G.A. Minutes 12-6-16
I’m gonna stick my neck out and say it may actually be winter now and for some time to come.  The skies have been overcast for like ever; the temperature is in the low 20s and the wind is mean and nasty.  The weather people say it’s gonna get colder every day for as far as they can see.  It’s the dark time of the year too.  Arghhh….
However, it’s warm inside Coney Island.  The most recently hired hipster is working.  He has another new trainee.  This time it’s a young hipster woman.  Within a few minutes it becomes obvious that she has done this type of work many times before. This is good because we have many things to talk about tonight.  We’re glad we won’t need to help her do her job.
Everyone is excited by the news about Standing Rock.  Last Sunday the Army Corp of Engineers announced that they were withholding the permit for Energy Transfer to drill beneath the Missouri River in order to finish the pipeline.  They said they were going to do an environmental assessment on other possible sites that the pipeline could use. 
Everything is kind of up in the air right now but whatever they end up doing, it’s going to take a while.  Energy Transfer isn’t going to have a pipeline ready for use before December 31st. That’s the date they promised all their refineries they would send out their first oil shipments.  The refineries will have to get oil from another company.  Energy Transfer is going to lose a lot of money.  There’s more to the story but we’ve found in the past that the best way to get a corporation to change its ways is to cost them a lot of money.
An Occupier comments, “Energy Transfer put out a statement saying they were going to go ahead and drill under the Missouri anyway.  They will just pay the $50,000 a day fine until they’re done.  What are the Water Protectors going to do if the company does that?”  Another Occupier replies, “I think Energy Transfer is bluffing because they’re finally worried.  Just going ahead and drilling will be very difficult to do.  They’re going to need to find a contractor to supply the workers.  The contractor would have to be willing to blatantly defy the US Government and possibly be arrested and sued out of existence”.   
Some Occupiers begin exchanging ideas as to what they think Standing Rock should do next.  One Occupier opines, “In actuality, we don’t have anything to say about it.  We just need to wait for the elders and the water protectors to figure out their strategy.  They’ll then tell us what they need us to do”.
Our good friend, the city official arrives.  He has inside information for us.  He tells us, “Remember when Dr. El Kanti was here and scheduled to speak at a lot of places including both the high schools?  Well, the head of the school board and the principal of Denfield H.S. got together and cancelled one of Dr. El Kanti’s speeches.  The head of the school board was throwing his weight around saying he needed to put a stop to the things Dr. El Kanti was saying.  I called someone in the school system who has as much power as the school board leader.  Once the dust settled, the school board guy told me personally that he had no problem with Dr. El Kanti and that all the speeches would go ahead as planned”.
An Occupier remarks, “What a bunch of morons.  I suppose because Denfield is the high school with the most students of color, they didn’t want students of color to get information showing them that the only race is the human race”.
Someone asks, “So what did you all think of the horribly long City Council meeting that we went to last night?”  Someone else replies, “I thought the folks representing the Homeless Bill of Rights Coalition presented the plan really well.  I wish there was more that had been figured out about how to implement the right to 24 hour access to hygiene facilities.
An Occupier explains, “Oh there is the beginning of a plan figured out.  I and one of the Social Action members have been scoping out the parts of the city most frequented by homeless people.  We also interviewed many people who stay at CHUM. We made a list of good places where we and homeless folks think porta potties could be placed.  We also called around to porta potty companies to get price estimates.
“However, I wasn’t on the panel so when the Councilors began asking about specifics I didn’t think it would be a good idea for me to jump up from the audience waving maps and price estimates.  All the information has been sent to Councilors Westerlund and Sipress though.
“I didn’t think it was such a good idea for the Councilors or the mayor or whoever it was to send the bill back to the Human Rights Commission.  The HRC already had the thing for at least a year and didn’t do anything.  I go to all their meetings; they have some very interesting discussions but they don’t really do much.  I guess I’m going to have to recruit lots of people from the coalition to attend with me.  If we do that consistently, we can make them do the work”.
Another Occupier wants to know, “There is gonna be access to shower facilities too, isn’t there?”  The Occupier working on the H.B. of R. responds, “Yeah, but we haven’t figured that out yet”. The first Occupier suggests, “What about the empty showers at the Washington Center?  After the swimming pool was closed down, all those showers have just been sitting there not being used.
“Also, I’ve seen that in some cities they have taken old buses and converted them into portable shower facilities.  Our DTA can only use a bus for so many years and then they have to sell it and get a new bus.  They sell their old buses for around $5,000”.  The H.B. of R. Occupier remarks, “Those are good ideas.  I’ll present them to the coalition”.
Another Occupier reflects, “It was so great that the City Council voted almost unanimously for the resolution in support of Standing Rock.  The people who spoke in favor of the resolution blew me away with their eloquence”.    
Changing the subject, an Occupier says to the city official, “So what do you think about having to deal with ‘The Donald’?”  The official states, “It will probably suck but at least things are out in the open now.  For a long time people of color have been reporting that racism still exists and that it is all encompassing. Political correctness has kept a lot of the racism hidden from many white folks.  Now everyone can see that things have not improved much.  Maybe actual changes will be made”.
An Occupier asks, “Do you guys want to hear about my latest scandalous experience?  We say, “Yes, please”.  The Occupier tells us, “I was at the latest Citizens Review Board meeting the other day.  Someone brought a copy of this month’s Zenith newspaper.  In it was an article about various types of citizen/police overview groups across the country.  A Duluth police department communications officer was interviewed and quoted as saying, ‘Duluth has a Citizens Review Board but it doesn’t have any power and can’t see most of our records’.
“The CRB Commissioners went ballistic.  I kid you not, they were screaming at the only cop who was present.  One said, “So where is the Chief?!?  He hasn’t been here since he officially was given the job!  Where’s the lieutenant?!  Where’s the sergeant?!  Another yelled, “So if we have no power, why are we doing all this work?!?  I’m this close to telling you where you can stick it!”
The only cop who was there is a middle aged dude who has just been appointed to his position.  I’m betting that he was there because he’s too low on the totem pole to be able to send someone else in his place.  He says, “Well gee, I don’t know. I’ve never even heard of the Zenith and I didn’t know there was an article in it”.   
After they calmed down a little, the Commissioners asked me to give them my truthful opinion.  I’m usually the only person from the actual general public who attends the meetings.  They seem to think I have my finger on the pulse of the community or something.  Anyway, I just told them I thought the general perception in the community is that they don’t have any power”.
Another Occupier adds, “Actually it’s pretty cool that it went down like that.  Maybe the Commissioners will fight to gain more power now.  After all, some of them said at the beginning of the year they were going to do that”.
It appears the staff has finished all the cleaning.  We were so busy talking we didn’t even notice.  Time to leave.
We expect to be back at Coney Island next Tuesday.   
 

