G.A. Minutes 3-28-15

G.A. Minutes 3-28-15

A woman standing on the corner waves to us as we drive down the hill on our way to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. It’s the infamous street woman we have known for many years. She follows us down and says, “I hope you guys are gonna make a fire; it’s kinda cold”.

It is kind of cold. The temperature is in the low 40s but the wind is strong. Seeing as it’s still the month of March, we have no complaints.

We’re happy to see the infamous woman. She’s doing well. She stopped drinking and taking drugs early last summer. She was given an apartment in public housing and has kept it so far. She’s fairly intelligent and could probably be reasonably productive but if she went that route, the government would take away all her benefits.

Finding a job would be difficult as she does have a minor criminal history. If she did find one, she’d be working herself to death in order to maintain the same standard of living she currently has. If she then lost her job, even through no fault of her own, she’d be back out in the street and sleeping in doorways and bushes the same as she was before she cleaned up her act.

Come to think of it, she may be more than fairly intelligent. She can see the low wage work situation for exactly what it is. Abject slavery.

We quickly set up everything and get the fire going. The wind makes the flames roar. A few young Native people come over to sit with us.

An Occupier who has been living out of town for quite a while arrives. We take time to hear about what has been going on in his life. He is always interested in discussing the subject of various religions and the fact that most do not practice what they preach. He’s also thrilled about G-tac’s withdrawal from the Penokee Hills mining project.

The out of town Occupier says he’s been thinking lately that the world seems to be dividing into two camps. One camp wants to exploit the earth and everything in it for short term gain while the other camp is attempting to stop the destruction and preserve the earth for future generations. The rest of us agree with his analysis.

A large young Native man who has visited with us a few times in the past arrives. He gets coffee and cookies and asks for the smudge dish. When he is finished he says, “I really appreciate you being here, especially for having sage for smudging available. Miigwitch, miigwitch, miigwitch. It is very good that you are here”.

We hear that a lot from people who sit at our fires. We thank him for joining us.

Some young people we haven’t met before ask us if we will be at CJM on a regular basis. We explain we will. Weather permitting; we will attempt to be at the Memorial every Saturday from about 6pm – 9pm.

However, next Saturday we’ll be in Bemidji joining a protest against Governor Dayton.

We tell them Dayton is throwing his support to the mining companies who want to raise the sulfate levels in MN wild rice waters. Raising the sulfate levels will kill the wild rice. We explain that a Pow Wow is being held next Saturday in Bemidji and Governor Dayton is going to be a guest. The Pow Wow organizers are even planning on having an honor song and dance for him.

The young folks respond in the same way all Native folks we’ve given this information have responded. They say, “WHAT!?!?!” We inform them that we are joining as allies with other Native based groups to express our displeasure and indignation.

An Occupier needs to be reminded what we will be doing on next Tuesday. Another Occupier responds, “We’ll be reviewing what will hopefully be the last movie. Then we will decide what we want to use and we’ll ask the Jefferson People’s House if they will allow us to do a few showings at their place”.

The older African American woman who is also a fixture on the street walks by and waves.

The streets are full of vehicles but few pedestrians. We see a hippie looking guy walking towards us. At first we assume he is someone we know but as he gets closer, we realize we don’t recognize him. He says to no one in particular, “I really like this”. He gives us a power salute and we flash peace signs back at him. He continues walking.

A couple with 3 small children joins our fire. The kids are given apple juice and cookies.

The oldest child plunks down next to an older male Occupier and tells her life story. She is 5 years old and we discover we are acquainted with her biological father. She has many questions and the older Occupier answers her.

The members of her family need to take a short walk. She wants to stay by the fire and the family adults allow her to do so. When they return, they find her still happily asking questions.

During this time we have noticed a DPD SUV drive by several times. Each time slowing way down as it passes the Memorial. We think it wants to make sure we see it.

It’s getting dark and the family needs to go home. Everyone thanks us, waves goodbye and wishes us a good evening. The Occupiers are now alone at the fire.

The street is quiet and if we sit up close to the flames, the atmosphere is quite pleasant.

