G.A. Minutes 5-24-16

G.A. Minutes 5-24-16
When it comes to the weather in Duluth, things are getting curioser and curioser almost every day.
It rained heavily all Monday evening, night and into the early morning.  Today the sky was perfectly clear, the sun shined brightly and temperatures were in the high 70s.  About 5 minutes before most of us were leaving various places and cruising over to People’s Plaza, a thick fog rolled in.  Temperatures dropped at least 20 degrees and a strong east wind kicked up.
Fortunately, Occupiers are veteran recreational fire attendees so we always come prepared for changes.  We put on our spare socks, pants and jackets. We’d expected to have a small courtesy fire but we always bring plenty of wood so we’re good to go in that department too.
The Fire Magician gets a big fire roaring and we sit around and watch people who are wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts scurry along the street.
An Occupier spots a small knife and a pack of cigarettes sitting on one of the benches.  He puts them in his pocket.  It’s never a good idea to leave a knife lying around any area frequented by substance abusing folks.  The place is quite a mess tonight.  The Occupier who likes to clean things begins doing so.
A pretty young Native woman walks up.  She says, “I think I’ve been to your fires before when they were up at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.  I can tell that it’s safe here, can I sit down?”
We welcome her and she tells us her story, “I live in Cass Lake.  I have schizo affect disorder and have to come down here twice a year to see my psychiatrist. There is medicine that I could take to help me cope but I can’t take it because I always overdose and end up in ICU on a breathing machine.
“I was institutionalized when I was 16 and when I turned 18 I was sent to prison for 7 years.  When I was there I got my GED and I read a lot of books on psychology.  I have a pretty good understanding of the mental illness I have.  I also have a pretty good understanding of what other people are about.  I’ve only been out for a couple of years.
“I’m required to have meetings with my psychiatrist for 2 weeks so I have to stay at CHUM while I’m here.  I don’t like staying at CHUM because the staff and the other residents ask me all kinds of personal questions.  I don’t like talking to people very much.  It makes me afraid and I don’t understand what it is that they want from me but I know they always want something.
“When I leave CHUM I just walk the streets of downtown.  I’m afraid someone is following me.  I understand that probably no one is following me but I still think they are.  Sometimes I go up on 1st St. and hang around and drink with the people there. 
“I don’t like doing that either because men always put their arms around me, touch me and tell me they want to take care of me.  Most of these men are crazier than I am.  The women who were in prison with me know how I am and they leave me alone.  The other women call me a bitch and a whore and they always want to fight”.
We have just been listening.  An Occupier comments, “It could be because you’re a new woman on the scene; the men want to see if they can run their game on you.  The women are jealous of the attention you’re getting”.
The young woman replies, “Where ever I go, men want to get close to me and talk to me.  A guy at the casino told me it’s because so many of the Native women around here sell themselves.  Well, I don’t want to do that.  I don’t want to have sex with anyone.  I just want to be left alone.  I wish I was invisible.
“My family in Cass Lake don’t really care much about me.  When I’m home I like to sit and drink with the old men.  I feel safe with them but my mother yells at me and tells me I’m supposed to do something with my life.
“When I saw my psychiatrist today, I asked him to commit me to the psych ward where I could be safe.  He said no, he wouldn’t do that.  He said I know what’s going on and I need to learn how to function in society”.
About the time the young Native woman arrived, a young Native man also joined us.  He’s been to our past fires many times.  He usually just sits quietly and gazes into the flames.  The young woman greeted him with “Boozhoo”.  He smiled shyly and took a seat on the opposite side of the circle.
After she finishes telling her story, she says to the young man, “You’ve been so polite and haven’t tried to hit on me.  Would you like a drink of vodka?”  He shyly declines then quietly leaves.
The pretty woman turns to the Occupiers and explains, “The reason I told you all this personal stuff is because I can tell that you don’t want anything from me.  I know you all just sit and listen to people.  Thank you for the therapy session”. She goes off to look for a few of the more amiable street women.
We think she told quite a story.  We also think that it’s sad she should be mandated to come all the way down to Duluth but that she is given no secure place to stay.  We think that the situation is out of the control of her psychiatrist or that he doesn’t realize the serious stress involved in staying at CHUM or hanging on the street.
