G.A. Minutes 2-20-18

G.A. Minutes 2-20-18
It’s Tuesday evening and it’s still the cold dark time of the year; that means the Occupiers are meeting at Coney Island again. Duluth received 5 or 6 inches of snow over the last couple of days. Across the bridge in WI they received a lot more; many schools and businesses were forced to close over there today. Duluth didn’t have many closings but driving is difficult; we have a fairly decent snowplowing department however, they have a large area to cover so it usually takes a few days before the roads are back to normal. The weather people tell us to expect more snow later in the week. Ah, the joy of winter….
Right now the main roads are passable, the side streets, not so much. Driving up and down the hill varies from simply annoying to downright scary. Living on the hillside is way cool though; when it’s not winter, there are many places where one can just sit and watch the ships, boats and other things going on in the harbor and Lake Superior. Some lucky people, who aren’t even rich, can watch the lake from the windows of their house or apartment. It’s way more interesting than watching TV.
The first Occupiers to arrive are deep in conversation as they come through the door. One Occupier is telling the others, “In a little over a week I’m gonna have some fairly serious dental surgery at an oral surgeon’s office. My teeth problems are a result of being a single parent without any support from my baby’s Daddy. I never was able make enough money to give my child what she deserved while being able to take care of my own needs too. I went without dental care for over 20 years.
“So now some of my teeth are hurting bad; I went for a consult with the oral surgeon that my regular dentist recommended; his estimate was huge, but luckily I now have dental insurance for the first time in my life. The insurance will pay for two thirds of the bill so I figured the surgeon’s office would just schedule my surgery ASAP and let me make payments on my share of the bill. I’ve never been to that particular dental surgeon in the past so if they were worried about my paying my share all they had to do was check with my regular dentist to see that I always pay my dentist bills. But no, they want me to give them the entire payment before they’ll even let me climb into the dentist’s chair. I have to wait until I get paid on the 1st of next month in order to pay them. That’s gonna make paying my rent, utilities and all that really difficult.
In the meantime, I’ve been to the ER twice this month to get antibiotics because my teeth have been abscessing; antibiotics are not cheap and dental pain is not fun. I’m kinda bummed out and pissed off too.”
Another Occupier exclaims, “That really sucks! A person could die from an untreated abscessed tooth. I don’t know why the medical system treats dental care as separate from the rest of health care. Every part of a human body is connected to all the rest of the parts of the body. The entire American health care system sucks and the health insurance industry is nothing but organized crime! We need a single payer system for everything like other countries that recognize that the basic needs of their people are more important than helping rich people make more money”.
A moderate sized group of Anonymous folks roll up. They are “masked up” and have their flags and all that. They are all smiling; one Anon reports, “We had a really good day today. We went out early so we could hit the big banks. We went to US Bank first; when they saw us coming down the stairs, the bank employees started running around locking all their doors and acting like we were gonna kill them, blow up the bank or something stupid like that. They told their customers to enter through a small side door so we went over to that door and just stood outside of it while not blocking the way for peeps to enter the bank. We held our signs and gave flyers to the people willing to take them. All we’re trying to do is to let people know that the bank they use is majorly invested in the earth and water destroying Enbridge Company. We gently suggest that they might want to use another bank or a credit union. Eventually, a few squad cars showed up.
“We then walked over to Wells Fargo; when the employees saw us they quickly locked their front gate. They always look really angry; they probably hate us. We just stood around on the edges of the skywalk playing our music on our portable sound system and handing flyers to passersby who wanted them. Eventually a bunch of cops showed up. We weren’t doing anything illegal and they seemed to know that. A lot of us filming everything on our cell phones probably helped increase their awareness of the 1st Amendment.
“At first they stood around acting kinda awkward like they didn’t know what to do. Then some of them started actually listening to our music; they relaxed a bit and just stood around digging it. The cop standing next to me knew some of our music and made comments about some of the composers. Some of the other cops stood away from us, glared and looked like they wanted to bust our heads. So we all hung around until bank closing time then we split and so do they. We interrupted business at two banks in the same day….. Yes!!!”
