G.A. Minutes 4-28-15

G.A. Minutes 4-28-15

The weather people said it might rain but we decided to take a chance and meet at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening. We made the right decision; the gray clouds that had covered the sky have parted. The sun is shining, there is a very light breeze and temperatures are still in the 60s when we arrive.

The Memorial is overflowing with street folks. An Occupier takes one look at the crowd as she drives up and says, “Oh, oh”. Most of the people present have the look of zombies. Alcohol bottles are being openly flashed and passed around.

A friend who is the lead employment counselor at CHUM is present. An Occupier asks him. “So what’s going on here? Did people get paid a few days early this month?”

The CHUM worker shakes his head and says, “I really don’t know”. We invite him to join us for a fire but he replies, “No thanks. I’m just gonna do my business and get out of here as quickly as possible. Good luck.”

We set up and put out all the chairs. We think there will be quite a crowd tonight.

Some of the folks wander over to sit. Many more remain on the back ledge. The people coming to sit all appear to be quite drunk but almost all are at least acquainted with us. They know we don’t want any drinking in the fire circle so they keep their bottles in their pockets.

Among the snacks that are set out on the table is a container of hard boiled eggs. Several incredibly drunk Native people, with whom we are acquainted, gobble down the entire pile of eggs in a matter of minutes. No one else even got the chance to notice that the eggs were there. This is not a good omen.

A few of those sitting around the fire appear to be sober. These sober folks have sat with us in the past. They are a 30 something African American man and his pregnant new girlfriend. He converses reasonably as she sits quietly sucking her thumb.
There is also an older and very stylish Native woman. We are always pleased when she comes around as she is wise and puts out a very good vibe.

As per usual, the entire large crowd of zombie people gets up and goes off somewhere. As they are going one zombie points to another and calls out to us, “You’d better pray for this guy. He says he wants to kill himself”.

We are momentarily alone with the sober people. An Occupier says to another, “So what did you think about the Tar Sands Resistance Tour event that we attended last Friday?”

The Occupier replies, “I thought it was pretty good. I hope this means people are going to actually start some serious resistance to all the Enbridge pipelines and stuff going on around here”.

The sober man asks what we are talking about and we explain about tar sands and about the pipelines and all the pipeline leaks. We talk about the seriousness of the destruction of the environment.

The man comments, “Well you know, they’ve been destroying the earth for a long time now”.

An Occupier responds, “That’s right and this is pretty much our last chance to put a stop to it. We don’t have much time left to change things”.

As if on cue we hear, “Community cleanup! Community cleanup!” The zombies are returning. They are led by the loud young woman we met at our last meeting at CJM. We laugh. Some sit down by the fire; most go to the back ledge. Apparently Ms Community Cleanup is carrying some type of drugs in her bra. People are asking her for some. We hear someone whisper, “It’s the fake, fake shit”.

We know that there is still some synthetic smoke around and that it’s usually called fake weed. So now we find out there is also fake weed that is fake. We are not even going to ask……..

Many conversations are going on at once. The suicidal man is ranting about the Illuminati, 2-Pac and Abraham Lincoln. Apparently they are all connected.

Many other African American men and women are yelling at the African American suicidal man. They tell him he is blaspheming God. These yelling people don’t appear to be the type of people one would commonly find in a church but if you closed your eyes and listened, that’s where one would think that they were.

We can’t even figure out what the rest of the people are yelling about. Then we hear one man say to another, “Who you calling a bitch? Bitch!” Somebody picks up a chair.

“Whoa!” we say, “Everybody calm down”.

This is one of the rare times that we would normally call 911. However, the middle aged African American man who watches over everyone on the street arrives.

We don’t see him very often but he always manages to show up when he’s really needed. We figure we’ll wait a while and let him try to patch things up. As we begin putting out the fire and packing up, he goes over to various individuals and talks quietly with them. Things are calming down.

When the people see we are packing up, many come over and apologize for their bad behavior, tell us how much they appreciate our fires etc. etc. As an Occupier heads to her car, she says to a man she knows who has been homeless for much of his 40 some years, “What in the heck is going on? I wonder if the stars are in some kind of weird alignment.”

The man answers, “Nah, it’s just the first real warm night of spring that people can stay out as long as they want. They just don’t know what else to do”.

