G.A. Minutes 1-16-18

G.A. Minutes 1-16-18
As predicted, winter is back. It’s cold but at least it’s not as cold as those last days of December were. The temperature has been in the single digits above zero during the day; sometimes the sun shines. That helps, but not much.
In the nighttime the lows are in the teens with wind chills of -20 to -30 below. By the way, can human skin tell the difference between -30 and -40 below zero? Hopefully, no one will have to find out. If they do, they probably won’t live to tell about it. As far as we know, no one in the Duluth area has frozen to death, so far, this winter. Many good people work hard to insure that all are adequately sheltered and fed; our government? Not so much.
The first Occupiers and some of the Anonymous crew arrive at Coney Island simultaneously. We shed our winter garb, order food and drinks, push tables together and settle in to wait for others to arrive.
Last Friday, two of the Occupiers and one man from Makwa Camp chained themselves to the metal entry gates of the Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Duluth. This is what is commonly called a lockdown. This action was taken in order to publicize to the general public the fact that Wells Fargo is deeply invested in Enbridge, a Canadian oil pipeline company. Enbridge is currently trying to bribe MN environmental regulators into giving their permission for a tar sands oil pipeline to be built across our clean water and wild rice beds. We say, “It’s not gonna happen. When the pipeline breaks and it will break, our water and wild rice will be polluted and destroyed forever”.
The lockdown action was also taken in order to encourage current Wells Fargo customers to remove their money from the tar sands oil friendly bank and put it in a credit union or somewhere else that doesn’t invest in earth destroying ventures.
The Occupiers and the Makwa man arrived at Wells Fargo early in the morning, just before the bank employees unlocked the big metal gate covering the Wells Fargo entrance. They quickly chained themselves to the gate. An Occupier and the Makwa man chained themselves together and then to the gate; the other Occupier put a chain around his neck and then on to the gate. Many more Water Protectors and their allies, including some of the Anons arrived; they began chanting, drumming and singing. The Wells Fargo employees were not pleased and, of course, called the police.
Shortly, the Duluth police and a lot of reporters and photographers from a wide variety of media outlets arrived. It appeared that at least half of the entire Duluth Police Department was there. Chief Tusken was running around smiling and shaking hands; it appeared that he was trying to keep everyone, including his police officers, calm. The Chief was quoted by a newspaper reporter as saying, when speaking of the protestors, “I actually know most of these people”.
So, the police formed a line against the walls; the Water Protectors and allies walked back and forth in the middle of the skywalk hallway continuing their singing and drumming. Each group appeared to be respecting the other’s space; after a while some guys who were cops or city employees arrived with some tools. This must have been the first lockdown that the DPD had experienced because they didn’t seem to know how to get the chains off the Water Protectors. They ended up cutting out pieces of the gate, helping the Protectors to stand up, telling them that they were being arrested, cuffing them and taking them down the hall and out to the squad cars.
They took the Occupier/Water Protector with the chain around his neck out first; he still had the chain around his neck. Next were the Occupier/Water Protector and the Makwa Water Protector with their arms still chained together. Each time a Water Protector was hauled off to jail the crowd would cheer, thanking them for their bravery and promising to come and get them as soon as their bail was posted.
Each time that the mechanical dudes starting sawing the fence, the Protectors and allies would crowd around the chained person’s area to see what was going on. They had their cell phones out and were filming everything. Some of the officers formed a line around the Protector being sawed off the fence; the cops would say, “Back up!” The Protectors would move back a couple of inches. Some of the male Protectors formed a line in front of the crowd of Protectors and their allies. The women stood behind them calling out, “Water is life! No Line 3!” and other things like that. The line of cops and the line of Protectors were facing each other, only a few inches apart.
At one point, a small, probably Caucasian, young man in a hoodie, who no one else seemed to know, began calling out personal insults to the cops. Some of the cops just snapped; they began pushing and grabbing people; one cop put his hand around the front of a woman’s neck. Everyone was yelling, telling the cops to stop; after a few minutes they did. They returned to just standing up real straight and looking stone faced. Then, as if following some invisible order, they all marched single file out of the skywalk.
At that moment, one of our organizer friends came down the escalator with a big stack of take-out pizza boxes. The boxes were passed around and everyone remaining ate their fill of pizza.