An Occupier adds, “Yeah, I’ve been at direct actions were I’ve had some conversations with cops. Some of them have tried to tell me that they are just regular working people trying to survive like the rest of us. I tell them, “If that’s true then why are you on the side of the man instead of over here on this side with us?”
“I know that cops are actual human beings but they’ve been brainwashed and trained how to maim and kill people. If their boss orders them to bust our heads then that’s what they’re gonna do. It’s very rare for a cop to refuse an order from his so called superiors”.
Another Occupier asks, “Did you guys go to the last Polymet hearing?” When the Anons answer, “No” the Occupier continues, “It was really something. They had all kinds of security personnel and a few Duluth police officers hanging around all the entrance doors. There was a line of regular young DECC employees who were patting down each person before allowing them to enter the venue. There were eight or ten employees but only one of them was female. Of course, most of the women trying to enter demanded to be searched by a woman so that slowed things up a bit. They wouldn’t allow anyone to bring food in but they had food for sale. Hmmm…
It was all really stupid; the security guards were trying to act intimidating but all the pro-Mother Earth folks just rolled their eyes. I imagine Polymet or Glencore had to pay a few bucks for all the extra personnel; the way they throw around money, they must expect to make several bazillion bucks from tearing up our Mother Earth and poisoning our water and our children. Too bad we’re gonna have to disappoint them.”
An Occupier asks the Anons, “Have you all checked out the videos that Unicorn Riot puts out?” An Anon replies, “Sure, we watch them all the time. We also pay attention to Sub Media and Activate Now”.
An Occupier remarks, “I know this Friday is going to be quite busy for all of us but I need to remind everyone that Natives Against Heroin is going to be holding their first sweat lodge outside of the Central Hillside Community Center this upcoming Saturday starting at 12:30pm. It will be a potluck so if you can, contribute some food. Also, they’ll be holding sacred ceremonies so women need to wear skirts”.
The staff is doing their final cleaning and the other customers are packing up. We’d better follow suit; as we’re gathering our things an Occupier reports, “There’s been some strange developments between the City Attorney and the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition. The next meeting is on Thursday, after I go to that I’ll have a better idea of the whole situation and will be able to explain more”.
One Anon says to another, “We have over one hundred masks over at the house”. An Occupier chuckles, “I can see it all now. The cops raid your house, thinking they’re going to find the Mother Lode. They ransack your place and then their boss rolls up. He says, ‘Well boys, did you find lots of bombs, guns and drugs?” A cop answers, ‘No sir but we found a shit ton of their masks”. We all crack up.
We leave tips for the accommodating staff guys and head out to attempt to make it up the hill without sliding into a ditch. We expect to be back next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 2-13-18

G.A. Minutes 2-13-18
There are actually 6 or 7 customers when the first Occupiers arrive at Coney Island this evening. This is a big deal because we haven’t seen that many customers in the place during an entire evening any other time since we started meeting here in late October.
We want there to be customers during our weekly visits because that’s what will convince the owner to keep his eatery open on Tuesday evenings. If the owner were to close early during the winter, we’d be pretty well screwed. Finding a somewhat comfortable space in the Central Hillside that is open to the public, not too hard on our very limited budgets and where they won’t call the cops if we stay longer than a half an hour is no easy feat. We know because we’ve been looking for such a place for about 6 years.
Ideally, the place would be free, have good music on the sound system, palm trees, excellent organic food and a well-paid, happy staff who were members of a restaurant co-op or very progressive union. We found a place like that a few years ago, it was called Jefferson Peoples House but it closed after not very long. It wasn’t free and didn’t have palm trees but all the rest of the stuff was there.
JPH was run by a group of young people most of whom lived in the same communal house and took turns staffing the coffee house after they finished working their other jobs that paid their bills. The young people just worked for tips in order to keep the place afloat. JPH had a mellow revolutionary atmosphere; the staff would listen to our discussions and chime in when they could. We think it closed because it was located a little over east from our Hillside and that made it difficult to access for Central Hillside folks who didn’t own cars. The co-op workers never did get enough customers to make it possible to just break even. It would be nice if some people would try doing something like JPH again. No, not the Occupiers…….don’t even go there.
