G.A. Minutes 7-17-18

G.A. Minutes 7-17-18

The temperatures this past week have been elevated beyond what most folks living in the Great White North are able to handle. Everyday they’ve been in the high 80s or greater with night time lows in the 60s. Today we’ve been given a reprieve; the temperature remained in the 70s all day and overnight lows are predicted to be in the 50s. This is good; we need a break.

When the first Occupiers arrive at Peoples Plaza and drive their cars up on the sidewalk (because the big trees in planters are STILL blocking the entrance) one of the Occupiers laughs and comments, “I’m guessing we will get a lot of people visiting tonight seeing as this cooler air makes life tolerable for actual human beings”.

The big Native guy from the Anonymous crew is waiting; another Occupier rolls up just as the first Occupiers and the big Anon start to unload. We choose the same space in the middle of the Plaza that we used last week. Setting up the fire circle is quick and smooth. Just as we are finishing, a large group of Anons, Occupiers and street folks arrive. An Anon who is also a bad ass Water Protector from the Fond du Lac Reservation contributes all the fixin’s for s’mores. They will work perfectly for a dessert after finishing the PB+J sandwiches, pickles, chips, cookies, homemade potato salad, apple juice and whole bean coffee that the Occupiers have donated.

Just as everyone has their food and is taking a seat in the circle a Duluth Police Officer, who we have not met in the past, rides up on his bike. He surveys the area then says in a friendly tone, “Are you gonna light that fire?” We say, “Yes, just as soon as the sun goes behind the buildings across the street”. The cop answers, “Have a good night” and rides off. The sun goes behind the buildings and the Fire Magician lights the fire.

An Occupier says to one of the Occupier/Water Protectors, “So when is your actual trial?” An Occupier/Water Protector replies, “October 10th at 9am” The questioning Occupier exclaims, “I was so amazed and pleasantly surprised to hear that the court accepted your ‘necessity defense’. That is a miracle!” The real Ogichidaa (warrior) responds, “Yeah, we were all pretty surprised too. It’s still rare the courts will accept that completely legitimate defense. The judge said he was well aware that climate change is real and life threatening but he needs us to show how doing a lockdown on the front gates of Wells Fargo is connected”. Another Occupier opines, “Hell, that shouldn’t be at all hard to prove. Wells Fargo and all the other big banks are up to their necks in earth destroying investments. The reason for choosing Wells Fargo for our action was because it’s easily accessible at its downtown location and it’s entrance way is easily accessible too. Kind of a no-brainer, huh?” We all say, “For real” and pledge to attend the early morning trial in October.

The Anons get their signs and supplies ready to go out to the protest corner; tonight they are demonstrating to Abolish Ice. ICE stands for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE attempts to kill or beat up and imprison brown skinned people who come from the south of the so called American continent. The south of the border people come to the USA in search of safety and/or a very low paying job. A few of them come seeking liberty and justice for all (good luck with that).

The Gardener arrives; he has a bunch of little fliers announcing the Anon’s event, “Bring The Noise Peoples Parade and Banner Drop”. The event is scheduled to take place on Friday, July 27th,4pm at Peoples Plaza. We all hope to attend.

A street friend informs, “Hey, did you guys hear that someone has purchased the 4th Street Market?” An Occupier exclaims, “No kidding? That is so wonderful! Living in a food desert really sucks; the only place to buy real food is at the Whole Foods Co-op next to the Ghetto Spur. Most folks in the hood can’t afford to go there”. Another Occupier adds, “I read that it was AICHO (American Indian Community Housing) that bought the 4th St Market building. Since they opened that high quality art gallery in their housing building they’ve been receiving a lot of attention, better funding too, I guess”. The street friend comments, “I sure hope they use the building for a grocery store. That would be really serving the community”. We all agree.

One of the neighborhood schizophrenic dudes is hanging around the outer edges of our circle as he does from time to time; he’s pretty much a fixture on the streets of the lower Central Hillside. Most people are kind of afraid of him because he has a really strong case of the illness; the fact that he looks like one of the old Furry Freak Brothers from the 60s doesn’t help either. We’d offer him a cup of coffee or something but even something as simple as that appears to be beyond his human interaction skill set. He’s not operating on all cylinders tonight; he stands perfectly still, staring straight ahead. He then yells some unintelligible things, throws his arms and fists into the air, flailing them about, throws himself on the ground, rolls around for awhile, jumps back up, stands still and starts all over again. No one has ever heard of him actually being violent toward anyone so we just let him be.