The Occupier who was chained with the Makwa man is present at our meeting. He reports, “So when we got to the jail we did the escape trick we were taught and were immediately released from our chains. They put us in a holding cell that was really crowded and told us they were going to keep us for 12 hours.
“After about 3 and a half hours they came and took us out. A captain told us we were being released on our own recognizance and that he was releasing us early because he didn’t want us to be put out when it was really dark outside. I wonder if he treats all of his captives in this same manner. So what happens next is that we go to court and defend ourselves, maybe we will have an attorney. We’re going to ask for a jury trial and use the ‘necessity defense’ “.
An Anon asks, “What’s the necessity defense?” The heroic Occupier answers, “It’s when you tell the judge and jury that you had to do something unlawful in order to prevent something that is very dangerous and evil from happening to the planet and the people. This defense has already been accepted in several court cases in our nation. The more it is used, the more it will become accepted”.
An Occupier comments, “Man, I am so proud and grateful to you and our other Occupier for putting your bodies on the line to protect our clean water and our manoomin (wild rice). I’m betting that because of all the horrid and illegal abuse by the police and their hirelings against the Water Protectors at Standing Rock and because of all the nationwide attention their abuse received, Chief Tusken wants his officers to present a more humane face. The problem is that Tusken is a new Chief; very few cops on the force were trained in by him. Many of the old cops have a difficult time acting like normal human beings”.
On a different note, an Occupier says, “I hear that the Water Protector who had his toe amputated is back at Makwa Camp. He appears to be walking o.k.” Another Occupier remarks, “Oh good, I’m glad to hear that. We need to go out there again soon”.
The Occupier, who promised to do the research, reports “I’m sorry to say that He Who Walks In A Coma is the person who died. I’m told that he went home to his family and died in the family home. He was only in his early 50s”. Another Occupier sighs, “That’s really sad. I think we are going to miss him; he was such a normal part of the scene. Even though he was usually blind drunk, he never drank when he sat around our fire and was always peaceful and kind”.
The Anons are still collecting warm clothes, blankets, sleeping bags and anything else that will be useful to folks in need. They call it Operation Safe Winter. Several of the Occupiers have been able to gather a fair amount of these things and are ready to pass them on to the Anons. This evening is cold and there’s too much stuff for the young guys to carry home. A member of an Occupier couple suggests, “Why don’t you all come over to our house after the meeting and we can hang around for a while, then we can gather up all the stuff, put it in my trunk and I’ll drive you all home. The Anons think that’s a good idea.
An Anon comments, “There’s getting to be a lot more people moving into Makwa Camp now; they need blankets, sleeping bags and winter clothing. We’re going to take some of the winter stuff out there as soon as we can hitch a ride”.
Another Anon tells us, “When we were driving home after the Wells Fargo action last Friday, the cops were waiting for us at my house. There were at least 3 squads; my mom was driving and they said she was speeding. She wasn’t speeding; she was driving up the icy hill. One has to really step on it when trying to drive up these hills when they’re covered with ice; the cops know that. I think we’re going to get a lot more police harassment from now on”.
Yesterday, on Martin Luther King’s Birthday Anniversary, at the big rally at the DECC, the NAACP presented Occupy Duluth with a Drum Major for Peace Award. When we had to go up on the stage we brought the Anons with us. The Occupiers generally like to fly under the radar but it was gratifying to be recognized for the work that we do. We’ve heard that the award was given to us because of our recreational fires and because of the fact that we don’t try to publicize ourselves. Sweet. MLK Day was a very pleasant day for us but now………it’s time to get back to work. There is much to be done.
An Occupier groans, “I’m having some really annoying computer problems. My computer keeps kicking me out and making me go through the whole reboot and sign in process again, over and over. Just doing simple things takes forever; I guess I’ll have to call an IT person”. Another Occupier adds, “There’s definitely a computer virus going around. I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about it”.
An Anon informs us, “I think there were a few infiltrators at the Wells Fargo event. I noticed a few people in the crowd that seemed to want to incite violence. There’s a one hour video of the event going around. (Almost everyone at the meeting has watched the video). If you watch the end where our friend comes down the escalator you will see a guy take some of the boxes from him and start passing pizza out. That guy, who we don’t actually know, has come to talk to us several times in the last month or so. He always tries to talk us into doing something violent. We tell him no, we’re not going for it.”
