G.A. Minutes 11-28-15

G.A. Minutes 11-28-15
The first two Occupiers entering Coney Island tonight are wearing big grins.  As they were on their way and driving down Superior St, they spotted Mississippi Woman.  She was dressed in a Santa Claus outfit minus the beard.  Considering it’s the end of the month, they assumed she was hustling for spare change.
At the end of the month most everybody in the neighborhood is down to zero where money is concerned.  The street people are doing a serious hustle. 
Mississippi Woman always has a unique style but dressing like Santa in order to coax a few bucks out of the hipsters and the bar folks really takes the cake.
Coney Island has only a few patrons when the Occupiers arrive.  It certainly doesn’t have the excitement or commotion like CJMM but it may have to do for the next few months.
Coney Island in Duluth has existed as a greasy spoon type café for almost 100 years.  It still has the old fashioned look; all the old booths and most everything else is made of wood.  The menu is the same with the addition of some items that could be considered healthy.
There’s a large booth tucked away in the back, the place is managed by young hipsters; the background music is excellent.  We hope a lot of the folks who used to frequent our fires will decide to join us here for a while.
As we are settling in, an older man who has been a part of the Catholic Worker movement for a very long time arrives.  We’ve all interacted with him via social media so know he’s been very excited since the Pope’s Encyclical was presented.  He tells us he’s been taking the publication around to various Catholic churches attempting to start a conversation.  Apparently neither the parishioners nor the clergy are at all interested.
The Catholic Worker tells a few stories about adventures he’s had during his long life.  He says he attended Climate Convergence event today and plans to attend the Climate Hike tomorrow.
A few of the Occupiers had planned on attending the Climate Convergence but it turned out they were just too tired from the Black Lives Matter/Justice City Coalition march and rally on Friday. 
This event followed on the heels of the BLM/JCC event of a week ago.  The demand of Justice for Jamar is still the same but several days ago a small group of white supremacists showed up at the camp outside the 4th Precinct in Minneapolis.  When they were asked to leave, one of them fired a gun into the crowd of BLM activists, wounding five. 
The Mpls cops of the 4th Precinct were slow to respond.  Some of the cops told the demonstrators getting shot served them right.  It only goes to show what the BLM people have been saying all along.
Marches and rallies for BLM have been happening all over the country, especially over the last few days.  Duluth’s event was successful and received attention from all of the local major media sources again.
The African American population in Duluth is relatively small.  Yesterday’s march contained very few black folks.  The African American female leader of the BLM/JCC tells us many of these folks are afraid to march or express their real views in public.  Those of us given white privilege are obligated to speak out about racism and complacency.  We are obligated until all this injustice is a thing of the past.
An Occupier reports she has finally received responses from the DPD concerning the four complaints she filed about the illegal harassment of our CJMM recreational fires.  The responses to three of the complaints said our complaints were unfounded.  The response to the complaint about the threatening behavior of Officer #464 was noted in his file but no disciplinary action was deemed necessary.  A copy of the letter from the Deputy Fire Chief was included with the rest of the paperwork.
“Give me a break!”, moans an Occupier, “They can’t dispute that our fire is legal according to all their various laws so they tell us a corporation called The City and some anonymous community members don’t want a fire at CJMM so there’s not going to be one?”
“It’s not over yet”, replies the reporting Occupier, “I imagine no one is surprised that there’s one set of laws for regular people and another for “The City” and his/her community members.
“We now have something in writing.  We need to ‘show and tell’ all over the place.  I’ve made contact with several City Council members and with a retired attorney.  I haven’t called the Occupy attorney from out of town.
“These worshippers of the 1% like to drag things on forever hoping the common person will just go away.  Things are definitely not over yet”.
Another Occupier tells us the next step in the Stop the Enbridge Invasion is a tour of places on the proposed pipeline route by Honor the Earth.  They will be in Duluth on Tuesday December 8th and Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance will definitely need our help in managing the feast/potluck.