The gray haired woman arrives. We haven’t seen her since last fall. She is one of our favorite people.

As we chat, she tells us she’s been doing a lot of thinking over the winter. Although she’s in good health, she’s reached the age of 75 and has been mentally reviewing her life.

She seems exceptionally lucid tonight and tells us stories of her childhood, stories of health crises in middle age and many other stories she had not told us in the past.

She says, “So I haven’t had much drama in my life and I’ve never married so am what used to be called an old maid. I’ve never had any particular goals, just took life as it came. I’m surprised to find that I’m actually very happy and have a wonderful feeling of peace and contentment”.

All of our attention has been focused on the gray haired woman so we don’t notice the fire dying until we feel the chill.

We pack up, telling the woman when she can expect to find us at CJM again. She responds, “Now if I can just remember”.

G.A. Minutes 3-14-15

G.A. Minutes 3-14-15

We find an occasional Occupier waiting on the back ledge when we arrive. He says, “I heard through the grapevine that tonight’s meeting was gonna be here at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial”.

The sun is shining warmth upon the site. Except for a small patch of ice beneath the Memorial wall, all signs of winter have been melted away.

Our coats are open and we are without hats and gloves as we set up the chairs, food and fire pit. However, we have these warm clothing items with us as we know it’s not really spring yet and it will get colder when the sun goes down.

It feels really good to be outdoors again.

An Occupier points out that there appears to be another camera hanging from a window in the pawn shop building which sits alongside CJM.

Someone states, “It could be a fake one just put there to intimidate people”. Oh well….. Whatever.

As we are getting the fire started, an Occupier reports, “Bye the way, the Visit with an Elder event at FDL is going to happen this upcoming Tuesday”. We are all pleased about that and we all plan to attend.

Another Occupier remarks, “I finally ordered the last Velcrow Ripper movie. It should be here in about 10 days. We can watch it at my house when it arrives”.

As soon as the fire gets going and the smudge dish is fired up a group of predominately Native American people arrive. Most are folks already known to us.

A homeless couple who we met last year is among them. We are surprised they are still together as their relationship appeared to be quite tumultuous.

We know they had a camp in the woods and ask them how things are going out there.

The man answers, “We don’t have a camp anymore. The cops destroyed it”.

An Occupier responds, “Oh really? Last summer, Chief Ramsey said the DPD wasn’t going to do that anymore”. One of the Occupiers has brought lots of hot dogs and all the fixings.

We let the flames settle down, throw a grill over the top and begin cooking them. Everyone is hungry and the vibe is good. A young native man whom we have met previously tells us he is from Grand Portage. He introduces himself in the traditional Anishinaabe manner and tells us a little about his childhood. He spent most of it in various foster and group homes, finally being allowed to return to live with his mother when he was 17 years old.

A man who sells handmade wooden flutes on the street arrives. He’s always pleasant; we’ve known him for years. Another street man, a gay African American we’ve known for a long time comes up. He is also always very helpful and friendly but tends to run with a rough crowd.

Tonight is no exception. The people he has with him appear to be very drunk and unhappy.

Almost immediately this man’s friends are arguing with all the other street people at the fire. The young Native man is arguing with an older white man about logging. A group of folks are continuing an argument over something that happened last night at Detox and 2 women who are relatives are arguing about who knows what.

The Occupiers are in agreement with the young Native man’s opinion about logging but we know enough to keep that to ourselves right now. We simply ask everyone to calm down. The man who makes flutes says, “You know, all this arguing started when I arrived. It must be my fault”.

The people stop arguing and everyone cracks up. Suddenly everyone is friendly again and we are all eating hot dogs. Go figure. Over the years we’ve noticed the drinking of alcohol seems to produce sudden mood swings. This is one of the many reasons we ask that folks do not drink, at least when they are sitting around our fire.

