G.A. Minutes 7-16-16

G.A. Minutes 7-16-16
 We’ve hit on another perfect evening at People’s Plaza.  We’ve been hoping to get a few more of these before summer is over.  We remember these types of days all year long; they help us through the cruelest times in winter.
The temperature is in the low 80s, the sky is partly cloudy with a gentle breeze whispering calmly throughout the space.
When the first Occupiers arrive, the Plaza is completely empty.  Someone has been here recently and they didn’t clean up their mess.  Old food wrappers, used paper cups and cigarette butts are scattered all around.
The first couple of Occupiers decide to sit and wait for others to arrive before setting things up.  As they wait, they notice the street and sidewalks are strangely quiet, especially for a Saturday night.  Superior St. has been blocked off after 1st Ave. W. There is no activity going on inside the blockade. 
After sitting, enjoying the weather for about a half an hour, the streets are still quiet and absolutely no one has even shown their face in the Plaza.  The Occupiers decide to do the set up and cleanup themselves and see how things develop.
As they are putting the chairs in a circle, a woman who appears to be a tourist comes up and asks them if they know where the dance on the Lake Walk is going to be.  The Occupiers are clueless but they point her in the direction of the Lake Walk.
They get a small fire going.  Their first visitor is the brain damaged man who lives at San Marcos.  He looks like absolute hell.  His hands are shaking, his face is quite swollen and his right arm has an open wound surrounded by green tinged skin.  He assures us that he’s just fine and says he can’t remember how he got so banged up.
An Occupier asks how things are going at the San Marcos and the man replies, “Oh, everybody’s always fighting but the next morning they can’t remember what they were fighting about so they’re friends again”.  He also comments, “I hear there’s gonna be a street dance here”.
The other Occupier notices that the Port-a-Pottys that were in the back of the Plaza when they had their last fire are now gone.  She exclaims, “Damn!  I was so hoping they would still be there”.
A middle aged man we haven’t met in the past asks to sit down; we welcome him.  He tells us he was on his way to southern MN when his RV broke down about a block from People’s Plaza.  He says he’s dedicated his life to Jesus Christ so he figures there is a reason why he broke down in Duluth.  He’s gonna go with the flow.
The middle aged guy, who has a country hippie look about him, reports that he was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and since then has spent most of his life working as a counselor at juvenile correction facilities.  He states, “Everybody thinks I work with bad kids.  They’re not bad; they’ve just had bad upbringing and bad luck.  I try real hard not to judge people”.
Another man, perhaps somewhat older, asks to sit and we welcome him also.  He looks kinda like a hippie too but his clothes are new and his gear is top of the line.  He tells us he’s from Wasila, Alaska and he’s in the process of hitchhiking to Maine.  The man says, “I had a really nice boat but it was destroyed in the hurricane in the Gulf.  I’d sunk everything I had into.  I have friends in Maine who own a farm and I’m going there to help.  I hope I’ll be able to find some type of job that I can work until I’m too old to work anymore”.
The older man and an Occupier talk about the best routes for hitchhiking.  The man confides, “I really don’t want to go near Chicago.  I hear it’s seriously dangerous there right now.  Black Lives Matter is closing down the freeways and there’s lots of violence”.
The other Occupier responds, “We just attended a Black Lives Matter vigil last night.  It wasn’t violent at all, in fact, it was beautiful.  I think you might be getting your information from the major media.  They’re doing to Black Lives Matter the same thing they did to Occupy.  They produced very selected footage and accused Occupy of being violent when nothing was further from the truth.  They’re doing the same thing to BLM.  Folks from Black Lives Matter are no different from us.  They’re just people trying to survive”.
We hear sounds of people doing mic checks and tuning up.  Maybe they are having a street dance up the street.
Our friend, the city official, comes up the stairs and joins the circle.  An Occupier says to him, “I thought last night was really nice”.  The official answers, “So did I.  Some of the speakers spoke some very heavy words; I especially liked it when we all lit candles, made that big circle and held them up”.      
The Occupier informs the other men, “We’re talking about last night’s Black Lives Matter vigil.  The official was the lead organizer and MC for the one here in Duluth.  There was a vigil in Superior too and in lots of places across the country”.
The middle aged man asks, “So what is Black Lives Matter about anyway?”  An Occupier nods to the official and answers, “He can explain it best”.  The official responds, “Yes I can but I’m tired of doing it.  You explain it”.  So the Occupier explains, “Well, the bottom line is that cops are killing black people’s innocent children.  The cops don’t even get in trouble when they murder the kids.  Cops have historically done this.
“African Americans have been complaining about having their children killed for over 100 years.  That’s why BLM is blocking the streets and freeways now.  They’re trying to get the rest of the people to listen.  So far, no one is listening.  There were 3 young, innocent black men murdered already, this month.
“You will probably be seeing a lot more white folks in Black Lives Matter.  White folks have white privilege so are gonna try to get the attention of the rest of people”.
The middle aged man comments, “Yeah, that slavery shit was terribly gruesome. Getting kidnapped and put on those ships and all”.
An Occupier says to the city man, “So I hear there’s another BLM meeting Friday, 2pm at the Dom.  I sure hope I can make it.  I’ll be helping out at the All Nations Indian Taco Sale and I’m not sure when I’ll be done”.  The city man replies, “I think I won’t be able to get to the City Forum, Q+A on next Tuesday 6p-7:30p at Denfield H.S.”
A young, probably homeless man has been hanging around the edge of the circle.  An Occupier smiles at him and signals a welcome to the fire.  The young man helps himself to the snacks on the table.  He looks hungry so the Occupier asks, “If I throw these hot dogs, from a few fires ago, on the grill, will you eat some?”  The young man answers, “Definitely”.
A well respected local musician stops in.  He’s hungry too.  Another middle aged, dressed in sports fan attire, would like to eat but will only take the food if he can pay for it.  We put his donation in the treasury fund.  We have at least $10 now.
A squad car pulls up across the street and an officer gets out.  Several more officers arrive on foot.  Then a big fire truck with flashing lights pulls up at an angle, blocking the street.
For a moment we wonder if we’re about to have a replay of the drama we experienced during our final months at the Memorial.  But no, the middle aged man comes from across the street and reports, “There is a woman lying in the middle of the sidewalk.  I tried to help her but the man who appeared to be with her told me she was alright.  I moved away and called the cops.  I’m surprised they got here so fast”.
We sit and observe the scene unfolding.  It turns out like many things on the street.  A lotta drama over nothin’.  Apparently the cops have received the same answer as the middle aged man.  They all leave and the middle aged man comments, “I’m surprised they just leave her like that”.  An Occupier tells him, “They probably know her and can see she’s o.k.  If she was really bad off they would take her to Detox”.
The big clock strikes 10pm.  The fire is dying and all the hot dogs are gone.  The official offers to help us pack up but an Occupier replies, “We’ve kinda got this thing down to a science”.
As the Occupiers finish packing up, one of them observes, “Well considering it was just the two of us tonight, I’d say things went pretty well”.
We’ll be at an anti-racism forum next Tuesday but if all goes well, we expect to be back at People’s Plaza next Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 7-12-16

