G.A. Minutes 11-20-18

G.A. Minutes 11-20-18

A couple of Occupiers and a couple of Anons arrive together for our meeting at Coney Island this evening. Last week the weather was cold; tonight the temperature is about the same. Last week a slight dusting of snow covered everything outdoors; tonight there are 3 or 4 inches of snow in place of the dusting. We suppose that’s good for the hunters and skiers but for us it just makes driving or walking up and down the side streets a death defying experience.

The next group of folks to roll up are the Stylish Native Woman and her partner, the veteran homeless guy with the deep voice and his girlfriend and the long time homeless woman known on the street as Fox. We think this is great because every year we tell all the homeless and/or street people where we’ll be during the winter months and invite them to join us. It appears that some have finally taken us up on our offer. We ask them if they’re hungry but all have just come from eating dinner at the Mission. We pour them cups of the very boring coffee that is a staple here at the restaurant.

An Occupier says to the Stylish Woman, “So if you’re just coming back from the Mission, I guess that means you’ve been allowed to go back in there?” The Stylish Woman replies, “Yes it does; we’ve also been allowed back into CHUM. This past week was so incredibly stressful and none of it made any sense. We had to sleep outside for almost a week which was close to impossible; it was just too cold to be able to sleep. One night, a woman with mental health issues, who is a regular at CHUM came in drunk. They threw her out in the street; I don’t understand how they can throw women out especially at night when they know the woman has nowhere else to go. We let her sleep with us that night, hoping she could at least get some body heat.

I don’t understand how they could throw me out, at my age with my health problems. They know me too; I never cause any problems but I imagine they don’t like it when I stand up for my partner when he’s being treated unjustly. Anyway, we tried to talk with the CHUM staff to find out why we’d been kicked out but we could not get an answer. Then one day KBJR 6 showed up with a bunch of cameras and were trying to interview the staff and the residents of CHUM. They were asking about the fact that once the temperatures fall below freezing, homeless shelters are supposed to let everyone in, at least for the night. The staff said to the cameras that yes, they did allow everyone to stay there when it was very cold. A staff member came and told us that we were going to be allowed to stay at CHUM again. When we asked the lead staff person why we had been kicked out in the first place he told us that someone had reported we were shooting heroin and smoking marijuana in the bathroom”.

We say, “WHAT!?!!” An Occupier opines, “I wouldn’t think you even know how to shoot heroin”. The Native Woman answers, “That’s true, I don’t”. Her partner adds, “I’ve seen it done and I suppose if I had ever wanted to do it I could have but since I had my fingers amputated last winter, I doubt I’d be able do it now”.

Another Occupier explains. “I’ve been watching the goings on at CHUM from a distance for 5 or 6 years now. While they are certainly to be commended for even trying to do what they do, I’ve seen that some of their workers don’t treat the clientele fairly. They will throw one person out for “bad behavior” while allowing another person to display the same behavior without suffering any consequence at all. Management seems to back all accusations by the staff no matter what; I think they need more thorough staff training or maybe to only hire staff who are decent human beings”.

We all laugh. An Anon remarks, “Do you think there’s a test for that?” An Occupier continues, “I know that they hire their workers from the people who have been residents of CHUM and then “gotten their lives together” so one would think those workers would still remember what being homeless was like”. An Anon hypothesizes, “Sometimes when a person, who has never had power before is given some power, they might not know how to handle it at first”.

The Stylish Woman tells us, “Yeah, that’s kinda how it is; one worker tells you one thing and another worker tells you the opposite”. We know that, like many others, the Stylish Native Woman and her partner fight for bare survival every. single. day.

The girlfriend of the man with the very deep voice reports, “In just 3 more days I’m getting my apartment! I can hardly wait!” We congratulate her while realizing that the girlfriend being given an apartment is going to bring changes to their relationship. For a variety of reasons, that we don’t know about and don’t really want to know about either, the Housing Authority is not gonna let Mr Deep Voice live with his girlfriend. Still, we hope everything works out well for them.