The schizophrenic dude who lives in the Skinner Apts takes a seat. He’s been attending our fires for many years and he’s always pleasant and kind. He doesn’t follow conversation very well but when he does speak up his words are coherent. We figure he must have a mild case of the illness or he’s compliant with his medication regime…. whatever. The Skinner dude has been around so long that we feel like we kinda know him. This evening his behavior is a little different; he’s drunk but that’s nothing new, he’s displaying an attitude that seems a little aggressive and angry…..Weird…..Anyway, he’s brought a big bag of Chinese restaurant food and puts it out for everyone to help themselves; a lot of people do so.

It looks like Skinner Man is rolling with the old school skateboarder guy. The skateboarder guy is so seriously drunk that he has even lost his skateboard. The two of them sit very close together, talking softly. The bare chested Skater Man pulls out a bottle of alcohol from somewhere and prepares to take a swig; an Occupier says firmly, “No man you can’t do that here, we don’t take drugs or use alcohol in the circle; that causes trouble and brings on the cops”. Another Occupier adds, “Dude, you Native, you know the score. You gotta take that shit outa the circle”. The two drunk friends stumble off together towards the east benches. As they are leaving, we hear Skinner Man tell Skater Man, “Hey, what’s wrong with you? Don’t go diggin’ in my bag and helping yourself”.

Chicago Man appears; he tells us that one of his uncles just died. Mr Windy City takes some food then sits and tells us about his family. One of the occasional Anons is stringing a long, industrial type extension cord from the back of the Plaza all the way to the chair he is sitting on in the circle. Some of us casually watch him do this; when he finally finishes, he plugs the cord into something that connects to his cell phone and then he starts playing video games. Oh well…..Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

As the sky darkens, the bike cop rides in again, he asks, “Everybody alright here?” We say, “We sure are” and he rides away. An Occupier comments, “Why is he here?” Another Occupier answers, “They always do that. This one is a new guy so he’s probably a little scared or worried or something about us. They want us to believe that even though they may not be physically here, their power is ever present”.

After the cop leaves us, he rides over to the Plaza’s east side and finds Skater Man lying flat out on the cement ledge. Skater Man, with an assist from the cop, attempts to stand and walk but ends up face down on the Plaza floor. Somebody from our fire goes over to see what’s happening; he returns saying, “Skater Man is asking to be taken to the hospital”. More squads and an ambulance drive up. We turn our attention back to the fire because we’re pretty sure that incapacitated guy will just be taken to the hospital. There are a lot of people in the Plaza and on the street who are watching and besides, the cops can’t do anything worse to Skater Man than he hasn’t already done to himself. Once the dust has settled, we observe someone assisting Skinner Man in walking down the stairs and up the hill to Skinner Man’s apartment.

An Occupier reports to the others, “I went to the Human Rights Commission last week and told them about our dilemma with the entrance to the Plaza being blocked so we can’t get our vehicles in, so we can unload. The Commissioners were thinking of ideas as to how they could help us when the Human Rights Officer suggested, ‘I’m guessing that what has happened is the the person who was the building maintenance manager has retired and there’s another person in that position. Let me make a few calls and see what I can find out.’ So that’s where things stand now; I’ll give him a week or so then ask if he’s been able to find out what’s up”.

The FDL Water Protector comes off the corner and joins the circle. She and the big Anon tease each other and tell jokes. The Water Protector tells us about her work out on the rez with Natives Against Heroin. She speaks a bit about her life too; she’s a very good storyteller.

The rest of the Anons come down off the corner and into the circle; all the chairs are taken so some are sitting on the ground. The beloved mother of a couple of the Anons turns up. She’s come to give them, their music speakers, and their signs a ride home.

We figure that’s as good a cue as any; some of the occasional Anons offer to stay and help us pack up. When the food bringing Occupier goes to clean up the food stuff, she laughs, “OMG, there is not even a crumb or a drop of food left. Everything has been eaten. Cool”.

After everything has been packed up, an Occupier and an occasional Anon stand talking. When the Anon turns to leave he says, “Gi-ga wabamin! She calls back, “Gi-ga wabamin!” There’s a spiritual aspect to the phrase but basically it means “See you later”. Actually, we’ll see each other at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 7-10-18

G.A. Minutes 7-10-18

Peoples Plaza is completely empty when the first Occupiers drive their vehicles onto the sidewalk this evening. There isn’t even a young person in business type attire sitting on the east ledge and using the one open outlet to charge their phone. The trees in their big concrete planters still block our way onto the Plaza but the super hostile security guys are invisible too. They have big shades pulled down over all the walls of their possibly bulletproof enclosure; no one comes out to give us a dirty look and snarl, “Get those cars off the sidewalk!” Very weird…..

