G.A. Minutes 2-20-16

G.A. Minutes 2-20-16
We think Duluth may be in the midst of a January thaw.  Daytime temperatures have been in the 40s and not much lower at night. 
Hey, wait a minute……. It’s February and if we remember correctly, most of January was a January thaw.  We’re kinda loving this new winter arrangement but it’s kinda scary too.
The weather changes are happening really fast and many people in more southern or coastal regions are experiencing fierce storms and fires.  We don’t want to catch a break at the expense of the suffering of others.
Coney Island is almost full tonight; there are lots of people on the street too.  We expect most of the Occupiers to be present tonight so it’s a good thing that an Occupier has arrived early and has been holding down the back booth.
One of the Occupiers has brought a jar of homemade applesauce as a gift for the Occupier who has court case pending in Superior WI.  The gift is actually from a Catholic Worker friend who has much experience in being arrested because of his righteous fight against nuclear weapons and such.  He also makes a mean applesauce.
The East Coast Occupier asks the Occupier who has a pending court case, “I haven’t been able to be around for a while.  So what’s going on with your case?”
The Occupier answers, “I have a pre-trial conference with the City Attorney and a status conference with a judge on March 9th”.  The questioning Occupier has experience with the court system.  She explains what he can expect to happen at these proceedings and says, “You really don’t need to say anything.  Just tell them you’re not guilty and that you want them to drop the charges.  You don’t need to elaborate”.
She continues, “I’d also like to know what happened at the meeting with new City Councilor”. The Occupier who attended the meeting explains, “The Councilor suggested I arrange a meeting between myself, the Councilor, some of our most articulate supporters and the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial BOD.
“I’ve been trying to do that but haven’t been having much luck.  I followed the CJMM BOD protocol and sent my request via their website.  I waited but didn’t get a response so I talked with the Duluth Human Rights Officer.  He told me that he and the other CJMM BOD co-chair were trying to figure out exactly who was monitoring their website.
“I emailed the HR Officer a few days later and asked him what avenue I should try next.  He told me the BOD co-chairs had changed and promised to forward my email to them.  That was last Tuesday and I haven’t had a response yet.  I’m going to the NAACP meeting tomorrow. One of the co-chairs is a member.  If he attends tomorrow, I’ll make an effort to speak with him.
 “Over the last few years, the CJMM BOD has been trying to maintain an air of exclusivity so I don’t know if I’ll even get a response or an invitation to their meeting.  I know many of them think Occupiers are the scum of the earth.  I was thinking that if we do get an invitation I would ask you to come along as one of our supporters”.
The questioning Occupier responds, “Oh for sure, I do a really good spiel about Radical Jesus”.
An Occupier who is fairly new to our group asks us how we deal with alcohol and drug abuse among the homeless and/or poor folks who attend our fires.
Another Occupier replies, “Well, we ask all people not to drink or do drugs while sitting in the fire circle.  Other than that, we know they are the ones living their own life so we figure it’s up to them what they’re gonna do elsewhere.  Of course, we observe those same rules at the fire ourselves.  We’re more concerned about the behavior of people in the circle than what substances they have in their bodies.  We don’t lecture or try to encourage them to stop using. Sometimes folks bring the topic up themselves and then we just join the conversation.
“When we had our homeless camp, we didn’t all actually live there.  At one point the homeless residents decided to make the rule that no substance abuse of any kind would be tolerated within the camp.  The Occupiers living at the camp just sort of went along with it.
“Many of us not living in the camp thought that rule would be unenforceable.  We thought trying to manage behavior was a better idea but seeing as we didn’t live there we didn’t think we should disagree.
“It did prove to be unenforceable and some campers began to spy on other campers.  What really took the cake though was when one of the Occupiers living in camp began trying to strictly enforce the rule while openly abusing stuff themselves.  That nearly caused a riot.  The Occupier apologized and left; we rarely see them anymore”.
Another Occupier comments, “I think mandatory drug testing by employers is unconstitutional unless it’s a question about a worker using while on the job”.
An Occupier answers, “Yeah, for sure.  It’s an invasion into a person’s bodily substances.  It’s got to be unconstitutional.  I’m guessing no one has brought the issue to the Supreme Court because the court has some extremely right wing conservative judges.  That may change now that Judge Scalia has passed away.  I sure hope so.  Employment drug testing needs to go”.