Ms Fox gets a phone call and calls out to everyone, “Does anybody have $3 they can loan me for a bit?” An Occupier gives her the money and Ms Fox says to her phone, “Call my sister and tell her that I’m on my way and I have $3”. Off she goes.

The city official rolls in. After settling in, he asks an Occupier, “Are you and others from the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition still planning on showing up at the Duluth Transit Authority’s board meeting this month?” The Occupier responds, “Yup, I haven’t figured out what I’m gonna say yet but I’m planning on being there”. The official man advises, “Remember, the DTA is not connected to city government, it’s a privately owned service”. The Occupier smiles, “Oh, I didn’t know that; it changes my perspective somewhat. It wasn’t looking like I was gonna have much time to do research before the meeting so thank you for that information”.

The city man comments to another Occupier, “Hey, thanks for coming to the first public recording session of my radio show, what did you think?” The Occupier replies, “There were a lot of good ideas put out there, I just wish it had been longer”. Another Occupier confides, “During the question and answer session I had a question but I didn’t ask it because I didn’t want to disrespect you or cause a ruckus”. The city man answers, “Wow, what was it that you wanted to ask?” The Occupier tells him, “Well, it would have gone something like this….. Given that the Duluth school system has been recently discovered to have taken considerable federal funds that were specifically intended to be given to schools of mainly low income students and giving most of these funds to schools of mainly high and middle-income students. And, given that this misappropriation of funds has been going on for a long time. Under the administration of the current school board, can we really have hope of implementing any of the excellent programs and goals spoken about here tonight?” The official man exclaims, “Oh, you definitely should have asked that question! That’s exactly the type of thing we want to hear from the general public. The Occupier laughs, “I’ll remember that next time”.

A few Water Protectors arrive; they’ve had a stressful day. Their dog got lost for almost 24 hours. The young canine had recently met a new friend who was older and had been around the woods a few times. They went off chasing a rabbit and then couldn’t quite remember where it was that they started from. The dogs were in the general vicinity and with the help of neighbors and looking all night and day the dogs were found just before the group was scheduled to come and hang with us. A WP reports, “The poor things were freezing, dehydrated and had to be carried at first. We were so relieved to find them”.

After everyone is settled, an Occupier inquires of a WP, “Do you know the story of Chief Buffalo and his treaty land that sits under most of what is now downtown Duluth?” The WP responds, “No I don’t. I’m not Anishinaabe but I’m always interested in good information”. The Occupier explains, “During the process of making the Treaty of 1854, Chief Buffalo was given the right to reserve a parcel of land from the ceded territories that he would like to keep for himself and for his choice of members who had done special service for the tribe. A large part of the land that he chose is where the City of Duluth is now situated. This is written right into the treaty in the section that establishes the other reservations in Minnesota and Wisconsin”. Another Occupier adds, “Yeah, there’s this thing called the Ethnographic Study. The Duluth Indigenous Commission received a grant and hired a way cool professor dude from UMD to interview the elders and search historical records. He made the Ethnographic Study; I could make you a copy. You would have enough reading to take up your spare time for months. It’s a very interesting, true story. It turns into a sordid tale after Chief Buffalo dies just before the War Between the States, and in the ensuing confusion, his white son-in-law claims and then fraudulently sells the land, even though the treaty specifically states that the Government will prevent these lands from ever being sold”.

The smokers go out for a smoke and while they are doing so, the rest of the crew comes out too. They are carrying everyone’s packs and other accouterments. One of the non-smokers reports, “They’ve started their winter hours; they now close at 8 pm”. We say, “Oh, we didn’t know that”. As everyone is fixin’ to leave, someone calls out, “Is anyone going to the DECC on Thursday?” She doesn’t get an answer. It seems folks still haven’t decided whether to sit quietly and eat turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing or to observe a day of mourning related to all the lies we’ve been told.