The young chronically homeless man arrives.  He’s dressed for the current weather and informs us that the benches at the Plaza are no longer safe to sleep on at night.  He says the police come by every night around 11pm and roust whomever they find.  He tells us of the place close by the Plaza where he sleeps these days.  The cops haven’t figured that one out yet.
The Occupier who lives in Superior checks in.  He states, “As usual, I’m a little behind.  What’s going on that I don’t know about?”  An Occupier answers, “Well, were planning to attend the Juneteenth Celebration in Superior on Saturday June 18th 2pm-7pm.  I’ll make a big salad. 
“The next Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NDN Taco Sale will be Friday June 3rd 11am-2pm.  We’re going to be short a few of the regular helpers so will need to find some others who will help.  Also, the March Against Monsanto scheduled for this upcoming Saturday has been cancelled.  I don’t know the whole story; I was just told it was due to circumstances beyond their control.
“Anyway, it’s supposed to be raining like crazy on Saturday.  We’re thinking we won’t have a meeting at all that day.  Most of us have so many things we have to catch up on”.
The cleaning Occupier is finished now.  Our area of People’s Plaza is immaculate. 
The city official stops by.  He’s going off to a Puerto Rican dinner again.  He shows us a picture of the cleaning job that has been done behind CJMM and reports, “It’s not finished yet but at least it’s being done.  Maybe my making some noise about it helped get things moving”.
We go on to discuss the situation with the DTA buses and Michigan St. being closed.  The official comments, “MN Power waited until the new Depot bus terminal was finished and then they said they needed to close down the street. They could have closed it while the terminal was being built.  Apparently, they don’t care about the needs of regular people”.
We also talk about the fact that the City Council agreed to table the discussion about new low income housing.  Someone observes, “They sure don’t table any discussion about giving loans or tax breaks to millionaires who want to build more unnecessary high end housing”.
The woman who lives with an animal menagerie rides up on her bike.  She’s all dressed up and wears a flower in her hair.  She tells us, “I was supposed to go on a date but the guy never showed up”.
The quiet Native man returns.  He’s gone home and changed into warmer clothing.  He smudges, gets a little food and quietly disappears.
A tall, slender African American walks by.  He looks around and asks, “Did any of you see a small knife lying around here somewhere?”  An Occupier takes the knife and cigarettes out of his pocket and gives them to the man.  The tall man is very happy and exclaims, “Wonderful!  That knife was given to me by a close friend.  It means a lot to me.  I can’t believe I left it just sitting here.  And you have my cigarettes too.  You guys really rock!”
Another tall slender African American man comes up the stairs with the question “Do you folks have any food left?”  An Occupier responds, “We’re just about to leave so you’d be helping us out by taking everything that’s left”.  No problem, the dude puts most of the remaining cookies and sandwiches in his backpack, says thanks and goes on his way.
So according to the weather people, there’s at least a 70% chance of rain for next Saturday.  We’ll take the night off and catch up on mandatory paperwork. We plan to be back here next Tuesday because it can’t rain forever……Right?

G.A. Minutes 5-21-16

G.A. Minutes 5-17-16

G.A. Minutes 5-14-16

G.A. Minutes 5-14-16
We’re back at People’s Plaza this evening.  It has rained for most of the week; the weather has been cold with temperatures in the 30s and 40s.  It wouldn’t be too bad if an easterly breeze wasn’t blowing.  Unfortunately, it’s been huffing and puffing for many days.
Tonight the wind is variable and gusty; when it stops, the air is rather pleasant. When it picks up again, it offers quite a chill.
We’ve decided to have a fire no matter what.  We know a lot of people on the street are in need of one and so are we.
As the first Occupiers are setting things up, our friend the city official arrives.  He says, “I’m on my way to dinner with a friend but wanted to touch base with you all”.
We talk about a few recent developments.  Our friend made a public announcement about the sorry condition of the area behind the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.  He opined that perhaps a bit of racism was involved as other City sites were not left in such a disgusting state.   Our friend is one of the originators of CJMM so his concerns about the site carry some weight in this city.
In response to his announcement, some of the Occupiers suggested he hold a press conference.  The Superior Organizer offered to sponsor a community cleanup day. 