Someone mentions Loaves N Fishes will be having their annual Christmas Party on Saturday December 13th 2pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal.
Another reports she’s been going to Socialism and a Slice with peeps from Socialist Action down at Pizza Luce’, 6:30pm every last Monday of the month.  “I talk with intelligent, humorous folks I don’t get to see very often.  I’m going again tomorrow; maybe some of you will join us?”
One of the Occupiers is moving from one apartment to another this upcoming Tuesday.  He doesn’t have a vehicle so really needs our help.  We will arrange our day to accommodate him.
An Occupier muses, “When we do these actions and events we need to see results.  We need goals”.  Another Occupier pats him on the arm and answers, “It’s going to take a long time. Our grandchildren and great grandchildren are the ones who will see the results.  Remember the 7th spark and the 8th fire and all that?  We just need to stay focused and remember to keep love in our hearts.  Keep on keeping on, blah,blah,blah”.  We all laugh and agree.
It’s almost 9pm, the place is empty, the staff has cleaned everything and they’re standing around politely looking like they want to go home.
Well, o.k. then….. Time to go.  We expect to be back, same time, same station next Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 11-21-15

G.A. Minutes 11-21-15
We’re at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial again.  It seems like we were here just yesterday.  Oh wait a minute…. We were here just yesterday.
We assisted our allies from Black Lives Matter, Politics Off My Body and a few other groups with a rally and march that coincided with Duluth’s annual Christmas City of the North Parade.
The title for the rally was Justice City of the North.  The focus was on another young African American man executed by the police.  This time it happened in Minneapolis.  The murdered man was lying face down on the pavement with his hands cuffed behind his back.  His name was Jamar Clark.   A cop put a gun next to the young man’s head and pulled the trigger.  As horrifying as that sounds, it occurs in epidemic proportions here in “Merika”.
Last night it was the Occupier’s job to keep a fire going for a few hours for the event which took place at CJMM.  A fire was pretty much mandatory as last night was really cold.  Afterwards many of the participants went a block down the hill and made a surprise entrance into the parade.  We were told the parade crowd was mostly appreciative of what the marchers had to say.
After the parade some folks came back and sat around the fire and chatted with some of the street folks.  The rally was a success and was covered by all the local major media.  It received some national attention too.
Tonight is even colder.  The temperature is somewhere in the teens with not much of a breeze. The leaves have all been off the trees for several weeks and all the animals who go south for the winter are long gone.  It hasn’t snowed yet but that’s sure to come soon.
We think this may be our last weekly fire until spring.  If we get a mid-winter thaw we could come back for that; but it’s getting to the point where our little fire won’t keep folks warm enough to sit for long.
We really hate to leave because our battle with the City and its masters from the 1% about the people’s right to comfortably make use of common spaces has not yet reached a conclusion.  
The street folks who haven’t found a place to stay for the winter are showing signs of desperation.  If we hear of anywhere that could be a possibility we’ll look them up and give them the 411.  After 3 years of making fires at CJMM we know a lot of street folks well enough to find them on the days we’re not at the Memorial.
Most of the Occupiers are not actually homeless.  None of us has a fancy house but most have some place that has heat and running water.
When the temperatures become so cold that our little fire can’t keep us warm, we have to go inside.  By homeless standards that probably makes us wimps.  It appears that the majority of the street people appreciate our weekly fires so we’re guessing they don’t call us wimps behind our backs.
So anyway, we find folks waiting for us when we arrive.  Everyone pitches in; getting the fire started is the most important thing.  One of the Occupiers is always assigned that task. Another always fires up the sage bundle.  Many of the neighborhood regulars know our set up routine by now so things are ready quickly.
Among those waiting are Drowsy Man and his girlfriend.  It looks like she’s recovered from her overdose adventure.  They seem to be getting along o.k. for now.
The gray haired woman is present along with a somewhat regular Red Lake guy and a middle aged African American man who we don’t know.