Anyway, we find a booth next to a couple of empty tables and start settling in. We need to wait a while before ordering food or drinks because the front counter is busy with the other customers who are placing their orders.
We don’t expect many Occupiers or members of the Anonymous crew to join us tonight; today was a very busy day for all of us. The 2 Occupiers and the man from Makwa (Bear) Line 3 Resistance Camp had their pre-trial hearing today. A pre-trial rally was held for them at noon in front of the St Louis County Court House. The annual March for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and in Support of the Lifegivers was held today, also at noon.
One of the Occupiers is one of the people who were arrested for chaining themselves to a Wells Fargo entry gate several weeks ago; he tells us, “I was surprised at the large number of folks who attended our pre-trial rally. When the court came back into session we went in and all entered pleas of not guilty. Our next court date is April 11th. I then caught up with the Indigenous Women’s March. By the time I found them there were only a few Indigenous women marching with a good sized group of Anons. They marched all over the place. They were still marching when I went home for dinner”.
An Occupier who has been unable to make our meetings for several weeks asks, “So what are you charged with?” The Occupier/Water Protector responds, “Obstruction and trespassing”. Another Occupier exclaims, “How can you be charged with trespassing when you were all chained to the gate but were sitting inside the skywalk which is public property?!?” The responding Occupier says, “That’s a good question. I’ll have to ask one of our pro-bono attorneys”.
The Occupier who has missed meetings inquires, “So I guess you all are gonna use the necessity defense, right? Isn’t that where a defendant admits that they may have committed an offense but they were compelled to do it in order to prevent an even greater offense that was happening or about to happen?” The innocent until proven guilty (or so The Man tries to tell us) Occupier agrees and the inquiring Occupier continues, “Does anyone know if that defense has ever been successful in the past?”
Another Occupier replies, “I don’t remember the details but I know that some Water Protectors used it fairly recently and won their case”. An Occupier looks at his cell phone and reports, “The necessity defense has been used many times over the years but very few defendants were victorious. Among the few cases that ended in acquittal was the case of a woman who was being battered by her drunken husband. She had been drinking too but jumped in the family car and drove away in order to avoid further battering and possibly death. The police stopped her and when she went to court she used that defense, explained her reasoning and was found not guilty. The Occupier/Water Protector opines, “Everyone has to just keep using the necessity defense when protecting Mother Earth and her children until the courts start looking at it as normal”.
An Occupier comments, “I was listening to the City Council meeting on KUMD last night when I heard a bunch of people speaking in support of the nibi (water) and the manoomin (wild rice) and against the Polymet sulfide mine. I didn’t even know the topic was going to be presented last night. I’m sorry I wasn’t there”. The Occupier/Water Protector tells her, “It really didn’t matter because the place was totally packed. All the seats in the chamber were full and lots more folks were filling the hallway. I didn’t hear about it until my attorney told me; it was a more middle class crowd than we generally hang around with”. The listening Occupier answers, “Oh cool, it’s great when we don’t have to do everything ourselves”.
An Occupier says to the radio listening Occupier, “Hey, you’re a smoker and you smoke menthols; what did you think of the City Council’s vote to ban menthol cigarette sales except for in tobacco shops?” The smoking Occupier explains, “I buy my smokes over in WI where they’re cheaper so it doesn’t affect me personally but I guess I’m an expert on the subject. I didn’t think the day would ever come when I would agree with Councilor Fosle on anything but I do. The supporters of the ban say they presented the ordinance in order to prevent young people from beginning to smoke. They say that young ones are attracted to smoking menthol. That may or may not be true but I don’t think the ban will achieve its stated goal. Kids already can’t buy cigarettes so they ask their slightly older friends to get cigarettes for them. If they want menthol then that’s what they’ll ask for. Also, all the convenience store owners are really pissed but the tobacco shop owners are dancing in the aisles. I bet there will be some more tobacco shops opening in our city within the next year”. After her words, all the smokers go out for a smoke break.