Anyway, we expect to be back at Coney Island next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 11-13-18

G.A. Minutes 11-13-18

It is really freaking cold tonight, the temperature is in the low teens and promises to go lower than that before morning. There’s a slight dusting of snow everywhere; it appears that winter has arrived and is planning to stay. We think most Duluthians are not real happy about this; there are a lot of advantages to living in Duluth but an overly long winter is not one of them.

Of course there are winter sports aficionados who live here too but we don’t have any friends who share that particular form of craziness. We believe it to be rather self indulgent, especially given the times we are living in. We do not wish to explain to our grandchildren why we were “fiddling while Rome burned”.

Anyway, the first group of people to arrive at Coney Island this evening consists of two Occupiers, two Anons, one straight-up Water Protector and a guy who is vaguely connected to Loaves N Fishes. We are just getting settled when the front door opens and a whole bunch of people come tumbling in. Now we are many and fill up several booths and many tables.

The Occupier who usually takes the meeting minutes sighs, “Well, I did it again for the second time in a month; I was unable to write minutes from our last meeting. When we have a big group like this, with everybody having good ideas about really interesting stuff and everyone talking at once, I just can’t keep up. Maybe if we all tried to focus on just one topic at a time and gave each person the time to express their view, we’d be able to accomplish more. We all agree and pledge to follow these guidelines. The cynics among us think “Good luck with that”.

A Water Protector comments, “The really good thing that happened at our last meeting was our discussion of The St. Paul Principles”. The St Paul Principles are a simple set of rules to be agreed upon between separate groups who have consented to work together toward a particular goal. The Principles are 1.) Our solidarity will be based on respect for a diversity of tactics and the plans of other groups. 2.) The actions and tactics used will be organized to maintain a separation of time or space. 3.) Any debates or criticisms will stay internal to the movement, avoiding any public or media denunciations of fellow activists and events. 4,) We oppose any state repression of dissent, including surveillance, infiltration, disruption and violence. We agree not to assist law enforcement actions against activists and others.

Everyone finds these principles to be clear and to the point. An Occupier has made copies of the short statement and hands them out to the group. She figures people will have an easier time remembering the principles if they can have a copy of them at hand; it will be especially helpful when one’s cell phone needs charging.

Changing the subject, someone remarks, “So I see that the trial of our fellow Water Protector, expert and teacher of traditional Native ways didn’t go as planned?” An Occupier answers, “No it did not; the plan was to bring in Anishinaabe treaty rights”. She explains to those who are unaware, “The MN DNR and other federal and state agencies have been saying that Native people are subject to the same hunting and fishing laws as the rest of citizens of the United States. However, that’s not true. The Anishinaabe bands signed treaties with the United States when they ceded much of their land over for general usage by the colonists. The 1864 or 1865 treaties, I can’t remember which, or maybe it was both, say that the Anishinaabe people shall maintain the rights to fish, hunt and gather in the ceded lands, whenever they want to, forever and ever and ever….. So that means that Ojibwe people can do these things at any time.

“The USA government regulators have been ticketing and giving fines to Native people for hunting and fishing outside the so-called official government ‘seasons’ for a very long time. Now days, Native folks are deliberately and visibly hunting and fishing out of season on ceded lands in hopes of being “caught” by some type of nature cop. The Native peeps can then bring their case into the US court system and argue for their treaty rights. That’s why, over a year ago, our friend the traditional teacher, threw a gill net out on a lake in one of the reservations up north during the off season. However, the court system used a cheap shot on our friend”. We say, “What a surprise!” She continues, “They just charged him with a few minor technicalities and didn’t address the trying to fish out of season issue.

“The United States court system does not want to try a treaty rights case because they know they would lose. Our US Constitution states that nothing, not even He Who Shall Not Be Named’s magnificent executive orders, supersedes a treaty. Even our wacko Supreme Court does not want to tackle the issue”.

Another Occupier adds, “But they still want the Natives to behave like the mindless, consumer slaves that they expect the white folks to behave like; so that’s why they have their minions give tickets and fines and stuff”.