G.A. Minutes 11-29-16

G.A. Minutes 11-29-16
So we’ll be doing weekly Tuesday night meetings at Coney Island during the winter months.  Except it doesn’t seem to be winter right now.  It was winter at this time last week but it has rained for the last four days.  All the snow has washed away and temperatures are in the upper 30s.  We may have been able to have a fire tonight.  Who knows?
An Occupier comments, “I called the National Weather Forecast this morning to find out what the weather would be like this evening.  The recording said a 50% chance of…… that’s all; it just said chance of….. Then it went on to tomorrow’s forecast.  Climate change is getting scarier by the day.  Nobody knows what is going on”.
Things look a little different at Coney Island tonight.  The regular hipster is not present.  The newest hipster, who was trained in a month or two ago, seems to be supervising a tall not very hipster looking guy who appears to have never worked in a food serving type job before this. 
Both of these guys appear quite flustered and confused.  Two of the small booths have a couple of people in them and they have ordered food.  The guys are both frantically looking in all the drawers behind the counter.  They appear to be having a hard time getting even the coffee maker to work.
Our back booth is empty so we put our stuff in it and go back to the counter to order food.  Eventually the tall non-hipster dude arrives.  An Occupier asks, “Is there chicken salad tonight?”  The dude gets a real panicked look on his face and runs to a booth where the supervising hipster is serving folks. The Occupier jokes, “I wish he hadn’t run away so fast.  I coulda showed him where in the refrigerator to look for it”.
Our orders are always pretty simple.  Basically we just need something with fruit or vegetables that won’t kill us but will calm our not having had dinner yet hunger pangs.  We joke with the staff guys, they relax a little; we figure they’ll be o.k. now.
We are many this evening so squeeze in tight and start a conversation about the really horrible and highly illegal things the cops are doing to the water protectors out at Standing Rock.  An Occupier remarks, “If the water protectors could all change their names to Bundy they’d be treated really well”.
The staff hipster brings our food to us.  Our orders have been seriously mixed up.  We politely explain what it was that we actually ordered and he takes our food back so as to get things straight.  When he returns, everything is still wrong but….Whatever. 
We don’t come here for the exquisite food anyway.  We come here because we can comfortably talk and relax in a neighborhood space.  No one harasses us or acts like they’re afraid of us.  Sometimes a few of our street friends stop by. We thank the hipster dude and eat what he has given us.  No problem.
A friend of one of the Occupiers comes through the door.  She brings some things for the folks at Standing Rock.  She has owned and worked a produce farm out in the country for many years.  She knows what people need for survival in harsh winter conditions. 
Several of our friends and maybe an Occupier are planning to drive out to SR this upcoming weekend.  They will be able to take the farm woman’s gifts along with them.  We thank her for helping to protect the water.
An Occupier inquires, “So everyone knows about the Support Standing Rock – Defund the Big Banks rally this Thursday, December 1st, 11am-3pm at People’s Plaza, right?”  We all say, “Right”.  The Occupier continues, “The elders are asking that we make the entire month of December a No DAPL month of action.  So far, here in Duluth, we’ve got the first day covered”.  We laugh.
An Occupier adds, “Our friend the Native CHUM worker and a lot of our other friends from the local Native community were out at the SR camps for the Thankful Feast and a few days more.  Our CHUM friend said everything was real peaceful there.  He also said not all the cops out there mistreat the water protectors.  Many of the police from outside of the area are respectful and accommodating.  It’s the Morton County Sheriff’s Department who are the main abusers”.
Another Occupier reports, “The first reading of the Homeless Bill of Rights Ordinance is going to be Monday, December 5that City Hall.  At 4:15pm people are going to march from CHUM to City Hall for a rally on the front steps.  At 5:15pm we’ll go up to the council chambers for the reading of the proposed ordinance.  We need as many bodies as we can possibly get. The City Council needs to see that there are a lot of citizens who support the Homeless Bill of Rights.
“December 5th is also the day that the Army Corp of Engineers has asked the Standing Rock Oceti Sakowin youth camp to move from its current location to a so called “free speech zone” away from the DAPL construction sight.  The folks in the youth camp have no intention of leaving.
“There are several things wrong with the AC of E’s request. For one thing, the land the youth camp is on is the property of the Standing Rock tribe.  It does not belong to the AC of E despite their claim that it does.  Also, there is no such thing as a “free speech zone”.  Freedom of speech is a right belonging to citizens no matter where in the USA they happen to be. Lastly, the water protectors absolutely have to live where they can keep an eye on the DAPL construction sight.  Morton County cops and construction workers can’t be trusted even as far as one can spit.
“There will be a really lot of people coming from across the country to watch the backs of the water protectors on December 5th.  It may be a day of action across the country too; I don’t know.  If there’s an action here, we may have to split into groups in order to cover everything.  We’ll have to wait and see”.
An Occupier changes the subject, “I’m going to the Citizens Review Board meeting tomorrow.  If anyone wants to come along, please do”.  We all groan.  Someone replies, “I thought some of the Review BOD members said they were gonna fight for more control over the CRB”.  The first Occupier answers, “Yeah, I know they did.  I haven’t seen any evidence of anything changing yet except for all the upper echelon cops playing musical job changing.  I just go to the monthly meetings to keep an eye on the cops and to goad the Commissioners into taking a stand on anything that helps poor people.  I’m usually the only person from the Duluth citizenry in attendance”
One of our group had a recent encounter with a police officer; he asks, “What exactly is the policy concerning a citizen who would wish to view the film from a police officer’s body camera?”  An Occupier explains, “In Duluth a citizen may view the film from an officer’s body camera when the film is of an encounter in which the said citizen participated.  Even then, the film can only be viewed after it is finished being held as part of an investigation.
“The citizen must submit a request to view the film and then wait to be told when and where to go in order to view it.  Of course, the citizen can’t have a copy of the film”.  We all say, “Of course”. 
The Occupier resumes, “Each cop has to turn in their camera after their shift.  Theoretically, the cops are unable to tamper with the film on their body cameras.  Of course, the upper echelon cops or the D.A. would never tamper with the film”. Again we say, “Of course”.
Another Occupier opines, “That’s why it’s so important that regular people continue to film cop/citizen incidents no matter how many cops are wearing body cameras”.  Someone adds, “Once Trump and his cronies take the reins, I’m betting the laws about citizens filming cops are going to change drastically”.
On an optimistic note, someone responds, “Yabut, what about the vote recall that will go on in at least three states.  Maybe they will find enough irregularities to change the winner of the election”.
An Occupier replies, “Yeah, they probably will.  They’ll probably find a lot more than just irregularities.  Even so, they’ll just sweep it all under the rug, the same as they did in 2000. When it comes right down to the wire, the 1% doesn’t even try to maintain the illusion of a democracy”.
A member of one of the Occupier couples tells us, “We’re going to have our usual Christmas Day thing again this year. Except we’re going to use the Occupy fire pit and hold the fire in the back yard of our artist co-op.  When the sun goes down we will go into the house and have our usual simple Christmas feast.  It should be fun”.  We all agree, it should be fun and we all plan to attend.
We are now the only customers.  The non-hipster guy has gone out for a smoke.  The hipster guy is cleaning the counter.  We take the hint.
With so many of us in the booth, we’ve made quite a mess. We clean it up, settle the bill and leave some good tips.  As we say goodnight, the hipster dude calls out, “When you return next Tuesday, we’ll do a much better job.  I promise”.
      