Some get coffee, cookies and hard boiled eggs.  Everyone scoots up close around the flames. Another African American middle aged man who we don’t know comes staggering severely up to the circle, crashes through and falls directly on the fire pit.
WTF?  In all the years we’ve been meeting here, no one has ever fallen into the fire.  An Occupier screams.  Everyone else keeps calm.  Two people grab the guy, who is now lying across hot coals and flaming logs, and stand him up.  Someone else puts the fire pit back together.  The people who are most likely crazy grab burning logs with their bare hands and throw them back in the pit.  The Occupier tasked with taking care of the fire brings a shovel and a dustpan, sweeps up all the stray coals and ashes and puts them back in the fire.
Then we all sit back down and look at each other in amazement.  Drowsy Man says, “Man, the fire was rollin’ so nice.  Now we have to start all over again”.
A DPD squad goes by slowly.
Lots more people arrive including our big white former camper, the man who’s always laughing, the Native/Mexican man who rides a bike, Ms. Community Cleanup, her best friend and one of the neighborhood schizophrenic girls.
3 squads drive by; they look over at us but it appears they’re going somewhere else.
An Occupier gives the others a copy of the letter she received from the Deputy Fire Chief the other day.  The letter is in response to the meeting several Occupiers had with the fire chief about a week ago.  At that meeting they showed the chief all the fire codes, state statutes and city ordinances that support the legality of the small, safe fire at CJMM.
The chief was unable to provide any information that refuted the Occupiers claims.  He was unaware that the City was the owner of CJMM.  He attempted to read each regulation separately and only in part and then use his interpretation to prove the fire is illegal.  Each time the Occupiers read him the whole of the law.
The chief pretty much boxed himself into a corner and then said, “Let me investigate this further and I’ll get back to you”.
The Deputy Fire Chief’s response letter, when boiled down to language of common people, says, “We’re not going to follow the law.  The City and its 1% masters have decided they don’t want you to have a fire at CJMM so therefore, you will not be allowed to have one.  Too bad for you”.
After reading the letter, an Occupier comments, “Wow, this is really lame”.  Another answers, “I know but this is the first actual answer we have received in 3 years and it’s in writing.  I sent a copy to our friend on the City Council and they said that at least we now know who our opponent is.  I say, “To be continued”.
We decide to meet next Tuesday at Coney Island and begin “the continuing”.
An Occupier exclaims, “Hey, the Stop the Enbridge Invasion feast, rally and march we helped out with on November 2nd really rocked, didn’t it?”  We all agree that it truly rocked.  A couple of Occupiers attended a recent local follow-up meeting and report that concerning Enbridge, there will be many more actions to follow.
One Occupier is sitting next to the Native/Mexican man, she says to him, “We’re gonna try meeting at Coney Island on Tuesday.  You’d be welcome to stop by”.
The man responds, “You know, once a person has been at this homeless thing for a while, being indoors feels real weird.  I think they’re seriously trying to kill us now though.  They’ve closed up all the entrances under the freeway and to the steam pipes.  We can’t go to the shelters but we have to be able to stay warm somewhere.  It’s getting really rough”.
Most Duluth homeless people are from cities or towns.  Outdoor winter camping is something they don’t know how to do.
5 or 6 squads go racing by.  They’re not using lights or sirens and they’re not even glancing at us.
Another former camper, the Native woman from FDL, arrives.  She’s quiet drunk and crying.  It seems she’s still serious about wanting to stop abusing everything but she’s hasn’t been having much luck.  She seems to be a bit afraid of leaving the life she’s been living for so long.  We’ve been trying to hook her up with a Native healer that we know.  So far things haven’t worked out but we’ll keep trying.  Anyway, tonight she needs a ride home.  An Occupier agrees to drive her.
The fire is dying.  It’s early enough to put on a few more logs but the Occupiers are cold and tired.  The rest of the people are too.