The only thing we can think of is that all this emptiness could be because of the weather. The last couple of days have been real scorchers with temperatures in the low 90s, clear skies and zero wind. Today was no exception and the sun is still shining brightly across the entire space. Maybe everyone is hiding from the heat? Oh well, we’ll just wait until some of the Anonymous crew show up; they always do a good job of quickly getting the circle set up.

As the Occupier who brings most of the food and the Occupier who brings most of the stuff for the fire and the fire circle lean against their vehicles and commence to waiting, they spot a brand new and very fancy looking porta-potty sitting on the sidewalk right in front of the Plaza. The Food Occupier goes over to check it out; she calls out, “You’ve got to be kidding me! There’s a padlock on the door! I guess they’re saying to all the regular people who walk by here, ‘This looks real nice doesn’t it? Well guess what, YOU can’t use it’. Nice, huh? That is so mean and stupid”.

After waiting about 15 minutes, the food bringing Occupier remarks, “Maybe the Anons have something else to do tonight. That happens every once in a while”. The Fire Magician groans, “I guess that means we’ll have to unload and set up all by ourselves”. The bringer of the food agrees, “Yeah, it looks like we will. We’ll just have to do everything real slow and take breaks when we need to. It may take a long time to get everything in place but as long as there’s nobody here yet, it won’t matter”.

They choose a space for the circle that is halfway between the east side (where the menacing security bozos last week apparently demanded that we congregate) and the spot 20 or so feet from the MN Power Building (where the goons, through a third party, demanded that we do not congregate). They don’t know where the bozos are but they do know that wherever the rent-a-cops have hidden, the wannabes will be spying on the circle. The point the first arriving Occupiers are trying to make is, yes, we will compromise on relatively petty things but we will not fall in line and take orders from The Man.

Just as the first Occupiers begin dragging chairs out of the big truck, another Occupier and The Gardener arrive. With four people to do the setup, things will be a lot easier; the task is accomplished within a reasonable amount of time. The Magician makes a small, symbolic fire to start with; the air is still quite warm. The longtime friends sit down, expecting to have a serious but pleasant discussion on any number of topics. The Gardener starts out, “The Occupier who is also a member of Veterans for Peace, needs a PA system for the rally when our Occupier/Water Protectors and the Native Water Protector have their next trial on Friday”. He nods to an Occupier, “Our friend from Honor the Earth told me that she is storing a PA at your house”. The Occupier replies, “Yeah, we still have it. It’s very old school but it works; it has to be plugged in but will be loud enough for people giving speeches in front of the courthouse to be heard. I’ll call the VP Occupier tomorrow and give it to him”.

A 30 something white appearing man, who may have visited our circle in the past, rides up on his bike. Most people who visit our fire circle for the first time or after not having visited for a long time are kinda shy; they act like they’re not sure if they are welcome. Not this guy; he is relaxed and comfortable from the start. He sits next to the Gardener and the two of them start up a conversation; an Occupier sits listening beside them, she makes an occasional comment. The Gardener praises the Occupy Movement both at its beginning and now. He opines, “You know, most people think that Occupy is long gone but it’s not. There are still Occupy groups all over the world; in the beginning, Occupy and the camps became sort of a fad. As is usual with any fad, it only lasted for a while. As is also usual for a fad, once it’s over many who participated laugh, make fun of it and pretend they never were real believers anyway.

“However, there were groups of Occupiers and/or anti-capitalists who were and still are very committed to making a change for the good in the world. They are still working; I mean, just look, the slogan of the 99% and the 1%, it’s pretty much ingrained in our and others cultures now.” The Occupier adds, “Ever since I was in my 20s (that was a long time ago) I knew something was seriously wrong in the world. The best way I knew to articulate it was to say, ‘Rich people have too much money’. When I heard the slogan of the 99% vs the 1% I was thrilled. I became a part of Occupy within a matter of weeks of the first Occupy camp being created in Duluth and am still ‘kickin’ it’ to this very day”.

The Food Occupier calls out, “The soup is hot now; I think this will be the last time we have soup for a while though. I’ll start thinking about making cold salads or something like that”. Almost everyone has at least one bowl of organic soup with pintos beans, lots of different vegetables and a very small amount of salt pork.

More people roll up including Chicago Man, the blond chronically homeless young man whose mother sometimes comes looking for him at our fire, the small quiet Native woman who has begun visiting the fire this year, the college student Occupier and the city official. Someone says to the chronically homeless man, “Hey, you cut off all your dreads!” He answers, “Yeah, they were getting just too out of hand”. An Occupier states, “Well, now you can start growing them back again” to which he responds, “Yep, that’s the plan”.