G.A. Minutes 11-22-16

G.A. Minutes 11-22-16
It’s beginning to snow as we arrive at Coney Island this evening.  The weather people say it’s going to keep on snowing until tomorrow afternoon.  You just can’t win with winter.  When there’s a lot of snow, driving and walking are treacherous. Slippery streets can cause a driver to uncontrollably slide sideways and or spin out while simply attempting to get from one place to another.  When walking, slippery sidewalks and paths can cause broken bones and such.
When winter temperatures are super cold it doesn’t snow but getting one’s car started may be problematic.  Walking or just being outside in way below freezing weather can kill you.  In fact, Duluth has already had its first cold weather death of the year.  A street person, who was vaguely familiar to the Occupiers, was found dead from hypothermia last Sunday morning.   
Everything appears to be unchanged as we cruise into our winter headquarters.  There is only one customer, the same friendly hipster is behind the counter and best DJ in the Twin Ports area is casting his spell from up at KUMD.  The back booth is empty; it has probably been waiting for us.
We’re just settling in as the city official arrives.  We haven’t seen him in over a week.  He’s been busy with his various regular responsibilities and also with managing the itinerary for the visiting scholar, Dr. Mamoud El Kanti.
The official asks, “So what did you all think of the speech that Dr. El Kanti gave in Duluth last Thursday?”  We all thought the professor’s presentation was fantastic.  The city man continues, “I thought so too.  Dr. El Kanti spoke on several occasions in the Twin Ports; each of the events was standing room only.  I’m so proud.  I think that much of the information he presented was entirely new to most of the audiences”.
An Occupier responds, “I was blessed with having several excellent college teachers in African history classes that I took in Oakland, CA.  They taught the same things that Dr. El Kanti teaches.  This was in the mid-80s.
“I know the concept about the four races of human beings on the earth is really ingrained in our culture.  Even so, I’m surprised at how long it took for the true information to reach the Northland”.
An Occupier changes the subject, “Clinton won the popular vote but Trump won the Electoral College so Trump is in line to be president.  That kind of stands things on end, doesn’t it?”  The city official replies, “It does.  The privileged, white guys who created our constitution were afraid that if the general public was allowed to directly elect our countries government officials, this general public in its ignorance could elect a despot.  That’s why they invented the Electoral College.  Now, thanks to the Electoral College, a despot has been elected”.  We laugh at the absurdity of it all.
Another Occupier says, “I think things are going to be very difficult for these next four years.  We are going to have to work even harder than we do already.  However, we know that Trump is a bully and bullies will back down.  Nationwide, we will all have to keep up the pressure”.
The city man states, “I believe we are involved in sort of a spiritual war.  The most important thing will be to keep one’s spirit intact”.  An Occupier exclaims, “That’s the same thing the Indigenous people all over the world are telling us!  They have variations on the same theme about fighting a spiritual battle between those who use love and non-violence to bring about a new way of living and those who want to maintain the old way of greed and destruction”.
An Occupier comments, “Speaking of Indigenous peoples, some of our folks from All Nations, the Indigenous Commission and our local community will be heading out to Standing Rock tomorrow.  The sewing people are going to come to my place early in the morning and put the final stiches on the biggest tipi cover so they can take it with them”.
Someone asks, “Did you see the videos of what the cops did to the young water protectors at Standing Rock on Sunday night? If I didn’t know any better, I would hardly believe it.  Using rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray and water cannons in freezing weather?  On innocent young people who are only trying to protect the water supply of a million people?  WTF?”
Somebody else inquires, “How did the chili feed fundraiser for Standing Rock go on Sunday?”  An Occupier tells him, “It was slower than the pasta feed but it was still successful.  Actually, it’s a good thing it was slower.  One of the main organizers was ill that day so most of the work fell on the shoulders of the other main organizer.  I stopped by around 7:30pm, saw the situation, rolled up my sleeves and started washing dishes”.
Another Occupier reports, “I’ll be holding the first meeting of the Bathroom Committee for the Homeless Bill of Rights at my house this upcoming Wednesday evening at 7pm.  You all are welcome to attend.  My partner made a map of the area from West End to the beginning of East Hillside.  It covers the hill from Superior Street to 4th Street.  Maybe people will want to take a look at it and get an idea of what we’re working with.  Of course, the best thing to do is to ask local homeless people for their opinions. We can probably get going on that after Thanksgiving.
“Speaking of Thanksgiving, what are you guys planning on doing that day?  My partner and I are going to the DECC for their pretty decent free meal.  Anybody else want to join us?  Many of our friends will be there”.  Everyone agrees; they would also like to go to the DECC.  We make plans as to where and when we will meet up.
There are no other customers in the café; the hipster dude is rolling out the mop bucket.  We know what this means.  As we begin to get ready to leave, someone reminds us we were going to decide whether we should meet just once a week during the winter months.
An Occupier opines, “I think it would be good if we just met every Tuesday.  There are usually things to do on Saturdays and we frequently have to cancel our Saturday meeting in order to do them.  We need to check out what the others who are not here tonight have to say.  Then we can decide for sure.  For right now, let’s just plan to meet back here next Tuesday”.
So that’s what we’ll do.