G.A. Minutes 7-12-16
The weather is cooperating, more or less this evening, so we’re back at People’s Plaza.  It’s partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid-80s.  The wind is blowing from the west at about a bazillion miles per hour.  We’re going to need to anchor down everything on the table; if we don’t, the entire contents will be bouncing off the cars on the freeway exit.
We are just beginning to unload when we see the stylish Native woman and her partner walking up.  An Occupier had seen them at the Domiano earlier in the week and told them about our new location.  It’s wonderful to see them again; they’re some of our favorite people.
We give them a copy of the final draft of the proposed Homeless Bill of Rights. This bill has been worked on by homeless advocates for approximately 2 years.  It will be presented to the City Council in the near future with the recommendation that it be made into a City Ordinance.  The couple takes a seat in the circle and begin reading.
We notice something else that’s pretty wonderful too.  Off in the far west corner of the Plaza 3 porta pottys sit open for business.  We figure they are there so the various construction crews can use them in the daytime when they’re working in the area.  Fortunately, they’ve been left unlocked.  This makes a huge difference in the lives of homeless people.
As more Occupiers arrive, we start up a conversation about Black Lives Matter and the horrible murders of young black men across our country this month.  Then last Saturday 5 white police officers were killed by an African American sniper in Dallas, Texas.
The young black men were Delran Small of NYC, Anton Sterling of Baton Rouge, LA and Philandro Castile of St. Paul, MN.  All three men were just minding their own business and living their lives when they were shot and killed by police officers.  The 5 Dallas cops were attending a rally and were marching in support of Black Lives Matter.
 We make plans to attend the BLM vigil to be held on Friday, July 15th at 7pm in front of City Hall.  This vigil will be in coordination with vigils held all across the country.  Superior, WI will be holding a vigil at their City Hall also.
Some of the Occupiers were able to attend a pre-rally meeting last Friday.  After planning logistics, the BLM members told us this violence and murders have to stop.  They said that is reaching epidemic proportions and they will need us to increase our support and make use of our white privilege.
A BLM organizer stated, “In the past you have been our allies and have been there to back us up.  We are not being listened to so we need you to step up and be heard.  Your white privilege will get your words listened to and then maybe we can stop the police killing us for BWB (breathing while black).
All the Occupiers are down with complying with the BLM request.  We’re not sure how we will go about getting the powers that be to listen to us as they have not done so in the past.  We will certainly take every opportunity to make ourselves heard.
Our friend, the city official, arrives.  This evening he is talking about the City Council meeting last night.  At that meeting, Carl Crawford, a man that we all know and respect, was confirmed as the new Duluth Human Rights Officer.  Several of the Occupiers attended this meeting.  The Council Chambers were packed with supporters of Carl.
Anyway, all the Councilors were talking about what the HRO job entailed when one Councilor, Howie Hansen, committed a faux pas.  He welcomed Carl into the inner circle, “good ole’ boys” golfing team.  Everyone in the Council Chambers was pretty much speechless for a moment after that.  We don’t expect that Carl will have much time or interest in schmoozing with the inner circle while protecting the human rights of our most vulnerable citizens.
An Occupier comments that he wonders why cops are allowed to keep their jobs and escape any punishment after killing innocent and harmless people.  The city official responds, “It’s because of the police unions.  They will back up a cop no matter what he/she has done”.
Changing the subject, another Occupier tells a story, “I had my utilities shut off most of today.  I’m behind on my bill so they decided to cut me off.  I don’t have enough money in my bank account to cover the whole thing so I asked if they would take the considerable sum that I had.  They said no, they wanted the entire amount. 
“I called the Energy Assistance people.  They told me I’d have to fill out a bunch of forms and wait about 6 months to be accepted.  Then they said it doesn’t really matter because they have run out of money so don’t have anything to give anyone anyway”
The city official adds, “The CEO of that energy assistance program makes a 6 figure salary.  Maybe that explains why they don’t have any money left”.
The Occupier continues, “Fortunately, I was able to borrow some money from one of my friends so my electricity is back on now”.  
The utility using Occupier has been a big supporter of Bernie Sanders.  We know he’s been very busy today so we ask him, “Did you see what Bernie did today?” He answers, “No, what did he do?”  We tell him, “Bernie endorsed Hilary Clinton for president of the U.S.”.  The Occupier takes the big Bernie button off his shirt and puts it in his pocket.  Enough said.
The wind has finally settled down.  We can light the fire without worrying about accidently burning the whole place down.
The woman with the animal menagerie rides up on her bike.  She’s coming from her usual Tuesday night visit to the Plasma Donating Center and is looking for the Spiritual Man.  He’s been staying at her house recently and they had planned to take the bus back to her place later.  We tell her to just wait a while, Spiritual Man generally shows up later in the evening.
The fashionable woman and her partner have finished reading the Homeless Bill of Rights.  They like it very much, especially the parts where it says that homeless people have a right to make use of public space, to rest and to sleep and to have use of a bathroom and general hygiene space 24/7.
The woman tells us, “This is just exactly what we need”, her partner agrees, “Yeah, we just need to be treated like human beings”, he then goes on to tell us about a man who froze to death in the winter, in our city.  The man was kicked out of CHUM and could find no indoor space to keep warm throughout the night.
We see 2 squad cars sitting at the Superior St. intersection; when the light changes, they drive on.  They don’t seem to be paying us any mind.
An Occupier announces, “Tomorrow is the public hearing for the BWCA and friends.   Twin Metals executives will also be there.  It’s at the DECC and people are supposed to meet in the parking lot at 3:30pm.  The hearing starts at 5pm.
Another Occupier says to some of the others, “I found out that there is a group of people in the cities that are planning on caravanning to the DNC national conference in Philly.  Here’s the contact information in case you want to go along”.
Spiritual Man arrives.  He tells us he’s been wrestling with some heavy speed type drugs for the past 4 days or so.  He’s come down now and hopes he doesn’t go there again.  He’s been unable to smudge so appreciates being able to do so now.  He says, “I don’t really want to do that drug because I know it’s bad for me but I have to admit, I like it.  I have to figure out what it is about me that makes me like it”.
The big Native man who had just won the Papa Smurf doll when we saw him at our last fire comes walking up the stairs.  He and Spiritual Man are good friends.  They take a copy of the proposed Homeless Bill of Rights and sit to read it.
When they are finished the big Native man comments, “This is really good.  I hope it gets passed; it contains some very important things.  You know, the workers at CHUM threw away all my clothes again.  This is the 5th time they’ve done this. Now I’ll have to get all new clothes.  They don’t have anywhere that I can store my stuff so I just have to leave it there when I can’t take it with me.  If I’m not back in a few days, they throw my stuff away.  That’s not right”.
Spiritual Man, Menagerie Woman and the big Native guy go off to the bus stop. We are left with just Occupiers at the fire.
Someone says, “It’s only 9pm but maybe we should pack up now”.  Somebody else replies, “Yeah, we only stay later when a visitor still needs us to sit longer”.
So we pack up.  If the weather holds up, we’ll be back to the People’s Plaza on Saturday. 
 
 