So we’ll check out Coney Island (107 E. Superior St) on Tuesday and see what happens. Come on down and pay us a visit.  Don’t worry if you don’t have any money.  We’ll buy you a cup of coffee.  

G.A. Minutes 11-7-15

G.A. Minutes 11-7-15
              The weather this evening is the coldest we’ve experienced since we packed things in for winter last year.  Temperatures are in the upper 30s with an occasional breeze.
              Ordinarily we’d be talking about packing up the fires at the Clayton Jackson Mcghie Memorial for winter around this time.  However, we’ve been receiving so much illegal harassment since the big drama on the 4th of July that we need to stick around and defend the people’s right to use of public/common space.
              The homeless ones tell us they’re grateful for the warming fire, simple snacks and chance to partake in meaningful conversation.  They don’t often experience feelings of relaxation or safety in their daily lives.
               Most of the Occupiers have previous and/or current experience being homeless.  Most feel a moral obligation to call attention to injustice.  We can see that everything is connected.  An old song tells it like it is …..”None of us are free…..One of us is chained?….  None of us are free”.   
                While receiving praise from folks on the street is gratifying, it makes us feel kind of embarrassed. 
                  The first to visit the fire circle tonight are a group of young Native men.  They are all close friends and live in a camp or a building close by.  One man goes around the circle smudging everyone.  He then asks us if we have a Bible.  We don’t.
               They’ve been having a conversation about women and continue it around the fire.  They have been discussing one of the young men’s infatuation for a particular woman and also the confusion all of them have about relating to women in general.
             One of the men asks if women deliberately try to be seductive.  They ask us what the Bible teaches about the relationship between men and women.  We find this all to be rather weird but the men appear to be serious.
             A few of the Occupiers have past experience in bible studies but the deep questions the men are asking do not have immediate yes or no answers.  They want us to tell them about sin and judgement; we can’t really help them there.
An Occupier offers, “Women are the life givers, for that they must be sincerely respected”. 
             The Ho Chunk man arrives.  The young men all know him. They say hello and then the Ho Chunk man nods off in a chair close to the fire.
             A couple of middle aged African American women from the Skinner dance on in.  They’ve probably been drinking; they’re playing music on a cell phone and are singing along.
             An Occupier comments he had heard that the older, very thin African American man from the Skinner had died a few days ago.  One of the women verifies this is true and everyone is saddened by the news.
            The Skinner woman tells us, “It was his 59th birthday on Monday and he passed away on the following Wednesday.  He was already in bad health but we think he died from something he smoked”.
            An Occupier who has recently moved back to the area appears.  He tells us he is trying to save a disabled vet who lives in his building from being evicted.  He lives across the bridge in Superior, WI where social services are much less than they are in MN.
            One of the women from the Skinner knows all the ropes in Superior so she gives advice about all possible resources available there.
            An Occupier reports he spoke to the drum keeper from the drum group that drummed for the Stop the Enbridge Invasion rally last Monday.  The drum keeper told him there would be another rally against Enbridge in Superior in two weeks or so.
            Another Occupier comments, “Oh good, I was so hoping that was gonna be the next move. Some people want to go after Nolan about this and we should do that too, but I think Superior is the next logical place to go”.
            The Occupier who generally takes the G.A. minutes apologizes for neglecting to write them last Tuesday.  She says, “I and another Occupier were scheduled to meet with the Deputy Fire Chief the following day.  I needed to get a full night’s sleep before that meeting so I just went home from CJMM and went to sleep.
            “It turned out the dude wasn’t even there.  I think that was because the appointment for the meeting was made for me by the Fire Marshal.  She probably didn’t make sure her boss knew he was meeting with us.  I get a bad vibe from her and I think she’s been listening to the lies some of the CJMM BOD member tell about us.  Anyway, we rescheduled for this upcoming Thursday and I’ll be sure and contact the Deputy Fire Chief beforehand myself”.   