Suddenly everybody freezes, all senses are on alert. The college Occupier says, “I think I just felt a cool breeze”. Everyone else agrees, “Yeah, me too”. The occasional, easterly breeze is very subtle but it cools the air considerably. There’s no need to put on sweaters or long sleeved shirts; we just put a few more logs on the fire, creating mid-sized flames. Far out.

When everyone settles down, two separate conversations develop. One side of the fire circle is sort of talking about politics. Not voting and candidates and stuff like that but about all the serious wrongs that are being done to groups of people all over the world and about the ways in which the 1% go about taking charge of all this. The confident man with the bike confides, “I think about this sorta stuff all the time; then I get depressed and can’t do anything at all. People tell me that I should take anti-depressants but I’m really scared about Big Pharma and all that. I don’t want to turn into a zombie for The Man.” An Occupier tells him, “I take an anti-depressant and it’s really helped me live my life. I was really anxious all the time and worried what people thought about me. My medicine helps me to relax, be myself and articulate my ideas. I think it would be great if I could find natural remedies that work as well but until then, I find the anti-depressant to be a lot better than always being gloomy and angry”.

The other conversation is about nature and how everything is connected and all that. One of the Occupiers, who is a scientist, explains about a lot of cool stuff that the living things on our planet do. Of course, that includes sex so the discussion turns to the difference about sex with love and sex without love, then about different sexual relationships like same sex, opposite sex, group sex and what have you. When it moves on to foot fetishes, an Occupier calls out to everyone, “So what been happening or will be happening this next week?”

The reporting Occupier kicks into gear, “Well, the first two ordinances for the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights passed at City Council last night. That’s just the beginning and there’s a lot more work to be done but after almost five years of working we have our second victory”. Another Occupier adds, “I sure hope our current City administration is a lot more amicable towards our homeless folks than the last administration was”. We all say, “For real”.

The reporting Occupier continues, “There’s another pre-trial hearing for our Water Protector/Occupiers and the Native Water Protector this upcoming Friday 10am at the St. Louis County Court House; there will be a rally for them in front of the courthouse at noon. Also, we need to decide if we’re gonna meet here again next Tuesday or if we’re gonna go over to Superior in support of their Stand Against Husky rally in front of the courthouse and then to their City Council meeting. I think we need to support our comrades when we can”. Another Occupier postulates, “I’m all for fighting against Husky and totally support our comrades but we have to wait a really long time each year to be able to have these fires. I think we should take advantage of this precious time and just do other stuff on non-fire days. The reporting Occupier agrees, “When you put it that way, I think you’re right; we should make fires while we can”.

Chicago Man reports that he lives in Men’s Transitional Housing; an Occupier responds, “Do tell, I didn’t know there was such a thing as Men’s Transitional.” Chicago Man explains, “Well, I have my own room but I have to share a kitchen and a bathroom with one other man. I have to pay rent of about $250 a month so I always have to have a job but it’s clean and warm and it will do nicely for now.”

Chicago Man also inquires, “Can anyone think of anything good or beneficial that He Who Shall Not Be Named has done?” Everyone thinks for a few minutes; somebody says, “Nope”. Everyone else agrees; that’s the end of that conversation.

A young, very slender, dark-haired couple join the circle. They’re not hungry but take coffee and juice. After just listening for a while, the male of the couple tells us that he is a recovering heroin addict. He says he takes Suboxone and feels healthy; he’s been able to refrain from doing heroin for a year now. We all congratulate him and offer words of encouragement. Everyone has stories about loved ones and the scourge of heroin.

Menagerie Woman rides in on her bike; she’s just finished working for twelve and a half hours and her feet are killing her. She gets juice, sits down and makes a phone call. Within minutes, Bush Man rides in on his bike. They exchange a few shy kisses; Menagerie Woman states, “Actually it’s my bike but I’m letting him use it”. They sit for a while but then have to leave in order to catch the bus; they’re going to her house until morning.

An Occupier remembers, “Hey, did anybody hear that Bernie Sanders is coming to Duluth on Friday the 13th?” Most people reply, “Oh, come on.” One Occupier says, “Oh no, I heard that too, he’s coming with Keith Ellison and they’re going to speak at Denfeld Auditorium. Doors will open at 3:45pm”. Everyone says, “Whoa!” An Occupier quires, “I wonder if the fact that we made such a big presence against HWSNBN made them realize that Duluth is not HWSNBN country”.

All the visitors have gone; there are only Occupiers and the Gardener in the circle. The street is very quiet; it’s devoid of cars and pedestrians. We’ve seen only a few squad cars; they were all just going on with their business. An Occupier comments, “Did you notice that we haven’t heard any sirens at all this evening?”. He’s right.

