G.A. Minutes 3-28-17

G.A. Minutes 3-28-17
The regular hipster is back working the counter at Coney Island tonight. When we arrived for our meeting last Tuesday we found the day shift hipster working. He looked half dead and told us he was going to close soon as he’d been working since 6am.
He was still kind enough to make food for us. We gobbled it down while we contacted all the other Occupiers to let them know what was up. It was general consensus to just cancel and return this evening.
So here we are…. It looks like spring is truly on its way now. Flocks of geese are heading up north, everyone’s pets are shedding large amounts of fur and snow is melting fast. Today’s temperature hit 60 degrees; it’s still in the mid-40s when we roll up. No one has heard a robin’s call yet; once that happens we will be good to go.
As we are sliding into the back booth, an Occupier tells us, “There’s a bit of good news concerning the Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights Ordinance Coalition. We met with members of the Human Rights Commission last Thursday and they voted to accept and support our proposed Bill.
“One of the Commissioners is also on the commission that distributes the Community Block Development Grant money. He told us the CBDG Commission was looking for a way to contribute money to pay for some 24/7 public bathrooms for use by homeless persons and others. The City seems to get a little squeamish when it comes to spending money on the homeless”.
Another Occupier replies, “That is ridiculous! The City gives enormous amounts of money to all sorts of wealthy developers and companies but they can’t kick a few bucks for homeless folks?”
The first Occupier adds, “About a month ago during a HPB of R meeting I asked if anyone would be willing to do the research and give a report about how much money the City had given away to various wealthy entities in the past year or two. So far, no one has stepped up to do the research”.
The other Occupier responds, “I just may take on that task. I know someone who has all that information right at his fingertips. The first Occupier smiles and answers, “I’ll remind you”.
Someone reports, “Before I forget, Friday, March 31st will be the annual Trans Day of Visibility at Lake Ave and Superior St, 4-6pm”.
More Occupiers arrive; when they settle in an Occupier says to a newly arriving one, “I’m so glad you’re here. I need to pick your brain about tenants unions like the one you have at your building. My Co-op has finished with our tax credits and we’re going to have to sign new leases. I think we won’t have a BOD any longer so I’m thinking we may want to have a tenant union”.
The questioned Occupier responds, “They’re called Resident Councils now. We had a lot of help from some of our City Councilors. We needed that because our property management company is very hostile. Councilor Joel Sipress is probably who you might want to talk with first; he has a lot of information”.
The Co-op Occupier states, “Our property management company is way cool and tenant friendly. We just need to know the rules and regulations and how to go about forming one in case that’s what we want to do. I’ll shoot an email to Joel”.
The Occupier who lives in Superior asks, “So what’s gonna be going on in the next 2 weeks or so?” An Occupier hands him a copy of the Northland Worker Calendar; another tells him, “U.U. Church will be holding a Progressive Coalition event this upcoming Sunday at 2pm. All progressive groups are invited to attend and show what they’re all about”.
The Occupier who tries to keep track of all this stuff reports, “I hope I can remember everything. Next Tuesday, April 4th 6-8pm at the Fond du Lac Tribal College, Honor the Earth is sponsoring a Frontlines Are Everywhere workshop. It will concern the legal aspects of being a Water Protector. I’m hoping we could all go to it. We could carpool if we wanted to”. We all agree that it is important that we attend this FDL/HTE event.
The Occupier continues, “Duluth for Clean Water is having some type of an event at Community Action Duluth on Thursday, March 30th at 5:30pm. I think food and childcare will be provided. Up at Cass Lake on Sunday, April 9th 1pm, Marty Cobanais is holding a Line 3 Pipeline Walk.
“I’m pretty sure that Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance will be having another Anishinaabe Taco Sale on Friday, April 7th. Of course, they’ll need our help. There’s talk about doing a walleye (from Red Lake) taco sale but I don’t know if they’ll do that this month or next. Whatever it is, it’s sure to be good.
“By the way, did you guys know that our good friend and organizer recently left her job on the FDL rez and started working for HTE?” We say, “Way cool”. “Also, I think Anonymous is out on the protest corner tonight. We could join them after we’re done here if you all want to”.