The Occupier laughs and says, “Yeah, I’m sure you’re right. See you again on Saturday”.

G.A. Minutes 4-18-15

G.A. Minutes 4-18-15
It’s not springtime anymore, at least not tonight. According to the weather people, it will be cold and rainy with strong winds for at least the next week.
That’s o.k. as long as it doesn’t snow. The outdoors has been so unseasonably warm and dry this month that local gardeners are chomping at the bit to start planting.
We need some good rain first but it had just better not snow. Even the Great White North deserves a break once in a while.
It’s partly cloudy with temperatures in the low 40s and a strong wind swirling all over the place as we arrive at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.
Some of the regular street people are quickly walking by. They wave and ask if we’re going to be having a fire. We tell them yes we are and they yell back, “See you in a while”.
We are only a few as we set up and get the fire going. The big bundle of sage is blowing a cloud of smoke across the entire area and the wind makes the flames shoot up really high. An Occupier comments, “We’re gonna use a lot of wood tonight”.
Our spirits are high as we’ve been worried for the last day or so. The guy we refer to as the Spiritual Man was seriously stabbed on Thursday night. We can’t imagine how that could have happened as over the last year that he had attended our fires we observed nothing but peace, love and even a bit of wisdom emanate from this good man.
The main homeless outreach worker was also very concerned and was keeping us posted. Earlier this afternoon we received word it looked like he was going to survive.
The streets are devoid of people. There are not many cars either. We sit quietly, watching the flames leap.
Out of nowhere the old Ho Chunk Nation man appears. This is the first time we seen him since at least last summer and he looks a little worse for the wear. He appears to be rather drunk but that’s not unusual. He’s also talking about Jesus. That’s very unusual.
He looks even older than he did last time and he’s wearing shorts. He’s surprised that we remember him. We pull one of our best chairs up close to the fire and invite him to sit.
A young woman we’ve seen around in the past is standing on the corner. She appears troubled. She appears to be “working” but is getting absolutely no attention from anyone driving by.
The old man calls to her, inviting her to join us. It takes a while but eventually she comes over.
She tells the Ho Chunk man she’s been abandoned by her brother and sisters. She doesn’t know where she’s going to sleep tonight. In desperation she tried to find a customer and make a little money so she could get out of the cold.
As she’s telling her story, one of her sisters arrives. She says, “Damn! I thought you all had ditched me”. The sisters hug and her mood changes instantly. Just a misunderstanding.
A sense of insecurity is a constant companion for those who are forced to live on the street.
Another Occupier checks in. He’s carrying a bag full of potatoes, onions, butter, spices and tin foil.
We get to chopping and wrapping then throw a grate over the fire and start things cooking.
We already have coffee, apple juice, hard boiled eggs and cookies. Once the veggies are done we’re gonna have a whole meal.
As the smell of the food hits the air a few more Occupiers arrive. They are followed by a bunch of street people we are vaguely acquainted with.
Shortly after, the man who is always laughing and his girlfriend materialize. We last saw them when we were keeping the fire deep in the snow at the big Black Lives Matter rally.
At that time she was newly pregnant. He was trying to convince her to stop taking heavy drugs. She was telling him she didn’t know what he was talking about. She didn’t appear very happy.
Tonight she is visibly pregnant, friendly and happy.
The laughing man states, “Honey, we have lots of hot dogs at home. Let’s go get them”.
They leave and quickly reappear with a big sack of hot dogs. The first potato packets are done; we pull them off and start throwing on the hot dogs.
Suddenly there are at least a bazillion people in the Memorial. Some of us serve up the potatoes while others cook and pass out the dogs. Then more potato packets get cooked.
After a while absolutely all the food is gone. It looks like everyone got something to eat though.
Folks are standing around in groups, talking softly. Except for one young woman.
We don’t know her and she’s not really doing anything awful but she’s really loud. She’s stomping around and yelling “Community cleanup!” We don’t know why she’s doing that because she’s not cleaning anything up.
She pulls an Occupier aside and tells her, “I’m sorry to be drunk but I just can’t handle the stress of life and everything”. Then she goes back to yelling again.
One Occupier says to another, “We’d better start packing up. It’s very late, that young woman is gonna get everyone else all riled up, then lots of people will start getting loud and soon the cops will show up. There’s no point to that happening”.
The Occupiers start to clean up; many of the street folks help us. Soon everything is cleaner than it was when we arrived.
As we are cleaning an Occupier asks, “Are we going to meet here again on Tuesday?” Another Occupier answers, “I think it’ll be raining on Tuesday. We have lots to talk about so I think we should go to the Amazing Grace”.
The Ho Chunk man has a tent way out on the west end of town. We know he has just enough money to take the bus back to his tent. We help him out of his chair and wish him goodnight.
As he is walking off, the young woman puts her arm around him and tries to get him to walk with her. We hear a young man whisper to her, “Hurry up. It’s almost 10 o’clock”.
The Occupiers have been around the block a few times. We know the liquor store closes at 10 o’clock. We know the young woman will take the only 75 cents the old Ho Chunk man has to his name and the old man will end up passing out in a cold alley.
The young woman and her friend will quickly run to the liquor store and get enough alcohol to allow them to drink for another half hour or so.
An Occupier says to the Ho Chunk man, “Come on, I’ll give you a ride to the bus station”. And that is the end of that.
We say goodnight to each other and to the rest of the folks remaining at CJM.
We plan to meet at the Amazing Grace next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 4-14-15