Several months ago the new Duluth Police Chief had promised the city official that he, the chief, would take care of the situation.  At the beginning of the discussion, an Occupier asked if the chief had gone back on his word.
Soon many others entered the discourse.  Another CJMM originator advised that much of the garbage behind the Memorial was hazardous waste from the owners of the pawn shop.  The needles and bottles were the responsibility of the Casino owners.  Another organizer reminded everyone that homeless people are using the area for a bathroom simply because, once the feeding stations are closed, many homeless folks have nowhere to relieve themselves.
As if out of nowhere, the new police chief chimed in.  He assured the city official that he was earnestly working on getting the owners of the pawn shop to clean up their mess.  Apparently, these owners are being resistant.  The Casino management doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to do their part either.
As things stand now, it looks like we will have a cleanup early next month.  If the wheels of the City move as slow as they usually do, the condition behind CJMM won’t have changed.
As sad as the situation is, we have to admit that considering we’ve only had our new mayor a little over 4 months, the wheels appear to at least be thinking about moving.  That’s more than ever happened during the last 10 or more years since the city official began asking for attention to the problem.
On a different topic, we discuss the recent article in the Zenith City News.  It was about the issue of racism at UMD.  Almost all people of color studying or working at UMD attempt to call attention to the problem.  Most white people in the city don’t want to hear about it.  It’s one of those “elephant on the couch” things.
The flames shoot up from the fire pit.  An Occupier comments, “I wonder if the cops will come and bust us because the fire is higher than 3 feet”.  Another Occupier answers, “The Fire Code says the fire apparatus can’t be higher than 3 feet and then the flames can’t be higher than 3 feet on top of that.  Our fire pit is about 2 feet high and the flames will settle down as soon as all the wood catches.  The cops will have to think of something else”.
Our first visitor is a street man who we think we haven’t met in the past.  He tells us he has just shaved off his long, full beard.  He says we would recognize him if he still had the beard.
The man states, “I just finished spending the winter living and working at Loaves N Fishes.  I stopped drinking then but now I’m drinking again.  I used to live at CHUM and take a bus over to Superior and hold a sign in the Super One parking lot that said, Homeless Vet Needs Work.  I made a lot of money that way”.  An Occupier laughs and replies, “I’m one of the people who gave you money”.
The currently homeless man continues, “Most of my life I was a working man supporting a family.  Then my wife died and I started drinking.  I signed my house over to my oldest son, he started using meth, lost the house and I ended up on the street sucking on a bottle”.
The man we call He Who Walks in a Coma comes stumbling up the stairs.  He’s in a coma again tonight.  He falls into a chair and mumbles something about appreciating the fire.  We don’t often see him when he’s sober but when we do, he seems like a very nice guy.
As the homeless vet and Coma Man leave to “go see a man about whatever”, the Occupier who lives in Superior appears.
This Occupier has been applying for jobs recently.  He speaks about his distaste for the amount of personal information potential employers require before an applicant can even get an interview.  He explains, “Today I even had to take an IQ test.  This is just to work in a liquor store.  I passed with flying colors so tomorrow I go to an interview.  What a bunch of crap!”
A group of high school friends joins us.  Among them is the girl who lives in a foster home.  We met her at our last fire.  Tonight she exclaims, “It’s only 18 more days until I graduate from high school!  In the fall I’m going to Fond du Lac College to study for becoming a cop.  The only problem is I’m going to have to stop smoking marijuana”.
She talks about having nowhere to go except to walk the downtown streets with her friends when she was allowed out from her foster home.  She tells us she feels scared much of the time as older street men frequently try to hit on her and touch her and such.  Her friends pressure her to try all kinds of unknown drugs and alcohol.  She is taking several anti- anxiety medications and the unknown drugs and alcohol mess with the effectiveness of her prescription drugs.
We encourage her to maintain her strength of character and to resist peer pressure.  An Occupier opines, “Don’t you think it’s ridiculous that marijuana, the only thing that is actually good for you, is the one that The Man tests for?  Having pot in your system can cost you a job, an education and a place to live.  All that other stuff that is really bad for you will be out of your system in a day or two so won’t show up on the test”.