Somehow, we get into a conversation about healthcare and about how dental care is not included in general healthcare insurance policies. Everyone has at least one horror story to tell about having to pay way too much for health insurance and then needing dental care and being unable to receive it. One Occupier says, “I went through at least four courses of antibiotics before I was able to save enough money to get my tooth fixed”.
An Occupier, when telling his story, ends by saying, “But I must admit there are holes in my wisdom”. Another Occupier replies, “Well, you’ll certainly need a dentist for that”. When he sees our quizzical looks he adds, “You know, wisdom teeth…” We all groan. An Occupier remarks, “We’re not paid enough to have to put up with this”.
It’s almost 7pm when some of the Anonymous kids roll in. Our booth is crammed full so they fill the next booth and some chairs in the walkway. Even though it’s almost time to go, the hipster staff guy scurries around getting coffee and snacks for the new arrivals.
They have their sound equipment and a bunch of new signs with them. They show us their signs and we discuss sign making techniques. They have a lot of good ideas; their lettering is great. We just advise them to use very few words per sign; that way people driving by will have time to read them.
Just as we are leaving, the city official walks in. He’s coming from doing an interview for his radio program. As he goes walking up the street with some of the Occupiers he calls out, “Don’t forget, $5 bag sale tomorrow at Michael’s Used A Bit!” Most of the Occupiers do all their shopping at Michael’s. One of the Occupier couples loads up some of the Anonymous folks and all the equipment into their car and gives them a ride up the hill.
So, next Tuesday we’ll be attending the FDL Tribal College workshop and won’t be back at Coney Island until Tuesday, April 11th.

G.A. Minutes 3-14-17

G.A. Minutes 3-14-17
Another Tuesday evening, another meeting at Coney Island…. After a week of cold weather and snow, the weather people tell us things are going to slowly warm up. Tonight appears to be in transition mode with cloudy skies, little wind and temperatures in the low 20s.
Weather wise, everything appears to be kinda normal for this time of year. Some say that normal is boring but after all the crazy ups and downs of the last month or so, we think normal will work just fine.
Everything appears to be normal at Coney Island too. When the first few Occupiers arrive they find the same hipster working the counter, the back booth empty and a few customers in the other booths.
An Occupier comments, “I doubt we’ll have many folks showing up tonight. That flu bug that’s going around is pretty potent; it’s putting even the young ones flat on their backs for days”.
When more Occupiers begin arriving one of them exclaims, “Did you see that new video of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO that was made public today?” Most have seen it and they are stunned. To an Occupier who has not yet seen the video she explains, “It’s from the convenience store the night before Mike Brown was murdered by the Ferguson cop. It shows Mike talking with the store clerks; it’s obvious that they are well acquainted. They probably all grew up together in the neighborhood.
“Anyway, Mike shows them what appears to be a big, really nice bud of marijuana. All 4 guys behind the counter pass it around; they smell it, hold it up to the light, and then put it down on the counter. One of the clerks hands Mike what appears to be several cartons of cigarillos. Mike takes the cartons and begins to leave; he then turns around and gives the cartons back to the clerk. The clerk stashes them under the counter.
So after Mike is murdered the next day, the Ferguson cops put out the store video from earlier that day that shows Mike walking up to the counter, taking cigarillos and walking off without paying for them. The cops said it was proof that Mike had robbed the store. The thing is, the cops had the video from the night before, they just didn’t put it out”.
The Occupier who hasn’t seen the video is stunned too. The explaining Occupier continues, “I think the ‘night before’ video was obtained by the lawyer for Mike Brown’s family. So what do you think the cops did after the ‘night before’ video was made public?” No one knows. The explaining Occupier tells them, “They arrested the 4 guys who were working the counter that night”. Everyone groans.
After a moment of silence, an Occupier remarks, “I suppose you all know that our federal representative, Rick Nolan, is in town this evening. He’s answering questions and what have you at 4601 McCulloch St from 6-7pm”.
Another Occupier responds, “I think most environmentalists have pretty much given up on him. It’s apparent that he’s not going to listen to reason when it comes to mining and pipelines. He’s good on a lot of things but he just refuses to stop whoring for mining votes up on The Range. I believe he’s convinced that’s the only way he will continue to get re-elected. He’s wrong though. His stance just shows that he lacks integrity. Remember how Skip Sandman walked off with 16,000 of what were probably Nolan votes back in 2014? Skip had almost no budget. If any progressive candidate who offered integrity were to run against him, I believe all the progressives who don’t bother to vote in the off year elections would come running back to vote for the new candidate and Nolan would be toast”.
