may want to attend. Next Tuesday, November 18th we are invited out to the FDL Community Center to listen to the wisdom of an elder. On Saturday November 22nd the Voices For Racial Justice will be showing a documentary film about African Americans and Native American working together for racial justice. A large part of this documentary was filmed in Duluth. Both of these events fall on our regular meeting days but we agree they are important enough to attend them in lieu of our meetings.
An additional Occupier comments one of our friends is showing a movie “Breaking the Spell” on Wednesday, December 3rd 6:30pm at the Jefferson People’s House. The movie will be followed by a discussion about whether property damage is violence.
An Occupier attended a wolf rally last Saturday as a representative for Northwoods Wolf Alliance. The rally was held at People’s Plaza/Ma’iigan Corner and was sponsored by Howling For Wolves. The Occupier had a lengthy conversation with the local leader of HFW and will be able to report back to NWA that things look promising re: NWA and HFW being able to work together when appropriate.
As we have been talking a few regular street friends have given us a hurried greeting as they scurried on to whatever shelter they had managed to find for the night. The streets are empty; no one has stopped.
The spiritual street man arrives. He has no boots, just a pair of sandals with socks. He’s on his way to somewhere else but stops by to chat.
A conversation about carbon pollution begins. An Occupier says she has read recently that the U.S. doesn’t report its carbon discharge from war and other military activities when reporting its annual carbon footprint to the UN. Another Occupier says, “That’s probably why scientists are reporting that climate change is happening at a much faster rate than was initially expected”
The discourse turns to the topic of violence. One of the Occupiers states, “Of course there are moral issues but violence in demonstrations and things like that is highly impractical. The 1% owns the bombs, guns, cops and all that stuff. One is certain to get their head beaten in when they use violence. Besides, if one gets their head beaten in when using violence the general public will have no sympathy for them. When one gets their head beaten in while remaining non-violent they are likely to receive support from outside observers”.
Another Occupier asks, “Is property damage violence?” The first Occupier responds, “When the damage is to the 1%, no. When its property of poor people, yes”. We all laugh.
A friend of the Occupier couple arrives. He lives in the artist co-op where the couple also lives and this is his first time at one of our meetings.
An Occupier who has recently received a housing voucher tells his story, “It’s not what it’s cracked up to be. You have to find your own housing. You have to go to each property management company in person, fill out an application and pay a background check fee in order to be considered for an apartment. When you don’t have a car getting to all the places takes a long time. When you have physical disabilities it’s even more difficult. You can easily spend $100 or more just paying background check fees. You also have to pay for the cleaning deposit. With all the added expenses you’re lucky if you have enough money left over to pay the rent”.
An Occupier remarks, “I’m pleased to announce that by sitting here in this weather we have proven we are crazier than anybody else in the neighborhood”. This fact comes as no surprise to any of us.
Somebody else says, “If almost all regular people have to have a job in order to survive, how come everyone can’t have a job? How come people are supposed to fit the job instead of jobs fitting the people? How come people with felonies, even for simple stupid stuff, can’t have jobs?”
The friend from the artist co-op comments, “I’ve noticed one of the only jobs that people with felonies can be successful at is that of an artist. I have some friends who have drug felonies who have become quite successful with their art”.
The conversation turns to religion, various names for God and real requirements for pleasing “God” vs petty imaginary requirements based on fear, atheism and other higher power related things too numerous to mention.
Now it’s late and some of have cold feet and hands. We all have runny noses. We pack up and head out.
On Saturday we’ll meet at the Occupier couples’ apartment and try to figure out where to go from here. If anyone reading this has a suggestion for a public place located in the downtown Central Hillside area that would allow us to meet without a meeting fee please contact us. Any suggestions will be truly appreciated.

G.A. Minutes 11-8-14

G.A. Minutes 11-8-14
The weather report says a very big storm raging across the Pacific Ocean is on its way to northern Alaska and far northern Canada. Northern MN can expect temperatures below normal for this time of year for the next week or so.
It’s already dark when we first few Occupiers arrive at CJM this evening. We can feel the beginning of the colder temperatures.

Several street people are sitting on the back ledge; among them is a very pretty young woman we have met in the past. She walks over and says, “We’ve been waiting for you. Are you going to make a fire? We’re homeless and we’re really cold”.

With her words in mind, we hurry to get things ready. Some of the street folks assist with the set up. In a short time the fire is roaring; all the chairs are full and everyone is huddled close to the warmth.

Included in this group is another young woman we have met a few times. She is usually quiet and shy except when she’s drinking. When she’s drinking, she is vulgar, hostile and looks for a fight. Tonight she is drinking.
She’s quite a handful but the rest of the people look out for her as she falls over, loses her coat, glasses and other belongings and alternates between cussing at and hugging everyone. She’s fortunate to have these friends. If she didn’t, she’d probably be dead by now.