The young girl laughs.  Despite her youth, we can see that she actually “gets it”. We doubt she will really grow up to be a cop.
Another of the girls tells us she wants to know the origins of her maternal grandfather.  She explains that all she knows is that he was a “full blood” of one of the area’s Anishinaabe bands.  She tells us her grandfather is dead and her grandmother refuses to give any information about the grandfather’s heritage. She asks us what she should do.
We let her know that in the “olden days” most people who were Native tried to hide or deny the fact.  Being Native was considered by many to be something to be ashamed of.
We doubt she has any money or is willing to do any serious research.   Off the top of our heads, the only thing we can think is that she could do a computer word search using her grandfather’s legal name and the date of his death.
The foster girl’s friends are ready to leave.  The girl whispers, “I’d really like to stay here by the fire but I guess I have to go with them.  I’ll try to return”.
The former Loaves N Fishes man and Coma Man return.  They bring a man from the Skinner who was a frequent visitor to our CJMM fires and a young homeless man invited by the East Coast Occupier a few fires ago.
We know the Skinner man to be troubled by serious mental health conditions. Tonight he is happy and quite articulate.  He comments, “I’m from North Minneapolis and everybody down there asks me when I’m going to come back.  I like living here in Duluth.  There are a lot of things to complain about but I’d rather live here.  The rich people do a good job of making sure we get fed but there are so many homeless people because there are not enough houses for people to live in”.
An older man we don’t know rides up on a nice bike.  He’s wearing expensive sports clothes.  At first we don’t realize he’s coming to join the fire.  After we talk with him a while we realize he hangs with all the other local alcoholics.
He says he works a good job everyday but when he’s not working he just drinks. He talks about several ex-wives and 4 children for whom he still pays child support.  He says, “I have 3 children who live in Connecticut.  The other one decided to move here so she can berate me about what a shitty father I have been”.
All the men decide to take a walk.  They say they are going to go for a “bump”. After they are gone, we notice the big bottle that Coma Man was hiding inside his jacket is sitting on the floor beside a chair.  An Occupier picks it up and reports, “Wow, it’s just about full.  I wonder what the guys will do when they realize they.ve forgotten the bottle?  I’ll just tuck it back here behind the City garbage can.  If they don’t return before we leave, maybe they’ll find it here”.
The foster child returns with one of her friends.  The big clock has already struck 9pm but the wind is cold, the girls seem a bit lonely and they have to wait another half an hour for their bus to arrive.  We stay and chat with them until the bus comes.
Once they are gone we put out the fire and quickly pack up.  Quickly is an understatement; once the fire is out it is seriously cold.
As long as the weather holds up, we plan to return here on Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 5-10-16

G.A. Minutes 5-10-16
We’re at Coney Island tonight.  The weather forecast said rain for the next 3 days.  It did rain all day but it’s not raining now.
As the first couple of Occupiers walk through the door, one of them comments, “Actually it looks like it would be a really good night for a fire.  There are neighborhood people the on the street; with the overcast sky and temps in the low 40s I’m sure some folks would have really appreciated a hot cup of good coffee and a seat at the fire.  Too bad we didn’t know the rain would stop during the evening”.
The other Occupier looks at his phone and responds, “Well according to the latest weather map, it’s raining right now”.  They laugh.
The regular Tuesday night hipster staff guy is happy to see the Occupiers.  He says, “Wow, it’s great to see you guys again.  You haven’t been here in a while”.  An Occupier explains, “Now that spring is finally here, we hold recreational fires over at People’s Plaza on Tuesday and Saturday nights unless it’s raining.  We’ll do that until winter comes around again.  If ever you’re not working maybe you could stop by.  You’d definitely be welcome”.
As the first Occupiers are settling in, one of them calls around to see who else is planning on showing up.  He says, “It doesn’t sound like anyone else is going to make it tonight.  However, I missed the last meeting so maybe we could get something to eat and you could tell me how it went”.
The other Occupier agrees and begins, “We didn’t have a fire last Saturday either.  The National Fire Service or someone like that put out an emergency fire alert because of the forest fires burning up on the Range.  There was an air quality alert and a request that included Duluth, asking that no one have any type of outdoor fire.  I find it hard to believe that our little fire, at the entirely brick made People’s Plaza, would have been any danger but if the fire department happened to drive by, we didn’t want to appear to be a bunch of idiots.