Changing the subject, an Occupier tells about a previous visit to Idaho.  She says, “They have this really sick wolf hunt thing going on.  A bunch of them surround a pack of wolves and just start blasting the wolves with big hunting guns.  The local churches even provide the “hunters” with sandwiches and stuff before and after “the hunt”.
“I never saw such a thing and thought it wasn’t a fair fight for the wolves.  However, there were a lot of people around, they were pretty creepy and most of them were carrying guns.  I kept my mouth shut and just got out of there as soon as I could”.
Another Occupier adds, “Actually we are pretty familiar with wolves.  They’re called Maii’gan in Anishinaabemowin.  We work a lot with local Native groups.  The wolf is a sacred animal for Ojibwe people and plays a major part in their creation story.
“We did a lot of Stop the Wolf Hunt actions before the wolves were put back on the Endangered Species List.  Idaho is the worst state for wolf murder.  Most of the people are ranchers or farmers.  They don’t understand that everything is connected.  They don’t realize the importance of top predators for the maintenance of the entire ecosystem.  They believe God gave man dominance over everything on earth so they think anything that interferes with their ranching or farming needs to be eliminated.  Then there are also some pyscho blood lust types who just really get off on killing living beings.
“At this point I have no idea how we are going to go about changing their hearts and minds”.
Someone remarks, “I think that that takeover of the nature preserve in Oregon was about something like that.  It really pissed me off when the major media kept calling those people ‘Occupiers’.  Maybe they were ordered to use that word?”
Changing the subject again, someone comments, “Man, it was really a bummer that Gloria Dei church burned down on Thursday.  I always thought the people in that church were really nice”.
Someone else agrees, “Yeah, they held a free breakfast for folks in the neighborhood, they opened their basement for many homeless conferences and such and some of them would just walk around the streets giving food and hats and mittens to people who looked like they needed it.
One time a woman even walked up to me and gave me stuff.  I didn’t want to embarrass her so I just said thank you and took the stuff”.
 We laugh and know that once the fundraising events for Gloria Dei begin we will be in attendance.
A new guy is training in this evening to be a hipster staff person.  He looks the part as he’s dressed in black with an earring in one ear.  He’s been hovering over us all evening, making sure our coffee cups are full, bringing food and generally making sure we have everything we could possibly need.  Eventually he starts chatting with us.  He tells us about some of the other places he’s worked and says, “The pay at the big super market was better but I don’t want to work for corporate enterprises”.  We think he’ll fit into this place just fine.
It looks like the staff are starting to clean up and get ready to close but suddenly we hear a man yelling very loudly.  There’s three staff on duty tonight and they individually try to speak politely with the screaming guy but he just keeps screaming.
We can’t see the screamer because he’s in one of the front booths.  We wonder if it’s someone we know.  The staff has a conference behind the counter.  The regular counter guy goes walking to the kitchen; he’s talking on his cell phone.  We assume he’s calling 911.
Suddenly things are quiet.  We assume the screamer has passed out.  We figure that calling the cops is about the only thing the staff can do.  They need to go home, they have no idea who the screamer is and they aren’t about to take him home with them.
We think it’s probably time for us to leave.  As we gather our stuff an Occupier exclaims, “Oh wait, one more thing.  I’d like to go to that MPCA listening session up at UMD next Tuesday. Are you guys down with that?”
We are down so we quickly make plans for who will pick up who at what time and all that.  As we are saying goodnight to the staff and leaving extra tip money so there will be enough to share with the training guy, two police officers walk through the door.
The head staff guy says, “Officers, this man has been very polite, unlike most of very drunk people we deal with”.  The passed out guy is a very elderly and ragged looking person who we don’t believe we’ve seen before.  One of the cops calls him by name and says, “I haven’t seen you in years!  So how are you doing?”
We recognize one of the officers but they are both on a mission so don’t notice us.  Good, no reason the cops need to know we are wintering at Coney Island.
The passed out guy sort of wakes up a little; he’s not able to talk.  The cops try to get him to stand up.  The guy is like a cooked noodle.  The cops each take an underarm and drag the guy out to their squad car.