An Occupier brings a copy of the Northern Worker weekly activist calendar and passes it around. She says, “You know you guys can get a copy of this calendar sent to your email each week. Just contact Adam Ritscher and ask to be put on the email list”.
Among the many events listed in the calendar is the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management’s public comment period to be held at the DECC on Thursday March 16th from 5-7:30pm. The agencies are taking public comments about what effects sulfide mining will have on the BWCA.
An Occupier states, “I’m definitely going to the comment period. Maybe I should wear my old Forest Service jacket from when I used to work for them. Another Occupier answers, “Oh, please do. That would create a really nice effect”.
Another Occupier tells us, “I’m invited to attend an early morning meeting with some other Water Protectors tomorrow. I’m not sure what it’s going to be about but I’m guessing it has to do Enbridge. As you know, I’m not much of a morning person but this is too important to miss”.
The city official remarks, “I’ve also been invited to that meeting but will have to be somewhere else. Please inform them of my prior commitment”.
Another Occupier arrives. He’s just returning from A Day On The Hill. He went down to St Paul on a bus with many other Duluth activists. Their mission was to meet with our state legislatures and to explain our concerns. The arriving Occupier tells us, “In a way, it was kind of a waste of time. Our legislators Liz Olson and Eric Simonson are already on board with all our progressive values. I guess they at least received moral support for all their hard work anyway”.
The hipster staff dude goes out for a smoke while we keep an eye on the place, as usual. When he returns, a street guy is with him. They’re talking so we assume they’re friends. The street guy sits down in a front booth and the hipster calls someone on his phone.
Pretty soon a Duluth police officer arrives. It’s one of the younger cops but we know he’s not a new recruit because we recognize him. He’s wearing a short sleeved uniform but also has on gloves. He’s got his chest all puffed out and his arms hanging far apart from his body like a lot of men do when they’re trying to look more muscular than they actually are. He also looks kinda nervous.
So, we’re curious as hell but we stay back in our booth. It’s best to not mess with a cop who looks nervous. The cop stands away from the guy in the booth but begins asking him questions. The cop gets on his phone and then he goes behind the counter and grabs a bunch of paper towels. He appears to be handing the paper towels to the guy in the booth. Then a bunch of other men who aren’t wearing any kind of uniforms come through the door. They just stand around talking with the cop.
Eventually, an ambulance arrives. The paramedics stand around talking for a while. We hear the street guy say that whatever it is that has happened involved some guy named Mike. We find this amusing as at least one third of the males who live in Duluth are named Mike.
The paramedics put the guy on a stretcher and all the various involved people go outside and stand around talking some more.
The staff guy tells us that the street guy had been stabbed in the shoulder and was bleeding profusely. The staff guy didn’t personally know the stabbed guy but he saw that the guy needed help.
Once the doorway has cleared of talking people, some of the Occupiers go out for a smoke break. We see a fire truck parked weirdly at the corner. As the ambulance pulls away, an Occupier nods toward the street and says, “Must be a slow news day”. We see a camera person from one of the local TV channels packing up. We agree as someone getting stabbed in the shoulder around here is really no news at all.
When we return to the café we find the staff hipster dude is in quite a bit of distress. The paper towel mess complete with what he describes as a bloody disaster has been left behind. That means he will be expected to clean it.
A couple of the Occupiers are medical professionals. They take a look at the booth and the floor. They see there is actually very little blood but realize most people who don’t work in the medical profession get really freaked out by any amount of blood. The Occupiers advise the staff guy as to how he can safely clean it up with equipment he already has on hand. The building manager arrives to help with the cleanup; he carries a big mop. The Occupiers assure them that everything will be o.k.
Once the dust has settled, the Occupiers resume their conversation. One Occupier says to another, “Hey, you went up to Bemidjii the other day for the comment period for Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper. How did it go?” The questioned Occupier replies, “Oh, we really rocked it. Enbridge was trying to keep the event secret but we brought a busload of people from Duluth, 2 busloads came from the Twin Cities and another busload from somewhere else. There were also a lot of Native people from various reservations.