“It turned out we couldn’t have had a fire anyway.  The Spin Collective was already there.  They were having a final dress rehearsal and needed to take up most of the space.  Their music was pumping real loud too.
“Homegrown was in full swing and the street was full of decked out concert goers.  Of course, the local street folks were all out of sight. Most don’t like to be around straight people very much. 
“We had the food table up so some of the concert goers came over to see what we were doing.  People started arriving very early to be part of the audience.  Just as it was getting dark, the Occupier with the really long hair took the sage bundle around and smudged everyone.  There were almost 100 people in the audience and he was well received.  Spin Collective rocked out.  With the exception of a few very minor mishaps, they were flawless.
“We managed to have some conversation before the performance started.  I took a few notes; let me see what I can find.  She rummages around a bit and continues, “I had to report that the East Coast Occupier has had to return to her home base.  She has a few medical issues to take care of and wants to go back to the doctor who has taken care of her for years.  Once she’s healthy again, she promised to return to Duluth”.  The listening Occupier states, “Bummer.  I sure hope she does come back.  She’s a great person; in the short time I’ve known her she taught me a lot”.
The reporting Occupier agrees and continues, “We talked about the fact that the mayor appointed Mike Tusken as the new Police Chief. We weren’t surprised but we were disappointed.  He doesn’t appear to be a person who is truthful. 
“I don’t know our mayor, Emily, very well.  She seems to have her heart in the right place but I don’t know how she thinks.  Maybe she realized it would be best to hire the other guy as he wasn’t part of the local good ole’ boy network.  Maybe she didn’t have the courage to choose the other candidate; all the people who actually run this city would have been really pissed.
“By the way, I received another letter from Tusken the other day. This one says he is very sorry that I felt the previous letter was inappropriate.  He says no citizen should have to put up with that but there’s nothing he can do about it because the person who wrote the letter doesn’t work for the DPD anymore”.
The listening Occupier shakes his head and says, “WTF?”
The reporting Occupier responds, “I know.  I wonder if he has someone else writing letters that have his signature on them.  I know he’s not the brightest bulb on the tree but there’s no way he’s gonna try to tell me he doesn’t work there anymore.  The next time I talk with him I’m gonna ask him if someone else writes his letters.
“However, another part of me says, ‘Why bother?’  I get really tired of all this fake friendliness bs.  That’s how the control freak types operate though; they smile to your face then whack you in the back of your head”.
The listener agrees, “I think it’s called Minnesota Nice”.
The reporter goes on, “We also talked about a newly released movie called Cowspiracy.  It’s about the meat industry and how the raising of animals to be sold as meat is responsible for 51% of the climate change/air and water pollution in the world.
“It talked about grass fed and free range meat too.  That type of meat is not as bad but it still requires an enormous amount of land for living.    The amount of land needed to grow all the food that gets fed to animals raised for meat is enormous too.
“At least a billion people in the world are starving to death because of all the resources used to feed meat eating humans.  That sucks.
“The movie said many of the so called environmentalist groups refuse to discuss the topic.  The groups are afraid their supporters will be offended and will refuse to donate more money to the groups.
“I actually knew all this but I had pushed it to the back of my mind.  I already pay attention to what kind of meat I eat; I am gonna try to pay more attention to the amount I eat also.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to stop eating meat entirely but I’m gonna try my best to eat very little”.
The listening Occupier answers, “Getting the world’s meat eaters to become vegetarians will be very difficult.  It wouldn’t hurt me to eat less meat though”.
The reporting Occupier comments, “We also got into a conversation about our marvelous ‘injustice’ system.  We talked about plea bargaining.  Like if a cop accuses an innocent regular person of something and then the district attorney tells the accused to plead guilty to a lesser charge.  The person is innocent but is still expected to accept blame.  If the accused insists on pleading not guilty, the court imposes the most serious charge it can think of.  If possible, it tries to eliminate a jury trial.  If the innocent person is found guilty anyway, the court imposes the strictest penalty allowable”.
The listener adds, “That’s where we get the cliché ‘You get the most justice you can pay for’.  People without a lot of money don’t get any justice.