G.A. Minutes 7-5-16

G.A. Minutes 7-5-16
So we’ve been calling back and forth all day trying to decide where we should meet tonight.  The weather people say there’s going to be major rainstorms all evening.  We check the weather maps; they show big storms on the way.  It’s impossible to tell if they are heading right for us or if they will pass to the north or south.
Eventually, we decide to be cautious and meet at Coney Island.  The sky has been gray all day with temperatures in the mid-80s.  The air is humid, almost oppressive and a breeze is non-existent.
Right about the time we’re rolling up to Coney Island, a strong, cool breeze picks up.  We think this is part of the big storm that’s been forecast.  We just stop and stand around outside for a bit.  It feels real good.
As we enter the café, an Occupier tells us, “I thought we might be going to People’s Plaza so I made a big bunch of PB+J sandwiches.  No worries though, once we’re done here I’ll drop them off at CHUM.  People will probably appreciate a bedtime snack”.
It’s the usual suspects plus one this evening.  A retired school teacher who is a friend of all the Occupiers is joining us.  She’s not been to one of our meetings before.  Once we start to yakking, we’ll have to remember to stop and explain what we’re talking about every so often. We’re used to using acronyms and names she may not be familiar with.
We find we’re quite packed in as we settle into the back booth.  If anyone else shows up some will have to stand.
An Occupier comments, “I hear they’re not giving out free Narcan kits at the Needle Exchange anymore.  Pfizer bought out the company that makes Narcan and they’ve jacked the price up real high”.
The Occupiers all gasp.  An Occupier exclaims, “OMG, that just cannot be. Where did you hear this?”  The first Occupier answers, “A friend of mine who works at the Exchange told me this a couple of days ago.  I guess only rich junkies will be able to have their lives saved now”.   
One of the Occupiers turns to the teacher and explains, “Narcan is a drug that when injected into a person who is having a heroin overdose will sort of neutralize the heroin.  Narcan has saved many people’s lives”.
Another Occupier adds, “I’m so glad I never got into those types of drugs. Smoking marijuana was as far as I ever went and I was quite happy to stay right there.  Someone remarks, “A very long time ago, I tried heroin twice but I didn’t like it very much”.
The teacher says “Really?  I thought heroin was supposed to be a heavenly experience”.  An Occupier replies, “Only for some people.  It depends on one’s brain chemistry I think.  Some people think it’s just great but others don’t like all the creepy side effects.  One thing is for sure though; using heroin will definitely ruin one’s life”.
An Occupier opines, “You see a lot of various types of substance abuse in our neighborhood.  I think a lot of it might just have to do with boredom.  So many people in the Central Hillside just have nothing to do.  No one will hire them for a job or they just don’t have enough self-confidence to try and get a job.  Maybe they are unable to work and just haven’t discovered what it is that they enjoy doing.  There’s many reasons why they have nothing to do.  I think if I was bored shitless and had nothing to do but hang out on the street; I’d start abusing drugs and/or alcohol too”.
Our friend, the city official, cruises in.  An Occupier asks him, “Has the Mayor announced her choice for Human Rights Director yet?’  The official replies, “Nope, I haven’t heard a word.  However, I don’t get the inside scoops like I used to. Everyone knows that I hang out with you guys”.  We all laugh.
The Zenith News has a front page article about the achievement gap between Duluth’s white students and its students of color.  All the Occupiers think this is just horrible.  The official remarks that one of the main problems with students of color not doing as well as the white students has to do with the fact that there are very few teachers of color in the Duluth school system.  It’s a generally recognized fact that students respond better to teachers who are of the same ethnicity as themselves. 
The topic of conversation morphs into one about the upcoming rehabilitation of Superior St.  This project will last for at least 3 years and very many workers will be needed.
Our city official friend has challenged the Mayor to make sure at least 50% of those jobs are given to POC.  Considering the fact that over the course of the previous Mayor’s time in office, there were many City projects of which no POC were hired. 
Our friend requests that we join him and help make good jobs for Duluth POC a reality.  Everyone is down with his cause.  An Occupier promises to speak on the subject before the City Council.
An Occupier adds, “I’m sure our new mayor will be much better than our old one. However, I don’t have a lot of confidence that she will come through with anything of substance”.
The official responds, “I’ve worked with her in the past and found her to be very genuine.  She’s also intelligent and well organized.  The problem is that rich developers and other wealthy Duluthians have so much power and they’re constantly pressuring her to see things their way.
The City has what are called TIF funds.  These TIF funds are given to developers who agree to create new buildings and businesses in our city.  Basically, they get a reduction on their taxes for a period of time.  That means less taxes are going into the City coffers; therefore the City has less money to spend on services to its regular citizens.  Of course, this affects poor citizens the most.
“In the past, TIF funds have been given to business owners who are multi-millionaires, even billionaires.  Billionaires don’t need tax breaks.
“The 1% doesn’t have to worry about bare survival so have more time to schmooze politicians.  We’re going to have to work really hard to remind her what is truly important”.
Changing the subject, an Occupier states, “I’ve been getting into the Indigenous Commissions’ Ethnographic Study.  It’s amazing and really sad and frustrating at the same time”.
The Occupier turns to the retired teacher and explains, “A well respected historian and scholar got a grant to do research about what it was like in our Twin Ports and surrounding area before white people came on the scene.  His findings are what is called the Ethnographic Study. 
“This area was frequented often by large numbers of Ojibwe people and some Souix people too.  There were large numbers of villages stretching from what we call the Lakefront to Cloquet and further.
“So of course, you know that white people arrived and basically kicked all the Native peoples to the curb and stole their land.  After this time, the main Chief of the area Ojibwe people was called Chief Buffalo.  The white people asked him to pick a portion of the area that Duluth stands on now.
“He chose an area that encompassed the waterfront area from about Canal Park to the Garfield Ave. area; it then goes up the hill to around where the second old Central High School is.  From there it went back down the hill to 1st Ave W. and down to the lake again.
“The entire City Complex sits on Chief Buffalo land.  Anyway, Chief Buffalo dies and the land is inherited by his daughter and her dishonest white husband.  The husband does all kinds of forgeries and double deals.  He dies and a bunch of other white people forget about Chief Buffalo and his descendants; they build the City of Duluth.  There’s a lot more to the story.  I’m just giving you an overview.
Another Occupier says to the teacher, “Have you ever heard of the Doctrine of Discovery?”  She says no and the Occupier explains, “It’s a Papal Bull from a Pope who ruled in the 1400s.  It said that any Christian could take away the land, possessions and whatever of anyone who was not a Christian.
“It said that non-Christians were unworthy of owning anything so it was a Christian’s duty to lay claim to anything belonging to a non-Christian.  The so called European explorers used this “Bull” to justify their claiming western hemisphere lands.  The “Bull” is still in the law books to this very day”.
An Occupier inquires, “Does everyone remember that FDL’s Veteran’s Pow Wow will be happening on Saturday?”  Another Occupier replies, “Oh right, we’re gonna go aren’t we?”  We all say yes and we start figuring out logistics.
An Occupier tells our friend, the teacher, “FDL’s Veteran’s Pow Wow is the best Pow Wow of the year”.  The hipsters are bringing out the brooms and mops so we know it’s time to go.
We’ll be out at Mash Ka Wisen on Saturday and hope to hold a fire circle at the People’s Plaza next Tuesday.
 

 

G.A. Minutes 7-2-16

G.A. Minutes 7-2-16
The gods of good fortune are finally with us again.  The temperature is in the high 70s as we arrive at the People’s Plaza tonight.  The sky is partly cloudy; a gentle breeze adds the finishing touch.  Heavenly.
We think it’s about time.  It’s been 3 weeks since we’ve been able to make a recreational fire.  A few times we’ve had to take care of other obligations but mostly it’s been rain that has kept us out of the Plaza.
It seems like it has rained more than is usual for early summer this year.  That’s probably a good thing but it would be nice if the rain would disperse its blessings on evenings that didn’t coincide with our meeting nights.  Hmmm…..
As we roll up to unload all the stuff from our vehicles we find that Spiritual Man is sitting on a bench waiting for us.  We exchange greetings and he comments “I was hoping you guys were gonna show up tonight”.  He helps us with getting things set up.  He’s been in attendance at so many of our fires these past few years that no one has to explain anything; he knows the routine.
The Fire Magician gets a small fire going; we don’t have to worry about keeping warm.  Even so, a fire makes it easier for everyone to remain focused and calm.
Once we are settled, Spiritual Man asks, “So what have you been up to since I’ve last seen you?”  An Occupier answers, “Well, we went to the Juneteenth Celebration a couple of Saturdays ago but mostly we’ve had to attend meetings with City officials, NGO types and church people.  Our new mayor campaigned on making our city work for everyone.
“She talked really big about improving the lives of Duluth citizens who are in poverty.  So now we’re attempting to hold her feet to the fire, remind her of her promises and ask what she’s actually gonna do.
“It’s very frustrating because most of the so called ‘Good Samaritans’ seem to live on another planet.  The needs of many street people are right now, immediate needs but the people in power have never been homeless so they have no sense of urgency. 
“They talk about eventually finding funding for their ideas, forming groups with catchy names to have more meetings, statistics blah, blah, blah.  Most of them are being paid by the government or a foundation or something to do whatever it is that they actually do.
“I’m not sure Occupiers are gonna get anything concrete and positive from all these meetings.  We mainly go so we can keep an eye on what they’re doing and to let them know we are watching.
“Some of the people who are immersed in all this stuff really hate Occupy but most seem sort of in awe of us.  That is so stupid!  At a meeting I was at a few days ago, someone said to me, in front of the entire group, ‘Wow, you’re really out in the actual street working with those people.  You are truly a grassroots organizer.’
“I responded, ‘Well no, I’m not organizing anything.  I just hang out with folks’.  I don’t think anyone understood what I was trying to say.”
A middle aged Native man who has occasionally attended our fires crosses the street and comes over.  He is accompanied by a woman we haven’t met and he’s carrying a big stuffed Papa Smurf toy.
We all look at him quizzically; he says, “I supposed you’ve noticed that the annual carnival rides and games company is in town.  One of my buddies is working a game booth.  We were down there earlier and he said to me, ‘Hey man, no one is coming to my booth.  Why don’t you take a chance maybe that will encourage others to play?’
“So I spent $20 throwing balls at stacks of milk cans and I won this Papa Smurf”. He nods towards his woman friend and continues, “She’s not interested in having it so I don’t know what to do with it”.  We all laugh.  No one in the fire circle is particularly interested in taking it off his hands.
One of the Occupiers rides up on his bike.  He’s brought lots of hotdogs and all the fixins.  We throw a few logs on the fire so we can get some good coals for cooking them.
Spiritual Man inquires, “So when you guys go to all these meetings, what do the people talk about?”  An Occupier replies, “Loaves N Fishes along with others have been working on writing a Homeless Bill of Rights to be brought before the City Council to be approved and made into a City Ordinance.
“If that ever actually happens it would insure that homeless folks have the right to rest, the right to use of bathroom facilities, the right to sleep and stuff like that.  A City Ordinance would prevent the cops from hassling innocent homeless folks who are just trying to exist.
“We also keep pushing the need for more low income housing.  So far, the mayor and the City Councilors tell us there are no funding sources available to create more low income housing.  Developers aren’t interested in building low income housing because they don’t make much of a profit.  The government isn’t doing much in that area these days either.  It seems like a lot of people feel that we got the Steve O’Neil apartments last year so we shouldn’t be asking for more.
“The O’Neil apartments are great but we still have hundreds of people in this city that have nowhere to live.  We’re just gonna keep pushing for more”.
The regular street guy who is mute arrives.  He might be deaf too and can read lips.  We’re not sure.  We exchange mutual hand waves and he sits down.
The woman with the animal menagerie rides up on her bike.  Our friend the city official and the Occupier who lives in Superior follow shortly.  It’s a good thing too because the hotdogs are now cooked and ready to be eaten.  Everyone chows down.
A young homeless couple who generally help out at the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NDN Taco Sales stop in.  They are both trying very hard to refrain from drinking.  He has been sober for a whole month.  She’s been sober for 2 weeks.  He tells us that their main obstacle to staying sober is finding something to do with their time.  We know this is a major problem for many street folks.
Many seagulls are up in the air and circling our fire; they’re hoping we will drop some food on the ground.  An Occupier calls out to them, “Go away!  You’re supposed to be out on the lake diving for fish”. 
People in the circle start trying to make seagull calls; their attempts leave much to be desired.  The woman with the animal menagerie gives it a try and she nails it. She sounds just like a seagull.
As per usual, it’s well past 9pm when we finally notice the time.  Everyone helps to pack up and we say, “If it doesn’t rain, we’ll be back here on Tuesday.        