G.A. Minutes 4-14-15
An Occupier who lives very close to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is waiting for us when we arrive.
He says, “There probably won’t be many neighborhood people stopping by tonight. For the last few days the cops have been heavily patrolling the area. They’ve been running people off, even out of the alleys”.
Another Occupier responds, “Seeing as spring has arrived early this year, they’re probably trying to run homeless people out. They’re hoping for an early tourist season.
“Well fat chance that’s gonna work, like homeless people have anywhere else to go”.
Again we set everything up but we don’t light the fire. The weather is even warmer than it was on Saturday.
The streets are full of cars but empty of people. The circle contains only Occupiers and an older African American gentleman. We haven’t met the gentleman in the past but we have seen him in the neighborhood.
He asks for the sage and smudges himself. He seems rather shy.
A couple consisting of a young African American man and a white or Native young woman arrive. They ask to join us and of course, we welcome them.
We are making small talk with the new people when a man in a fast driving car pulls up to the curb. He looks like someone who might like to ride motorcycles.
He comes over, hands us a card with a Bible scripture written on it, wishes us well and leaves.
Soon a Native man who was a visitor to our former homeless camp appears. Almost right behind him is a South American street man who is infamous in the neighborhood.
This is the first time we seen either of them since last fall. Apparently it’s also the first time they’ve seen each other.
This requires hugs all around and then lots of teasing.
The South American man says he’s recently found a job doing custodial work at the new O’Neill apartments. He states, “I can’t come around too much anymore because I don’t want to go astray and lose my job. I’m really glad you guys are still having fires though”.
After a conversation about PTSD, everyone takes off, some promising to return.
The Occupiers are alone at the fire. We think neighborhood homeless people are still around but they’re keeping a low profile.
Out of the blue an Occupier comments, “I hear ALF is now breaking into circuses and freeing the animals”. Another Occupier adds, “I think the life of a circus animal is usually pretty miserable. The same goes for animals in zoos. When I was younger and still went to zoos I noticed most of the animals looked unhappy”.
As we are conversing a young white man with a camera approaches. He’s asks what’s up, we briefly explain.
He says he’s familiar with Occupy and tells us he’s a sociology student from Augsburg College. He’s doing a project about northern MN and has been driving from town to town taking pictures and talking with folks.
He tells us people seem unwelcoming in the smaller towns but friendlier in larger areas. He thinks Duluth is the most cordial place he’s visited so far.
He asks if he can take pictures of us and the fire. We say, “Sure, no problem”.
As the student guy is clicking away our friend the older white gentleman from the neighborhood arrives. We haven’t seen him since last fall. He’s surprised but pleased that we are still doing the fire thing.
We start a conversation about student loans and the culture of credit in general then flow into the use of social media as a communication and organizing tool and wind up with the subject of Hillary Clinton running for president.
Sometime during this discussion, the Augsburg student stops taking pictures and joins in.
There are no Hillary fans here tonight. The older gentleman is looking for a better woman Democrat. The rest of us don’t want anything to do with the current 2 party/1 party system. Those of us who vote will probably vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party.
As the older gentleman and the student say goodbye, another Occupier riding his bike arrives.
He’s just returned from his choir rehearsal. He tells us that his choir and others are performing at Sacred Heart Music Center on Saturday April 25th 7pm. The event will feature many environmental groups with all proceeds going to Water Legacy.
He also reminds us that Veterans For Peace is sponsoring a Tax Day rally tomorrow on the Federal Courthouse steps at noon.
Someone else mentions White Privilege 101, the second class will be taught tomorrow 5:30pm at the Jefferson People’s House and that the next Idle No More meeting will be Friday 1pm at the Duluth Indian Center.
As usual, as we are conversing, regular neighborhood people are quietly getting coffee and juice from our table.
The last bits of wood have been put in the fire and it will soon be time to go.
A young white man on a skateboard rides up. He lives in the neighborhood but hasn’t noticed our fire before tonight.
He thinks it’s pretty cool and after making small talk, he tells us some of his life story. We stay a little longer and listen.
His burden is lighter than the burdens we usually hear about. He works full time in a local restaurant but has almost no money left after he pays his rent and child support.
He’s very much involved in his young daughter’s life and is worried that her mother will be ending up in a drug treatment program sooner or later. Then he will need to take custody and is very concerned about how he’ll be able to do that.
An Occupier asks if he knows about public housing. He replies that he’s applied for medical assistance and food stamps but been told he earns too much money. “I don’t understand how that can be” he exclaims.
The Occupier explains about the different requirements for different programs. She says, “The income guidelines for public housing are a little more realistic than those for food stamps. Public housing has a year and a half or so waiting list. If you apply right now, there could possibly be a place for you by the time you have to take your daughter in”.
The skater guy responds, “Oh, I didn’t realize any of that. I’m gonna apply right away. Thanks for telling me these things”.
The fire is almost out. It will feel chilly soon. More people are arriving. We pack up, promising to come back on Saturday.