G.A. Minutes 11-19-16

G.A. Minutes 11-8-16

G.A. Minutes 11-8-16
The Anonymous crew is out on the sidewalk again this evening as the Occupiers roll up on People’s Plaza.  Their numbers are smaller than they were on Saturday but they’re still making a lot of noise and attracting attention. 
The City has this year’s formerly live tree up in the Plaza now.  It’s an annual thing; sometime shortly before so called Thanksgiving they have a tree lighting ceremony followed by a so called Christmas City of the North Parade.  After that, the Christmas shopping season is in full swing.
We feel only sadness upon seeing a glorious, approximately 60 foot high spruce tree that, until recently, graced the forest providing warmth and shelter for the animals and nourishment and water for the land.  Now, after business people have exchanged money, the beautiful tree will preside over the Christmas Season.  A time when ‘Mericans scurry around driving themselves crazy and acting meaner and meaner each day until Christmas arrives.  This is in an attempt to find the happiness that is the promise of Christmas Day.
The problem is that ‘Merican capitalist Christmas is a lie. The original idea around Christmas had nothing to do with buying and selling.  Peace on Earth, Good Will to All got lost in the translation somewhere.  In some places it’s at least practiced on that one special day.  Then it’s back to bombing, killing and destroying the gifts of Mother Earth. Same ol’ same ol’. 
Anyway, the sun is down, temperatures are in the low 50s and there are medium strength gusts of wind.   We get the fire going almost immediately as we know the Anonymous kids will be cold by now.  Some of them have been “working the corner” since 8am.  They tell us they had a pretty good day, but in the early afternoon, a homeless guy who said he was a veteran was screaming and throwing rocks at them.
An Occupier couple brings hot dogs with all the fixins. They even have a grill on a tripod contraption that works really well.  One can raise or lower the grill depending on how high the flames from the fire rise.  This means we don’t have to forego watching the beauty of the flames in order to cook our food.  Cool.  The hot dogs get eaten as fast as they come off the grill.
Menagerie Woman arrives.  She’s coming from her regular Tuesday night movie and pops in to say hello before going to catch her bus.  She tells us she’s in the process of moving into another house while her current home is being remodeled.  Her landlord is providing the substitute house.  It’s a pretty good deal except for the fact that her household consists of four humans, six dogs, a couple of cats and various other small animals.
Bushman is still living with her.  Menagerie Woman says that she’s asked him to leave several times.  He tells her, “I’m not leaving ‘cuz I got nowhere else to go”.  An Occupier comments, “Well, you can always file a restraining order.  Of course, we’ll trust your judgement on that.  You know him a lot better than we do”.
The Anonymous folks have been sitting, relaxing and getting refreshments.  They’re ready to go marching around town again.  They gather up their flags, signs and bullhorn.  Off they go.
An Occupier reports, “Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance isn’t going to have an NDN Taco Sale in December.  Too many of their people are going to be gone next month.  Also, I don’t know if we’ll be able to have a fire next Tuesday or not.  Many cities across the country are calling for a day of rallies in support of Standing Rock. We may be having a rally here too, or so I’m told.  We should know in a day or so”.
An Occupier says to another, “You volunteered to be on the Human Rights Commission, didn’t you?”  The other Occupier replies, “Yeah, I did.  It was last April and I haven’t heard anything since.  I know the mayor said she wanted to wait to appoint new Commissioners until a new Human Rights Officer was hired but he’s been hired since last August.  I wonder what’s up with that”.
The first Occupier responds, “Well, remember that I told you most of the current Commissioners were belatedly informed that their commissions had expired and they needed to reapply?  That meant technically there was no Human Rights Commission.  Some of the current Commissioners were pretty upset about that.  I’m told the dust has finally settled, they’re getting their ducks in a row and the next official Human Rights Commission meeting will be in December.  If we go to that meeting we might get an answer as to when they’ll be appointing more people”.
The marchers return. They’re not chanting and tell us they were stopped by a police officer.  He was very nice to them and asked that they not march in the street or block traffic.  An Occupier mumbles, “It wouldn’t have gone down that way if you weren’t white”.  The marchers agree.
Our friend the Anarchist rides up on his bike.  He doesn’t “Surf the Net” so was unaware we had moved our meetings to People’s Plaza.  Now that he knows, we expect to be seeing more of him.
A big dude with his hoodie over his head walks up.  He asks if we remember him.  When he smiles, we do remember him.  He’s the same man we met at our first few fires here back in April.  He was friendly and said he’d been sleeping on a particular Plaza bench nightly for almost a month.  He really liked our coffee.  Shortly after that time, we heard the cops had come and run him off.
He sits down, asking if we have anything hot to drink.  We give him coffee; he takes a drink and exclaims, “Damn this is good!”  We exchange a few words in the Anishinaabe language.  The man comments, “I know you guys aren’t Native but I’ve always felt comfortable around your fire”. 
We talk more about Native friends we have in common. The big guy becomes introspective, he sighs, “I’m from Red Lake but I’m basically a City Indian.  I spent many years studying traditional medicine.  I was a drummer and host drummer for many years too.  Somewhere along the line I lost my culture.  I just don’t care anymore.  I’ve seen so much suffering and death.  I don’t believe anymore.  It’s been a long time since I’ve said that out loud”.
We chat about this and that.  As he gets ready to leave, we assure him he will be welcome again anytime he chooses to visit.  Once the Red Laker is gone, an Occupier shakes his head, “Amazing…. That is the same dude who was throwing rocks at the Anonymous kids earlier today!”
Another Occupier opines, “He was probably so drunk he doesn’t even remember he was there.  I’ve seen people behave one way, get drunk and turn into someone completely different. So sad….”
Anonymous has gone off marching again.  As we pack up we notice they have left many of their things, including their sound equipment behind.  Some of the Occupiers stay, waiting until the marchers return. 
We stand around the fire for a while, watching the coals die.  When the kids return they say, “We’ve decided to extend this action to a fifth day.  We’ll be here tomorrow, this is fun”.
As we say our goodbyes we wonder if they’ll still be here upon our return on Saturday.  We smile as we remember the words…..We’re Anonymous.  Expect us.    