An Occupier opines, “I guess they’ll take him to Detox”.  Another Occupier responds, “He’s way past Detox.  I hope they know enough to take him to the hospital”.
On that note, we go off with plans to attend the MPCA listening session on Tuesday and plans to meet up here again next Saturday.   

G.A. Minutes 2-16-16

G.A. Minutes 2-16-16
Something is going on downtown (aka lesser Duluth) tonight.  All the parking spaces are taken and there’s more traffic on Superior St. than is usual for a Tuesday evening during the winter season.
It’s got to be some kind of indoor event as there are not many pedestrians on the street.  The weather is not really cold but it’s not really warm either.  Temperatures are in the teens with no wind.
Who knows?  The big event could be something as simple as a gambling discount at the Fon-Duluth Casino (aka Fat Chance Casino). 
Whatever it is, the Occupy winter hangout at Coney Island is not a part of it.  The new regular hipster guy is at the counter; customers are in a few of the booths.  The best DJ at KUMD is on the radio.  Same ol’ same ol’.
We’ll be a small group again tonight.  About half of our regulars have other obligations.  As we are settling in, an old friend and sometime artist, sometime community activist walks through the door.  She’s been delivering Bernie Sanders signs around town and is stopping by for a visit.  This is good.
An Occupier is in the middle of a report concerning an email she’s received from the Duluth Human Rights Officer.  She says, “He told me that he was forwarding my meeting request to the new CJMM BOD co-chairpersons.  I think having new co-chairs will be beneficial to our small, safe and legal fires at the Memorial.  I think one of the co-chairs is a Caucasian woman who I don’t think I know.  The other is an African American man who I’ve interacted with occasionally.  I believe he works as a community organizer and is a native Duluthian from a working class background.  One would think he’d be empathetic towards the people of our neighborhood”.
Our visiting friend asks for an update on our CJMM recreational fire situation.  She was under the impression we allowed ourselves to be run off the site by the police and fire departments. We explain that we always stop having fires during winter months as our little fire doesn’t provide enough warmth to keep people comfortably sitting around it during the coldest season.
We get her up to speed re: the ongoing saga of our campaign for use of public space by poor and/or homeless people in the Central Hillside.
Our friend offers her opinions concerning the control freak attitude displayed by many cops, the lack of affordable housing and her worries about what Sherman Properties has planned for the low and moderate housing market in our city.
She’s tired as she’s had a long day distributing posters that show the time and place for the many local DFL caucus events taking place on March 1st.  She says goodnight and goes home to crash.  We resume our so called meeting.
An Occupier comments, “I’m not going to the caucuses or any of that stuff.  I received an email from Water Legacy asking me to go and vote for a resolution against Polymet.  I’m in total agreement with the resolution but that entire party platform stuff is a waste of time.  They fight tooth and nail over the party platform; when it’s finally finished they put it on a shelf and never refer to it again.  Why bother?
“I’m sure Bernie is the lesser of all the evils but I’m done with all that.  Even the rare genuine and well-meaning elected representatives don’t have the power to actually do anything beneficial for us or the rest of the world.  Our election system is a complete failure.  Why can’t people see that the same thing happens after every election?”
Another Occupier responds, “Yeah, it’s like when Charlie Brown tries to kick the football.  Lucy holds the ball, he runs up and whoosh!, she yanks the ball away.  Every damn time!  He never learns”.  We crack up; good analogy.
An Occupier passes around a postcard she received in the mail.  It’s a notification about the Clean Power Plan Listening Session being held at UMD, Tuesday, February 23rd 5:30p-8p.
Some Occupiers look at it and roll their eyes.  The presenting Occupier tells them, “Yeah, I know, these government and corporate types hold so called public meetings all the time. Regular people attend and speak very knowledgeably and passionately; the government corporate lapdogs then make the decision that most benefits the rich.
“I need to do a little research yet but I think I want to sign up to speak.  Also, I know they keep a count of how many regular people show up to these things.  According to some statistic, for each actual regular body that shows up it means so many other regular bodies actually care about the particular issue”.
Another Occupier agrees, “You kinda have a point there”.  We agree to discuss this issue again at our next meeting.
Changing the subject, an Occupier reports, “I just read that this past month of January was the warmest January ever recorded worldwide”.  We say, “Whoa!”