11 April 2015

Last night Occupy Duluth met at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, where we often do if the weather is ok. Sometimes we have other business elsewhere, or things we need to discuss in a more controlled environment, but we prefer to be in the open and in public. Occupy is meant to be for everybody, and we try to make sure that anyone who wants to talk to us can join in our circle.

Something happened last night that could be progress. We settled in our circle and were soon joined by the usual neighborhood folk, many of them intoxicated, sick, injured, homeless and facing a future likely filled with more and more serious disasters, until sooner or later, the one that will void their ticket and show them to the gaping emptiness of the final egress. Some weep, some laugh over their cries of pain, some blame someone else, some seek revenge or satisfaction or escape. Some sit in stoney silence, trying to wall out the terrible scenes they have visited, but walling in the screaming, horrified, helpless prisoner within them, and sit staring, silent or sullen, at the coals of the fire.

But last night, a group of children wandered down the hill and sat on the concrete staring at all of us. Several of them carried long, skinny black baseball bats, punctuating their conversation with playful feints and jabs, raising or swinging the bats as if at each other or at passing birds or at the trees, then striking the pavement or the concrete wall with a satisfactory warning thump.

Two of the neighborhood women took offense at the testing territorial rough play the children were engaged in, and one woman, the one whose laugh sounded just like weeping, started yelling at them to get out of the memorial or she would call “119” (sic). The kids cursed and laughed, pointed and jeered, raised their bats in the air in defiance. One of the boys jumped up, came closer to our circle, and then swung his bat with homerun abandon at one of our trash baskets. Instantly he turned and raced back to the protection of the cohort.

The laughing-crying woman yelled out that she knew who he was, and she knew who his mother was. “You know my mother? What’s her name, bitch? You don’t know my mother.” Laughing-crying woman struggled out of her chair and stood wobbling on her ankles, hand up in the air, showing the children the full face of her cell phone. She screamed at them and cursed them.

I try not to interfere much with what goes on at the memorial. You hear every kind of story from people. Many of them are just attempts to use emotion to wrench a few coins out of you. I never carry any money to the memorial. I could give them every penny I own and they would still have nothing. I don’t have much, but even if I were rich as a Koch or a Walton, all my money would not lift them up. Instead I do not judge them. I listen. I offer them the little comfort of a spot at the fire, a p-nut butter sandwich, a cup of coffee or a glass of apple juice. Simple human respect, not only for their desperate situation, but also for their inability to find any door out of the mess they are in. I don’t know of any way out for them. The egress yawns into darkness for all of us.