When they return, someone remarks, “So are we still down with helping out at Skip Sandman’s NDN Taco Sale Fundraiser at AICHO from 10am-2pm on Friday, February 23rd? We are all down. Someone else sighs, “There are so many things going on Friday the 23rd; I’m gonna have to choose just a few. There’s the taco sale then the Standup for Immigrant Rights demo at Lake and Superior at 4:30p and Socialist Pizza 6:30p at Luce’.
“Also, the NAACP is having a Groundwork of the Revolution Freedom Fund Dinner at Clyde Iron at 6p. The tickets are $60 a piece but they have some free or reduced fee tickets for people like us”. An Occupier opines, “Well I think I’ll go to Socialist Pizza; I don’t really like dressing up so if I don’t go to the NAACP dinner maybe someone else who likes dressing up will be able to go in my place”. A few of the Occupiers do like to dress up; maybe they’ll go to the dinner.
All the other customers are gone and the place looks very clean. We take the hint and head for the door. We plan to be back here next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 2-6-18

G.A. Minutes 2-6-18
It’s another evening meeting at Coney Island. The weather is horribly cold as per usual and the low energy that is a part of Seasonal Affective Disorder is creeping into all of us. Fortunately, we are aware of this yearly phenomena so are attempting to compensate for it.
A few Occupiers and the youngest dude from the Anonymous crew are the first to arrive. As we settle in, someone remarks, “Have you seen the photos of the riot that took place in Philadelphia after the Eagles won the Super Bowl on Sunday night?” We have all seen the photos. An Occupier exclaims, “Yeah, a bunch of white guys running around the streets of downtown Philly smashing windows, uprooting trees and just destroying whatever they could. The cops didn’t do anything. I’m betting that if it was a bunch of dudes of color doing the same thing, they would have been arrested and given long prison sentences”.
Another Occupier agrees, “I’m afraid you’re right. With white dudes it’s ‘boys will be boys, you know’ but if anyone else were to do the same thing they’d be charged with terrorism. What I really don’t understand though is why people want to tear up shit just because their favorite sports team wins something”. None of us can give him an answer; we don’t understand it either.
On another topic, an Occupier tells us, “I sent off a letter to the editor to the Northland Reader today. It’s kind of an expose’ about the true nature of Enbridge. I wonder if they’ll print it”. Another Occupier speculates, “Oh, I think they will. I’m acquainted with one of the long term reporters at the Reader; he has expressed his frustration to me about not getting a variety of letters for their In Box column. They love it when new writers send stuff in”.
More Anons arrive; the youngest Anon has a story to tell them. He says, “Hey, remember when we did the last action at Wells Fargo and the first Water Protector arrived and chained himself by his neck to the entry gate that hadn’t been opened yet? Remember that the bank manager saw the Water Protector chain himself and that the manager then ran really fast over to where the switch to open the gate was?”
An Occupier exclaims, “What! The bank dude was going to lift the gate with the Water Protector chained to it by his neck?” The Anon continues, “Yup, if it wasn’t for the fact that 4 really big Water Protectors from Makwa (Bear) Camp immediately surrounded the bank manager and scared him just by their presence, the chained Water Protector would have been lifted up into the air and could have possibly choked to death.
“Anyway, I saw that bank dude tonight when I was walking in the skywalk on my way over here. I’m walking along on one side of walkway and the bank dude comes walking on the other side. We are separated from each other by at least 20 feet. The bank guy is looking kinda nervous so I stamped my foot and said, ‘Boo!’ The dude jumped up in the air and smacked into the wall! I mean I was 20 feet away from him and didn’t say anything at first or make any sign of aggression toward him and he’s still scared? What a fool!”
We don’t laugh at his story but we do smile. An Occupier comments, “So the bank manager doesn’t mind risking the neck of a Water Protector who is only trying to save the planet for future generations but he fears for his life when an Anon stomps his foot? Those money worshipping types have no clue”.
An Occupier hands one of the Anons a flyer that contains a map of all the new porta-potty sites. She explains, “These are the flyers that I was telling you about. They were made by a guy who lives and works at Loaves N Fishes. I thought you might like to pass them out while you’re cruising the streets”. The Anon replies, “These flyers are way cool! We’ll definitely use them”. The Occupier adds, “As you can see, the 2 parts need to be cut out and glued together. I’ve already printed out a few; I’ll email you the download as soon as I get home.