“Have you heard that the annual Housing Summit is going to be at Coppertop Church on Thursday, May 26th 10am-3:30pm?”
The reporter responds, “No, I hadn’t heard that.  I went to one of those in the past.  It consisted mostly of NGO peeps talking about funding sources.  This year I think I’ll just let them do their thing.  If anything earth shattering happens I’ll hear about it later.
“So anyway, most of last Saturday evening was taken up by the fire spinning performance.  The weather was so nice that after it finished and all the people started leaving, I just sat there for a while.  I love being outdoors when the weather’s nice.  I hope climate change leaves us some nice weather for a few more years at least”.
Around 7:30pm an Occupier says, “It sure looks like no one else is going to show up.  Maybe we should call it a night.  If the weather people are correct, it’s not gonna rain on Saturday so we could have a fire at the Plaza”.
The other Occupier agrees and off they go…..  see you Saturday?

G.A. Minutes 5-3-16

G.A. Minutes 5-3-16
We’re back at People’s Power Plaza again.  The annual local musician’s festival, Homegrown, is in full swing.  Parking is next to impossible; the closest spots we can find are several blocks away.
That’s too far to carry all our stuff so we just drive the vehicles onto the Plaza, unload everything and then go park on the street. 
We think most of the street folks will still have money so we don’t expect to see many of them tonight.  However, given the amount of festival goers on the street, some will probably stop by for a visit.
The weather tonight is absolutely amazing.  Temperatures are in the low 60s; leaves are peeking out of the buds on the trees.  Unfortunately, the wind is completely nuts. It’s got the smudge bundle pumping huge clouds of smoke out over the intersection. It’s blowing from the northwest so it’s not cold but when a big gust comes through, everything goes flying, even the chairs.
Seeing as the air is so pleasantly warm, we think we’ll have a small fire this evening. The wind has other ideas; it takes our little flames and shoots them three to four feet above the fire pit.  Oh well…. Go with the flow.
The Occupier who usually cleans the site where we have fires is doing his thing.  A woman who lives in one of the condos across the street comes over to talk to him. He tells us she said that she had read our letter to the editor in the Northland Reader.  She wants him to know that she is in complete support of our fires and of what we are doing at the Plaza.
Another Occupier comments, “Yeah, I’ve had several people remark that they read the letter.  They also offered support”.
A tall, stylishly dressed young African American man was sitting on one of the benches, talking on his phone, when we arrived.  Once we get set up, he comes over to join us.  He’s friendly, well-spoken and tells us he works as a bartender at a corporate chain establishment up the street.
A straight looking young white guy is carrying a brief case and walking by on the sidewalk.  For some reason he decides to open the brief case.  A big bunch of his papers jump out and go flying down the street.  It looks like one of those confetti parades.
A couple of Occupiers run out to help him collect what he can.  Back at the fire, an Occupier opines, “He must be new at this.  Most people know enough to not open a brief case while walking through hurricane force winds”.  We all laugh.
A large group of various people of color arrive.  Most of them look vaguely familiar; one person recognizes us from the Idle No More NDN Taco Sales.  The group helps themselves to hardboiled eggs and the other stuff on the table.  They move on while the guy who recognizes us decides to sit for a while.
A semi street man, who’s been to our fires in the past, sits down.  He’s a 50 something white dude with a mild speech impediment.  He used to be a heavy metal musician but had some type of accident that ended his career.
We think he may have a brain injury.  He talks non-stop about mundane things. Tonight he’s going on about Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton.  We smile, nod and basically tune him out.  We imagine he gets this type of reaction from a lot of people.
The East Coast Occupier comes walking down the street.  She’s unusually late and is coming from an unusual direction.  She plunks down and explains, “Boy, I’ve been having quite a time.  I couldn’t find a parking place so had to park a long way from here.  I lost my bearings so didn’t know where I was.
“I ended up at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, by then I was tired, so decided to rest.  I was reading the writings on the wall, two men were quietly drinking and two well dressed women were sitting on the ledge. 
Two cops pulled up, harassed the men and told them to leave.  Then one cop looked at me and said, “Hey you, you need to move on too”.  I knew he really had no business telling me to leave but I’ve been hit by cops before; there were no witnesses on the street right then so I didn’t say anything I just left.  I didn’t get their badge or vehicle numbers because I didn’t want to give the cop any reason to put his hands on me”.