An Anon quires, “Hey, you know what?” We say, “What?” He answers, “All those Native Chiefs and everyone behind them were really smart. Given the situation they were in, with their backs to the wall and all that, they still managed to find a way to preserve something for their people. Amazing”. A Water Protector explains, “Well, it’s about, you know, the SEVEN GENERATIONS”.

Another Water Protector opines, “Speaking about the seven generations, it’s been reported that Enbridge is now doing actual work on their despicable Line 3 tar sands pipeline out on the Fond du Lac Reservation. I think it’s time to put our boots on the ground”. Everyone agrees with him; another Water Protector begins to make a list of other groups who may be willing to put their boots on the ground with us.

We start a conversation about what type of action we should conduct first; then we look around and notice that, although we are taking up most of the back end of Coney Island, there are customers scattered around here and there. The staff people also come over regularly to see if we need anything.

A Water Protector suggests, “I think we need to have this discussion somewhere that is not so public”. An Occupier agrees, “Yeah, I think that’s a good idea. Seeing as Occupy originated as a movement where everyone is welcome, whenever Occupy Duluth holds a meeting we need to hold it in a space that is easily accessible to the general public. However, I think this Occupy meeting is now over?” Everyone agrees so we pack up and get ready to move to a more secure location.

The staff people are surprised to see us leaving so early; we don’t explain anything, we just clean up our mess, leave good tips and promise to see them back at Coney Island next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 10-30-18

G.A. Minutes 10-30-18

We’re meeting at Coney Island this evening just like we did last week. Last week it was raining but this evening the temperature is in the 40s with no forecast of rain. It’s too bad that the weather people didn’t let us know in advance that it was gonna be like this; over the past week, every day they forecast that it would definitely be raining tonight, except for this morning that is. Early in the day, the weather people reported there would be no rain in the evening. Wonderful….. When the Occupiers discussed the situation many hours ago, the Food Bringing Occupier commented, “There’s just no way I can have all the food ready to go by tonight. It takes me almost a whole day to make a big pot of healthy and tasty soup and gathering and preparing all the other stuff too? It’s not possible”. So that’s why we’re meeting at Coney Island again.

The first arrivals to the restaurant are a couple of Occupiers and a few people from the Anonymous crew. Among them is the Occupier who writes the meeting minutes; she tells us, “Well, as you probably know, I didn’t write any minutes from last week’s meeting; there were just too many people and they divided into too many small discussion groups for me to keep track of what was being said. I think most were talking about the City Council shut down but even so, there were so many different angles to the discussions, it was too much for me”.

In case you live on another planet (or maybe just don’t live in the Twin Ports area) you might not know that the City Council meeting on October 22nd, 2018 was shut down by a peaceful group of people who we may or may not know. All the folks involved in the shutdown were wearing Guy Fawkes masks or bandannas over their faces which obscured their identities. The Occupiers have adopted a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy concerning the masked one’s identities; the actual issues surrounding the shutdown are much more important than who the disguised individuals where.

Anyway, much of Duluth was deluged, for the next several days, with the opinions of our citizens concerning the shutdown. There appeared to be two main camps; one camp was completely scandalized by the behavior of the those involved in the shutdown. This group said things like, “How dare they ignore all our City government’s principles and protocols! They all needed to get in line with all our other citizens and wait their turn for their three minutes to speak. Those masked people are nothing more than a bunch of thugs!” The other group who were basically in support of the shutdown said things like, “What does it matter? It was already a given that the majority of our City Councilors were going to vote in favor of letting the cops have riot gear. All those speeches given by Chief Tusken and all those so-called Comment Sessions were a sham. Tusken was pushing real hard to get that gear asap; government bureaucrats and elected official types are all afraid to go against the police. The only ones who will stand up to the cops are the same people who traditionally get their heads beat in by them. It was time to end the charade”.