The Occupier continues, “Things are not looking real good.  I wonder if the world still has a chance.”
Another Occupier replies, “I think it’s kind of a tossup.  Either the world doesn’t have a chance and we just stop everything we’re doing.  We hang around, socialize and watch TV.  Follow sports teams, abuse various substances, gamble, play computer games….whatever…..because nothing matters anyway or maybe the world does have a chance and we just keep doing what we’re doing and working with all the other people who are doing what they’re doing.
“Every year more people change their minds, learn their history and get a clue.  Eventually we reach critical mass and things work out for the betterment of all living beings and the planet begins to heal.
“It could go either way, but personally, I think that keeping on doing what we’re doing will make things better for the coming generations no matter what happens in the end”.
We are about to get into a deep discussion when the hipster working the counter asks loudly, “What do you think about Bernie Sander’s idea of free college for everyone?  I think that if college were free then the government would have to pay for it and they would start paying the teachers and other staff much less.  That would make all the good professors go work in private colleges.  The people who couldn’t afford to pay tuition would be stuck with an inferior education in public colleges”.
An Occupier responds, “Nah man, we’d take the money to pay for college from the 1% and everybody would have good, free education”.
The last remaining customer calls out from his booth, “We don’t want the USA to be like Russia.  Russia just gave free education to its citizens in order to make them slaves of the state”.
We quietly say, “Oh, oh, never mind”.  None of us are crazy enough to get into a discussion about the imaginary democracy of the United States vs Russian bolshevism.
It’s a little past closing time anyway so we clear off our table in the back booth, grab our coats, leave a few bucks in the tip jar and say, “See you later”.
We’ll be back for more on Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 2-13-16

G.A. Minutes 2-9-16

G.A. Minutes 2-9-16
The weather people told the truth this time.  It’s winter again; temperatures are a few degrees above zero.  The wind is variable but when it blows it’s enough to kill you. Hopefully, it won’t kill any of our homeless ones tonight.
There are few Occupiers this evening; two thirds of those who are present have colds. It will probably be a very short meeting.
There are absolutely no customers in Coney Island and only 1 staff person.  He tells us most of the food is gone too.  There’s coffee, herbal tea and polish sausage.  We’ll get beverages and wait until we get home to have our dinners.
The conversation starts with a discussion about White Earth people who have announced their candidacy for Tribal Chairperson.  It appears that 2 people who were/are close friends will be running against each other.  That’s about all we know and it’s probably not any of our business anyway.
An Occupier says, “Did you know that Red Lake is the only tribal reservation, in our area at least, that was able to keep all of their land owned in common?  They have no individual ownership”.  We think that is pretty cool.
Our friend, the City official, has given the Occupier couple tickets to the North Central Windows Program dinner on Thursday, February 11th, 6pm at the United Presbyterian Church in Superior WI.  The NC/WP is an art enrichment program serving survivors of domestic violence. 
An Occupier comments, “The tickets are somewhat expensive because it’s a fundraiser. The event would have been out of the reach of our personal budget so we really appreciate being given tickets.
“I know the Superior Organizer is quite active in NC/WP.  I also know that creating art is very therapeutic for most people.  I’m happy to do whatever I can for the project and am looking forward to attending the event”.
Another Occupier reminds us, “On Valentine’s Day, Sunday, February 14th at 1p-4p the Annual Overdose Vigil is going to be held at the Central Hillside Community Center.  It will be a potluck feast with a Native drum group and time for sharing stories and memories.
“Also, on Saturday the 13th the Red Shawls/Solidarity Shawls march will start from Trepanier Hall at 1pm”.  The march is in recognition of murdered and missing Indigenous women.
A young man who is talking to himself walks through the door, asks for the key to the bathroom, goes in, comes out, gives the key back and leaves.  All the while talking to himself.  The hipster staff guy doesn’t bat an eyelash, just smiles at the dude.  Sweet.
An Occupier comments, “I still haven’t received any answer from the Clayton Jackson McGhie BOD concerning my request to be invited to their meeting.  I guess that means they are deliberately ignoring me or that they don’t monitor their website well.  I’m going to the Human Rights Commission meeting tomorrow so can ask the Duluth Human Rights Officer what is up.  He’s a co-chair of the BOD.