A group of youngish African American men join us. They’re hungry too. They’re also very grateful and thank us profusely. Soon the Memorial is filled with folks of all ethnicities eating, drinking coffee and apple juice and talking about how wonderful everything is. Then the cops arrive. Of course. Most of the crowd take their full plates and quietly wonder off. 3 squads have pulled up to the 2nd Ave E. side of CJM. They get out and go directly to a young black man who is standing on the sidewalk. An Occupier goes across the street, takes out his cell phone and begins taking pictures.

The rest of us just keep on doing what we were doing.

It seems the DPD isn’t interested in us. They search the young man, put him in a squad and drive away.

Someone informs us the young man called the cops himself. Apparently he was feeling suicidal and called 911 to ask for help. After all that, the Memorial is empty except for the Occupiers. We stand up close around the fire. We zip up our coats. The sun has been down for a while and it’s chilly now.

The flames have become really hot coals. We hold our bare hands over them. Hmmm…. Nice. Then it’s time to leave. We’ll be out at FDL on Tuesday. If the weather holds up we’ll be back here next Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 3-10-15

G.A. Minutes 3-10-15

We have only 3 Occupiers tonight at the Amazing Grace Café. Seeing as it appears that it’s no longer winter, this lack of attendance is not surprising. During the last 3 days temps have been in the upper 40s with overnight lows in the 30s. Today was close to 60. Snow is rapidly melting, puddles are everywhere; people in Duluth are walking around with their coats open and dazed looks on their faces. They appear to be thinking can this be real? Well, it may be or not be real but it looks like most Occupiers have chosen to get outdoors and enjoy it, just in case normal March weather chooses to return.

We’ve been busy with various actions for several weeks. Another action is planned for tomorrow. This evening will be the first time we’ve been able to discuss things so we decide to go ahead even though we are very few.

Rick Nolan, our very disappointing federal representative from the 8th CD, is holding a Duluth fundraising event tomorrow night at the Vikre Distillery in Canal Park. We will be demonstrating outside the event with Northwoods 350, Idle No More, Northwoods Wolf Alliance and other groups. We plan to let Nolan’s potential backers know that many are not going to ignore his shameless sell out of our land and water to the 1% and their earth destroying corporations.

He has thrown his whole hearted support to Polymet’s sulfide mine, the Keystone XL, Alberta Clipper and other Enbridge projects.
Nolan has even gone so far as to sign on to the Republican letter to remove the Great Lakes wolves from the Endangered Species List….. Again. We want people to know we will not accept Nolan as the lesser of two evils candidate. We hope to convince the potential backers that Nolan isn’t a “shoo in”.

An Occupier asks how things went with last Friday’s NdN Taco Sale. We tell him it was quite successful and that INM/NWA has decided to make it a monthly event, every first Friday. We also remind the questioning Occupier that the next INM/NWA is this upcoming Friday, March 13th.

The Occupier asks if we will be attending the monthly Visit with an Elder next Tuesday March 17th. Another Occupier answers, “I spoke with the Fond du Lac person in charge of that program a few days ago. She says there’s some type of mix-up with the big bosses and she doesn’t know yet if the Elder visit is going to happen”. The Occupier responds, “I hope it will. I’m getting kind of addicted to visiting with the Elders”.

An Occupier reports, “I’m still working on getting that second Velcrow Ripper movie. I have it ordered but won’t be able to make payment for a few more days. Once I do that, they’ll send it out and I’ll get it in about 10 days. I think we’re looking at screening it around the end of the month”.

The same Occupier reminds us the next NAACP meeting will be held Sunday, March 15th, 3:30pm at the Hillside Community Center.
Another Occupier asks, “Seeing as the weather is so very nice and seeing as the weather people say it’s going to stay that way for at least a week, do you want to attempt to hold our next meeting at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial?”
We pause; we look at each other, each with a devilish gleam in our eye.

With so few of us present, do we dare to make a decision like that?

Someone inquires, “Is all the stuff ready?” Someone else answers, “It can be”.

We don’t imagine any of the others, not present, would object to the idea. “Let’s go for it!”

On that happy note we pack up to leave. Seeing as the meeting was a short one, we decide to drive by the Vikre Distillery and take a look at the set up.

See you next Saturday at CJM.