As we are all packing up, the Gardener tells the Occupier who makes much of the food, “I thought it odd that Chicago Man called you Grandma.” The Occupier explains, “Oh, he’s been doing that for a while now. I think because I feed people and try to be nice, I remind him of his grandma. He means it in a good way”.

It’s been decided, we’ll be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday. All are welcome you know.

G.A. Minutes 7-3-18

G.A. Minutes 7-3-18

We’ve returned to Peoples Plaza this evening; the big trees are still blocking the entrance where we normally drive our vehicles onto the east side of the Plaza in order to unload. We’re forced to set up our fire circle very close to the MN Power building again. We’d prefer to set up in our regular spot but as for now, it can’t be helped.

We don’t expect many of the homeless ones to visit tonight as it’s the beginning of the month; this means that many will receive their small government checks and be able to afford a few days of relative comfort before returning to the streets

There are quite a few peeps from the Anonymous crew waiting for us when we arrive; even the Anonymous dog, who used to regularly visit our fires back in the Clayton Jackson McGhee Memorial days is waiting. She’s older of course but also chubby and no longer barking at anyone or anything that moves. We always carry a dog dish in order to provide water to any dogs who visit our circle; we fill the dish and give her some liquid refreshment.

A 30 something woman friend of the Anons is present; we met her a few weeks ago. She’s lived in Duluth for a few years and has worked with a retired union organizer friend of ours. She creates websites and decided recently she would like to make a site that features and supports all the truly progressive people in the Twin Ports area. This website creator has been filming a lot of the progressive actions that have been and/or are currently happening in our somewhat unusual small city. She hooked up with the Anons a while ago and through them was introduced to the Occupiers. The Anons think she is legit; we like her and believe the Anons are correct. Time will tell.

Because we have so many people present right from the start we are able to get everything set up quickly. The Fire Magician gets a roaring fire going; we’ll need it again tonight. The weather people said that temperatures would be in the 80s today and lows in the 60s this evening with a variable gusty wind. Well, that’s not what happened here, temperatures may have been in the 80s up over the hill but down next to the lake where most of us live it rained with thunder and lightening early in the day then never got out of the 60s. A an Occupier comments, “Who woulda thought we’d need a big fire on the 3rd of July?”

An Anon asks, “Did anyone see that video of a Duluth cop dragging a drunk dude across the skywalk?” Some have seen it, others have not. The Anon passes his phone around so everyone who hasn’t seen it can do so. A guy who appears to be a street person has been cuffed and a DPD officer has the guy by the back of the neck of his shirt and is dragging him through the skywalk hallway. When the cop gets to a stairway he just keeps on dragging the guy; the dude’s head goes bang, bang, bang all the way down the staircase. An Occupier asks, “Do you know who filmed this?” The Anon replies, “We think it came from a cop’s body camera. Did you notice the part where a hand goes over the camera? We think that’s when the cop who was doing the dragging kicked the drunk dude in the head”. The Occupiers have a few more questions but people are coming and going, getting food and drinks, smudging and such. We think we need to pay attention to our guests.

A somewhat bedraggled looking, elderly man stands outside the circle then walks around it, handing each person a small brochure. Once he’s done with that he leaves. Everyone politely takes the brochure but upon examination we see they are Christian tracts probably written to be given to children. Many of the young ones in the circle are highly insulted; they ceremoniously throw the tracts in the fire. The older and wiser people just put them in their pockets; they surreptitiously throw them in the fire later when no one is looking.

The soup is ready! Almost everyone has a bowl; it’s the same as it was last week. Seeing as it was such a hit, the Food Occupier decided to do an encore. As we are eating, a thirty something, dark haired guy, wearing sunglasses comes out of the MN Power building. He checks out everyone in the circle then walks over to the Fire Magician and says, “I’m the head of the security department here and I need to talk with the leader. I need you to come inside with me”. The Fire Magician answers, “We don’t have leaders here and you are welcome to sit down right here and say whatever you have to say. By the way, we know that having this fire here is legal”. A few of the Anons start talking about ordinances and fire codes; the security guy’s body tenses visibly, he begins to turn and walk away. Curiosity gets the better of the Food Occupier, she calls out, “Hey wait a minute! I’ll talk to you! I’ll go with you!” The paranoid dude picks up his step, gets to the outside glass (bullet proof?) door, goes through it shutting it in the Occupier’s face. She calls out, “Hey, wait a minute! I said I would talk with you”. As the fleeing guy goes through the second door he calls over his shoulder, “You can talk to me during business hours!”