But these kids, jeering and rough as they are, are the future we as a culture are making for ourselves. I stood up from my place at the fire and walked over toward them. Several of them jumped up and waved their bats excitedly. I smiled and shrugged and approached the edge of their group. One of them panicked and took off fleeing across the intersection. Several others followed, all of them screaming in adrenal delight. “He’s chasing us! He’s chasing us!” I sat down on the wall and the rest of them ran off also, all but one.

I sat down on the wall a couple arm’s lengths away from him. “Hows it going? You doing ok?”

“Yeah,” he said. “I’m ok.” He spun the bat with it’s tip on the sidewalk, like a top in his hands.

I figured he was nine, ten years old, but I am not a good judge of ages either. His eyes were calm and his clothes and face were clean. I decided he probably was not homeless. He spoke evenly and clearly, was polite and not threatening in any way. Just a kid with a baseball bat.

“You hungry? We got sandwiches, apple juice, hot soup.”

“Nah. I had supper.”

“Ok, that’s cool. Why did the other kids run away?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

I don’t do small chat well, so I sat quietly and looked around at the memorial and the neighborhood. The evening was so mild, the air sweet, even though the neighborhood was in ruins. The building across the street was a burned out eyesore, and the buildings next to the memorial were abandoned and dilapidated. The sky, a little corner to the northwest, was visible, and the settling sun shone with brilliance and beauty on high whispering feathery clouds.

“It’s a beautiful world,” I commented. “Parts of it anyway.”

“Yeah,” he said, “and it is surprising where the beauty shows.”

I smiled. It was an independent thought, added to the discussion, and showed intelligence.

Just then one of the other kids called from up the street, “Hey, come on, lets get out of here. They are chasing us.”

My young man looked up the hill. His friend was half hiding behind the corner of the alley building. “Come on! Come on!” his friend yelled again. “What are you doing?”

He shrugged and didn’t get up or reply. The friend half hidden behind the building looked down the alley, away from our line of sight, and he seemed torn between running and curiosity. Curiosity won. He came out from behind the building and walked toward us, still yelling “Come on! Let’s get out of here!” In a moment or two he was crossing the street, he was in the memorial, he was sitting on the wall next to his friend. “What’s going on?” he said.

I smiled and asked the alley kid if he was hungry. He shook his head but his large wide open eyes were pulled to the table where we set out food and drinks for the neighborhood. He glanced at me and back at the table again. “It’s ok,” I said. “We got p-nut butter and jelly sandwiches. Apple juice.

“Apple juice?” The alley kid was thin, roughly dressed, probably homeless I thought.

“Sure,” I said. “You are welcome to have some if you want.”

He shook his head again but his eyes kept going back to the table.

“Can I bring you something?” The alley boy said no again, eyes wider than ever.

One of the other neighborhood men got up and walked toward us. The alley boy was nervous as a bird but he did not run. The neighborhood man, a person we see nearly every time we go to the memorial, had been drinking but was not stone drunk. He came too close, stood towering over them, addressed the boys gruffly. “What do you kids think you are doing? Why you bring those baseball bats here? Huh? Why you so mouthy?”

“Nothing. We ain’t hurting no body. We was playing baseball a while ago.” The alley kid was trying to shape his immediate future by making up a plausible story. But it wasn’t well turned. It wasn’t going over and the neighborhood man wasn’t buying any. He frowned and tried to look severe, took a moment to think what else he could say to dominate them. The alley kid’s large eyes turned toward me. “Will you protect us?” he said.

That was a crucial moment, and I failed the test. Intellectual instead of in the moment, I thought of safety and the horrible truth that there isn’t any. Sometimes things are tolerable enough to pretend you are safe. Sometimes the cops and the armies and the guns and the drones and the bombs can make you think you are safe. Just as often they are the source of the terror. And no one is really safe, as long as such things are in the world. Will I protect them? With all my heart if I knew any way to do it. “No,” I said. “I can’t. But you are welcome in our circle any time. You are welcome to sit and warm up, have something to eat, talk to us a while if you want to talk.” It wasn’t enough but it is all I have to offer. I will not lie to them.

