G.A. Minutes 12-20-16

G.A. Minutes 12-20-16
We’re having a bit of respite from the Polar Vortex right now.  The weather people tell us to expect milder weather until after Christmas Day.  That would be nice; we hope they actually know what they’re talking about.
Temperatures are in the mid 30’s with not much of a wind. Everything is kinda slushy so we wipe our feet as we enter Coney Island this evening.
A group of people are in the back booth already.  It sounds like they’re having some type of meeting.  We take the slightly smaller booth in the middle of the café; we’re not expecting many Occupiers tonight so everything should be just fine.
The hipster guy who used to be the newest staff member is working and the tall non-hipster guy is working too.  The tall guy is now the newest staff member; he’s still in training.  It looks like he has a little more confidence now but still requires supervision so he doesn’t accidentally kill someone or set the place on fire.
As we place our orders and settle in, an Occupier comments, “I think it would be a good idea to push the Duluth Police Department to sign a non-aggression pact with all the Twin Ports and Fond du Lac water protectors. That way, when the time comes that we need to do serious direct action in order to protect our water from Enbridge and Polymet, we won’t have to be hit with rubber bullets, attack dogs and water cannons”.
Another Occupier responds, “That would be nice, wouldn’t it?  However, I don’t think the DPD would sign something like that.  I’m sure Chief Tuscan would give a speech saying that the DPD would never behave in such a manner unless they were protecting us from ‘outside agitators’ blah, blah, blah.  Besides, with all the work we already have to do I don’t know if we have enough water protectors to spare a few to push for a non-aggression pact.  It’s a good idea though”.
The newest hipster has already brought all our orders; they were correct.  Now he’s hovering saying, “Is there anything else at all that I can do for you?”  An Occupier asks, “Would you be willing to change the radio station to 103.3 KUMD?”  The hipster says, “No problem” and immediately and easily does it.  Now were listening to the best music DJ in the Northland.  We feel like we’re at home again.
For the past two weeks the radio has been on some wacko rock station with lots of commercials.  The new staff people were so discombobulated that we figured if we asked them to change the station, their heads would blow up.  So we just suffered.
An Occupier asks, “Does anyone know what’s going on with the evil Polymet sulfide mine project these days?” Another Occupier replies, “Well, I think they’re in the permit application process right now.  Polymet has to apply to the MN DNR for twenty permits to mine.  I’m not sure if they have to apply for each one separately but I do know that they’ve applied for the first one and a decision will be handed down soon.  Then there will be a public comment period.  If you want more information you could check out Water Legacy.  They and Paula Macalbee are the main watchdogs on this.
Of course, we all know the MN DNR is in the back pocket of Polymet and all the other murderers of Mother Earth so they won’t actually listen to anything the various water protectors have to say.  They’ll just follow the process until the end; grant all the permits and give Polymet permission to destroy our water and manoomin.  Then it will be time for us to put our bodies on the line”.
The first Occupier exclaims, “I just don’t understand what is wrong with these people!  They know their mines and pipelines are going to pollute and destroy all the water and land on the earth.  They are going to wreck the entire planet and cause the death of the human species.  Yet, they continue their vicious ways in order to get some more stupid money.  What is wrong with these people?!?”
An Occupier tells her, “Well, you see, it works like this,” he puts his fingers in his ears and yells, “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you!  La la La la!  La la La la!”  We all laugh.
Another Occupier adds, “Yeah, and all the unemployed miners up on The Range want any kind of mine or pipeline they can get just so they can have high paying jobs. What about giving them and a bunch of other people high paying jobs cleaning up all the messes already made by industry and mining?
Changing the subject somewhat, an Occupier says, “Seeing as the Standing Rock elders are asking everyone to campaign for people across the country to take their money out of all the big banks that are bankrolling the Dakota Access Pipeline, do you think we should ask the City of Duluth to divest from Wells Fargo?”