The Occupier who takes care of most of the foodstuffs walks back to the circle. She looks at the group and quires, “Didn’t he just say he wanted someone to go inside the building and talk with him?” We all say, “WTF?” She adds, “They think we’re going to slit their throats, don’t they?” The Anons answer, “Yeah”. Shortly thereafter, 2 bike cops come cruising down Superior St. They’re pretending that they’re not checking us out. An Anon yells an insulting remark at them; some of the Anons are very young with not much life experience under their belts. One could say , ‘They mean well’ and in an odd sort of way, they do.

An Occupier opines to the website designer, “Non-violence is really difficult. Many times it’s so tempting to just punch the oppressor right in the nose. One has to keep an overreaching goal in mind when dealing with bullies”. The designer replies, “Kinda like ‘keep your eyes on the prize’?”

An older man who we met last year comes walking across the street towards us. We remember him and say, “Yay!” He’s the guy who makes musical instruments out of weird shit. Tonight he has something that looks like a guitar except it’s made out of an antique, outboard motor gas tank cover. He plays it for us; it sounds like a banjo. He tells us, “I’m not really much of a musician, I just like to make things”. He then bids us goodbye and goes on his way.

An Anon brought his skateboard along tonight; almost all the Anons are or at sometime were skaters. A few of the regular Anons go into the middle of the Plaza to try out the board. Apparently, the board is the type that is better for traveling long distances but not very good for doing tricks. The particular Anons who are using the skateboard have not done much skating in the last several years; they try doing some tricks and take some hard falls. A bunch of occasional Anons arrive, they get food and drinks and go back to socialize with the regular Anons. They’re all laughing and having a good time.

The web designer remarks to no one in particular, “I’m really depressed about the state of the internet these days. It used to be a good source for exchange of information and such. The 1% are trying to make it just another money making source”. An Occupier agrees, “For real. Take back the web”.

The occasional Anons leave; the regular Anons return and attempt to do tricks for us outside the circle; they’re not having much luck but it’s still fun to watch them. The retired, confirmed atheist, neighborhood man who regularly visited our fires at CJMM rolls up. We haven’t seen him in several years; he tells us that he had cancer surgery. Bummer. The retired man chats with us for a while then needs to go on about his business; as usual, he leaves a generous donation.

So the sun is setting, everything is nice and mellow and….. A BIG FIRE TRUCK PULLS UP. Great. Someone remarks, “I can’t imagine why they’re here”. Two fire guys get out; it looks like there are more still in the truck. One guy has a uniform on and the other is in full firefighting gear. The uniformed one appears to be the boss; he looks vaguely familiar, when he says his name, an Occupier remembers and inquires, “We exchanged emails a few years ago didn’t we?” The fire boss replies, “Yes we did. The first thing I want to say to you all is that I am on your side but when somebody makes a call I have to respond. Unfortunately, the Fire Department has a policy that says one cannot have fires in a public park… the Occupier who keeps track of this sort of stuff politely interrupts him by saying, “A policy does not supersede a City Ordinance. The City Ordinance, the MN Statute and the MN and International Fire Code all state that the fire we have here is perfectly legal”. The fire dude responds, “Well, you’ve got me there. I’ll have to go research all that but if I get called back again I’ll have to bring the police with me. The Occupier gives him a few clues as to where to look for the information. Everyone says, “Have a good evening”.

Once the fire people are gone the keeper of the legal information groans, “Oh no, don’t tell me that we’re gonna have to go through all that again. It’s so time consuming and boring”. Another Occupier consoles her, “When I was complaining about this same type of thing a while back, one of our most respected local organizers told me, ‘It happens about every 3 years. They act like they’ve forgotten everything and you have to teach them again”.

It’s after 9pm and we’re wondering if we should pack up; our query is answered when Menagerie Woman rides in on her bike. She’s wearing a uniform of sorts with a glow in the dark vest. We haven’t seen her in at least a month; the last time she was in the circle she told us she had applied for a few jobs. It turns out that she was hired part time by 2 different companies. She tells us that she really likes one of the jobs; the other job, not so much. The job she really doesn’t care for is at a gas station/food store. On that job she is never allowed to sit down, even when she has nothing to do. The manager states she should always look as though she is busy; other staff constantly look over her shoulder, criticize her and ask questions about her personal life. She confides, “I hate it when people are constantly breathing down my neck, telling me what to do”.