G.A. Minutes 6-25-16

G.A. Minutes 6-25-16

We’re kinda bummed out as we arrive at Coney Island this evening.  A big thunder and lightning storm has just passed over our city.  Everything is soaking wet and the weather people say it’s possible that more rain is on the way.  It’s been 2 weeks since we’ve been able make a fire at People’s Plaza; we were really looking forward to doing it tonight.

Our group will be small again this evening.  Some Occupiers have gone up to the Hibbing MN area for the 87th Annual Midsummer Festival at Mesabe Co-op Park.

As we walk through the door we are just about blown back out again by the really, really loud music the hipsters have playing over the radio.  We don’t say anything about it but one of the guys quickly runs to the back and turns the sound down. The Occupiers don’t care much for classic heavy metal but will tolerate it if it’s in the background.

The place is empty as we order food and settle in.  Not for long though, a mid sized group of very large men, who appear to be sports fans, walk in.  They take up the entire counter space; ordering lots of food.  The hipsters begin scurrying around.  We figure this means we’ll be waiting for our food for a while.  No problem, we we’re not in a hurry.

An Occupier reports, “So there will be the monthly NDN Taco Sale again next Friday, June 1st but it will be a little different.  Some of the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance people will be out of town.  All Nations is going to be doing a sale of their own.  They will still need our help; we’ll just be working with All Nations folks instead of INM/NWA. Some of the Occupiers will be able to help.

Another Occupier says, “I finally received a copy of the so called letter concerning recreational fires at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.  I received it in an email from one of our friends on the City Council.  The Councilor was concerned that there was no language guaranteeing public access to CJMM.

“Actually, it’s not a letter.  It’s an 18 page document called Agreement Between the City of Duluth and Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Inc.  Basically it preserves the City’s ownership of CJMM but passes the management of the site over to the CJMM BOD.

“Along with official management status, the BOD is going to get a lot more responsibilities.  Among their responsibilities will be hosting an annual spring cleanup, planting and maintaining the garden year around and keeping the site clean on a day to day basis.  All expenses incurred from these responsibilities are to be paid for by the CJMM BOD”.

Another Occupier comments, “Maybe they’d like to hire me to keep things clean. After all, I kept it clean for 3 years.  I even went down there on days we weren’t going to have a fire and cleaned as necessary.  Several neighborhood women did regular cleaning too.  It will be interesting to see members of the BOD down there with brooms, scrub brushes and pails of water”.  We all laugh.

The first Occupier continues, “The document also states that the City and the CJMM BOD will write a specific Rules and Regulations policy for the Memorial. Oh boy, I can just imagine the totally ridiculous and impractical rules the BOD will come up with.  Any rules have to be approved by the City but that doesn’t give me any confidence that their rules will end up making any sense.

“This agreement document that I just showed you still has to be approved by the City Council.  I promised our council friend that I would attend their next meeting, this upcoming Monday and sign up to speak on the issue of the public’s right to use of public space”.

Another Occupier reminds us, “Next Tuesday, June 28th, 6pm at Community Action Duluth, the Local Solutions to Poverty group will be holding their next event.  The mayor and all the newly elected City Councilors will be there and we need to be there too”.

Another Occupier questions, “Refresh my memory, what is the event about and why do we need to be there?”

The reminding Occupier replies, “Remember right before the November City elections when LSP held an event at the Damiano and all the candidates showed up?  The candidates were mandated to each answer the same series of questions about low income housing, racial equity, poverty wages and stuff like that?  Well Tuesday evening all the candidates who were elected will return.  LSP will hold their feet to the fire (probably way too gently) and find out what each official has done so far to keep their promise”.

We need to be there so they can see we are watching.  Although none of us are interested in running for government office or any of the stuff, decisions and actions made by the City government affect us and all the folks who live in our neighborhood.  We need to have their backs”.

Someone remarks, “I went to that racial equity meeting last Tuesday.  I was the only Occupier there.  What’s up with that?”  We all laugh sheepishly.  She continues, “Well, you didn’t miss much.  There were 27 people there, only 5 of them were POC.  There were mainly NGO types who receive salaries to help improve or pretend to help improve the lives of POC.

“They kicked around ideas about what they could do to get racial equity for POC. I suggested they get out to street level and see what’s going on.  I also suggested they ask POC what they should do’

“A lot of people started asking me questions.  Somebody said, “So you’re a real grassroots community organizer” and I responded, ‘Actually, I wouldn’t call it organizing, I just sorta hang out with people”.

An Occupier asks, “Hey, did you see that the RNC is gonna allow guns at their convention?  They have all these other rules like, no tennis or beach balls, no sleeping bags, backpacks or all sorts of other things but guns are o.k.”  We shake our heads.

Another Occupier exclaims, “The FDL Veterans Powwow is coming up on Saturday July 9th, can we go?  Please, please, please?”  Most of us just love the Veterans Pow Wow.  We’re gonna try and make it happen.

The café is empty now and the hipsters are starting to clean.  It won’t hurt to leave a little early.  We do our usual cleanup routine, say pleasant good byes to the staff and tell them we’ll see them again sooner or later.

If it doesn’t rain next Saturday, we’ll have a fire at People’s Plaza.  Everybody, cross your fingers, say a prayer, put down your tobacco or whatever it is that floats your boat in hopes we can have a fire on Saturday.