Another Anon reports, “There’s going to be some training for medics out at Makwa soon. There’s a real need for medics out there. An Occupier tells him, “I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years. I’m so old that I can’t walk much but I can do triage. My brain still works pretty well”. We all laugh and she continues, “Just let me know when they’re going to have the trainings and I’ll try hard to be there”.
We’ve pretty much talked ourselves out and it’s time for Coney Island to close. We pack everyone into several vehicles and head over to the Occupiers house to gather up all the winter gear. We plan to return to Coney Island next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 1-9-18

G.A. Minutes 1-9-18
We are all in very good moods tonight as we stroll into Coney Island. That’s because we appear to be in the middle of the “winter thaw” that we have been dreaming about. The temperatures have been in the 20s and 30s above zero for a few days now and the weather people say we have a few more days left before we go back to serious winter again.
As of right now, the old folks are feeling a lessening of their various aches and pains, the young folks can wear their stylish clothes again without risking frostbite and the folks in the middle don’t have to deal with their little children crying because their parents have bundled them up so much that they can barely move. The homeless ones are still homeless though; that hasn’t changed. During the thaw they’ll still be uncomfortable without a place of their own to sleep in but they probably won’t freeze to death, for a few days at least.
A small group from the Anonymous crew rolls up shortly after the Occupiers arrive. We have no need to peel off layer after layer of arctic wear this evening; a winter hat and coat are all that is required.
As the Anons push some tables together, their youngest member strikes up a conversation with the only other customer in the restaurant. The customer appears to be a middle aged, working class, Caucasian man. The customer informs the Anon that he (the customer) is a big fan of the online group Cop Watch. Mr. Customer is also opposed to sulfide mining in general, any other mining in MN watersheds and pipeline expansion in MN Native American ceded territories. The guy even knows what net neutrality is and is of course in favor of keeping it. I guess now is the time to drop the old cliché, “you can’t judge a book by its cover”. Anyway, Mr. Customer and the Anon carry on an interesting dialog until the man gets a phone call and has to leave. If we run into him again, we’ll ask him to join us.
The Anons report their Operation Safe Winter warm clothing giveaway last Friday went well; they tell us that when given a bunch of clean, warm socks, one of our street friends was close to tears. They’re planning to hold a giveaway again this upcoming Friday. In other news, Operation Safe Winter even has a Facebook page.
An Anon states, “You know, there’s one female cop who we see every time we do any type of action in or around the Skywalk. It appears that she also works security for Enbridge during her off hours. Whenever we ask her for her name and badge number, she refuses to give to us. I even have a video of her refusing to tell me her basic information and then walking away. I think there’s a law that says all cops have to provide that basic information when asked by a citizen to do so”.
An Occupier replies, “You’re right; there is a law stating that police officers must provide that basic information when asked to do so. If you have a video of that particular cop refusing, then there’s something that can be done about it. The next meeting of the Citizens Review Board will happen on Wednesday, January 24th, 5pm in Room 303 in City Hall. I always go to the CRB meetings; they can be boring but I like to keep abreast of the goings on in Law Enforcement Land.
Anyway, you guys can go with me or I can present the situation on your behalf. You can file a complaint if you’d like. I recommend you file one; it won’t change the world right away but I know the Duluth Police Department administration keeps long term records on all of their officers. Every year they put out a report showing all the officers who had complaints filed against them, how many were filed on each officer and other relevant things. Complaints affect the cop’s promotions and stuff like that. Cops don’t like to get in trouble with their bosses; after a few months you may find that when you ask that particular cop for her basic information, she will give it to you”.
The Occupier who is currently attending college arrives; once he gets settled, he tells us that he received his final grades for 2017. It seems he’s made the A honor roll. We congratulate him; he says, “Those grades should help me when I apply for financial aid grants”.
Changing the subject the college Occupier asks, “Did you hear that it snowed in the Sahara Desert today?” We say, “You’ve got to be kidding!” He replies, “Nope, it probably happened during the night when dessert temperatures drop down; it melted a few hours after the sun came up. Climate change is a bitch”.