The other job, which she enjoys, is working for the City of Duluth on the Clean and Safe Team. Menagerie Woman reports, “ Working on the Clean and Safe Team really rocks! I work by myself, at my own pace and am encouraged to socialize with people on the street. The people on the street are really interesting and nice; I have my own key to the manager’s office and can go in, change into my uniform and hit the street without being monitored by anyone. I’ve always hated to see cigarette butts scattered all over the place and would sometimes fantasize about getting a big bag and a pickup stick and picking them up myself. She laughs, ‘I’m living my dream!’ The job is only during the tourist season but they do keep some of the seasonal staff on for the whole year. I hope I’m one that they keep. I’ve gotta go now; I need to catch my bus. My animals are waiting for me.” Off she goes.

We don’t know if Menagerie Woman has ever had a job in the past; we do know what it’s like to have to work for a paycheck and how good it feels to be done when your shift is over.

So now it’s really time to pack up. We just get started when…… Oh. Come. On. The big red fire truck is back. The head fire dude jumps out, he calls over to us, “I have to go talk to these guys”. He walks up to the glass door and rings the bell. We can see that the security men are not happy; they and the fire guy go into a room and close the door. When the fire guy comes out he walks over to the circle and tells us, “If you just give the security guys some consideration and respect and move your fire to the east side of the Plaza then I think everything will be o.k”. An Occupier is about to say, “But they have blocked us from getting there”; the head fire guy cuts her off saying, “Gotta go now, there’s a HOUSE FIRE!”, he jumps in the big truck, on go the flashing lights and whistles, the truck makes a u-turn in the middle of the main street and goes zooming off.

We don’t know whether to get angry or to laugh; we choose laughter. An Occupier groans, “Straight people are sooooo weird”. Another Occupier responds, “Yeah, I know. And life is way too hard without somebody throwing in some stupid shit for no reason”.

As we are all heading to our homes an Occupier remembers, “Next Monday, July 9th at 6:45 pm at City Hall, 3rd floor, the City Council is gonna vote on the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights first 2 ordinances. WE NEED BODIES!!! I hope you all remember and show up, you don’t have to speak or anything. Just take a seat”.

We expect to return to Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 6-26-18

G.A. Minutes 6-26-18

We are at Peoples Plaza again this evening; it rained for much of the day but the weather people told us things would clear up by 6pm. We decided to take a chance and believe them. The sky is still overcast and looking like rain; the temperature is in the high 50s but a swirling, variable wind makes it feel a lot colder.

A few of the Anonymous crew are here to greet the Food Occupier and the Fire Magician when they arrive. Another Occupier shows up shortly thereafter; everyone gets to work setting up the fire circle. Setting up takes a bit longer now because we need to make a second fire on a small charcoal grill in order to keep the soup warm. This year we’ve noticed that a lot more people besides the street people appear to be seriously hungry. We decided to bring a big pot of hearty, organic, homemade soup whenever possible. Most of the folks who stop by just devour the soup; many ask for seconds. Of course, we all eat it too; it tastes really good.

Tonight we have to hold our fire circle right in front of the Mn Power Building, the same as we did last week. When we arrived at the Plaza last week we found that someone had placed a huge cement planter containing a big tree right in the middle of the two other planters that had already been placed at our vehicle entrance. The two trees were put at our entrance when Mn Power put out all their usual beautiful flowers and planters like they always do once the weather starts feeling like summer, but at first they left a little room for us to squeek between them to access the plaza.

We figured the trees were put there to make it difficult for us to drive our vehicles up into the Plaza and over to the far eastern side in order to unload all our stuff; when we’re done unloading, we drive the vehicles off and park on the street. The thing is, the majority of the Occupiers are up in age; their days of carrying heavy stuff for long distances are over. We can’t always depend on the young Anons to help us as sometimes they need to be somewhere else. We have been using the far side of the Plaza because it’s removed from the street where there are tourists and privileged fraternity boys, who have a bug up their butt about poor people being able to hold a fire circle in a public space. We don’t really care to have those probably racist folks up in our faces. Also, there are many benches where homeless and street people like to sit; they’re always happy to see us. In front of the Mn Power building we are right next to the sidewalk where all the tight asses go by and so far, many of the homeless ones have been too shy or afraid to join us. Maybe they don’t like things to change?

A couple of weeks ago, a cop told the Fire Magician that every time we’ve had a fire in the Plaza, someone working the evening shift in the Mn Power Building calls the police complaining about our vehicles being there. Every time someone calls 911 the police have to respond; we’ve noticed, this year, squad cars have parked on the street, sat for a while and then left. We thought they were checking out the Anons protesting on the corner but apparently that was not the case. They came to see if our vehicles were still parked on the site but each time, by the time they arrived, our vehicles were gone.