Another Occupier opines, “That’s a really good idea.  The City Council just approved a resolution in support of Standing Rock so it follows that they wouldn’t want to keep their investments and such in a bank that enables Energy Transfer to destroy the water at Standing Rock and brutalize the S.R. water protectors.  Let’s pass your idea around and see if others want to step up”.
The Occupier who lives in Superior arrives.  He’s tired and stressed out.  He is the single parent of three boys and is trying to make a good Christmas for them while also complying with all the things expected of him by the various aunts, uncles and grandparents.  We get him a cup of coffee and he tells us, “Christmas is supposed to be a time when one shares warm and happy fellowship with family and friends.  Instead, our culture and the media demand we buy lots of presents. 
“I’ve managed to get each of my boys two nice presents a piece.  Then I have a few small things for them to give to the relatives.  That’s the best I can do.  I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to make the fire on Christmas Day.  I have to drive the boys to several places across MN and WI”.
We say to him, “Don’t worry about it man.  Just do what you gotta do.  We know that you would like to be with us but it just can’t be helped”.
An Occupier reports, “After all the children were grown, my family decided to do Christmas without presents, decorations or any of the other capitalist trimmings.  That was over ten years ago and it’s been wonderful.  We just all got together at Brighton Beach and made a big fire in the fireplace out there.  When the sun went down we went to someone’s house for a good potluck dinner.  That’s where the idea of having a Christmas Day fire circle came from”.
Another Occupier informs us, “A couple of us have been invited to a small feast out at FDL tomorrow.  Some of the heavy hitting FDL organizers will be there.  The plan is to have a prayerful meal and then start to lay the groundwork for the upcoming battle with Enbridge’s Line 3.  We’ll have more to report to you all at our next meeting”.
Many of the Occupiers attended Honor the Earth’s Support Standing Rock fundraiser at the Red Herring last night.  Someone comments, “Man, it was less than standing room only.  We were all packed in there like sardines.  It was cool how everyone could barely move but still were friendly, smiling and polite.  I bet they raised a lot of funds”.
Someone else agrees, “It was pretty cool.  I enjoyed listening to Winona LaDuke speak; the performers were excellent too.  It’s a good thing that they put glasses by the water fountain; there was no way I was gonna attempt to order a drink from the bar”.
We’ve stayed later than usual.  There have been customers in and out all evening so the staff folks are just beginning to clean up.  The newest hipster tells us he’s been working a lot recently.  He’s looking forward to Coney Island being closed for a few days for the holidays.  He needs a break.
We clean up our mess, put tips in the jar and head out with plans to meet up at the fire circle on Sunday and back here on Tuesday.   
G.A. Minutes 12-13-16
It should come as no surprise that we are back at Coney Island again.  We have a visitor too.  It’s called the Polar Vortex.  No one is very happy about this and we have no idea how long it will be around.  It sounds like we’re going to be stuck with it at least until the end of the week.  Marvelous.
As we walk through the door, the outside temperature reads 3 above zero.  We notice a small sign on the door that says Bathroom For Customers Only.  That’s never been there before.  Hmmm… 
Things don’t look too promising behind the counter either.  The non-hipster trainee is in charge tonight and it looks like he’s training someone else in.  A cheerful, probably non-hipster, young African American woman takes our orders. 
When an Occupier asks for her usual order (chicken salad wrap, easy on the chicken and lots of veggies) the young woman admits she doesn’t know how to make that.  She asks the non-hipster guy but he doesn’t know how to make it either.  The Occupier explains how it is done then takes a seat in the back booth with the rest of the crew.
After a very short time both staff members come to our booth carrying everyone’s orders.  They have almost everything right except the salad wrap appears to be from another planet.  No worries, at least it has all the correct ingredients.  Once the servers have returned to the counter, the Occupier takes the whole thing apart and rearranges it so as to be able to get it into her mouth instead of her lap.  It’s all rather amusing in an odd sort of way.
An Occupier announces, “On January 20th the Red Herring will be throwing an inaugural ball.  We should all go”.  Another Occupier adds, “The way things are looking right now, I don’t know if there will even be an inauguration.  With voting recounts, possible defections of Electoral Candidates, Russian hacking and massive conflicts of interest everything is up in the air.  It’s kinda like the circus from hell”.  Everyone nods in agreement.