“There was a lot of security and they sort of searched people before they entered the big public comment room. Many people made public comments in person; Native women did a jingle dress dance out in the lobby and a large crowd chanted out there too. Basically, we let Enbridge know we are not asleep”.
An Occupier reports, “It appears there is good news in the Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights Ordinance department too. A couple of days ago the main organizer for the HPB of R Coalition received a call from the mayor. She told him that she has always supported the HPB of R but was waiting for all the various governmental departments to weigh in and hadn’t wanted to appear to be pushing her influence on them.
“However, the departments appear to be trying to ignore the issue so she thought it was time for her to get involved. Also, the Human Rights Commissioner has been given a part time assistant so that makes him more inclined to support the HPB of R. too.
“She also told the main organizer about a resolution that was going before the City Council yesterday in support of the process of City agencies and City Councilors working with the coalition to get the ordinance worked out. We all showed up yesterday and spoke in favor of the resolution; the councilors voted unanimously in favor of it.
“We know that a resolution has little power behind it and that Mayor Larson is giving a State of the City speech on Monday, March 20th, 5:30pm at Lincoln Middle School, 3215 W 3rd St and she probably will want to brag about her support of homeless people.
“She could just be using smoke and mirrors but at least her public support will make all the governmental departments have to meet with us so that helps.
“It really sucks that people in power can make things happen or not happen just according to how they feel. It’s not right”.
Changing the subject, an Occupier says to another, “I’m really sorry I missed your movie event at U.U. That flu bug really got me and I ended up in the ER that evening”.
The Occupier responds, “Bummer. It was a Michael Moore movie entitled ‘Who Do We Invade Next?’ I strongly recommend that anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, try to do so”.
The hipster guy has cleaned up the mess but is barely started with his final regular cleanup so that he can go home. We try to put extra tip money beyond what we normally leave. Maybe that will help him to feel better. He has a hard and sometimes stressful job.
We expect to return next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 3-7-17

G.A. Minutes 3-7-17
The weather is actually normal tonight as we cruise into Coney Island.  Normal for March, that is.  The month of March can have all sorts of different weather but it’s rarely life threatening and the promise of spring makes it almost bearable. 
The wind has been howling like crazy all day with gusts up to 50mph.  We hear the early morning commute was pretty exciting.  All the snow on the roads and sidewalks had been melted until the very early morning hour when a light but very moist snowfall came down.
All the cars were going sideways down Lake Ave; they were smacking into parked cars.  Eventually there was a 5 or 6 car pileup in the 3rd St and Lake Ave intersection and somebody ran into a power pole which caused a power outage in part of the Central Hillside.
Most of the Occupiers have managed to find ways of survival that don’t require an early morning commute. Most of us just woke up to a power outage.  We had flashbacks to last summer’s 36+ hour power outage in 100 degree heat.  No worries this time though.  The power was back on in  half an hour; the sun came out and melted all the snow and the wind dried up all the wetness.
We scare easily these days.  We know climate change is happening right now.  We know that under the “current administration” things will be getting worse.  We know we will probably experience the kinds of weather and lack of energy services that folks in Third World countries experience on a regular basis.  We worry about our future generations as we don’t know how long it will take until “the meek inherit the earth”.
The same hipster guy is working alone again.  There is already a group of people in the back booth; it sounds like they’re about to have a meeting.  We are a small group again tonight so can easily take the middle, slightly smaller booth.
We can hear the folks in the back booth talking about whether they want to eat or not.  They decide that they do; they leave to go somewhere else.  We don’t come here for the food.  We come here because it’s centrally located in the neighborhood, it’s comfortable and if we see any of our street friends, we can invite them to join us and know they will be accepted by the staff and the other customers.  Once it is empty, we go to the back booth.
We think many of our Occupiers have gone on the 350 bus up to Bemidjii to the hearing about the Alberta Clipper pipeline.  We hope so and we hope the bus was full too.