 

G.A. Minutes 6-14-16

G.A. Minutes 6-14-16
So we’re back to not so good weather again.  Grey skies, blustery east wind and temperatures in the 40s.  Rain has been threatening all day but so far, hasn’t materialized.
We decided to not take a chance so that means we’re back at Coney Island again.  Oh well….. Things could be a lot worse; at least we’re not in jail.
Our friend at KUMD is kicking it with his weekly Tuesday night radio show, as usual.  We’re surprised to see 3 of the regular hipsters working the counter.  There are several booths worth of customers but the workload doesn’t appear to be overwhelming.
We notice that one of the guys is off in a corner making a huge ice cream sundae.  When he carries it back to the kitchen, we assume he made it for himself.  Guess he’s not working after all.
Only 2 Occupiers have put in an appearance so far.  Folks may be getting spoiled as the fires at the Plaza are more entertaining. They may have decided not to venture out on such a dreary evening.
The first Occupiers order food and plunk down in the back booth to wait and see if others will arrive.  One Occupier has a new cell phone, the first one she’s ever had.  The other Occupier is trying to show her how to use some of the features; at one point he gets stumped.
The Occupier with the new phone says, “Ask one of the hipster guys.  They know all about this stuff.  They ask; the hipster knows the answer and explains.  It has something to do with the number of pixels.
Another Occupier walks in; this means a meeting may commence.  An Occupier comments, “I was trying to listen to the City Council meeting on the radio last night but there were so many distractions I didn’t get to hear much.  Anybody know what happened?”
Another Occupier replies, “I think they gave the go ahead for the rehab of the Gardner for low income housing.  However, I hear that once they finish it, all that will happen is that they will close the Seaway and move all the people from there over to the Gardner.  We won’t be getting any new low income housing from the deal.”
An Occupier adds, “I think they may rehab the Seaway next.  That would mean more low income housing but some poor people will still get screwed.  The Seaway didn’t have all the public housing requirements that the rest of low income housing does.  There are some poor people who won’t be eligible for the units anymore. That is so lame.  I’m not completely sure of all my facts but I think that’s how things are gonna go.     
“I know some people with serious brain malfunctions, felonies and stuff like that are hard to house but they’re still human beings and have to live somewhere.  We need more places like San Marcos”.
An Occupier asks, “So what does our schedule look like for the near future?”  The Occupier who remembers all that stuff answers, “This Friday, June 17th is the Annual Day of Remembrance for the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial; things will start at noon. 
“This upcoming Saturday, June 18th, we’re going to the Juneteenth Celebration in Superior.  It will be at Kelly Park, 711 Grand Ave. from 2pm-7pm and all are welcome.
“Next Tuesday, June 21st there’s going to be a meeting between Mayor Emily, City Councilor Gary Anderson and the folks who belong to the organization called The Table.  The discussion will be about how we are going to make racial equity actually happen in Duluth.  I don’t think anything too earth shattering will go on but I think we need to make an appearance just to show we are watching.  You never know, there may be some actual POC in attendance”.  We share a good natured laugh.
Another Occupier remarks, “There’s the CHUM Rhubarb Fest coming up on Saturday, June 25th at the First Lutheran Church on the 1100 block of London Rd from 9am-4pm.  We could go there and if the weather gives us a break, we could still have a fire at People’s Plaza in the evening.
“Then Local Solutions to Poverty is sponsoring an Accountability Forum on Tuesday, June 28th, 6pm at Community Action Duluth. Remember when they had that forum right before the last City elections where almost all the candidates showed up?  The candidates were each asked about many racial and economic issues and if they would support certain proposals to help remedy these situations.  Almost every one of the candidates said yes, they would support the proposals.  Well, the Accountability Session is to see what each of the candidates who were elected has done so far related to their promises.  It might be an interesting event”.
The Occupier who remembers stuff says, “Oh, I almost forgot a couple of things.  Did you hear that the US Forest Service has expressed strong concern about the proposed Twin Metals underground sulfide mine near the boundary Waters?  The USFS is concerned that the mine may pollute the BWCA”.
An Occupier exclaims, “Well duh, do ya think?”
The remembering Occupier continues, “So there’s going to be a public hearing here in Duluth on July 13th to listen to public comment.  I’m sure Twin Metals personnel will be there sprouting their ying yang but it sounds like the rest of us may actually be heard too”.
“We’re going to need more fire wood soon.  We’re getting pretty low.  It will be a week or two before we order another load.  The Occupier who has a truck will go pick it up but then we’ll need everyone to help unload and stack it”.
An Occupier makes a suggestion, “It’s after 7pm; it doesn’t look like anyone else is going to show.  Want to go over to my house, finish listening to the KUMD show and goof around for a while?” We think that sounds like a plan.
So we bus our table and put tips in the jar.  The hipsters tell us, “We miss seeing you guys” and we respond, “We’ll be back the next time it’s meeting night and the weather’s too bad to have a fire”.
It looks like we’ll be busy for the next week.  We plan to be back at People’s Plaza on Saturday, June 25th.

G.A. Minutes 6-11-16

G.A. Minutes 6-11-16
Weather wise it looks like we’ll be experiencing an excellent evening at People’s Plaza.  Temperatures are in the high 70s, the sky is partly cloudy and a very slight and variable east wind keeps things from overheating.  Perfection.
No one comes out of the MN Power building to yell at us or even look at us when we roll up and unload.  It’s hard to imagine anyone being in a bad mood on a night like this.
We get things set up and the first person to stop by is the gray haired woman.  We’re glad she’s finally managed to find us. She’s pretty happy about it too.
She’s carrying a couple of big bags and tells us she’s made a good haul at the free store again.  She takes everything out to show us.  It’s mostly very good winter clothing and Christmas decorations.  We think her home must be packed wall to wall with all the stuff she collects; she also gives a lot away to street folks in need.  Over the years, she’s given the Occupy women some really nice things too.  They wear her gifts all the time.
A high school student comes over; he tells us he was attracted by the smell of the burning sage.  Two of his friends who are riding bikes quickly follow.  We offer them food from the table; they’re shy at first but once they start eating we can tell they’re all very hungry.
They talk amongst themselves.  It seems they are trying to figure out where each one is going to sleep tonight.  It sounds like they mostly do couch surfing.
One of the boys says to the bike less one, “We need to find a bike for you.  There’s one down the street that has just been sitting there for a long time”.
An Occupier asks, “Have you guys ever heard of the Bike Cave?”  They respond, “Yes, we have but we don’t know where it is”.  The Occupier gives the directions and explains a little bit about Loaves N Fishes and about how the Bike Cave operates. The boys exclaim, “Wow!  We should go over there right now and check it out”.  They thank us for the food and head on out to see what they can see.
The woman with the animal menagerie arrives.  Tonight she is accompanied by her ex-husband, her 14 year old daughter and 2 German Shepard dogs.  She’s also brought lots of hot dogs and all the fixins.
She tells us a little more about her life, “My mon is from Thailand. My dad was working for the Peace Corps and my mom was working in a bar.  My dad had a motorcycle and my mom thought he was kinda cute.  They got together but once they came back to the States she found out he wasn’t very nice.
“She left him and moved to South Carolina.  I went with her but I became very depressed and tried to commit suicide.  I got sent back here to my dad.  When he picked me up at the airport, the first thing he did was to show me the hospital bill from my suicide attempt. 
“My dad belongs to a really strict religion and he said, ‘You’ve cost me a lot of money and you don’t behave.  I don’t want to deal with anyone who won’t behave.  From now on, you’re on your own’.  I was 16 years old then and I was homeless.
“I am bi-polar and have a personality disorder.  Behaving and doing what people tell me to do is just not in the cards.
“In my 20s I was pregnant 5 times but I miscarried all of them.  My daughter here was number six.  I had a very difficult pregnancy and an emergency C-section but she was born alive”.
An Occupier comments, “Well then, you are certainly a miracle child”.  The daughter replies, “Oh, I’m no miracle”.  We can see she has an ornery attitude, just like her mother.
The sun is now behind the buildings so we start up the fire.  We’ll make a small one because the weather is warm and also so we can get some quick coals for cooking the hot dogs.
An Occupier rides up on his bike.  He and another Occupier attended a Listening Session with the new mayor and our Central Hillside City Councilor.  They report on their experience.
One Occupier explains, “The main thing I wanted to talk about was more low income housing.  The City Councilor said that getting the general public to support low income housing is difficult.  Most say they are in favor of it but they don’t want it in their neighborhood.  The councilor said we need to get lots of homeless people to come to the Council meetings and speak about the huge need for more low income housing”
The other Occupier adds, “The mayor said she is in favor of low income housing but she wants mixed income housing scattered around the city.  I think their hearts are in the right place but they don’t understand the realities of homelessness.
“Many homeless people try to appear invisible.  They would be too afraid to speak to the City Council.  They’re afraid they would be arrested or something.  They don’t have nice clothes, hairdos or stuff like that and think they would be insulted and looked down upon.  Seeing as being insulted and looked down upon is part of their daily experience, who can blame them.
“Mixed income housing would be difficult.  Many people who have normal incomes will not move into a mixed income building.  They are resentful of poor people who receive government services. Also, poor people need basic services like feeding centers, food banks, ER visits, social worker services and stuff like that.  All those things are located in the Central Hillside or West End.  If poor people are living in buildings scattered about town, those services will be more difficult to access than they already are.
“People with normal incomes would be really pissed if feeding centers or ambulances and first responders became a part of their neighborhood or of the building they lived in.  Maybe it could be done but it would be very difficult”.
The first Occupier states, “Well, we’ll just have to keep working on the mayor and Councilors.  I think Lee Stuart, the director of CHUM could give us good advice on how to go about it”.
A friend who teaches beadwork at Life House joins us.  She’s brought her 2 young children along.  Soon another well respected woman in the native community arrives with her 3 children.  The kids all start running around the big Plaza, having a very good time.
The well-respected woman states, “Wow, this is really nice.  We love to do this in the country but I never knew one could do it in the city.  This is a really good thing you are that doing”.
Our friend, the city official sits down.  He has a copy of the Duluth News Tribune.  The front page story is about a lawsuit filed against UMD by the former director of the UMD GLBT Services. It says she was forced to resign because she publically supported the UMD female lesbian sports coaches who were fired from their jobs.
We discuss the many instances of homophobia we know of at UMD.  Changing the subject, an Occupier says to the official, “I just finished reading the dissertation from a previous UMD director of Black Student Services.  What a trip!  It doesn’t seem like much has changed since it was written in about 1984.
“Regarding what the director said about black students not being as well prepared for taking college courses as white students are, it seems like the root solution is that our country needs to stop funding our schools through property taxes.  If all schools were equally funded, everyone would get a good education or everyone would get a bad education”.  The city official agrees.
Spiritual man checks in.  He smudges and comments, “What a beautiful night”.  An Occupier asks him, “Hey, would you have any interest in working on the construction crew for the rebuilding of Superior St.?”
He says he definitely would be interested.  The Occupier points to the city official and says, “He’s the one who knows all about it”. The official responds, “It’s going to be a 3 year project and will start next year from the West End and go all the way through downtown and out east.
“A lot of taxpayer money will be spent.  Seeing as there have been so many projects supported by taxpayer money in which no people of color have been hired, we’re demanding that the new mayor order that 50% of the Superior St. construction jobs go to POC.  I think we stand a good chance of that happening with this new mayor”.
Spiritual Man and the city official exchange contact information for future reference.
A middle aged man who we have not met yet comes over.  He asks what is going on and when we inform him we are cooking, eating and discussing things, he sits down.
He wants to talk about the upcoming presidential election.  The discussion starts out the usual way things generally go in the straight world these days.  The man thinks Hillary will be an acceptable president.  The Occupiers think she sucks and they explain why.  The man says that Trump would be worse.  The Occupiers think he sucks too.
The gray haired woman asks, “Well isn’t it time for a woman president?”  An Occupier rejoins, “Jill Stein is a woman”.  The Occupiers plan to wait to see what Bernie is gonna do, vote for Jill no matter what or not vote at all.
Spiritual Man sighs, “It doesn’t matter who you vote for, nothing ever changes.  No matter who gets elected, we never get good jobs, education, housing, healthcare or anything; nothing ever changes”.  No one disagrees with him.
The 14 year old daughter says she needs to go to the bathroom. This could be a problem as there are no accessible bathrooms in the area.
Spiritual Man tells her, “Well you can’t go to Luce’ because they have a band playing so they won’t let anyone in unless they pay a cover charge.  Maybe they’ll let you in at the Holiday Center.  I’ll walk down there with you so you won’t have to walk on the street alone”.  Off they go.
It’s almost 10 pm: an Occupier suggests, “We should probably start packing up”.  Another Occupier reminds him, “We need to wait for Spirit Man and the daughter to return”.
We all continue chatting until they return.  Spiritual Man says, “No luck.  Everything was locked up”  The 14 year old is looking rather desperate when the gray haired woman offers, “Maybe I could take you across the street to the new microbrew bar.  I’ll say I’m your grandmother and you look all helpless and innocent, o.k.?” Off they go.
They return shortly.  The daughter is smiling and the gray haired woman remarks, “Mission accomplished”.
A bunch of skate boarders roll up and start practicing beginners tricks around the Plaza.  It’s time for us to go.
The problem is, the weather is so wonderful that no one wants to leave.  The most practical Occupiers begin packing up and everyone else joins in.
If the weather allows it, we’ll be back here again on Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 6-7-16