An Occupier comments, “I was watching a video today of the Standing Rock Water Protectors cutting down some of the razor wire that the Sheriff’s Department had put across the bridge on the main highway that leads past the camps and into Cannon Ball. The protectors worked for a little while and then the cops showed up.  They had an armored vehicle equipped with water cannons and that ear drum blowing machine.  The cops aimed assault rifles at the protectors.
“A water protector said to the cops, ‘I don’t know why you guys are so worked up. We’re just trying to clear off the highway on our reservation land so people will be able to get through on the highway.  We’re just trying to help’.  The cops didn’t know what to say about that but they didn’t budge from their positions. 
The Occupier who had watched the video said  the stand-off went on in blizzard force wind for about forty or so minutes.  The cop  in  a white stocking cap face mask seemed to be acting as some kind of spokesperson, but he would not unmask or give any clue to his identity.  He did not answer when the protectors asked what his position was, by what authority and in what capacity did he represent the crowd of thirty or forty uniformed men behind him.  He could not answer and even turned his back to the water protectors.   Eventually the water protectors agreed among themselves  they  had made their point.  The police are constantly watching.  They will respond in minutes in force to the least provocation.  If there is no work going on at the pipeline, who are the police protecting with this illegal barricade? The protectors went back to their warm tipis.  I imagine the cops had to stay out by the bridge to defend stuff from who knows what”.
The city official arrives.  He’s bundled up from head to toe just like the rest of us.  He’s followed by a man who is vaguely acquainted with one of the Occupiers.  The man asks to join us and pulls up a chair.  The man begins spouting platitudes one after the other. We listen for a while then resume our conversation.  Once the vaguely acquainted man is not taking center stage any longer, he leaves.
An Occupier continues, “I was really glad to see the water protectors are still protecting everything at Standing Rock.  I’m a little confused as to what’s going on out there right now.  I imagine you all saw the video put out by Standing Rock Chairperson Dave Archambault.  He says the fight is over and everyone should go home.  Did you see the statements put out by several of the elders stating the chairperson does not speak for them and people should stay at the camps because water protection is still needed?”
We have all seen Mr. Archambault’s video; some of us have seen the elder’s statements.  An Occupier reports that she has been sent pictures of a big warehouse stuffed with brand new generators and many other good things that were mailed out to the camps.  These things were not distributed but ended up in a warehouse owned by the chairperson and possibly the Tribal Council.
Someone says, “It seems that everyone not at the camps is confused about what’s going on right now.  Some of our Native friends and fellow organizers are going out this upcoming weekend to try and make sense of everything”.
Someone else adds, “I’ve observed that when tribal governments try to follow the white man’s rules they usually become corrupted and sell out their people to the interests of the wealthy white people”.
The city official interjects, “Whenever a group uses that top down, Robert’s Rules type of leadership structure, corruption is sure to follow”.
An Occupier tells us, “I received a message from the Superior Organizer today.  She said that one of the members of the Indigenous Commission is in the hospital in Bismarck and is due to be released soon.  The Superior Organizer was wondering if anyone would be available to bring the Commissioner back to Duluth.  I gave her the phone number of one of our friends who will be going out to the camps this weekend.  I know the Commissioner went out to Standing Rock about 10 days ago but I have no idea why she’s in the hospital.  I hope she’s o.k.”  
On another note, the city man remarks, “I don’t know why the Mayor and all the big City officials have to serve alcohol at all their big City functions.  Alcohol has been a big problem in communities of color.  Having alcohol served at these City functions does not help us.  Personally, I’ve never had an alcohol problem but I don’t attend the functions just out of general principle”.
An Occupier exclaims, “Having to hang out with all those ‘suits’ and they’re all drunk?  I couldn’t handle it.  It seems that alcohol is almost mandatory with those folks”.