Once folks are warm, some of them go to the back ledge for a bit, probably to drink a little more. Suddenly the hostile young woman is on top of the pretty young woman and pounding on her. A couple of the men quickly pull the aggressive woman off the other woman and gently scold her. The pretty woman leaves quickly.
We think, “Oh great. I hope it’s not going to be another one of those nights”.

Two of the Occupiers had attended a wolf rally earlier in the day. One had gone as a representative for the Northwoods Wolf Alliance. The rally was sponsored by Howling For Wolves and the Occupier was sent to ask if HFW would be willing to ally with NWA with hopes of working more closely on projects. She reports the response from HFW was quite positive. She also reports that NWA is researching information about wolves and other species having been removed from the endangered species list in order to make way for mining, logging and other earth destroying ventures.

One of the three Occupiers present this evening remarks, “I have a lot of things to report but it doesn’t look like anyone else is going to show tonight so I guess I’ll save things til next time.

Two women who are personal friends of the Occupier couple appear. They have not participated in an Occupy meeting before and seem to be slightly uncomfortable. In an attempt to help the friend feel comfortable an Occupier comments, “It can get a little crazy around here but of course you and I have never acted crazy”. The friend laughs and relaxes.

A woman who owns the African American Beauty Solon in the neighborhood stops by to say hello.

The neighborhood spiritual man arrives, gets some coffee and quietly takes a seat.

Two large African American men are slamming their bodies against each other, wrestling and at first we think they are fighting. It soon becomes apparent that they are just playing. Two large men having fun and acting like they were young boys again. It’s rather cute.

Suddenly one of the men realizes he has lost his cell phone. They stop their game and slowly retrace their steps in an attempt to find it.

A man who has been holding his hands over the fire for some time says, “My hands are so cold and they hurt so much”. An Occupier asks if he has any gloves and when he answers no, she says, “Why don’t you take these? They’re not much but maybe they’ll help. I’ve taken to bringing an extra pair every time we come here in case someone can use them”. The man gratefully accepts the gloves.

Another man who is part of their group says, “You know, everyone says I’m crazy because of the time I spent at Miller Dwan”. He then launches into a loud diatribe, “I’m just waiting for Jesus to arrive. What chu goona do when Jesus comes to you and asks ‘What have you done for me?’ What chu gonna do?”

He soon becomes repetitive and annoying. We’re glad when the group wanders off because they take him with them.
A few at a time, everyone leaves until the spiritual man and the few Occupiers are the only ones left at the fire. We all breathe a sigh of relief as it is finally quiet.

In silent fellowship, we watch the fire and it begins to lightly snow. Oh well……. We knew it was going to happen sooner or later.

After a while it’s time to go. We begin to pack up when the pretty young woman returns. She is perfectly shitfaced and cold.

We allow her to sit and warm up. She is whiny and demanding. She says, “Where am I gonna sleep tonight? I’m gonna freeze to death! I called my boyfriend’s house and another woman answered and called me a cunt. Where am I gonna go?”

The spiritual man is going to hang out in the Casino for a while. We suggest she go there too. She refuses saying, “So what am I gonna do, just walk around there all night?” We then suggest that we call homeless outreach and they take her to Detox. She says, “Hell no! I’m not some kinda drunk!”

We have no other options to offer her and she stumbles angrily off.

As we drive away, we search the street for her but she is nowhere to be found. We figure she must have found someone to take her in.

We’ll be back again on Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 11-1-14