G.A. Minutes 11-5-16

G.A. Minutes 11-5-16
We’re about to have a fire circle at People’s Plaza for the first time in 2 weeks.  Meetings related to the proposed Homeless Bill of Rights Ordinance and fundraising events for Standing Rock have taken up the time that is usually reserved for our fires.  We’re happy to finally be back here again.
When we roll up, we find a fairly good sized group of people wearing Anonymous masks while holding signs and waving an Anonymous flag and having a rally out on the sidewalk outside of the Plaza.  A squad car is parked close on the street and a single cop appears to be watching them. When we drive the fire supplies up into the space and begin unloading, the squad drives off.
The leaders of the Anonymous group are friends of ours.  One of them says, “That cop has been sitting there watching us since we arrived around 1pm”.  We’re impressed that the group of primarily very young folks has a canopy covered table with literature and food.  They have a small sound system too. 
The leaders had informed us they would be here tonight; we even loaned them some of our signs. We just hadn’t expected they would be so well organized.  Basically they’re a bunch of well-meaning kids who are beginning to form their personal world views.  Wearing the masks and marching around is fun for them.
The sky is already dark with a barely noticeable breeze.  Temperatures are in the low 50s.  No one can remember when the weather has stayed this warm this late in the year.
The Fire Magician gets the fire going.  Once the sun went down the kids started to feel cold. They’re grateful for the flames and the hot coffee. We think that few homeless folks will visit us tonight.  It’s the first days of the month; also the kids and their masks will keep the folks away too. Many unhoused people are quite conservative in an odd sort of way.
An Occupier asks, “So are we gonna have a fire on Tuesday?  It will be election night you know”. Another Occupier responds, “Damn, I sure hope so.  I’m so sick of the election circus!  I won’t want to be anywhere where I’ll be forced to hear any more about it”.  We all agree; unless there is a major blizzard, we’ll have a fire on election night.
Our friend, who we call The Anarchist, rides up on his bike.  Now that he’s retired he spends a lot of time helping older Veterans for Peace.    We haven’t seen him in a while.
An Occupier wants to know, “How did the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance taco sale go yesterday?”  Another Occupier tells him, “Things were slower than usual but they still made a profit to add to their war chest.  The most interesting thing that happened was that 2 of our All Nations friends who have been spending a good amount of time at Standing Rock dropped in.  They gave us the latest news as to what’s going on there.
“They told us the cops are starting to send a lot of Native informant types into the camps.  Many of these informants are actually people who are from the Standing Rock reservation.  They’re mostly people who are addicted to various types of hard drugs.  Of course, this creeps out all the real people.  The informants are relatively easy to spot though because they can’t hang with the spiritual stuff.
“I tried to explain to our friends that sending informants is the next stage of the game that The Man plays.  I don’t think they heard me though. The water protectors have a lot of good stuff going on but they don’t have the experience in protesting The Man that we do.  There are things that we could teach them.  However, I sure don’t want to be pushing my white privilege on anybody.  I just go with the flow”.
Someone adds, “I think it’s the prayers and ceremonies that will be the most effective in the end.  Real spirituality has the most power”.
Someone else changes the subject saying, “You’ll never believe the latest law they’ve just passed in Wisconsin.  It says that a landlord no longer has to hold on to tenants’ personal belongings for any period of time after the landlord evicts them.  They can do whatever they want to with the belongings right away”.
An Occupier exclaims, “Talk about kicking a person when they’re down!  There are many people who are just one paycheck or misfortune away from being evicted from their home.  So they should be dispossessed of their belongings too? Walker and his sorry assed government are seriously sick”.
Another Occupier changes the subject again. She says, “Weather permitting, it looks like we’ll be able to have at least a couple more fire circles on Tuesdays.  The next Homeless Bill of Rights meeting will be Sunday, November 13th, 1pm at Dorothy Day House.  We expect to bring the ordinance before the City Council during the first weeks of December”.
The Occupier goes on, “I don’t know how to tell you all this but I have it on good authority that we have had an informant of our own visiting this group for the last several months”.  The Occupier gives the group various bits of information that back up her suspicions.  It turns out that each Occupier has information of their own that had been putting a question in their mind too.  As we all share our information, the picture becomes clearer.
The first Occupier continues, “The informant became connected to a few other groups through us.  I believe she may be gone now.  I’m thinking she didn’t find what she was looking for.  She kept saying she was looking for a group that was really radical.  I guess none of us fit the bill”.
Another Occupier opines, “Well, being radical is not synonymous with building bombs in the basement.  If building bombs is what she wants, she needs to hook up with white supremacists”. 
A middle aged white homeless guy sits down.  He was in our circle a few months ago and we thought he was kinda cool.  He’s technically a white guy but was born and raised up north a ways in an area where there are a lot of Native reservations.  He spent most of his life hanging out with Native people and is respectful and well versed it their traditions.  We welcome him.
The male half of the multiracial couple has been sitting at the fire for a while.  He tells us that he’s quite happy with his new apartment.  He also says that his female partner is out drinking a little and hanging with her friends.  He says, “I’m just staying out so she’ll be able to find me when she’s done.  If I go home and go to sleep she’ll be left out on the street all night.  I don’t want for that to happen to her.
“She’ll be going into treatment soon.  That means she’ll be gone for a few months but I think it will be good for her.  I’ll hold down the fort for her until she gets back”.
One of the masked kids asks, “Where’s my phone?”  The male of the couple says, “Was it sitting on the chair next to the white/Native dude?”  The kid says yes it was and the male tells him, “The white/Native guy just picked it up and left.  I thought it was kinda weird because I saw it sitting next to him so I asked him if I could use it. He said he didn’t have a phone then he picked up the one next to him and left.  If I’d have known it was yours I would have said something”.
An Occupier says incredulously, “Wait a minute. The dude just smudged and then he stole your phone?”  One of the masked women is from the neighborhood and lives in the Skinner Building. She says, “Oh yeah, the white/Native guy is notorious for stealing.  He’s always hanging on First Street.  He has nothing so he’ll steal anything”.  We say, “WTF?”
The male of the couple stands up saying, “Look! There he is.  I can see him from here”.  A couple of the Anonymous guys go off to find the stealing dude.
We watch the fire for a bit; one of the Anonymous girls brings her phone over to the male saying, “The cops have the stealing guy but he doesn’t have a phone on his person.  They want to talk to you”.  The male takes her phone and tells the cops what he saw.  An Occupier comments, “If the dude is a chronic thief he will have stashed the phone as soon as he knew he was being followed”.
A heavy set guy carrying a small walking stick arrives.  He tells us that he is Native and from Louisiana.  He was attracted by the smell of the sage.  He wants to talk about how he is going to vote for Hilary Clinton because Donald Trump is the Anti-Christ.  No one in the circle is interested in his line of thought.  He soon leaves.
The Anonymous guys who went off hunting return.  They say the cops searched the alleged stealer and could find no phone.  We feel sorry that the young kid lost his phone.  All the Anonymous folks pick up their signs and flags and go off marching and chanting in the direction of Canal Park.
The woman who lives in the Skinner returns shortly.  She tells us she has a sprained ankle and just can’t hang.  She then tells us part of her life story.  It has to do with her and her husband both being disabled and forced to live off government benefits.  They have a 6 year old child.  They’ve lived in the Skinner for 7 years and have been trying to move somewhere else for a long time.
She states, “The Skinner Apartments are basically for people who are on their last chance of being housed.  If they can’t keep an apartment at the Skinner, they will be out in the street because no other landlord will rent to them.  My husband and I are not last chancers and really don’t belong there.  As you can imagine, there is lots of drinking, drugging and fighting going on there during all hours of the day and night.  A few of the people who live there are pretty cool but most of them are nuts”.
When the marchers return we decide it’s time to pack up.  It’s nearly 10pm.  As previously stated, barring a blizzard, we’ll be back at People’s Plaza on Tuesday.       