An Occupier will be leaving for Europe in a few weeks.  He’s going on vacation with his two adult sons.  He says, I think we’ll be going to Germany and France.  I’ll try to check out what they have going on in the way of alternative energy sources.  I think most European countries are more advanced than the USA”.
Another Occupier reminds us, “The Red Herring is sponsoring a benefit for Standing Rock next Monday December 19th from 5pm to 1am.  There will be lots of live music and a silent auction.  Winona LaDuke will give a presentation.  I’m betting it will be a good time”.
The city official has bundled up again and is going off to catch his bus.  As he leaves he calls out over his shoulder, “I forgot to mention, the DTA is hiring bus drivers right now. They pay a decent wage too.  Spread the word”.
We have been sitting in the very back of the Coney Island Café all evening but still, every time the door opens we feel a blast of very cold air.  We have no desire to go back into it. 
It seems like we have no choice.  The new staff members are probably not going to let us spend the night in the place and besides, it would still be cold outside in the morning. Many other people on this planet have to endure discomforts much worse than ours. We bundle up and brace ourselves for the short walks we will be required to tolerate.
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, we’ll be back at Coney Island next Tuesday.  
G.A. Minutes 12-6-16
I’m gonna stick my neck out and say it may actually be winter now and for some time to come.  The skies have been overcast for like ever; the temperature is in the low 20s and the wind is mean and nasty.  The weather people say it’s gonna get colder every day for as far as they can see.  It’s the dark time of the year too.  Arghhh….
However, it’s warm inside Coney Island.  The most recently hired hipster is working.  He has another new trainee.  This time it’s a young hipster woman.  Within a few minutes it becomes obvious that she has done this type of work many times before. This is good because we have many things to talk about tonight.  We’re glad we won’t need to help her do her job.
Everyone is excited by the news about Standing Rock.  Last Sunday the Army Corp of Engineers announced that they were withholding the permit for Energy Transfer to drill beneath the Missouri River in order to finish the pipeline.  They said they were going to do an environmental assessment on other possible sites that the pipeline could use. 
Everything is kind of up in the air right now but whatever they end up doing, it’s going to take a while.  Energy Transfer isn’t going to have a pipeline ready for use before December 31st. That’s the date they promised all their refineries they would send out their first oil shipments.  The refineries will have to get oil from another company.  Energy Transfer is going to lose a lot of money.  There’s more to the story but we’ve found in the past that the best way to get a corporation to change its ways is to cost them a lot of money.
An Occupier comments, “Energy Transfer put out a statement saying they were going to go ahead and drill under the Missouri anyway.  They will just pay the $50,000 a day fine until they’re done.  What are the Water Protectors going to do if the company does that?”  Another Occupier replies, “I think Energy Transfer is bluffing because they’re finally worried.  Just going ahead and drilling will be very difficult to do.  They’re going to need to find a contractor to supply the workers.  The contractor would have to be willing to blatantly defy the US Government and possibly be arrested and sued out of existence”.   
Some Occupiers begin exchanging ideas as to what they think Standing Rock should do next.  One Occupier opines, “In actuality, we don’t have anything to say about it.  We just need to wait for the elders and the water protectors to figure out their strategy.  They’ll then tell us what they need us to do”.
Our good friend, the city official arrives.  He has inside information for us.  He tells us, “Remember when Dr. El Kanti was here and scheduled to speak at a lot of places including both the high schools?  Well, the head of the school board and the principal of Denfield H.S. got together and cancelled one of Dr. El Kanti’s speeches.  The head of the school board was throwing his weight around saying he needed to put a stop to the things Dr. El Kanti was saying.  I called someone in the school system who has as much power as the school board leader.  Once the dust settled, the school board guy told me personally that he had no problem with Dr. El Kanti and that all the speeches would go ahead as planned”.
An Occupier remarks, “What a bunch of morons.  I suppose because Denfield is the high school with the most students of color, they didn’t want students of color to get information showing them that the only race is the human race”.