The neighborhood man made another stern demand and I stepped back, but not far. “I’m right here if you need anything,” I said to the boys. I could see that the man was trying to hold his gruff, but trying even harder not to smile or let the boys off his hook. I went back to the fire. I heard others of the kid gang up the hill, calling to our boys. The two children broke and ran, taking the safety of flight.

The neighborhood man stayed a little while longer and then decided to walk on down the street, away from the direction where the kids had gone. I listened to the laughing-crying woman a while. I listened to the other woman too, the one with the broken rib of many causes. “I fell down the stairs” she said. “I fell asleep in the parking ramp on the stairs, and I fell.” An hour ago she had been telling me her boyfriend was in jail for beating her up, but he didn’t beat her, she just accidently walked into a wall, scuffing up her cheek and forehead, breaking her rib. Ok. I neither believe nor disbelieve the stories I hear at the memorial. Everyone here knows the details are interchangeable. They don’t matter anyway, if they make any sense or no; the terror, the grief, the pain, the helplessness….they are real. They are all real.

After a little while, the kids came back again. This time they approached the table, wary as sparrows, certain that someone would jump up and catch them or chase them away. Then they worked up their nerve. “Can I have a sandwich?” one of them asked. “Certainly. You take what you need.”

It was the alley boy, with several of the others standing near by, but keeping an open path for retreat if need be. He looked with his large eyes wide at the stack of sandwiches. Then he grabbed one and jumped back. No one tried to grab him. He watched us warily as he devoured the food in his hand. The other kids also edged forward, moved in for a sandwich. Someone had brought warm vegetable stew, another had placed triangular sweet flakey rolls on a tray. The kids took what they wanted and moved away to consume it. The alley boy came back again. “Can I have another one for my brother?”

“Sure.” He took one sandwich, looked around, back at the stack. “Take some more if you want,” I said. He took two more and ran. I would have given him all of them. I would have given him so much more. But truth stares hard into my eyes, not mocking me or threatening in any way. Strangely beautiful and oddly placed. I would have given him anything. I would have given him everything. I can’t. If we all lifted together, we could pick up this neighborhood, rebuild and enrich and beautify everything here, including the people. No one can do it alone. But all together, we could work miracles.