An Occupier asks, “Has anyone heard what is going on at Standing Rock these days?”  No one has heard anything. The Occupier continues, “I guess I’m gonna have to find the time to do some research.  We know there are still Water Protectors at Sacred Stone Camp.  Ever since the porkies tore down Occeti Sakowin the general media has been silent.  I hope I can have some information by our next meeting.
“Enbridge is coming for our northern MN water next and I know we need to shift focus but everything is connected and we can’t forget our Standing Rock relatives.  In fact, they have stated they will be here to help us when the time comes”.
An Occupier expresses concern related to the mother of his children who has recently been released from a drug treatment facility.  He tells us, “They just sort of plunked her down into the same environment she was in before she went to treatment.  She’s really not capable of being left on her own with no guidance.  I’m already overburdened with being a single parent to all the kids.  I can’t take care of her too”.
We talk about the many failings of drug treatment facilities.  Most are understaffed and overburdened by the amount of people in need of treatment.  Most are completely dependent on government and insurance company funding.  The government and insurance companies are interested in contributing the least amount of funding that they can.  We come to our usual conclusion; our for-profit healthcare system is grossly inadequate.
The city official tells us about his upcoming radio show which airs on Thursday.  He has interviewed a woman journalist who is originally from the south.  She has written a book about some deeply hidden facts that she came across when researching her family history.  Her family was very unhappy with her bringing these facts to light, even within the family.
An Occupier adds, “People in this country need to know the truth about our history.  If we are unwilling to know the truth, we will never be able to heal.  Another truth is that every human being on this earth is related to every other human being.  It’s been calculated from measurements of the human genome that as recently as 4,000 generations ago all humans originated from the same genes.  That means every person in the world is related to every other person in the world.  We have at least one common ancestor, in as little as a hundred thousand years ago.  That’s practically nothing in archeological deep time.”    We all nod in agreement.
Another Occupier comments, “The Anishinaabe Taco Sale went well.  They made a good profit to add to their “save our mother earth” coffers.  They might try something different next month.  I don’t know the particulars but it has to do with walleye fillets”.
The Occupier who generally keeps a record of progressive events passes around a copy of the Northern Worker calendar again.  She says, “As usual, too much going on to give a verbal report so here you go.  Tomorrow is International Women’s Day so there’s been and will be a lot going on around that.  I’m sorry to say I won’t be able to attend anything as I’m already committed to being at the Human Rights Commission meeting and then at the Indigenous Commission Sobriety Feast.
“I’m definitely a feminist but as you know, my main interest lies with saving mother earth, the water and the air.  If we don’t have a planet to live on, none of this other stuff will matter.  Besides, seeing as we do a lot of that work with local Anishinaabe folks and seeing as women are very respected and equal in traditional Anishinaabe culture, I feel comfortable in my role”.
The city official asks, “So what’s going on in our local feminist circle these days?”  The Occupier responds, “As far as I know, there are 2 main groups.  One is a large, well-funded group (I can’t remember their name) that has a lot of women from the Democratic Party.  I’m told some of them spend a lot of time taking negative comments off of Mayor, Emily Larson’s Facebook page.  The other is a smaller progressive group called Feminine Justice League.  They are a political study group that also does most of the art and picketing in front of the Duluth Building for Women.  There’s another group called the Hotdish Militia.  I think they are a fundraising group for women in need”.
Another Occupier reports, “The weekly Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights meeting is Thursday, 6:30pm at Dorothy Day House again.  We’re also going to be attending the HRC tomorrow at 5:30pm at City Hall. We’re going to make sure the HPB of R isn’t just being sent there to die”.
We notice we’ve been watching the wrong clock and that it’s well past time for us to have left.  The hipster is being patient but we can tell he’s ready to go.  We begin packing up.
An Occupier, still sitting in the booth, reaches down to the floor to pick something up.  As he does this, his face falls into a plate of unfinished French fries.  The city man gasps and moves towards the Occupier.  French Fry Man sits up with the thing he was looking for in his hand and a quizzical look on his face.  The official man exclaims, “OMG!  I thought you were having a stroke of something!”
We all just crack up.  We take turns making up what the article in the Duluth Trib. would say if the French fry death event had actually happened.  We know we’re supposed to leave but…..we just can’t stop laughing.  Maybe it was a “you’d have to be there” moment.
We plan to return to Coney Island next Tuesday.