G.A. Minutes 6-7-16
We were beginning to think it would rain forever.  We have been unable to make a fire at People’s Plaza for the past 2 weeks; the rain has been nearly constant. We can’t afford a portable teepee and haven’t been able to come up with any other type of moveable shelter that will accommodate a small fire so we just meet at Coney Island when the weather is bad.
The weather is fine this evening; the temperature is in the 60s with partly cloudy skies and a medium strength breeze.  It’s not perfect but it’s definitely good enough.
When we drive our couple of vehicles on to the Plaza a grumpy looking man stomps out from the MN Power building and says, “You can’t park here!”  An Occupier sticks her head out of her car window and responds pleasantly, “Don’t worry, we’re just going to unload our stuff and then we’ll get our vehicles out of here right away.  Some of our stuff is just too heavy to carry from the street”.
The man gives her an angry look and stomps back into the building.  We have not come across this man in the past.  We guess he must be the night watchman or a member of the cleaning crew.  The first couple of times that we held fire circles in the Plaza we noticed a different man come out of the building look at us briefly and go back into the building.  He was not the same man who “greeted” us tonight.
More Occupiers arrive and we set up the circle, snack table and such.  A friendly middle aged woman comes up.  She asks us if we have seen her son.  The description she gives leads us to believe her son maybe be the veteran homeless man who has been one of our regulars since we began our fires this year.  We assure her that if he turns up tonight we will let him know she is looking for him.
The short but very large woman who lives with an animal menagerie rides up on her bike.  She’s just come from her bi-weekly plasma donation so has been able to purchase a big Subway sandwich.  She stops in to eat it, chat for a bit and go off to a regular Tuesday discount movie night.
The Native man who spent 27 years in the Army drops in.  He’s waiting for his girlfriend to pick him up but wanted to let us know that he thinks our fires are really cool.  He apologizes for being drunk when we first met him about a month ago.  We hadn’t realized at the time that he was drunk but we did find it amusing that he couldn’t stop giggling. 
He asks, “So what’s new and exciting in the political world these days?”  We tell him that some national organizers are planning on shutting down the DFL convention in Philadelphia this July.  A few Occupiers are considering making the trip.
It takes the sun until 7pm to go behind the buildings.  When it does, we start up the fire.
The former meth head guy who lives at the San Marcos takes a seat.  He has attended our fires at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial in the past.  He can be annoying as he has a tendency to dominate the conversation.  We tolerate him as best we can.  He smells the burning sage and comments, “When I used to have bad headaches, my mother would burn sage in my room”.
An Occupier reports, “Remember when I said I didn’t believe the City Attorney had actually written a letter about fires at CJMM?  Well, I received an email from one of our friends on the City Council.  It said that the Councilor had seen a copy of the letter about 2 months ago.  Maybe the CJMM BOD president will let me see a copy too”.
Changing the subject, the Occupier also reports, “Mayor Emily and City Councilor Em Westerlund are holding a Listening Session tomorrow at the Central Hillside Community Center, 5:30pm.  I usually go to the Human Rights Commission meetings every second Wednesday but I’m going to go to the CHCC meeting instead.  After all, they’ll be talking about our hood”.  Other Occupiers express interest in attending too .
An Occupier observes a small group of young men who appear to be college students pass by on the sidewalk in front of the People’s Plaza.  As they reach the far west end of the Plaza, one of the men runs up the front of a small parked car, stands on the roof, yells,” Yahoo!”, jumps high into the air and lands square on his hind end on the roof , jumps up and runs down the back of the car.  The group continues walking down the street.
The observing Occupier exclaims, “WTF?”  The others in the circle look quizzically at her and she explains what she just saw.  Many of the Occupiers go down to the street to see what’s going on.
An Occupier couple arrives.  One of them has just returned from the DFL Convention in St. Paul.  He was disappointed with the experience.  He tells us, “I went as a delegate for Bernie Sanders.  I and the other Bernie delegates were not made to feel very welcome.  They didn’t inform us as to what the voting rules were and then they disqualified our votes because we didn’t follow the rules”.
The Occupiers who went to the street return.  They inform us that the group of young men continued down the street jumping on other cars, just having a grand old time.
Someone called the police; when the cops came driving up, the group quickly split up and disappeared.  The cops asked the Occupiers what was going on; the Occupiers reported what they saw.  We say, “If they’re busy chasing college kids maybe they’ll leave the neighbors alone for a while”.
A neighborhood woman who has attended our fires for many years sits down. She states, “I just found out you guys have moved over here”.
A girl wearing Goth clothes and makeup comes over.  We haven’t met her before.  She says she’s waiting for a bus and we invite her to sit, take snacks and stay with us until her bus arrives.
A squad car pulls up at the edge of the Plaza; a female cop gets out and requests to speak with the Occupier who originally witnessed the car damaging fiasco.
The requested Occupier goes to talk with the cop and when she returns she is laughing.  She blurts out, “OMG, I know that woman!  I used to run with her when I was out and about playing drums with local bands about 10 or 12 years ago. She’s a pretty good song writer and guitarist.  She was always a very matter of fact person but I never dreamed she would become a cop.  She just finished being a new trainee.  I guess she musta really needed a decent paying job.
“Anyway, she was asking about our fire and told me that the guy, who growled at us when we were unloading, called the cops and complained about the fire.  I explained what was up and she said ‘Yeah, I’ve noticed your fire over the last few months.  If the guy calls back I’ll tell him that your fire is legal’.  
A man we don’t know but have seen before joins the circle.  He tells us he is a mycologist, apparently that means he studies mushrooms.  This gets the man from San Marcos excited and he starts rambling about psilocybin.  The mycologist guy isn’t making a lot of sense but does seem to know stuff about mushrooms.  He has a lot of physical ticks similar to those seen in people who are under long term treatment for schizophrenia.  Whatever.
An Occupier asks, “Does anyone know how the East Coast Occupier is doing?” Another Occupier replies, “I left a message on her phone yesterday.  She may be in the hospital right now but I’m sure she’ll call me back as soon as she can.  I let her know we are all thinking about her”.
It’s coming up on 9pm and we are thinking about packing up when Spiritual Man and one of his friends arrive.  We decide to wait a while.  Spiritual Man tells us he’s been working in Cloquet and will start another job tomorrow doing rehab work at Glensheen Mansion. He’s happy to be working again.
Both men smudge themselves and get snacks.  They especially appreciate the dark chocolate squares with blueberries inside of them.
We get a visit from one of our good friends from Socialist Action.  She has a night off from working the night shift at the women’s shelter and can stop in for a minute.  She likes the chocolate squares too.
A couple with a very cute little daughter stops over to see if anyone has a spare cigarette.  Spirit Man rolls them a few from the tobacco pouch.
It’s almost 10 o’clock now and we have things to do tomorrow.  There are still quite a few folks at the fire so packing up is done in no time at all.
We exchange hugs and goodbyes.  The weather people say it’s not going to rain much for the rest of the week so we fully expect to be back here on Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 5-31-16