I was cleaning off my desk yesterday and found copies of all that insulting stuff that the other CJMM BOD co-chair was writing to us last summer.  I didn’t remember that I had made a copy of that stuff.  I sure hope I’m not forced to show it to anyone outside of our group but I know we’re going to have to have our legal right to make our small, safe fires recognized.  There’s a moral issue too”.
We all agree, we certainly don’t wish to cause any BOD member harm or embarrassment but the homeless ones have so little time or place to feel safe or valued.
The homeless ones are the absolute lowest ones in this twisted society’s pecking order.  However, they aren’t any different from people who have homes; it’s just that their luck has been worse.
Some of the people with homes have their sense of morality all screwed up.  They think they’re supposed to scorn and shun the less fortunate ones.  WRONG.
Someone remarks, “In keeping with this subject…..  I’m tired and I have a headache. Can we just stop now and go home?”
Yes we can.  We clear off our table, gather our spare change for the jar and say goodnight to the surprised looking staff guy.
We’ve been his only customers all evening so he’ll be able to clean up quickly and go home too.  We’ll be back on Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 2-6-16

G.A. Minutes 2-6-16
It’s winter coats without hats and gloves again as Occupiers roll up to Coney Island this evening.  The weather continues to be more like late March than early February.  The weather people say the normal below zero temperatures and snow storms are going to return starting tonight.  So far, it hasn’t happened.
The first Occupiers to arrive take the big back booth, as usual, and chat while waiting for others to arrive.  We don’t expect to have a full house tonight as some have gone to the Take Back the Park vigil and march at Leaf Erickson Park.
This vigil and march has been hurriedly arranged by area feminist groups and their supporters. It is in response to a wacko misogynist blogger who called for a worldwide event in which likeminded wackos were called upon to meet up at appointed times and places.  The misogynist blogger even provided code words (Do you know where the nearest pet shop is?) and responses (It’s right here.).
The blogger had the meeting place of Leaf Erickson Park in Duluth picked out for misogynists of the Great White North.  As the word got out across the country, counter protests were organized; the blogger began receiving death threats and such.  Apparently these threats scared him and he canceled the worldwide event. Just in case his cancelation is a deceptive technique, the Duluth counter protestors decided their event should still be held.
Of course, all the Occupiers are feminists but some of us feel these counter protests will provide more publicity to attention seeking wackos.  However, we definitely support a chance for area feminists to get together in support of protection and respect for women.
An Occupier comments, “I’m betting most misogynists have a basic fear of women.  Their threats and rantings are just a cover for their own perceived inadequacies”.
As we continue to wait, the Occupier from the East Coast entertains us with stories from her life.  She tells us about camping in a park where she was able to watch large herds of elk. These elk became very noisy at sunrise.  Their noise attracted a mountain lion and a pack of wolves.  She watched these predators as they caught their breakfast.
She tells about a recent experience in front of the CHUM homeless shelter.  She was walking up hill on an icy sidewalk when she slipped and fell.  When she hit the ground her glasses and one of her boots flew off.  She tried to get up but, because she couldn’t see well and was missing a boot, getting up wasn’t working too well.
Many people coming down the hill on their way to work just walked around her.  No one stopped to help.  Eventually, a worker from the CHUM center came out, helped her up, collected her missing items, brought her into the center and gave her a cup of coffee.
The eastern story teller laughs, “I guess all the working people thought I was homeless and drunk.  I think the CHUM worker thought the same thing.  I didn’t say much, just drank the coffee and thanked him”.
An Occupier states, “It shouldn’t have mattered if you were a homeless and drunk person. Those people passing by should have at least acknowledged you.  Most people are so cruel to less fortunate ones”.
Another adds, “At least they didn’t take you to Detox.  I’ve known some people who were locked up in Detox even though they weren’t under the influence of any substance”.
As the rest of the Occupiers appear, they find us in a conversation about the failures of various treatment programs.  We think most are too short and when treatment is over, the client is dumped back into the same situation he/she was in before they were put into treatment.
An Occupier says to another, “Did you go to the All Nations feast today?”  The questioned Occupier replies, “Yes, but I got there very late and all the food had been put away.  I went into the kitchen and the cooks gave me what they could find.