Someone asks, “So what did you all think of the horribly long City Council meeting that we went to last night?”  Someone else replies, “I thought the folks representing the Homeless Bill of Rights Coalition presented the plan really well.  I wish there was more that had been figured out about how to implement the right to 24 hour access to hygiene facilities.
An Occupier explains, “Oh there is the beginning of a plan figured out.  I and one of the Social Action members have been scoping out the parts of the city most frequented by homeless people.  We also interviewed many people who stay at CHUM. We made a list of good places where we and homeless folks think porta potties could be placed.  We also called around to porta potty companies to get price estimates.
“However, I wasn’t on the panel so when the Councilors began asking about specifics I didn’t think it would be a good idea for me to jump up from the audience waving maps and price estimates.  All the information has been sent to Councilors Westerlund and Sipress though.
“I didn’t think it was such a good idea for the Councilors or the mayor or whoever it was to send the bill back to the Human Rights Commission.  The HRC already had the thing for at least a year and didn’t do anything.  I go to all their meetings; they have some very interesting discussions but they don’t really do much.  I guess I’m going to have to recruit lots of people from the coalition to attend with me.  If we do that consistently, we can make them do the work”.
Another Occupier wants to know, “There is gonna be access to shower facilities too, isn’t there?”  The Occupier working on the H.B. of R. responds, “Yeah, but we haven’t figured that out yet”. The first Occupier suggests, “What about the empty showers at the Washington Center?  After the swimming pool was closed down, all those showers have just been sitting there not being used.
“Also, I’ve seen that in some cities they have taken old buses and converted them into portable shower facilities.  Our DTA can only use a bus for so many years and then they have to sell it and get a new bus.  They sell their old buses for around $5,000”.  The H.B. of R. Occupier remarks, “Those are good ideas.  I’ll present them to the coalition”.
Another Occupier reflects, “It was so great that the City Council voted almost unanimously for the resolution in support of Standing Rock.  The people who spoke in favor of the resolution blew me away with their eloquence”.    
Changing the subject, an Occupier says to the city official, “So what do you think about having to deal with ‘The Donald’?”  The official states, “It will probably suck but at least things are out in the open now.  For a long time people of color have been reporting that racism still exists and that it is all encompassing. Political correctness has kept a lot of the racism hidden from many white folks.  Now everyone can see that things have not improved much.  Maybe actual changes will be made”.
An Occupier asks, “Do you guys want to hear about my latest scandalous experience?  We say, “Yes, please”.  The Occupier tells us, “I was at the latest Citizens Review Board meeting the other day.  Someone brought a copy of this month’s Zenith newspaper.  In it was an article about various types of citizen/police overview groups across the country.  A Duluth police department communications officer was interviewed and quoted as saying, ‘Duluth has a Citizens Review Board but it doesn’t have any power and can’t see most of our records’.
“The CRB Commissioners went ballistic.  I kid you not, they were screaming at the only cop who was present.  One said, “So where is the Chief?!?  He hasn’t been here since he officially was given the job!  Where’s the lieutenant?!  Where’s the sergeant?!  Another yelled, “So if we have no power, why are we doing all this work?!?  I’m this close to telling you where you can stick it!”
The only cop who was there is a middle aged dude who has just been appointed to his position.  I’m betting that he was there because he’s too low on the totem pole to be able to send someone else in his place.  He says, “Well gee, I don’t know. I’ve never even heard of the Zenith and I didn’t know there was an article in it”.   
After they calmed down a little, the Commissioners asked me to give them my truthful opinion.  I’m usually the only person from the actual general public who attends the meetings.  They seem to think I have my finger on the pulse of the community or something.  Anyway, I just told them I thought the general perception in the community is that they don’t have any power”.
Another Occupier adds, “Actually it’s pretty cool that it went down like that.  Maybe the Commissioners will fight to gain more power now.  After all, some of them said at the beginning of the year they were going to do that”.
It appears the staff has finished all the cleaning.  We were so busy talking we didn’t even notice.  Time to leave.
We expect to be back at Coney Island next Tuesday.