G.A. Minutes 5-31-16
It’s still raining or at least it has been for most of the last week.  It rained off and on all day today too.  It’s not raining right now as we arrive at Coney Island but it’s cold and overcast and could start up again any time.
All the leaves and early flowers are out now.  The sun was out yesterday.  Everything was warm and beautiful; even the lilacs are starting to bloom.  The weather people say we can expect one more day of rain and then we’ll start to experience the type of climate conditions that we spend about 8 months a year waiting for….. Maybe.
The old regular hipster, who hasn’t been around for at least 5 months, is working the counter tonight.  He was always our favorite, remembers us and switches the radio to our friend’s weekly KUMD show right away.  Sweet.
As we’re settling into the back booth, an Occupier asks of another, “So where’s your “old man”?  The questioned Occupier responds, “As we were leaving our building we saw one of the bigger kids at the Neighborhood Youth Center beating up a smaller kid.  It looked pretty bad so we stopped and he went over to break it up.
“When he came back he was pretty upset.  He told me that the bully kid called the kid who he was beating up over and asked if what my “old man” was accusing the bully of was true.  The kid who was getting beaten and was obviously afraid of the bully stated that the beating had never happened.
“A few of the NYS workers came out and my husband told them what was going on. About that time I got out of the car and started over there myself but my husband was coming back saying, ‘They’re trying to tell me I’m crazy’.  I reminded him that I had witnessed the very same thing that he did.  He was still pretty upset so I suggested that he go run an errand he still needed to do and then join us.  We both agreed that we need to pay more attention to what goes on with the neighborhood kids”.
More Occupiers roll up; one of them asks, “So what’s going on with Juneteenth this year?  Are the NAACP and the African American Men’s Group going to do the usual thing at the Hillside Community Center?”
An Occupier answers, “I’m not sure but we had talked about going over to Superior to join the Superior Organizer and company for their Juneteenth celebration on Saturday June 18th 2pm-7pm.  I know one of the main people in the NAACP is listed as one of the speakers so that tells me Duluth won’t be doing anything on the same day”.
Another Occupier comments, “Oh that reminds me, we’re going to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Cleanup Day on Saturday.  Maybe we should bring some coffee or juice or something”.
An Occupier says, “So do you wanna hear about the weird things that have been going on in my life lately?”  We say sure and she continues, “Remember when the City Attorney told me that he was going to be circulating a letter stating there were to be no fires of any type at CJMM?  Well, I’d been waiting to hear that the letter had been sent out for about 2 months.
A couple of weeks ago I emailed him asking if the letter had been sent out.  If he had sent it would he please advise me as to where I could view a copy?  He responded almost immediately saying he’d sent it out a long time ago and was surprised I hadn’t seen it. He didn’t include a copy so I emailed him back asking to see a copy.  After about a week he emailed back saying he would give one to me but didn’t include it in his email.  I think I’m being given the run around.  These political types are so tiresome”.
Another Occupier opines, “They do that shit on purpose hoping that we’ll just go away”.
The first Occupier adds, “Another thing that happened lately is that last week, as usual, I attended the monthly Citizens Review Board meeting”.  She turns to one of the Occupiers and remarks, “Remember we were going to tag team the subject of the DPD complaint process?  Well, it’s a good thing you didn’t show up because that’s not how things went. 
“First, some people from PAVSA made a presentation about a 3 year program they have going to test the backlog of rape kits that the DPD has been keeping.  Their presentation was reasonable but they kept using the phrase ‘rape victim’ instead of ‘rape survivor’. That was kinda bugging me and I was going to comment on it when the time for public questions came up but it never did.  I guess the CRB president forgot.  Whatever.
“Then this really strange guy made a presentation or something.  He started out sounding reasonable but very soon started sounding paranoid and delusional.  He told us about how he was estranged from a very wealthy family in Edina.  He lives in a van because CHUM, Loaves N Fishes, the DPD, Oneida Realty and a whole bunch more people and organizations are involved in a big plot to destroy him.
“Also, he owns several valuable Picassos that he tried to sell on E Bay but the DPD ordered E Bay to not sell them and he has personal knowledge about the real deal behind the JFK assassination.  He went on and on so long that I started falling asleep.
“Pretty soon it was almost an hour over the normal meeting time.  The CRB president, like he always does, asked me if I had anything to say and I said no not tonight.  As I was leaving, Lt. Marquardt (apparently she’s a Deputy Chief now) was giving the guy her business card and making an appointment to meet with him.  I don’t think she realized what she was getting into”.
Another Occupier asks, “Can you give me a description of the guy?”  She gives a description and he continues, “Oh, I know that guy.  He came to my church several times.  He’s going to press charges against me or sue me or something because I asked him to stop talking.  He’s annoying because he can’t seem to talk about anything except himself”.
An Occupier tells us about an interesting conversation he had recently with some other activists.  They discussed the subject of a national guaranteed income.  We think that would be a good start for combating homelessness, crime, poverty and mindless wage slavery.
Someone postulates, “What do you think it would be like if Trump actually became president?”  We all groan and someone else replies, “Some people think his being the president would bring the revolution about sooner”.
A few of the Occupiers go out for a smoke break.  As they are smoking, they encounter the grey haired woman.  She says, “So when are you gonna start up the fires again?” We explain that we have been having fires at People’s Plaza for more than a month now. We point out the Plaza to her as it can be seen from where we are standing.  We know that several people have told her this already but she just can’t remember.  We hope she will walk by on one of the evenings we are having a fire and she will remember and join us again.
More Occupiers arrive.  We squeeze tightly into the booth.  If anyone else shows up, some will have to stand.
An Occupier reminds us about an event taking place at Mesaba Co-op Park on June 25th.  The park is near Hibbing and was originally founded by Finnish communists in the 30s.  He tells us he always has a good time up there and encourages us to attend.
Another reminds us that the Respect Your Mother Earth Festival will be held this year on July 23rd and 24th.  We have attended in years past and certainly expect to do so again this year.
An Occupier reports that our organizer friend who has moved to Hawaii has been coming out in support of Hilary.  We say, “What?!?”  Another Occupier comments, “I’m gonna have to contact him and say, ‘I’ve heard you done lost your mind’.  Others gasp and say, “Oh no, don’t say that.  She responds, “Don’t worry, I’ve been teasing him for years”.
The place has had few customers besides us all evening.  It’s empty now and we notice the hipster appears to be straightening up.  Someone remarks, “I think he’s ready to close”.
The hipster guy says, “Sorry but my co-worker went home ill a long time ago and I’m really tired”.  An Occupier replies, “Yeah, we’re kinda dense but if you just roll out that mop bucket we will get a clue.
We perform our usual cleanup and tip routine and head on out.  We’ll be at the CJMM cleanup on Saturday but we really, really hope the weather will allow us to start up our fire at People’s Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 5-24-16