G.A. Minutes 10-22-16

G.A. Minutes 10-22-16
We find it rather amazing but it looks like we’re going to have another perfect autumn evening here at People’s Plaza.  The temperature is in the high 50s and there is minimal breeze.  The sun went behind the buildings shortly after we arrived; we can’t see stars or a moon so we’re guessing the sky is overcast.
Two friends of the multiracial couple are waiting for us.  They tell us the couple will not be stopping by tonight.  They just got into their new apartment; they are luxuriating in privacy.  An Occupier comments, “Oh, that’s too bad.  Well, I guess it’s not but another Occupier has some household goods to give them.  I guess they can take care of that later”.
One of the friends tells us he’s from the Smokey Mountains.  He’s also done a bit of traveling.  We talk about the places we’ve been so far in our lives while we watch the Fire Magician get a big fire going.
A couple of thirty something year old guys we haven’t met yet come up.  They tell us they are Italians from upstate New York.  They’re incredulous that we are having a fire in a public space.  We get that response from most folks we meet who are from the east coast.  Things must be different out there.
The New York guys want to talk about the upcoming national election.  They’ve come to the wrong place.  Most people say they don’t vote; a few say they’ll vote for Jill Stein.  The guys get some snacks and move on to somewhere else.
The city official drops in.  He’s carrying a pizza box which he offers to those in the circle.  He’s on his way up the hill to a choir concert at Sacred Heart.  Several of our Occupiers will be singing in the choir.
The Stylish Native Woman and her partner get drinks and take their seats.  The partner is calm and logical again tonight.  He’s a great person when he’s not having a schizophrenic attack.  They are still homeless but tell us they have found somewhere warm to sleep for the time being, at least.  We don’t think they’ve been able to make long term plans however, they’re both pretty smart so will probably survive.  We’ll help them if we can.
Someone mentions the fact that there has been a recent shooting in the West End.  The person who was shot died.  Some of the fire worshippers were acquainted with the shooter.  They say that outwardly the shooter appeared to lead a pretty good life.  Inwardly, he had a serious and long term drug addiction. 
The shooting took place in the bar next to the infamous Curly’s Bar.  An Occupier opines, “So one person is dead and another is going to lose his apparent nice life and be locked up for a long time.  All over a bunch of stupid shit.  Bummer”.
The Smokey Mountain dude is off in the corner talking on his phone.  We hear our first siren of the night as a squad car goes roaring up the hill.  The noise startles Smokey Mountain Man and he falls off his perch.  He’s not hurt so we laugh.  It’s elemental slapstick but still kinda funny.
The Superior Occupier appears.  He’s been to a community meeting over there. The City of Superior wants to raise the tourist tax in order to spend more money on something.  The Occupier reports, “The problem is, they want to add it to the purchase of hot food.  I went to the meeting to speak for poor people who have to buy hot food because they have no place to cook food themselves.  Another tax will cause a problem for the people who are unable to cook”.
Another Occupier changes the subject by asking, “Did you see what happened at Standing Rock today?”  The Superior Occupier shakes his head no and the first Occupier continues, “The Morton County Sheriff’s Department attacked the water protectors again.  I saw a short cell phone video from one of the women.  The cops surrounded the Red Warrior Camp while it was still dark.  They had their big lights from their big vehicles shining on the camp.  The people of the camp where sorta staggering around because the lights were blinding them.
“One man was singing a Lakota song.  The cops had their badge numbers taped over; a woman asked a cop for his name and badge number and the cop refused to tell her.  The woman said, “You know it’s the law now that if I ask you for your name and badge number, you have to tell me”.  The cop says, “What law?”  The women were brave but you could tell they were afraid too.  They kept saying, ‘We need you people to come out here and stand with us!’
“That was all there was in the video.  I’ve heard that many water protectors were maced and many were arrested.  Our friend, an Anishinaabe water protector told us last night that it looked like the Sheriff’s Department was gearing up for some harassment action.
“I feel really bad that I’m not able to go out there.  All I can do is to try to help them from here.  I’m able to let All Nations use some of the work rooms where I live in order to make canvas teepee covers for the camp.  My husband has about forty acres worth of forest up north a little way.  Lots of the trees have fallen so there will be plenty of good firewood.  If we can get a small crew up there we can ship it out.
“Also, Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance and IWW are going to hold a Pasta Not Pipelines event at the Central Hillside Community Center on Saturday, October 29th 4pm-7pm.  They will have Halloween games and stuff for the kids.  Of course, we’ll help with that.  We’ll do everything we can to help those protecting the water”.
We hear a clacking sound coming across the Plaza.  It’s two cops riding horses. These are the first cops to actually visit us since we started our fires in April. Ordinarily we love to look at the horses.  Tonight we’re not in the mood to have our conversation interrupted.  We pretend to ignore them and they ride on down to the street.
An Occupier tells us that a close friend of his is trying to get into treatment.  He says, “She’s up at the inpatient place up by the mall but they have a ten day stay limit up there.  If they don’t find a treatment bed for her within ten days, they’ll just dump her out on the street”.
Another Occupier adds, “Yeah, I know how that works.  One has to wait months to get into a treatment or mental health bed.  Once they find a bed for the person, the person is either back using or flipping out and doesn’t think they need the bed anymore”.
The Superior Occupier has to leave and asks to be reminded of what events are coming up this week.  Another Occupier tells him, “The next Homeless Bill of Rights meeting is this Tuesday at Dorothy Day House. The Local Solutions to Poverty Candidate Forum will be this Thursday, October 27th 6-7:30pm at Holy Family Church on West 3rd Street.  They need us to help table there and then of course, the Pasta Not Pipelines event on Saturday.  Take care, see you later”.
We see a man coming up through the shadows.  We’re pleasantly surprised to see that he’s the dancing, gay, street man who was a regular at our fires over the years.  He appears to be at least 100% sober.  We knew that he was arrested and sentenced to jail toward the end of the summer of 2015.  We hadn’t seen him since then.  We were told that he was trying to defend himself from being attacked and managed to do some serious damage to his attacker.  The judge didn’t see it that way.
We all hug him and welcome him.  He’s just recently been released and is staying with his mother.  We encourage him to use his obvious intelligence and talent to his own benefit this time around.  We sit and chat a while and then he has to catch his bus home.  We ask him to be sure to visit us again.
The Occupiers are now alone at the fire with the Stylish Native Woman and her partner.  The partner tells us stories of his past.  We know that over twenty years ago he spent some time in prison.  He explains that he had a party at his house and unknown to him; a couple of the partiers were playing Russian roulette with a gun.  One of them died and because it happened in his house, he was charged with a serious crime.  He was young and didn’t know any better so when the D.A. offered him a lesser charge even though he was innocent, he took it.  He says, “Do you know that some of the people in prison are actually innocent?”  We know.
The big, young Native dude who attended our Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial fires over the last year or so comes up the stairs with a friend.  They appear to be mid-drunk.  Like when they’re not just a little drunk so they’re kinda nervous and shy or when they’re really drunk so they stagger around, slur their words and act silly.  Right now they’re just glassy eyed and stupid looking.  The big dude asks, “Do you have any food left?”  We do, so they take some and wander off.
The city official returns.  He comments, “The concert was o.k. but I wanted to come back here and watch the fire”.  We all sit and watch the fire.  The city man gets a phone call and the woman and her partner need to go off to sleep.
The Occupiers begin to pack up when the little, young, veteran homeless dude appears.  We have not seen him since springtime.  An Occupier gives him the description of a middle aged woman and tells him, “She was here looking for you several times over the summer.  She said she was your mother”.
The little guy smiles and responds, “Yeah that sounds like my mother”.  He appears a little shaky and says he’s feeling bad because he got into an argument with the street friends he usually hangs around with.  He says, “I was so glad when I saw your fire.  I’ve passed by here a couple of times over the summer when you were having a fire.  I was really fucked up though and I know you guys like people to be straight around the fire so I didn’t stop in.  You guys have the best coffee.”
We decide to sit with him while he drinks a big cup of coffee.  An Occupier notices that the young guy is out of tobacco. She makes him a paper carton of tobacco with papers and a lighter included and gives it too him. 
After a while we start packing up.  The young guy helps.  The tobacco giving Occupier goes off to get the car that carries all the supplies.  When she returns, she finds that the little guy has picked a flower out of one of the Plaza flower gardens.  He offers it to her.  She thinks oh, don’t pick the flowers but she catches herself, accepts the flower graciously and puts it in her hair.
So we’ll be at the Dorothy Day meeting next Tuesday and the Pasta event on Saturday.  It looks like we won’t be back at People’s Plaza until the following Tuesday.  Hopefully all will be well in the meantime.    