The Anons are gathering up their gear in preparation for a couple hours of decorating the downtown area. As they are leaving, they remind us about the Makwa Camp Support event coming up on Saturday, January 13th, 5”30pm-10pm at the Central Hillside Community Center. We respond, “We’ll see you there”.
An Occupier sighs, “I think I saw something that said He Who Walks In A Coma has died. I can’t remember where I saw it”. Another Occupier exclaims, “No! I sure hope that’s not true. The last time I saw him was at one of our final fires of the year. He appeared to be completely sober; in all the years that we’ve known him, I’d never seen him sober. He could even talk. I’ll do some research and let you all know what I find”.
An Occupier says to the Occupier who always reports stuff, “I’ve forgotten what you told us about all the Martin Luther King Birthday Celebration events. Please refresh my memory”. The reporting Occupier answers, “Sure, Mayor’s Reception on Thursday the 11th, 6pm at AICHO, Rhythm & Hues, Friday the 12th 5:30pm for dinner with the performance at 7pm at Peace Church, Youth Nation on Saturday the 13th noon – 4pm at Denfeld H.S., Inter-Faith Worship Service, Sunday 5pm at First Presbyterian Church and then the Community Breakfast on Monday the 15th (Dr. King’s actual birthday) 7:30am at Holy Family Catholic Church followed by the march leaving Washington Center at 11am and arriving at the DECC by noon for the rally”.
The reporting Occupier then asks, “Does anybody know anything about a Women’s March that’s supposed to happen in Duluth on January 20th?” Another Occupier opines, “Well, I’ve heard there’s going to be one but that’s about all I know. I imagine it will be one of those feel good, show our strength in numbers events with no organized follow through; I’d be willing to try to find out more and report back to everyone”. We say, “Miigwitch”.
An Occupier remarks, “I’ve been doing more research about the Dominion Theory of Man vs Nature. I found an English translation of the original words of the Bible in the early Hebrew language. There is no mention of dominion at all. It translates into nurture, watch over, care for etc.; which is exactly what I suspected”. Another Occupier adds, “Yeah, it’s pretty much common sense. You take care of Mother Earth and She will take care of you.
“In other environmental news, the MN Pollution Control Agency denied the MinnTech variances today. Basically, I think that means they’re not going to let MinnTech pollute our water over the sulfide limit like they’ve been doing for so many years. If MinnTech wants to continue mining, they’re going to have to conform to the current sulfide standard. Of course, MinnTech is really pissed off; they think they’re being treated unfairly. They warn that the denial means that other mining companies that want to open mines in MN will have to comply with the current standards too. What a bunch of dumb fucks.
“Also, last Saturday an Iranian oil tanker collided with a Chinese cargo ship in the South China Sea. A huge oil spill resulted; the tanker was carrying the type of oil that floats on top of the water and is highly flammable. There’s a huge fire burning even as we speak and rescuers are concerned that the oil tanker will explode; if it does, it will spill the type of oil that is heavier and more difficult to deal with. When will they ever learn?”
An Occupier queries, “Does anyone know what Bitrot means?” Another Occupier explains, “Yeah, it means that computer disks will dissolve in about 30 years. Of course, that means that all the information on the disk will be gone too”. The first Occupier responds, “Oh great, I suppose they’ll have to stop teaching history and stuff; they’ll have to just make things up”. Someone adds, “I think they already do that”. We all laugh.
On that note, we check the clock and see that it’s time to leave. We gather up our things, leave tips and go out the door. The Occupiers who don’t have vehicles prefer to walk home tonight. We all expect to be back at Coney Island, probably on a much colder night, next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 1-2-18

G.A. Minutes 1-2-18
We’re back at Coney Island …. finally. We took 2 weeks for “Winter Break” although we didn’t take a break from participation in our local activist community. We attended several meetings and actions directed by some of our local, radical partners in crime. We also held a Christmas Day get together at one of the Occupier couple’s homes.
When we reminisce about our attempt to have a fire circle in the backyard of the couple’s home on Christmas Day we crack up at ourselves. The weather people told us that it was going to be well below zero with a wind chill factor of -40, we said, “No problem; we can handle it”. In reality, we could not handle it; it was so damn cold that we thought we were going to die. We told all the folks who were invited that the fire would go from noon til 4pm; we only lasted until 2:30p. We all dressed like we were in the Arctic Circle; some of us even wrapped warm blankets over our arctic wear. Even then, it was too cold.