Another Occupier replies, “WTF?  This is not going to go over well.  I’ve been meeting with a CHUM based group called Local Solutions to Poverty.  We and the City Councilor, Em Westerlund, are about to present a proposed change to the Duluth Human Rights Ordinance before the City Council as a whole.
“The change will be to make homelessness a protected class.  That will connect nicely to the recent Federal Department of Justice statement ordering that citizens have a right to rest, a right to sleep, a right to access bathroom facilities and that type of stuff.
“If the City Council accepts the change it will be easier, over time, to get the cops to stop hassling homeless and poor people so much”.
A very small and straight looking white guy joins us.  He makes small talk and then asks, “So what is all this Occupy stuff about anyway?”  Some of us wonder if he is a cop.  His shoes are awfully shiny.
We think it doesn’t really matter; cops should get a chance to hear the real story too. So we tell about how Occupy really rang true for a lot of Americans.  It became a fad for a short while, got lots of media, then the media turned on us.  Occupy was portrayed as violent no-accounts and the cops tore down all the camps across the nation.
The people who were into the fad left but the really serious people stayed on. Occupy is now small groups scattered around the country.  Occasionally, we communicate with each other.
We’re surprised to see Ms. Community Cleanup and her sidekick coming up the stairs.  .  An Occupier exclaims, “Where have you been?  We haven’t seen you since last summer”.
Ms. Cleanup replies, “I was in treatment for 70 days.  I just got out and have an apartment at Giimajii”.  We look at each other quizzically and Ms. Cleanup continues, “I’ve heard they evict people for the smallest infractions.  My choice was Giimajii or sleeping in a doorway.  Lots of people helped me get furniture, dishes and stuff.  It’s nice having a place to stay”.
An Occupier agrees about Giimajii and adds, “Yeah, I’ve heard that even though it’s supposed to be the Native American Housing Center, they don’t do things in a Native way.  They follow the white man’s ways so if they don’t like the way you part your hair, you’re out in the street with only a few days’ notice”.
Another Occupier says to Ms. Cleanup, “And you guys are still together!  That’s really good.”  The cleanup woman and her sidekick gaze into each other’s eyes and smile”.  Ms. Cleanup responds, “It’s too bad that he can only stay with me for seven days out of each month”.  They sit with us for a good while, then go off to collect driftwood on the beach.
A woman walks up and asks if we are the people she read about in the letter to the editor.  We tell her yes and she replies, “My band and I would like to play a song for you, is that o.k.?”  We tell her that is more than o.k.
Her small acoustic band appears and they play us several songs.  They are definitely more than o.k.  The guitar player and the Occupier who is a musician are previously acquainted.  They exchange how have you beens.  As the band is leaving, the Occupier confides, “I used to play with him 10 years ago at these big jam sessions up at the now defunct Twin’s Bar”.
Then we get a visit from a neighborhood man we have not met in the past.  He has a most elegant cigar box guitar.  It is a work of art.  He tells us he has just finished making this one.  He makes all sorts of cigar box instruments.
He tells us he used to be an aircraft engineer making over $100,000 a year.  He had an accident and was in a long term coma.  His wife divorced him and he ended up collecting disability, living in Duluth and making cigar box instruments.  The man tells us he’s from The Range and would like to go back there.  However, the medical treatment he requires forces him to stay here.  He attributes his survival to the Lord Jesus Christ.
He lets us pass his latest creation around.  Some of the Occupiers try to play it.  It has good tone.  We chat a while about the technical aspects of making music.
After the cigar box man departs, the East Coast Occupier and the brain damaged man begin to sing songs.  Then the Occupiers call out names of popular songs; the brain damaged man supplies the lyrics and the author.  He really knows a lot about heavy metal and country music.
A neighborhood woman who has been to our previous fires stops in for coffee.  She inquires, “So they let you have this here now?”  We laugh and reply “Nobody lets us do anything.  We just do it and see what happens”.
On that note, we realize we are well over time to leave.  We pack up with plans to be back on Saturday.   

G.A. Minutes 4-30-16