Organizers want more people to join Occupy DuluthJennifer Cummings was at the food table Monday afternoon keeping the vegan wild rice and potato-rice-bean soups warm. Three days into Occupy Duluth’s encampment at the Civic Center, one of its early victories has been the availability of food for people protesting economic disparity in the community and country.
By: Mike Creger, Duluth News Tribune
Jennifer Cummings was at the food table Monday afternoon keeping the vegan wild rice and potato-rice-bean soups warm.
Three days into Occupy Duluth’s encampment at the Civic Center, one of its early victories has been the availability of food for people protesting economic disparity in the community and country.
But the numbers of protesters themselves aren’t where organizers would like them to be. The biggest need for the movement was
obvious for committee leaders during a meeting Monday night. They shouted the same answer: “People.”
When asked how the food committee’s part of organizing within the group was going, Cummings was enthusiastic. “It’s going amazingly, swimmingly, deliciously,” she said.
The food donations show that some people who can’t or don’t want to join the demonstrations still want to show their support.
During the daily 5 p.m. meeting for the group, a woman dropped off a case of water and some Rice Krispies bars.
“She said she couldn’t be here but wanted to support us,” she said. The table holding the soups also was laden with trail mix, cookies
More people are promising fresh food from their gardens and canned goods they are putting up this fall. Cummings said she hopes to have a menu for a full week based on what people have promised to bring in.
Donations of items and money keep coming in. “Our biggest hurdle is dishes,” Cummings said of the lack of running water at the site. Two people have volunteered to take dishes home to wash and return. “That big hurdle has been jumped,” she said.
For now, the food setup for the 24-7 presence at the Civic Center is being called Food For All, Occupy Your Kitchen and The People’s Kitchen. Behind the food table, on the small lawn in the middle of the plaza, there were 13 tents Monday night. About 20 people had camped there Saturday and Sunday nights, taking time during the day to go to the more visible Lake Superior Plaza at Superior Street and Lake Avenue.
“It’s great the city is allowing us to occupy here,” Andrew Johnson said late Monday afternoon while sitting on a couch in the grass. He said there was little to no contact with police or city officials of any kind throughout an occupation that began early Saturday. “It’s not what you’d assume,” he said.
The city does have a problem with the use of its power supply, and Occupy members told City Council member Sharla Gardner, who attended the meeting Monday with council member Jackie Halberg, that they’d be willing to work out a compromise.
Johnson was especially pleased with the location. He is the great-grandson of John Wangenstein, the architect of the civic buildings that surround the Occupy Duluth camp.
“I like the lack of opposition,” Matt Ihle said as he sat next to Johnson.
“It’s awesome we’re allowed to have tents,” Lara Simpson said. She was addressing the general assembly Monday night as people ate the soup and passed around the bars. She spent time at the original Occupy Wall Street and said it’s now the only Occupy site allowed tents.
She suggested that they become “the people’s tents,” and that some be designated as a library, living room or meeting spaces.
While the Occupy Duluth group will stand with the tenets of the New York group in getting money out of politics and protesting the bailout of banks, members talked about their own identity at Monday’s meeting. They agreed that they would be a “community-created place” that would “assist the community” and protest those who want to “block community building.”
The food success likely will drive that mission.
Organizers are distributing fliers to and visiting drop-in centers in Duluth to remind people who may be going hungry that anyone is welcome to get a meal from the group at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.
“We’ll feed you,” Cummings said.
It’s a more healthful option than getting fast food for a dollar, Jay Benson said. “We have a great community around us,” he said.
The organization of the camp continues, and those under the Occupy Duluth banner are planning fundraisers and direct actions to gain support and understanding. The “arts and family” committee has created an “Occupy Red Star” fundraiser for tonight in the Fitger’s Complex.
There is entertainment planned for Lake Superior Plaza on Saturday to draw people in.
Direct actions also are being planned to get the group’s word across, though those arrangements are being made in secret.
And there are the superficial needs for an encampment, such as an official name.
Those at the meeting Monday had their suggestions: Citizen’s Home, Camp Liberty, Hooverville, Alpha Base and, in a more political stand, Cravaackistan.
Dennis Leahy, who donated the wild rice soup, told the Occupy Duluth camp that it is just the start of “something huge.”
He said it’s too easy for people “to be numb” about the state of the economy around them. “That’s it, go to the coal mine and dig coal and shut up.”
But sitting on the couch is not the way to react to your economic woes, Leahy said. “This is it,” he told the 38 people at the meeting about their efforts.