G.A. Minutes 10-15-16

G.A. Minutes 10-15-16
The weather people decided to tell the truth today.  They said it was gonna look like it was gonna rain all day but it wouldn’t actually rain.  That’s just what happened.  The sky cleared just before the sun went down behind the buildings across the street from People’s Plaza.
As a matter of fact, it was a pleasant autumn day and it’s turning into a pleasant evening.  The temperature is in the high 60s with a soft southern breeze.  Not bad….
The multiracial couple and one of their friends arrive at the Plaza the same time as the first Occupiers do.  They say to their friend, “It’s much better here than it is sitting around at CHUM”.  Everybody joins in and sets up the circle.  The female of the couple and the Fire Magician tear up birch bark.  The Magician gets a medium sized fire going.
The couple has good news; they have been accepted as tenants in the apartment they were hoping for and will be able to move into it in about a week.  They’re quite happy.     
An Occupier reports, “Hey, I just received an email from the Homeless Bill of Rights organizers.  The next meeting will be at Dorothy Day House, this upcoming Tuesday at 5pm.  The email said there is the possibility of getting a grant to pay for the port-a pottys.  Another Occupier exclaims, “That would be so cool.  If the pottys are paid for, I doubt even Fosle would vote no”.  The first Occupier agrees and adds, “I still think the City should make a financial contribution to the wellbeing of our homeless folks.  The City needs to ‘take its own personal responsibility’. We all laugh.
An Occupier comments, “I’m hearing talk from several places about organizers wanting to do actions related to the big banks”.  Another Occupier says, “Yeah, me too.  I would like to tie the actions to the fact that the big banks are invested in Energy Transfer and the Dakota Access Pipeline.  I need to speak with some elders from Standing Rock first though.  I need to find out if that is something they would want us to do”.
The first Occupier opines, “I think we should set up a meeting with likeminded people interested in making this thing happen”.  We discuss days and times and agree to get the details worked out soon.
A member of the multiracial couple states, “I think the question about MN legalizing marijuana will be on the November ballot.  An Occupier answers, “Actually, I believe the question about legalizing weed will be on the ballot in 7 states but MN is not one of them.  Marijuana will never be legalized as long as Dayton is governor.  The cops and the prosecutors are against it and Dayton is joined at the hip with law enforcement”.  The couple both say, “Bummer”.
More Occupiers and the city official appear.  An Occupier comments to the official man, “I wonder what the heck is going on with the Human Rights Commission.  I went to City Hall for the monthly meeting but no one was there.  In fact, there was a whole other meeting about storm cleanup going on in the room”.  The city official responds, “Oh really?  I know that some of the commissioners need to renew their seats but I thought they would continue with the work in the meantime.  The Occupier adds, “There’s so much important work to be done.  Making a big deal over petty issues is counterproductive”.
Changing the subject, an Occupier reports she has recently been talking with a local Native elder.  The elder was telling her about the hoops the City is requiring the Indigenous Commission to jump through in order to change the name of Lake Place Park to an Anishinaabe name.  The elder said some of the City people were concerned that if the name were changed then only Native people would be allowed in the park.   Another Occupier exclaims, “That is so lame!  Exclusion is not even a tenet of Anishinaabe culture”. 
The city official explains, “The people who will be making the decision about the name change are the members of the Canal Park and downtown hotel and restaurant organization.  That organization is primarily controlled by the Goldfines. They also disperse all the funds from the tourism tax.  The decision will be based primarily on money of course”.  We all say sarcastically, “Of course”.  The city man continues, “They will try to figure out if establishing an official indigenous presence in the tourist area will bring them more tourist dollars or less”.
We notice that the Stylish Native Woman and her partner are talking out on the sidewalk.  Eventually they come up, get some coffee and take seats in the circle. The partner is perfectly calm, coherent and able to participate meaningfully in the conversation.  Of course, the stylish woman always has her wits about her.
Someone says, ‘Oh, look at the moon!”  We all get up and look.  The moon is very big and white.  An Occupier informs us, “It’s a full moon.  It’s called a Super Moon”.  There are many oohs and awes. 
Ms. Community Cleanup and her partner step out of the shadows.  They are very hungry and gobble down lots of hard boiled eggs, cookies and chips.  When they come up for air Ms. Cleanup apologizes, “Sorry we’re being such hogs”.  An Occupier replies, “No worries.  That’s why we bring the food, so people will eat it. It makes me feel good to see hungry people getting to eat”.  When they are finished they go off to their sleeping place way back in the back bushes.  On this warm night they should be able to sleep soundly until daylight.
Most of the homeless folks are leaving for their sleeping places.  An Occupier gives the biracial couple a ride back to CHUM.  A nicely dressed guy somewhere in his 30s rides up on a beat up old bike.  He used to ride up at the end of our fires at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.  We always found it amusing that he paid a lot of attention to his appearance yet rode around on his beat up old bike. This is the first time we’ve seen him this year.
He tells us that he’s spent the last 7 months in jail and just got out today.  He has 2 months’ probation and then he’ll be “off paper”.  He says he ended up in jail because he got in a fight with his girlfriend.  We chat a bit and then he rides off.
There are only Occupiers at the fire now.  One of them tells us, “I received an invitation to some type of Housing Focus Group that will be happening on Thursday, October 20th at 4pm in room 303 of City Hall.  I’m not sure what it will be about but I imagine it will be City people and NGO people.  The usual lots of talk about doing something but never doing much of anything.  I’ll check it out and make my usual pitch for low income housing.  If anyone wants to come with me that would be fine”.
Another Occupier asks, “Has anybody been paying attention to the national prison strike?”  Someone replies, “I’ve been trying to but I haven’t been able to find out much”.  The asking Occupier states, “No one has been able to get much information.  Many prisons are on lockdown and any inmates who they think are organizing the strike have been transferred to other prisons.  Communication between the prison system and the outside world is pretty much at a standstill. However, I’m told the strike is still going on”.
An Occupier wants to know more so the asking Occupier continues, “This time they’re hitting the prison system where it really hurts.  They’ve gone on a labor strike.  In most prisons the basic functioning of the facility is maintained by the inmates themselves.  They cook and serve the food, do the cleaning, maintenance, laundry and all that stuff.  In some prisons they also make things that are sold to major corporations.  Inmates get paid very little to nothing for their work.  I’ve heard that wages are generally between 22 cents and $1.14 an hour. In Alabama, at least, they don’t get paid at all.
“So when the inmates refuse to go to work that hits the prison system right in the pocketbook.  I didn’t know this before but I’ve learned that the 13th Amendment to our Constitution outlaws slavery except in the case of incarcerated persons.  That is really creepy”.
A couple of young Native men ask if we have any food left.  We do so they chow it down.  They look vaguely familiar and appear to be mildly drunk.  They don’t smudge before eating.  One of them tells us he has just returned from spending 2 years in Phoenix, Arizona.  He says, “It’s a lot easier to sleep outside in Arizona”. He also informs us that he is related to the disappeared Storytelling Woman.  The other young man is grieving because his aunt recently died.  He states, “She was only 41 years old”.
We make some small talk about catching and eating fish.  The youngsters have eaten many types of fish but have not heard of abalone.  An Occupier tells them, “It doesn’t get much better than abalone.  Of course, the way things are going now, abalone is probably over fished and/or endangered”.
The kids see a few friends out on the street and off they go.  It’s a little after 9 pm.  We watch the fire burn down and then we pack up.
Next Tuesday we’ll be going to Dorothy Day House so we’ll plan to return to People’s Plaza on Saturday.         
 