“I was late because it took me a really long time to wash all the dirty dishes from Friday’s NDN Taco Sale.  The taco sale went really well.  We sold over 100 tacos”.
An Occupier has been under the weather for a week or more.  She has heard about her Occupier brother’s arrest at the January Stop Enbridge rally but wants details.  The arrested Occupier tells the story.
His initial court date is in Superior WI, February 10th at 1:30pm.  Several Occupiers have previous experience with being arrested.  One explains, “The first court date is just the arraignment.  They ask you if you want to plead guilty or not guilty.  Seeing as the whole thing was completely bogus, they may just drop the charges”.
Another Occupier agrees, “I’ve had plenty of experience with that.  You expend all this energy and time to get to court and then find the charges have been dropped.  You were completely innocent all along but there’s no compensation for the trouble the false charges caused you”.
An Occupier asks, “So, do you want to hear what happened at my meeting with the new City Councilor?”  We do and the Occupier continues, “The Councilor suggested I ask to attend a CJMM BOD meeting.  The Councilor will accompany me and I should bring some articulate supporters.
“There’s a rumor going around that the City has given the BOD the authority to “manage” the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.  We need to hear what the BOD has to say about that and if they tell us the rumor is true; we need to ask for proof.
“If they claim they are authorized to “manage” we’ll need to see what kind of a job they are doing. If they’re not doing well maybe the City needs to take the job away.  If we aren’t given an invitation to attend a meeting or if the BOD just doesn’t respond at all, that will show a lot.
“We know the real reason for the mess they have made relating to our small, safe and legal fires, has to do with the co-chairperson’s taking offense at something he imagined I had said about him.
“I used their required channel of communication last Thursday and requested an invitation to a meeting.  I haven’t had a response yet but will wait a while longer.  Personally, I see this as another way of calling attention to what the CJMM BOD is actually doing”.
Another Occupier remarks, “Well, I think that denying homeless and poor people the only chance they have to feel safe and relaxed by sitting around a small, safe and legal recreational fire is definitely incompetent management.  Especially when the safe relaxation takes place in the neighborhood where they live and in a space dedicated to oppressed and marginalized people”.
Some of the Occupiers go outside for a smoke break.  When they return they report that they were talking with the gray haired woman who has been a regular at our fires for years.
The gray haired woman told them she had just been confronted by the police.  She said, “I was in the Holiday Center.  I’ve been told in the past that the area is private property for customers only.  I’m 73 years old and have to walk 13 blocks each way in order to get to the Mission for my meals and then back to my apartment.  I usually get tired on the way back.  Sometimes I have to use a bathroom.  I always buy some kind of treat from one of their machines and then sit in one of their chairs to eat it.
“Tonight I used their bathroom, bought a treat and sat to eat, just like I always do.  The police told me that a security guard called them.  They were really polite and apologetic.  Why would a security guard call the police on me?  That really hurts my feelings”.
We know the gray haired woman to be always polite, well-spoken and friendly.  She’s also always clean and reasonably dressed.  Her biggest problem is a somewhat faulty memory.
The smoking Occupiers said to her, “What a jerk!  The security guard obviously has emotional and/or mental health problems.  Maybe he feels powerless in the rest of his life so his little piddley security position gives him the opportunity to abuse the general public.  What a loser”.
As the smokers were saying goodbye to the gray haired woman, a group of young men walked by.  They were carrying signs that said “Respect Women” “Women Are Our Mothers and Sisters” and stuff like that.  These men were walking in the direction of Leaf Erickson Park.
An Occupier complains that he is being charged a “courtesy fee” by his phone company when he uses his bank debit card to pay his monthly phone bill.  Another Occupier responds, “A courtesy fee?  That sounds like something out of a Kurt Vonnegut novel”.  We all laugh.
When we look at the clock we notice we’ve stayed at least an hour past regular closing time. One of the staff guys is rolling out the mop bucket.  The workers at Coney Island are really nice.  They’ve been playing good jazz on the radio too.
Time to call it a night.  We clear off our table, put our coats on and some bucks in the tip jar.  As we head out the door we see there’s a pretty steady snow falling.  Hmmm….. Will it be winter again when we return on Tuesday?