No worries though, we spent a pleasant day and into the night in a warm, comfortable apartment with plenty of good food, music and conversation. We decided not to have a regular meeting at Coney Island the next day, December 26th, as we were staying up late on Christmas Night and the elders among us were exhausted from all the extra work required during the holiday season. Many of us spent the day after Christmas just sleeping in.
We’ve been living in the “Arctic Circle” for over a week now. Temperatures haven’t been above zero and the wind chill factor varies each day between -30 and -40. The weather people say we’ll need to endure this miserable cold for a few more days with expected highs and lows slightly above zero by Saturday. Just trying to keep warm takes a lot of extra energy even though we all have heated homes and vehicles or access to public transportation. We can’t imagine what it must be like for our homeless ones. Every hour is a fight for bare survival; night time is the worst. If one is unable to find a safe hidden spot in one of the parking ramps, an abandoned building or maybe a basement door somewhere that has been left open they will have to stay awake and moving all night long in order to prevent freezing to death. Every winter some of our homeless ones do freeze to death.
Most of the Occupiers attended the CHUM vigil for all the homeless people who died this past year. An Occupier comments, “I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that Ms. Community Cleanup is dead. I think I will grieve for her for a long time”. Another Occupier agrees, “I know; she was so young. I found out that she was 33 years old; that’s still too young. I was told by someone who was with her in the hospital that although she was in a coma, she opened her eyes and with a big smile on her face, she looked around the room at everyone who was there and then she passed.
“The Main Homeless Outreach Worker told me that they would wait until March to hold a memorial service for Ms. Cleanup because that’s when her partner will return. I didn’t ask where Her Partner was but I assume he’s in treatment or in jail. The last time I saw him he was talking and acting like a normal person; he told me that he’d been sober for 100 days”.
Another Occupier reports, “In order to get all the bad news over all at once, do you all remember when I told you about the diabetic Water Protector from Makwa Camp who was staying at our organizer friend’s house?” We remember. “Well, I’m sorry to report that he had to get his big toe amputated. He’s down in The Cities now, recuperating at his family’s house. I never did get a chance to talk with him again since I went to take a look at his feet but I thought he was a very committed Water Protector; I think he’ll return to camp once he’s healed. Losing a big toe will affect his balance somewhat but once he learns to accommodate that and if he takes care of his health, he’ll be able to fight many more battles”. Someone adds, “I didn’t have the pleasure of meeting the injured Protector but the Anons know him and say he’s a really good dude”.
There is probably magic in the air because just as their name is mentioned, a fairly good sized group of the Anonymous crew rolls in. As the crew is getting settled, an Occupier gives one of them a good winter coat that she found in the back of her closet. An Anon says to an Occupier, “We want to go down to Lake Place Plaza in the early afternoon on Friday and bring a table to put all our warm clothes on and also our sound system so we can play good music to liven up the place. We’re wondering if you would be willing to haul everything down there with your truck. We have someone who will give us a ride back when we’re done”.
The Occupier replies, “Sure, that’s doable. I’ll need you all to help me unload some of the fire circle stuff so we can fit your stuff in. How about I pick you guys up around noon on Friday and then we go and unload the truck and go back and load up your stuff?” The Anon exclaims, “That would be great! Thanks”.
Some of the Anons and an Occupier are going out to Makwa Camp tomorrow. They intend to help out with the physical labor wherever they are needed. An Anon opines, “I hope they ask us to chop wood; I love doing that”. An Occupier concurs, “When I was young and able I loved chopping wood too. Once you get that rhythm going it becomes kinda like a meditation”. As the Anon looks at her, he breaks into a big smile; his eyes twinkle and he says, “Yeah, I know”.
An Occupier asks, “So, does everyone want to go to Marxmas on Saturday? The Anons respond in unison, “Yes!” Most of the Occupiers plan on attending too. An Anon sheepishly reports, “Of course, we’ll need a ride” The Occupier assures, “I can fit 4 peeps in my car. If there’s more than that, I’ll make 2 trips. Everyone who wants to attend will be able to”. The Occupiers attend Marxmas every year; this year will be the first time the Anons do so.