G.A. Minutes 10-11-16

G.A. Minutes 10-8-16

G.A. Minutes 10-8-16
At this time of year the weather gets cooler each day.  There are more yellow leaves this evening than there were at our last meeting four days ago.  Tonight temperatures are in the mid-40s, the sky is partly cloudy and we can see the bright pink traces of the sunset over the tops of the buildings.  A strong east wind has been blowing all day; it looks like it might be settling down a bit now.
We are at People’s Plaza again.  We notice that all the big potted trees and all the benches have been moved to the back of the large space.  It must have been done by hand because there are deep scratch marks across the brickwork. 
We’re wearing our layered clothing upon arrival.  We need to keep moving in order to be comfortable so we set everything up real quick.
An Occupier has brought a warm blanket with him in case anyone stuck outside for the night might need one.  Another Occupier spots someone sleeping on one of the back benches.  The person has no covers so she thinks they may be a good candidate for the blanket.   
An Occupier couple rides up on their bikes.  They’re wearing layers too.  The multi-racial couple calls out to us as they come up the stairs; they’ve brought their same two friends along. 
They’re all staying at the CHUM center while trying to refrain from drinking or doing drugs.  That’s a hard thing to do seeing as many folks who stay at CHUM are regular users.   They plan to make our fires a regular respite from the craziness of the street.
The couple has good news to report.  They’ve finally been accepted for an apartment.  It’s in a big public housing building; they don’t exactly know when they’ll be allowed to move in but the male has signed all the paperwork and passed all the tests.  It won’t be long before they have a home again so of course, they’re very excited.
The Fire Magician gets the fire blazing and we pull our chairs up close.  Sitting next to the roaring fire takes the chill off; everyone feels comfortable now.
The 40 something veteran homeless man who camps out year around sits down. He’s in a talkative mood tonight.
The city official cruises up.  He tells us that today he attended the funeral of the young man who was found dead last week shortly after being refused hospital admission during a mental health crisis.  Apparently the poor guy crawled up under a metal canapé over the train yard to get out of the wind.  He fell off, hit his head and died.  Bummer.  We lose a lot of homeless folks every year to accidents related to not having a home.
The person sleeping on the back bench gets up and walks over.  We see that it’s one of the chronically homeless men who have attended our fires over the years.  He looks like he’s still pretty groggy; he quietly gets some coffee and sits down.
A group of middle class looking people come walking down the sidewalk along the freeway.  They stop to look over the railing at us.  As they leave, one of them comments, “Well it’s better than being at the CHUM center”.
The homeless folks help us carry some of the heavy benches back to the fire area where they belong.  We have many people at our fire and everyone needs a seat.
Someone starts a conversation about the huge blizzard in Duluth on Halloween of 1992.  Most everyone was living in the area then.  We tell stories about our personal experiences during that time. 
An Occupier who worked in healthcare talks about crawling on her stomach to the main road where she was picked up by the National Guard and driven to her workplace.  When her shift was over, the police took her home on a snowmobile. She says, “That situation went on for 3 days.  The Director of Nurses lived less than 3 blocks away from the facility but she didn’t show up during that whole time.  My staff and I just ran the whole place without a problem.  When the crisis was over and the Director came back, she bought us all a couple of Domino’s pizzas.  Wow.  A couple hundred bucks on our paychecks would have been more appropriate”.
A thin, familiar looking, middle aged woman appears.  She asks us if we have seen her children.  She says they are both in their early 30s.  As we talk more we realize she is talking about the young veteran homeless man who attended our fires last spring.  We really like him but haven’t seen him since then.  We’ve heard that he’s addicted to some type of seriously dangerous drug.
The multi-racial couple believes they know where she might find her children at this time of night.  The female of the couple offers to accompany the mother to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial area and help her find her kids.  The male of the couple states, “If you’re going to CJMM, I’m going with you”.  The female rolls her eyes and off they all go.
The male of the couple returns shortly.  He takes his seat and tells us, “Me and my partner have been together for 3 years now.  She used to be a heavy drinker and really wild but I’m helping her and she’s slowly getting herself together. We’ve been through a lot but we’ve managed to stay a couple.
“This apartment that we’re getting is actually in my name.  She would never be able to rent an apartment on her own; she has a really bad rental history record. My record is clean.  I really want to keep this apartment so I’ve told her there can be no drinking or partying in it.  If she does that then she won’t be able to live with me.  Right now, we’re living off my income only and I don’t want to mess that up”.
There is at least a 15 year age difference between the 2 partners.  An Occupier attempts to reassure the male, “She will probably improve as she ages”.  The male agrees.
The female of the couple returns.  She remarks, “See, I told you that I’d come back.  You don’t give me enough credit.  I managed to connect the mother with her daughter.  The daughter looked really messed up.  Her mom seems really nice.  I hope the daughter listens to her mother”.
A young rather bedraggled looking guy stands outside the circle.  He needs to borrow someone’s phone so he can ask for a ride home.  An Occupier loans him a phone.  He calls his mom with a story that he got kicked off the bus.  His mom starts yelling so he calls someone else.  Eventually he finds someone who’s willing to come and pick him up.
After the bedraggled guy leaves, an Occupier informs us, “That’s the junkie guy who came to the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NDN Taco Sale yesterday.  He was asking for a free taco.  I gave him a friendly lecture and then bought him one.  I don’t think he even recognized me tonight”.
Homeless folks generally need to find a place to sleep fairly early.  They need to wake up around 5 or 6pm in order to be out of sight before the job slaves arrive.
All the visitors have gone; it’s only Occupiers around the fire now.  One of them talks about a meeting he will attend soon.  He has several children who are still in school.  The meeting will address the question of how to teach Native American studies within the school system.
The Occupier opines, “I hope they’re prepared to teach the real history.  Like how they stole our land and murdered as many of us as they could”.  Another Occupier adds, “I hope they teach about the boarding schools and about the physical and psychological torture that was inflicted on Native Americans and about the historical trauma and dysfunction that continues today”.  The first Occupier states, “Well, I’m going to be at that meeting to let them hear what I have to say”.
An Occupier changes the subject, he says, “So what’s going on this week?” Another answers, “The official City celebration of Indigenous People’s Day is going to happen Monday, October 10th at 11am on the steps of City Hall.  We need to have as many regular people as possible present.  We don’t want the mayor and the rest of those City types to start thinking IPD is something that they thought up”.  Also, the Sobriety Feast will be on Wednesday, October 12th6:30pm at the Central Hillside Community Center.  Everyone is welcome to attend”.
The big clock strikes 9pm.  That means it’s time to go.  If it doesn’t rain, we’ll be back at People’s Plaza on Tuesday.