G.A. Minutes 11-1-14
It seems to be getting colder every evening we meet at the CJM Memorial. Oh well….. Tonight we’re supposed to turn the clocks back an hour. Next time will be colder than it is now. We’ll try to stick it out as long as humanly possible; we’ll have to go indoors during the bitter cold winter months.
We don’t necessarily want to go indoors but realize we are fortunate to be able to do so. Many are forced to live outdoors year around. Every winter some of these folks are found frozen to death. This makes no sense in a country where many others own more than one home.
We’re just setting up the fire pit when we hear a loud call from across the street. It comes from one of our regular “problem children”, a young homeless man who is addicted to alcohol. We’ve never seen him completely sober but he’s quite funny and charming when he’s just slightly drunk. When he’s extremely drunk he becomes hostile and belligerent. There’s something we like about him even if we don’t know what it is.
Tonight he’s just beginning to get drunk. He comes over, sits down and begins a friendly banter with one of the female Occupiers. She laughs and joins in. The young man counts his change, determines he has enough to buy more alcohol and wanders off, promising to return.
It’s the first of the month so we had expected a pretty rowdy evening with the neighborhood “open drug market” in full swing. We’re surprised to find the streets empty and everything very quiet. We have only two street folks at our fire.
An Occupier who has spent much of his life in homelessness explains, “Many have bought a motel room for a few nights and seeing as it’s so cold, the dealers are probably making deliveries”. After several years, most Occupiers are still learning the ropes concerning homelessness.
An Occupier announces our friend who is running for the 8th CD will be holding a post-election get together at the Red Herring next Tuesday evening. She suggests we hold our regular Tuesday meeting at CJM and then go over to the event. Everyone thinks this is a good idea.
Another Occupier says there are going to be some follow up events re: the Council of Black Minnesotans. He doesn’t have all the details yet but one event will be another meeting at City Hall on Wednesday, November 12th at 7pm. The other event will be Friday and Saturday November 21st and 22nd at a TBA venue and will include people from throughout MN.
One more Occupier reports she has finally visited the Jefferson People’s House and asked the guy working on the day she visited about the possibility of holding our meetings in their space during the winter months. She was told that even though JPH has started closing at 5pm they are open to allowing groups the use of their space in the evenings. She was asked to email the JPH group with her request. She sent an email a couple of days ago and is waiting for an answer.
An occasional Occupier who lives in WI asks how things are going with our friend and his campaign for 8th CD. Another responds, “It appears that he has quite a lot of support. Voters will now have to decide whether they will fall for that old lesser of two evils game that says if you vote for the Green Party you are really giving your vote to the Republicans. I think if one doesn’t vote their conscience we will never have a chance to rid ourselves of the two party system”. Everyone agrees.
A regular street person says, “I can’t vote. I’m a felon so I can’t vote. We ask him if he has been out of prison for very long and if he is “off paper”. He says he is and an Occupier says, “Well then you can vote. You just have to apply to get your voting rights back”. The man responds, “Really? I don’t think my vote counts for much”. Another Occupier answers, “But you’re still a citizen and a person and you have rights. I think everyone should be allowed to vote. I think people who are still in prison should be allowed to vote”. The man responds, “If people in prison could vote I think there would be a lot less people in prison”. We all laugh.
As if on cue, a city fire truck in full regalia drives slowly by. As it departs it gives a couple of loud beeps. We all wave, unsure if those beeps were meant for us.
Our conversation continues and covers several topics: the new continuous war currently featuring ISIL, the question of what exactly is the American Dream, strange movies about women trying to look like Barbie that we have seen and hitchhiking stories including an explanation from the older Occupiers about what hitchhiking was like in the 60s.
We notice a DPD squad sitting across the street appearing to be watching us. He drives slowly down the hill, turns around and drives slowly back up the hill. Apparently wanting us to see he is watching.
The Native spiritual man who has joined us frequently over the last few months arrives. We pass the smudge dish around and he talks about raising children and of the importance of gently leading them in the right way. He is pleased with the way his oldest children have grown.
Another friend we have known for many years arrives. She is dressed up in her own way and has come to meet one of our Occupiers. They are planning on going off to a punk show.
The said Occupier hasn’t arrived yet. We say, “She’s probably stuck on Facebook and can’t get off”. We laugh as we know it’s probably true. We also know that many of us have the same problem. We try to justify this by commenting on how it is a convenient tool for local organizing. Also, if one has good FB friends one can learn a lot from very good articles. Blah,blah,blah…….
The Occupier arrives and we chat a bit. The two of them go off to the show.
A man we have seen before comes up to the fire. We have to grab him to keep him from falling in. He’s very drunk. We get him settled and he talks incoherently. He then begins to speak about vulgar topics.
The spiritual man gently explains the fire circle is a place of respect and the Memorial is sacred location. One should refrain from speaking disrespectfully. The drunken man accepts this correction and staggers off. We hope he doesn’t fall and crack his head open.
Our group now consists of the spiritual man and the Occupiers. We have a serious conversation about the difficulties of living and the importance of staying on a good path.
The young man who was with us at the beginning of our meeting returns. He appears to be more drunk but still in a good mood and says, “Hey, you forgot about me!” An Occupier jokingly responds, “No, you forgot about us!” The spiritual man and the young man are friends. We all laugh and joke a bit and the young man wanders off again.
It’s later than we normally stay, the fire is dying and we have run out of wood for the night. We’re going to have to pack up whether we want to or not. Once the fire dies we will quickly become cold. The Occupiers and the spiritual man exchange hugs.
As we are leaving one Occupier says to another, “I have some of our friend’s campaign signs in my vehicle. Should I put one in the memorial garden?” The other Occupier says, “Most definitely”. He puts the sign up and says, “I don’t know if many people will be able to see it from the street”. The other Occupier responds, “That’s o.k. This sign is for the people walking by”. We hope it will still be there when we return on Tuesday.