            An additional Occupier reports, “The Idle No More-Northwoods Wolf Alliance NdN Taco Sale was pretty wild yesterday.  We were short 3 of regular helpers and had almost no publicity because the guy who takes care of that went into the hospital for emergency surgery. Everyone was really tired when it was done but things turned out o.k. and we even made a small profit”.
              A young white girl, known to a few of us, sits down.  She seems nervous and exclaims, “One should never take drugs for mental illness.  I’m a paranoid schizophrenic and they’re always trying to give me drugs.  The first year I was homeless I was really scared; when I found a place to try and sleep I would jump and wake up every time I heard a sound.  The main homeless outreach person is trying to have me committed to St. Peter’s for life”.  She stands up abruptly and leaves.
            The Drowsy Man and his cousin Birdman roll up.  Drowsy Man is upset; he states, “My old lady is in the hospital.  I left her alone for just a few minutes and somebody gave her 2 lines of heroin.  She started to OD.  I was trying to keep her awake while calling 911.  I had to call a couple of times before an ambulance came.
            “Seeing as I spend so much time on the street, I think I should get some of that Narcan.  I sure wish I had some last night”.
            An Occupier with medical experience tells Drowsy Man he can get Narcan for free at the Needle Exchange office on W 1st St and 1st Ave W.  She explains the method of injection to him.
            The Skinner women are still playing music on their cell phone.  A song comes on and all the African Americans in the space say, “Oh yeah, this was the Skinner Man’s song”.  They begin to dance.
            We don’t know the song and the cell phone acoustics are not good so we can’t really understand the lyrics.  One thing we do hear is “Why work hard if you never can play?
           A young African American man, who we don’t know but see around often, is meditating on the fire while swaying to the Skinner Man’s song. 
            The Crabby Old Man walks quickly and unseen up to the swaying manfrom behind, puts his finger, as though it were a gun, to the swaying man’s head and says, “Stop talking all over about my business!” 
The swaying man snaps alert and mumbles something.  The Crabby Old Man calls out as he quickly walks away, “And it can happen…JUST LIKE THAT”.
             The story telling woman still has not been found.
            It’s about 8pm and we notice a squad car drive slowly by.  The CJMM space is now filled with many of this year’s regular fire circle attendees.
            Conversation becomes light and casual.  A DPD SUV drives by.  We put a few more logs on the fire and everyone scoots up close.
            Around 8:50 pm the police SUV is back again.  One Occupier says to another, “It’s very close to 9pm, do you think we should pack it up?”  The other Occupier answers, “I suppose we might as well.  I sure don’t feel like dealing with the
City’s nonsense this late into the evening”.
            Everyone helps us put things away.  An Occupier reminds, “We won’t be here next Tuesday. We are meeting with 1 of our City Councilors.  We’ll show him all the facts and details about the illegal harassment of our fire”.
            As we are about to drive off, we see a big red pickup truck.  It has ladders attached, lots of flashing lights and says Duluth Fire Department on the door.
             One of our vehicles drives around the block to check things out.  When our vehicle comes around again the fire truck is parked across the street. Its lights are still flashing.  CJMM and the streets around it are completely empty.
We plan to be back next Saturday.        

G.A. Minutes 10-31-15

G.A. Minutes 10-31-15
It’s been raining off and on all day; by evening it has tapered down to a very fine mist. Temperatures are in the low 40s without any wind when a couple of Occupiers arrive at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.
We don’t expect to see most of the Occupiers this evening as it’s Saturday night and also Halloween.  On a regular night with the weather being like it is, we may have decided to meet indoors.  Seeing as it’s Halloween and we know the street folks would like to be able to celebrate like everyone else, we elect to stay and make a fire.
A few of our usual visitors are visible in doorways up and down the street.  The first to arrive at the fire circle is a former camper who we see from time to time but we haven’t actually spoken with him in quite a while.