The Occupier continues, “Also, I went to the Citizens Review Board last month and gave them your report about the cop in the skywalk who won’t give her basic information when you request it. The only cops there were the usual Lieutenant and Deputy Chief. They agreed that when a member of the general public asks a cop for their name and badge number, the cop MUST provide it. They were curious to know who the offending cop might be. I told them that you have a video of her refusing to provide the information. The lieutenant gave me his card to give to you and he’s hoping you’ll call him. I know that cops are trained to playact and lie a lot but they did seem genuinely interested in remedying the situation”.
The big Native Anon rolls in; we haven’t seen him since mid-summer. He was out at Maii’gan (wolf) Camp for a good while and has recently moved back to Duluth. He plans to move out to Makwa Camp as soon as he is able. We’re delighted to be able to spend time with him again.
An Occupier says to the Occupier who recently had his debit card stolen and all of the money removed from his account, “I remember you said that it looked like the thief had been able to get your information and password from PayPal somehow. Well, I received an email yesterday from PayPal. It notified me that someone had attempted to access my account. I guess the difference between the two of us is that I notified my bank immediately, cancelled my card and got a new one with a different number. I’m guessing that the thief kept my card, was hoping that I hadn’t noticed it was missing and put more money on it. The recently robbed Occupier responds, “I think people need to refrain from using PayPal. It seems that a door has been left open”.
The Occupier who generally records the minutes reports, “I’ve found out that my computer really is toast. I’m gonna have to share his computer with him (she gestures toward another Occupier) until I can save up enough money to buy a new one. I’ve been looking around a bit trying to match what I need with what I can afford. I think it’s gonna take a while”.
The Native Anon asks, “So what are you guys gonna be up to over the next several days?” Another Anon tells him, “Tomorrow we’re going to march in remembrance of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Woman and in support of The Lifegivers. The March will take off from AICHO at noon. On Thursday, there will be a pre-trial rally at noon at the County Court House for the Catholic Workers who sat-in at the Duluth Enbridge office last month. Then at 5pm there will be a rally outside of the DECC before the Polymet hearing which happens from 6p-9p”.
Another Anon states, “I really want to get out to Makwa again. I’m waiting for our organizer friend to be ready to drive out there. I hope it will be soon”. The newly arrived Anon says, “Please let me know when you’re going. I’d like to go out too”.
So, it looks like we’ve talked up til the last minute. The staff has their coats and stuff and are ready to go. As we head out the door and go our separate ways, someone calls out, “See you on Thursday!”
One of the Occupier couples will give the Anons, who have the farthest to walk, a ride home. It’s too cold to be outside if you don’t have to be. We expect to return to Coney Island next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 1-30-18

G.A. Minutes 1-30-18
Hey, guess what….. it’s still winter. Ordinarily that would not be very surprising but seeing as the winter season started in mid-October, it seems like we should be getting a reprieve about now. When I bring up this idea, people tell me, “Things just don’t work that way”. When I ask why, they tell me, “Because life isn’t fair”. I never know what to say after that so I settle for an expletive or two and leave it at that.
Anyway, the weather is pretty much like it usually is during this time of year. The temperatures stay in the teens above zero during the day and drop into the single digits below zero at night. When the wind blows, it takes whatever the temperature is down at least 20 degrees; when it snows without a wind we might go all the way up to 20 above, until the snow stops. Then it’s back down again and so on and so on and so on…… It’s enough to give a person Seasonal Affective Disorder but let’s not talk about that now.
As the first arriving Occupiers settle in at Coney Island one of them tells the others, “I got robbed a couple of days ago”. We say, “WTF?!?” He continues, “Someone got ahold of my bank debit card and took $580 out of my account. That’s all the money I had and rent is due again in a couple of days. I won’t have any money again until mid-February. What a total bummer”.