Most of the Occupiers attended the October 22nd Council meeting; they observed that the Council Chambers were packed. It was standing room only with many peeps trying to listen from out in the hallway. They heard many different left-leaning chants with the main one being, “No Line 3! No Riot Gear for the DPD!” The Occupiers observed that after the initial shock of seeing the people doing the shutdown, almost all the regular people in the Chambers were chanting right along with the folks who took over the meeting. At our last meeting (without minutes) an Occupier told everyone, “Many people have been asking me for my opinion. What I have been telling them is that when people feel they are being completely ignored and marginalized, their only recourse is to throw a fit. All the other options have been tried and proved insufficient”.

After the disguised people took over the Chambers, all the City Councilors ran off and hid somewhere. After an hour or two of their space (actually it’s the general public’s space but most have forgotten that fact) being taken over, the Councilors returned, turned up their microphones real loud and defiantly (some councilors anyway) voted to approve the riot gear. The vote was 6 in favor, 2 opposed and one councilor not present. The Occupiers figured it would be something like that sooner or later and appreciate the 2 Councilors who kept the promises that they made to our marginalized communities. We think the absent Councilor MAY have voted against the gear but we have no idea what prevented her from attending the aforementioned session.

Meanwhile, back at Coney Island, an Anon remarks, “I wonder if we could start doing film screenings as a way to do fundraising and to hook up with more interested people?” An Occupier adds, “We used to do that years ago at The Zinema; they didn’t charge us any type of fee so we actually made money. After a while they changed management teams though and the new people required us to guarantee that a certain amount of moviegoers would turn up. We couldn’t do that so couldn’t do fundraisers there anymore. However, Peace Church is very generous with letting social justice groups use their big basement space. You’d need to have your own equipment for showing films and maybe a movie screen too; I can’t remember if they have a screen or not”. The Anon replies, “That’s good to know, I’ll check it out”.

The smokers go out for a smoke break and while they are doing so, the Stylish Native Woman and her partner come walking down the sidewalk. It appears that they are very tired; the smokers give them each a cigarette and invite them in to join the group. The couple accept the invite and take seats in one of our booths. The Stylish Woman looks rough but, as usual, she’s coherent and friendly; The Partner, who suffers from schizophrenia, is currently unable to speak but he’s calm and sort of collected.

When an Occupier asks the Stylish Woman how they’ve been doing, she sighs and tells him, “Not very well; I’ve recently been trespassed out of CHUM so now have nowhere to go to sleep when it’s cold out”. The Partner was trespassed from CHUM several years ago but until this past year or so, he was fit and strong; the Stylish Woman is considerably older than her partner and suffers from many things that most older folks are plagued with. When things on the street got to be too intense, she was always able to find a chair to sit in and a bed to sleep in at CHUM. Things at the CHUM can get really crazy too but are generally not life-threatening.

The Woman continues, “Also, a few weeks ago, I was walking up the hill, everything was wet and I slipped and hit my head on the cement. When I woke up I was lying in a pool of blood and it was raining. An ambulance came and took me to the hospital; they kept me there, told me that I’m diabetic and that I had a collapsed lung. So they put a tube in my side and an IV in my arm and let me rest for a while. When they were done, they told me I was o.k. and that I should leave. Also, today I was permanently trespassed from the Mission so have nowhere to get regular meals either”. We say, “WTF!?!”

We have always known the Stylish Native Woman to be soft spoken, caring, intelligent and peaceful. We ask her for details and she explains, “Tonight I had finished eating, took my tray, my dishes and a cup to the washing area. I put the cup up on the shelf like I’m supposed to and started to walk away. I heard a crash and turned around to see what it was; one of the workers accused me of throwing a glass against the wall, then he told me that I was trespassed from the Mission forever”. This makes no sense to us; we know that The Partner is kind and completely harmless but his schizophrenic hallucinations can get to be a bit much at times. However, the Stylish Woman causing a problem? That’s very hard to believe.

On an individual basis, the Occupiers have tried to offer help to the couple in the past. However, the couple are very self-sufficient and although they are always grateful for the offers, they prefer to take care of their own problems. The Occupiers silently vow to look for one or both of them whenever we cruise the neighborhood.