G.A. Minutes 4-11-15

G.A. Minutes 4-11-15
The early evening air is exceptionally pleasant as we arrive at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial an hour or so before sunset.
Temperatures are still in the 60s, there’s no wind to speak of and we don’t even need our coats yet.
We set things up but don’t light the fire. We’ll wait until the entire space is shaded.
While the first arriving Occupiers are unloading chairs and such from the vehicles, a lone Occupier sits by the fire pit.
A group of youngish African American men and women walk by. They have small children in hand and smaller ones in strollers.
One of the men warily calls over to the lone Occupier, “So what do you think about all this?” He gesture towards the 3 metal sculptures on the wall. Sculptures of the 3 young African American men who were lynched on this corner in 1920.
The Occupier responds, “Well I think what happened to those innocent guys is pretty sad. However, I know that kind of thing happened in this country at least a gazillion times and as far as I know, this is the only memorial about lynching in the whole country. So in that respect, I think it’s pretty good”.
The young man smiles and says, “Thank you” and the group continues their walk.
As we take our seats the street man who makes wooden flutes comes to join us. We notice he seems a little wobbly. He says, “I’m a little drunk tonight but I’m o.k. I never get mean or stupid or anything”. He and an Occupier carry on a conversation about their gambling addictions.
The regular street woman who tells really good stories arrives. We haven’t seen her since last fall. She’s very smiley and happy as she tells us she’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer. “Are you gonna be here for the evening?” she asks. When we tell her yes she says, “I’ll come back and I’ll tell you a good story”.
The Memorial space is now completely shaded so we light the fire. We still don’t need our coats.
By now we’ve also been joined by a regular man who lives in the apartment building on the corner and a couple of regular middle aged Native women.
A young girl comes over and asks for apple juice. She is followed by a group of boys who are about 8 to 10 years old. They are carrying long sticks and baseball bats and they all go to sit on the back ledge.
Suddenly one of the Native women begins yelling at them. Some of the kids yell back. A boy runs up and hits our plastic garbage can with his bat.
The woman screams, “That’s it! I’m calling 911”. She pulls out her phone and begins talking. We think maybe she is just pretending to call.
The children go running up the hill. The woman runs after them.
The largest and probably oldest of the boys remains on the ledge. An Occupier walks over, sits beside the boy and they talk.
After a short while the children return. They come to our table and we offer them sandwiches, juice and oranges. One of the boys tells us, “That lady was trying to hit us and says she’s gonna call the cops”.
We’re confused by the whole thing. They seem like normal kids to us.
An Occupier reminds us about the benefit at the Red Herring tomorrow starting at noon. The benefit is for the people who lived in the Applewood Knoll apartment building that burned to the ground last week.
She also informs us another friend of ours had a serious fire in her private home just last night.
As usual, a large group of people suddenly arrive. Among them are an Occupier and her boyfriend. They bring a large crockpot of homemade vegetable stew and warm garlic bread. Everybody chows down.
Once their bellies are full most of the large crowd of people wander off.
The woman who also lives in the apartment building on the corner stops by to visit. She keeps an eye on CJM and regularly cleans the area. We’ve known her for years.
It’s the first time we’ve seen her this year. She looks much older and although it doesn’t seem possible, she appears to be even thinner.
We’re quite sure she doesn’t abuse substances so we wonder what is up.
She explains that someone has attempted to set her up and get her evicted from her apartment.
“I let some people into my apartment. They were well dressed and had good jobs and I thought they were nice. One of them hid some kind of pipe in my house when they left. The next day my landlord came in, found the pipe, told me it was drug paraphernalia and said I was gonna be evicted. He wanted me to sign a paper saying I accepted what he was saying.
“I told him it wasn’t mine, I had no idea how it got there and I wasn’t signing nothing”.
We begin offering advice but it seems the thin woman already has things under control. She comments, “I know what to do to defend myself but this is so stressful and it pisses me off”.
An Occupier states, “This is a perfect example of why we need to have the Housing Access Center again”. Another Occupier asks, “What did the Housing Access Center do?” The 1st Occupier replies, “It was a place where one could get information about all of the low income housing projects all at once in one place. It was also a place where landlords and tenants could meet with a moderator and work out their differences. Now days, about the only option landlords have is to evict”.
Another woman we have known for a few years sits down. As usual, she’s drunk. We’ve always thought she was quite beautiful but it seems her alcoholism is robbing her of her looks. She’s wearing a lot of makeup now.
Apparently, she’s recently fallen and cracked a rib. The hospitals won’t treat her because she’s always drunk. That makes no sense to us but we hear that same story from many.
The drunken woman has always seemed to have some sort of oppositional defiant disorder so we’ve given up trying to give advice. We just listen.
Eventually she catches the eye of a man who is probably not of the street and they walk off together.
The woman with the good stories returns but she’s very drunk now. She’s crying. She walks clockwise around the circle, blessing us all as is her custom and then sits down. Between sobs she says loudly, “I have breast cancer and they’re going to cut them off”.
An Occupier with experience in the medical field attempts to comfort the woman and explain that she may have other options.
The Occupier’s genuine concern appears to comfort the storyteller. She hugs the Occupier and stops crying.
A group of Native men, some of whom we know, join the circle. They can’t smudge because they’ve been drinking but they appreciate the smell of the burning sage.
The women who had chased the children earlier return. It seems all the men and women are related. They laugh and tease each other.
We all watch the fire turn to coals. Then it’s time to go.
Everyone wants to know when we’ll be back. We don’t have anything really pressing coming up in the next few days and the good weather promises to be around for a while.
We think we’ll be back on Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 4-7-15

G.A. Minutes 4-7-15

We have decided to meet at Amazing Grace this evening. The weather is slightly rainy with very strong gusts of wind. If we’d tried to have a fire at the Memorial the wind would have been strong enough to knock the fire pit over. It’s not a good night to be outside, for those of us who have a choice at least.

No one thought to call ahead to see if there was going to be live music. When we arrive we find….guess what…..live music. A 3- piece band of older well-known local musicians are playing acoustic old time folk or bluegrass. We’re not sure what it is but we know each song will sound to us just like the last song. Oh well…. It sounds like the musicians are really enjoying themselves.