Another Occupier adds, “I had the same thing happen to me a few months ago. I must have accidently dropped my card when I paid for my groceries; when I went to pay for something at another store about 15 minutes later, I found that I didn’t have my card. I reported it to the credit union security department immediately but still, the thief must have found my card within a few minutes of my dropping it because they went straight up the hill to the big mall and spent everything I had. However, it happened just a few days before my next payday so I was able to pay my rent on time.
“I will be able to get my money back though and so will you, it just takes forever. Whenever a store clerk receives a card as payment from someone they don’t know, the clerk is supposed to ask for an ID to go along with the card. If they don’t, then the store is responsible for your loss or something like that. You have to fill out some papers at your bank, get a case number from the police and then wait for the corporate machine to work its way through the system and eventually you get your money back; or so I’m told”.
The first Occupier replies, “That would be nice. There sure are a lot of desperate people out here. There have always been desperate people in the streets but with the big increase of junkies and methheads happening these days, things have gotten way out of hand. One has to either watch their back 24/7 or not own anything that they would like to keep. If one is homeless, even hanging on to a few pair of clean underwear is not a given”. We all dig into our wallets and give the recently robbed Occupier every penny we can spare.
An Occupier reports, “I assume none of you were surprised that I didn’t put out any minutes from last week’s meeting”. None of us were surprised. She continues, “My computer is in the repair shop, I think it may be toast but I’m waiting to find out. As of now, he’s (she nods toward another Occupier) been able to open an account for me on his computer so I’ll use that for now”.
A young man who sometimes hangs with the Anonymous crew rolls in. He reports, “I don’t think any of the Anons will be coming down tonight. The dude who always leads our Tuesday night excursions has met a girl who interests him and he wants to get to know her better” We all say, “Aaahhh!” An Occupier adds, “Well good for him. He’s such a decent guy; he deserves to have a cool partner in his life”.
An Occupier says to the Occupier who likes to report things, “So what’s going on this next month?” The reporting Occupier responds, “Tomorrow there’s going to be a movie called Fossil Free shown at 6pm at the Red Herring. My guess is that it will be free or suggested donation. On Thursday, February 8th, the big Polymet hearing will be held at the DECC; the rally will be at 5pm outside the DECC with the hearing inside from 6pm-9pm. I know that I’ll definitely be going; depending on my mood, I may sign up to speak. I think the go-to group in relation to this event is Water Legacy”. All the Occupiers plan to attend the Polymet hearing. “Of course, everyone knows that Skip Sandman is running against Nolan for the 8th CD again. He’s going to hold his first fundraiser, an Anishinaabe Taco Sale over at AICHO on Friday, February 23rd from10am-2pm. Of course, he could use our help.” All of the Occupiers who are able will help out.
She goes on, “The Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition will be needing to pack the City Council Chambers several times during the next month. I’m not sure of the exact dates right now but I do know that the Council always meets on Mondays. There will be lots more things going on but that’s all I know right now”.
Another Occupier has a report too, “Did you know that MN cops have a Bill of Rights?” We say, “Oh Please!” He says, “Well, they do”. I was at the Citizens Review Board meeting last week and a couple of the Deputy Chiefs were talking about the Police Officers Bill of Rights. I asked a few questions; they gave me the statute number and I looked it up. It’s MN statute 626.89 Peace Officers Discipline Procedures Act. Basically, it lists a bazillion types of protections that regular cops have if or when anyone, including their bosses, would make a complaint against them. It goes on for a long time and at the end it says that none of the rights given by the statute shall diminish the rights given to the cops in their union contracts”.
Someone exclaims, “Oh great! So cops have two bills of rights that protect them from being punished for any wrong doing they may guilty of but they don’t want our homeless folks to have a bill that simply mandates that homeless people are to be treated like human beings? Give me a break!”
We notice the C.I. staff are scurrying around and cleaning like crazy. Looks like it’s time to head out. An Occupier calls out, “If we hurry we can make it home in time to hear He Who Shall Not Be Named’s State of the Union Address”. We all crack up. Another Occupier opines, “I wouldn’t listen to that psychotic bozo talk about anything!” On that note, we’re off. We plan to be back here and still bitching about rich people and the government next Tuesday.