He’s stressed out and says he had to beat up two separate people earlier today.  He tells us that he refuses to tolerate having his women friends beat up by their boyfriends.  If this happens he will severely beat up the boyfriend.  Once he does this, the boyfriend doesn’t beat up the woman again.  He believes he is called to defend battered women.  He recommends we read a book entitled “Biological God”.  “It changed my life,” he says.
The Occupiers just listen, as it seems the former camper needs to vent.  One Occupier gently asks, “Do you think you’ll continue your studies in firefighting school any time soon?”  The camper sighs, “You know I just don’t know what I’m doing.  Ever since my Mom died, I can’t seem to make sense out of anything”.
The next to arrive are a group consisting of the partner of the stylish Native woman, the cousin of the infamous street woman and a man she is with tonight.
The partner is also stressed out.  He and our former camper converse regarding the source of the partner’s stress.  Apparently the partner and the stylish woman were betrayed by someone they had considered to be a friend. 
As is common with long term homeless people, the couple has a spot in the neighborhood, hidden from view, where they sit and rest, away from the judgmental glares of passersby and police officers.
All the street folks know where the couple’s spot is.  Everyone respects the privacy of one another’s spots.  Last night the betrayer called the DPD and reported where the couple could be found.  This caused the partner to have a nervous breakdown.  The camper states, “It’s not right what he (the betrayer) did to you.  He’s been homeless and on the street in the past.  He knows what it’s like”.
The partner doesn’t remember everything that happened and he hasn’t been able to find the stylish woman since.  He exclaims, “I just want to see her and to know she’s o.k.” 
The drowsy man enters with his small entourage.  He’s complaining about his girlfriend’s attitude again.  He announces he’s going to the back ledge to “finish off a 40” and invites those in the circle to join him.  The cousin and her man oblige.
The fire is burning real nice; people in the fire circle gaze and contemplate. 
A DPD squad pulls up and Sgt. Zwank gets out.  He walks up and makes the comment, “I suppose you know why I’m here, right?”  An Occupier replies, “Not really.  I can’t figure you guys out anymore”.  Sgt. Zwank continues, “It’s illegal for you to have a fire here and if you do, we have to tell you to put it out”.  The Occupier rolls her eyes and says, “Actually it’s not illegal”.
The Sgt. responds, “What is this really about?”  The Occupier answers, “I believe it all started a few days before the 4th of July.  One of the co-chairs of the CJMM BOD misread something I had written and decided I had dealt him an unforgivable insult.  Since then this fire and I have been the victims of his revenge”.
Another Occupier adds, “We are of the belief that all citizens are responsible to obey the laws, not just those who have lesser political clout.  Our fire is not illegal so we are not willing to put it out.  We are trying to show your bosses they are breaking the law”.  Sgt. Zwank jokes, “Could you get that done soon?”  
A couple of the street folks attempt to protest.  As soon as they do, Sgt. Zwank asks them for IDs.  They quickly leave; we always tell folks they are free to leave whenever cops show up. We don’t think less of them for doing so.
So the fire department arrives, 2 big fire trucks with lights flashing.  The fire people are wearing different outfits again, matching tan Carhart raingear.  The fire department has a lot of clothes.
Fire Captain Scot and his friend put out the fire.  The just do a courtesy spray.  The fire is still burning; it’s also raining again.
An ambulance comes rolling up, lights and sirens blaring.  An Occupier comments, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”  ……  Never mind, the fire trucks are blocking the street and the ambulance can’t get by.
The circus departs and we’re left sitting in the rain chatting with the stylish Native woman, her partner, the preacher from the storefront church and a couple of friendly hippies.  The preacher and the hippies are incredulous that anyone would forcibly put out our lovely little fire.  Most people are flabbergasted when they hear about it.
The Spiritual Man joins us; he gives us words of encouragement and some chocolate chip cookies.
The rain lets up but the Occupiers are thoroughly soaked.  We will pack up, go home, dry off and live to fight another day.
We expect that day will be Tuesday.