Marxmas is an annual event sponsored by Socialist Action that is held at Solidarity House in Superior. Much of the preparation for the occasion is the work of our friend, a feminist organizer, artist, writer, educator and domestic violence shelter worker. She creates marvelous food around an annual theme and we play parlour games that are centered on the same theme. This year’s theme is Party Like It’s 1917. The Russian Revolution began in 1917. Most of the games have an intellectual bend to them; we look forward to this party every year.
An Occupier questions the Occupier who is a member of the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition, “So how did your action with The Holy Family go last Thursday?” The Coalition Occupier tells him, “It went well and it was also a lot of fun. It was primarily an event for the media; we all dressed up like angels or shepherds and a woman who had been pregnant and homeless until Loaves N Fishes found a place for her in one of their houses, played the part of Mary. She gave birth to her baby about a month ago so the baby played Jesus; one of the LNF guys was Joseph. Mary gave a speech about how, when she was homeless, she was terrified that the hospital social workers would take her baby from her if they found out that she was homeless.
“I think all the major media were there plus a few from alternative media. I’m told that we were featured on all the local TV news programs. Our plan was to send a shout out for homeless people and to also send a message to the type of area Christians who think they’re following the tenets of their religion but think homeless people are dirty, creepy and lazy and they should just get a job (as if that was an easy thing to do)”.
An Occupier asks everyone, “Has anyone seen the locally made documentary entitled “The Secret to Being Black in Duluth”?” A few of the Occupiers have seen it: the Anons have not. Another Occupier remarks, “I have seen it once; I’d love to see it again. It features African American members of our community; some of whom I actually know. The members speak quite frankly about their daily experiences with racism in Duluth. I think everyone who lives in the Twin Ports would benefit from viewing the film”. The first Occupier continues, “Well, the documentary is going to be shown again at U.U. Church on Friday, January 19th at 7pm. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.
“Also, the annual Martin Luther King Birthday Celebration is coming up soon. The NAACP is the main sponsor and MLK events will run from January 11th – 15th. There will be a Mayor’s Reception on Thursday the 11th, 6pm at AICHO, Rhythm & Hues, Friday the 12th 5:30pm for dinner with the performance at 7pm at Peace Church, Youth Nation on Saturday the 13th noon – 4pm at Denfeld H.S., Inter-Faith Worship Service, Sunday 5pm at First Presbyterian Church and then the Community Breakfast on Monday the 15th (Dr. King’s actual birthday) 7:30am at Holy Family Catholic Church followed by the march leaving Washington Center at 11am and arriving at the DECC by noon for the rally”.
Another Occupier adds, “Whew! That’s a lot of events. The city official is the music director for the Inter-Faith Worship Service. If possible, I think we should all be there in order to support his efforts”. Everyone plans to attend as many of the events as possible.
An Anon reports, “Saturday the 13th is also the date for the next Makwa Camp Support Feast, 5:30pm- 10pm at the Central Hillside Community Center”. We all plan to attend and to help out as needed.
An Occupier inquires, “Is Skip still running for 8th CD? We say, “Yes, as far as we know”. The inquiring Occupier responds, “Well, have you ever heard of a woman named Leah Phifer?” Another Occupier replies, “Yeah, kinda. She’s a somewhat progressive who’s trying to get the DFL endorsement for 8th CD. I think she used to work for the FBI; she’s not as progressive as Skip Sandman but more progressive than Rick Nolan. I hope she gets the nomination because a campaign between her and Skip might actually be interesting. Remember, Skip is ex-Navy and then worked as a correctional officer for many years. I’ll be voting for Skip, of course, but it would be nice to not have to hear Nolan’s lyin’ ass anymore”.
It’s close to 8pm, which is Coney Island’s new winter closing hour. We think there were a few customers who came in while we have been talking but probably not enough to justify keeping the place open for another hour. We generally don’t notice much about our surroundings here once we get to conversing; possibly because the surroundings here are really boring. However, we are grateful that the staff welcomes us and doesn’t mind that we push a bunch of tables together and sort of dominate a part of their large space.
Anyway, it’s time to leave; some of the Occupiers and Anons are going to continue the conversation at a private home. None of that conversation will be recorded but if you were to attend one of our meetings, we would invite you to tag along next time. We plan to meet at Coney Island again, next Tuesday.