G.A. Minutes 5-24-16
When it comes to the weather in Duluth, things are getting curioser and curioser almost every day.
It rained heavily all Monday evening, night and into the early morning.  Today the sky was perfectly clear, the sun shined brightly and temperatures were in the high 70s.  About 5 minutes before most of us were leaving various places and cruising over to People’s Plaza, a thick fog rolled in.  Temperatures dropped at least 20 degrees and a strong east wind kicked up.
Fortunately, Occupiers are veteran recreational fire attendees so we always come prepared for changes.  We put on our spare socks, pants and jackets. We’d expected to have a small courtesy fire but we always bring plenty of wood so we’re good to go in that department too.
The Fire Magician gets a big fire roaring and we sit around and watch people who are wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts scurry along the street.
An Occupier spots a small knife and a pack of cigarettes sitting on one of the benches.  He puts them in his pocket.  It’s never a good idea to leave a knife lying around any area frequented by substance abusing folks.  The place is quite a mess tonight.  The Occupier who likes to clean things begins doing so.
A pretty young Native woman walks up.  She says, “I think I’ve been to your fires before when they were up at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.  I can tell that it’s safe here, can I sit down?”
We welcome her and she tells us her story, “I live in Cass Lake.  I have schizo affect disorder and have to come down here twice a year to see my psychiatrist. There is medicine that I could take to help me cope but I can’t take it because I always overdose and end up in ICU on a breathing machine.
“I was institutionalized when I was 16 and when I turned 18 I was sent to prison for 7 years.  When I was there I got my GED and I read a lot of books on psychology.  I have a pretty good understanding of the mental illness I have.  I also have a pretty good understanding of what other people are about.  I’ve only been out for a couple of years.
“I’m required to have meetings with my psychiatrist for 2 weeks so I have to stay at CHUM while I’m here.  I don’t like staying at CHUM because the staff and the other residents ask me all kinds of personal questions.  I don’t like talking to people very much.  It makes me afraid and I don’t understand what it is that they want from me but I know they always want something.
“When I leave CHUM I just walk the streets of downtown.  I’m afraid someone is following me.  I understand that probably no one is following me but I still think they are.  Sometimes I go up on 1st St. and hang around and drink with the people there. 
“I don’t like doing that either because men always put their arms around me, touch me and tell me they want to take care of me.  Most of these men are crazier than I am.  The women who were in prison with me know how I am and they leave me alone.  The other women call me a bitch and a whore and they always want to fight”.
We have just been listening.  An Occupier comments, “It could be because you’re a new woman on the scene; the men want to see if they can run their game on you.  The women are jealous of the attention you’re getting”.
The young woman replies, “Where ever I go, men want to get close to me and talk to me.  A guy at the casino told me it’s because so many of the Native women around here sell themselves.  Well, I don’t want to do that.  I don’t want to have sex with anyone.  I just want to be left alone.  I wish I was invisible.
“My family in Cass Lake don’t really care much about me.  When I’m home I like to sit and drink with the old men.  I feel safe with them but my mother yells at me and tells me I’m supposed to do something with my life.
“When I saw my psychiatrist today, I asked him to commit me to the psych ward where I could be safe.  He said no, he wouldn’t do that.  He said I know what’s going on and I need to learn how to function in society”.
About the time the young Native woman arrived, a young Native man also joined us.  He’s been to our past fires many times.  He usually just sits quietly and gazes into the flames.  The young woman greeted him with “Boozhoo”.  He smiled shyly and took a seat on the opposite side of the circle.
After she finishes telling her story, she says to the young man, “You’ve been so polite and haven’t tried to hit on me.  Would you like a drink of vodka?”  He shyly declines then quietly leaves.
The pretty woman turns to the Occupiers and explains, “The reason I told you all this personal stuff is because I can tell that you don’t want anything from me.  I know you all just sit and listen to people.  Thank you for the therapy session”. She goes off to look for a few of the more amiable street women.
We think she told quite a story.  We also think that it’s sad she should be mandated to come all the way down to Duluth but that she is given no secure place to stay.  We think that the situation is out of the control of her psychiatrist or that he doesn’t realize the serious stress involved in staying at CHUM or hanging on the street.
The young chronically homeless man arrives.  He’s dressed for the current weather and informs us that the benches at the Plaza are no longer safe to sleep on at night.  He says the police come by every night around 11pm and roust whomever they find.  He tells us of the place close by the Plaza where he sleeps these days.  The cops haven’t figured that one out yet.
The Occupier who lives in Superior checks in.  He states, “As usual, I’m a little behind.  What’s going on that I don’t know about?”  An Occupier answers, “Well, were planning to attend the Juneteenth Celebration in Superior on Saturday June 18th 2pm-7pm.  I’ll make a big salad. 
“The next Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NDN Taco Sale will be Friday June 3rd 11am-2pm.  We’re going to be short a few of the regular helpers so will need to find some others who will help.  Also, the March Against Monsanto scheduled for this upcoming Saturday has been cancelled.  I don’t know the whole story; I was just told it was due to circumstances beyond their control.
“Anyway, it’s supposed to be raining like crazy on Saturday.  We’re thinking we won’t have a meeting at all that day.  Most of us have so many things we have to catch up on”.
The cleaning Occupier is finished now.  Our area of People’s Plaza is immaculate. 
The city official stops by.  He’s going off to a Puerto Rican dinner again.  He shows us a picture of the cleaning job that has been done behind CJMM and reports, “It’s not finished yet but at least it’s being done.  Maybe my making some noise about it helped get things moving”.
We go on to discuss the situation with the DTA buses and Michigan St. being closed.  The official comments, “MN Power waited until the new Depot bus terminal was finished and then they said they needed to close down the street. They could have closed it while the terminal was being built.  Apparently, they don’t care about the needs of regular people”.
We also talk about the fact that the City Council agreed to table the discussion about new low income housing.  Someone observes, “They sure don’t table any discussion about giving loans or tax breaks to millionaires who want to build more unnecessary high end housing”.
The woman who lives with an animal menagerie rides up on her bike.  She’s all dressed up and wears a flower in her hair.  She tells us, “I was supposed to go on a date but the guy never showed up”.
The quiet Native man returns.  He’s gone home and changed into warmer clothing.  He smudges, gets a little food and quietly disappears.
A tall, slender African American walks by.  He looks around and asks, “Did any of you see a small knife lying around here somewhere?”  An Occupier takes the knife and cigarettes out of his pocket and gives them to the man.  The tall man is very happy and exclaims, “Wonderful!  That knife was given to me by a close friend.  It means a lot to me.  I can’t believe I left it just sitting here.  And you have my cigarettes too.  You guys really rock!”
Another tall slender African American man comes up the stairs with the question “Do you folks have any food left?”  An Occupier responds, “We’re just about to leave so you’d be helping us out by taking everything that’s left”.  No problem, the dude puts most of the remaining cookies and sandwiches in his backpack, says thanks and goes on his way.
So according to the weather people, there’s at least a 70% chance of rain for next Saturday.  We’ll take the night off and catch up on mandatory paperwork. We plan to be back here next Tuesday because it can’t rain forever……Right?