Suddenly, the front door swings open and a whole bunch of Water Protectors, Anons and Occupiers roll in. We quickly push more tables and chairs next to the booths that we’ve been sitting in; once everyone is settled a conversation about Operation Safe Winter starts up; #opsafewinter is something done every year by the Anons. They collect warm clothing, blankets and stuff like that, crank up their music and start a big fire in their fire pit in front of Lake Place Park. As the homeless and/or street people cruise by, the Anons offer these folks things that will help them keep warm. Of course, this stuff is very well received, an Anon reports, “Last year I gave a guy a whole package of new white socks; he was so happy that I thought he was gonna cry”.

The Water Protectors and some of the Anons are planning a trip down to the Wall of Forgotten Natives Camp in Minneapolis in a few days. They’re in the process of collecting things to bring to this camp. The Wall of Forgotten Natives Camp started out when a few Native homeless ones put up a tent next to a wall beside a freeway; from there more homeless Natives came and pitched tents too. The camp just kept growing and growing. We’re told that there are around 250 people camping along the wall now. We hear that some type of loose organizational structure has been formed.

We don’t know much about the politics or what kind of response the camp is getting from the City of Minneapolis but maybe those who will drive down there in a few days will bring us back some answers. We figure that if the City government is fairly liberal then the Mayor, City Councilors and whoever else will act all friendly and concerned and what not. They’ll make big speeches and promises and plans; they may even find housing for a few chosen ones. However, once the campers guards are down, the City will send in its cops and wrecking crew to demolish the camp. Then the campers will be back out on the street, right where they started.

That’s the way things have gone, historically, here in the Belly of the Beast. Someday, somewhere, a camp will be demolished but the people will quickly build a new one, when that one is demolished they will build it again. This concept will spread across all parts of the country and mark the beginning of the end of so-called real estate and many other evils of the capitalist system. That will be nice.

Someone says to a Water Protector/Occupier, “I hear that your trial, stemming from the lockdown at Wells Fargo, went well”. The WP/Occupier responds, “Yes, it went very well”. Our lawyer’s presentations and the witnesses they brought with them were amazing. The Prosecution didn’t have much to say at all. Now we have to wait for the judge to make his decision; he said he would make it before Christmas. I find it hard to believe that any judge would find us guilty of wrongdoing but I know that some judges are corrupt so we can’t take anything for granted”.

An Occupier reports, “The city official told me that the Duluth Transit Authority buses will be free on November 6th, which is mid-term voting day”. Another Occupier comments, “Oh cool, I hope the word gets out to all the bus taking people. Maybe some folks who had decided not to go to their voting stations will change their minds”.

The Occupier who is a single parent opines, “I think we should restart the CCC (civilian conservation corps) like they had during the Great Depression. Our country’s economic system is always going up and down. When the economy is up, most people are able to find jobs doing all the things that need to be done. When the economy is down, there are very few jobs although there are still all the things that need to be done. If we had a CCC program, the government could hire people who need jobs and all the things could still get done”.

Another Occupier laughs, “The economy goes up and down because we live under a capitalist economic system. If we had a different economic system things would stop going up and down”. The single parent laughs too, “Yeah, that is the bigger picture, isn’t it?”

One of the Water Protectors has a really big desire to make banana bread. The rest of us have a really big desire to eat banana bread. The problem is that the Water Protector who wants to bake doesn’t have a loaf pan. He’s also about to head out of town for a bit. An Anon/WP has a loaf pan that he can use but she’s not going out of town. Maybe, whoever can be the first to hook up a loaf pan with the traveling Water Protector, will be the one who gets to eat banana bread?

We’re starting to get silly now; the staff is beginning to clean up. We don’t know if they’ve had a lot of customers or not; we’ve been kinda in our own world for a few hours. We pack up, pick up around the tables we have used, help to replace them where they were when we came in, leave tips and head out to our various abodes. We think we’ll be back at Coney Island next Tuesday but if we get some tolerable weather we’ll be building a fire. Your guess is as good as ours at this point. We shouldn’t be too hard to find though.