Our usual table is in use so we find another as far from the stage as possible. We need to be able to talk but don’t want to disturb the performance. As we take our seats we notice the table is incredibly tippy. We just laugh; apparently it’s going to be that type of evening.

A few of us drove up to Bemidji last Saturday for a rally at a Pow Wow which Governor Dayton was expected to attend. Everyone else wants to know how things went so an Occupier reports, “Things didn’t go at all like we expected them to go but I think the event was still successful.”

“Dayton was already inside the building when we arrived. The 3 of us were the only protesters so we decided to wait a little while to see what happened. 2 Native women friends of ours arrived and another friend who was dancing in the Pow Wow came out to tell us we could expect a couple more of our Native friends to arrive sooner or later.

“We all decided to start by holding up our signs in the front of the building where the folks attending the Pow Wow were entering. One of the women went to scout out the entire scene. She came back saying all doors except the main entrance were locked. She found 1 small entrance in the back of the building where there were some big black cars and a bunch of slick looking guys in suits hanging around. She figured that was the place Dayton was coming and going out of
“We discussed what we should do and decided, seeing as we were so few; it wasn’t worth the trouble to go back and try to confront Dayton. We had absolutely no media attention. If we got roughed up or arrested no one would see it or know about so it would serve no purpose. We agreed to stay at the front entrance and display our ‘Protect Our Water and Lands’ message for the Pow Wow goers.

“We received a lot of very positive response. People were coming over all afternoon and thanking us for what we were doing. Some didn’t say anything at all; they just smiled and shook our hands. After we’d been holding our signs for about 3 hours, the head of the building security came out and told us we couldn’t be at the front entrance but had to go stand in the free speech zone. He pointed to a place off in a corner behind some bike racks. We couldn’t help but laugh.

“The security dude said, ‘If you don’t do what I tell you, you’re going to be given trespassing tickets’. Then he left.

“We had only planned to hold signs for another 15 minutes or so. We knew we could probably fight the tickets but it would entail we Occupiers having to make several round trips from Duluth to Bemidji. It just wasn’t worth it. As we know, one has to pick one’s battles.

“We hugged our friends, said goodbye with plans to meet again soon, and drove back to Duluth”.

Someone asks for a report about last Friday’s Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NdN Taco Sale. Someone else explains it was very successful but we need to figure out a better way to use the available electricity. A brief discussion about electrical wiring and such ensues.

An Occupier says, “There’s a lot going on this month. Do you want a rundown?”

We say yes and she continues, “This Friday there will be a Native Lives Matter event at Bayfront Park, starting at 1pm.

“Friday night the IWW is showing the documentary ‘The Wobblies” at the Jefferson People’s House at 8pm.

“On Sunday there will be a benefit for those folks who were living in the East Hillside Applewood Knoll Apartments. There were 19 apartments in the building and it burned down a couple of days ago. The benefit will be at the Red Herring from noon til 6pm.

“Some people are planning an Earth Day (4/22) event but I haven’t heard the details.

“On Friday April 24th the Tar Sands Resistance Tour is making a stop in Duluth. They’ll be at the UMD Kirby Ballroom at 6pm.

“There’s an event being planned for May Day but I don’t have those details yet.

“Also, there’s going to be another Respect Your Mother Earth Festival again this summer”.

Another Occupier comments, “Oh good. I just love the Respect Your Mother Earth Festival. You know what else though? I’m sure we should go to our IWW friend’s movie but I hear the weather’s going to be really good on Saturday and I would really like to have a fire at CJM. The weather is still real ‘iffy’ so we should take advantage of the good evenings and we haven’t made a fire in 2 weeks.”

Everyone agrees. We’ll go to the Memorial on Saturday, weather permitting. If not, we’ll go to the IWW movie.

The business has been taken care of so we try to sit and listen to the music. Somebody remarks, “I don’t know how they can be content to play the same music, over and over again, for years on end.”

Someone else answers, “Well our whole culture is like that. Many things that happened a long time ago are revered. The problem is, most of those revered events didn’t actually happen or at least not in the way they’re remembered.”

Another person says, “You mean George Washington never actually chopped down the cherry tree?”

The staff is cleaning up and shutting off the lights. The musicians are still playing.
We take the hint and say goodnight. They’ll probably have to throw water on the musicians.