Every year since we’ve been holding our fire circles at Peoples Plaza when we’d start up the first fire of the year, a very straight looking dude who identified himself as the head of Mn Power Building maintenance, would come out to talk with us. He was always very friendly, welcoming us and saying he knew that we were completely within our legal rights to have fires here and how impressed he was with how well we took care of space, cleaned up when we were done and blah, blah, blah. This year he didn’t come out, we figured he was just busy and didn’t think greeting us was necessary anymore. Hmm….

None of the Occupiers can remember the guy’s name. A couple of days ago, the Reporting Occupier went to the front desk in an attempt to speak with the friendly dude. The receptionist treated her with suspicion and refused to help her in any way, then sent her on a convoluted path that ended up at a locked door out on Michigan St. The Reporting Occupier contacted the city official, asking him to help out or at least to find out the dude’s name. The official man is currently on the case… shit never ends.

Anyway, tonight we have Anons, Occupiers, the ex-military guy who had his bike stolen, a Water Protector from the former Makwa Camp and some non-street or homeless Native folks who look vaguely familiar to us sitting in the circle. The soup is heating up, everything else is set up and ready to go but… there’s no fire. It’s chilly tonight too; we always wait for the Fire Magician to light the fire because then it will burn very well throughout the evening. (don’t ask about the times when someone else took it upon themselves to light the fire). The fire pit is all set up and ready to go but the Fire Magician is nowhere to be seen. He went to park our vehicles on the street but that was a long while ago, the Food Occupier goes looking and finds him at the far eastern edge of the Plaza talking with Taco Man, his partner and a retired military, guitar playing man who we met last year. She requests, “Will you please come and light the fire? We’re all freezing”. No problem, the fire gets lit, flames roar up and we all feel a heck of a lot better right away.

The Anons announce that they will be holding a No Line 3 rally tomorrow starting at 11am. Many people in the circle plan to attend. If they have enough folks they’ll march over to the Enbridge office and scare the crap out of the employees. We have to laugh at the Enbridge office staff; whenever anyone holds a rally and marches to an Enbridge office, the employees lock all the doors, cover all the windows and hide behind their desks pretending no one is there. Occasionally, they’ll send a supervisor out to talk but it’s always the same ol’ same ol’; the guy (it’s always a guy) says he can’t talk right then but gives us his business card and tells us to call him anytime with questions or whatever. When we call his number he never answers or returns calls to the messages we leave; most of the time we even leave polite sounding messages. Maybe the Enbridge peeps subconsciously know that what they are doing is wrong?

The soup is ready! Yay! Everyone gets a bowl and chows down; tonight its lentil with various vegetables. A little bit of wine vinegar and uncured bacon make the flavor perfect.

The Occupier who writes the meeting minutes comments, “I supposed you’ve all noticed that I haven’t put out any minutes for the last two weeks? Having He Who Shall Not Be Named show up last week took precedence over everything else”. We all say, “No shit aye?” She continues, “You know that I was one of about fifty of the main organizers; we were forced to drop everything else that we were doing in order to concentrate on showing HWSNBN that he was not welcome in our city”. All of the Occupiers and Anons were consumed with preparations for unwelcoming the moron who thinks he’s our president.

Our last meeting was the day before HWSNBN was scheduled to arrive. We were all excited and a bit nervous too. HWSNBN supporters are known to be violent and we knew we’d be coming into contact with them at some point but it couldn’t be helped.

So things went down like this: There were three anti- Moron Guy rallies last Wednesday, each were scheduled to take place during the hours that The Moron was speaking; one was held in Leif Erickson Park, it was proclaimed to be a total peace and love event with lots of good words and music and stuff. The Occupiers are pretty much peace and love types but we felt that it was important for all Duluthians to make their objections to the inhumanity, stupidity and Russian roulette playing nature of Moron Guy and his minions seen and heard. We didn’t even ask the Anons what they were gonna do; we knew they’d be on the front lines.

Another rally was held in Lake Place Park and sponsored by the local establishment Democrats. A third rally and march was held at the Civic Center; it was the one for peeps who wanted to make Moron Guy and his supporters realize that he was not welcome in our city. The Occupiers went to this rally; the Anons showed up towards the end. It looked like there were about one thousand protesters in attendance. Everyone listened to speeches and looked at all the way cool signs most people were carrying. When the rally part was over almost everyone went on the march. Some of the Occupiers and all the Anons left with the march; other Occupiers went down to the protest corner at Peoples Plaza to hold down the fort until the Anons and others arrived.

When the Occupiers arrived at the corner we saw about twenty people, presumably Democrats, holding signs across the street (Lake Ave). We couldn’t read their signs but assumed they were about voting and candidates and stuff. We all waved at each other then the Democrats went back into Lake Place Park. When the Anons arrived they reported that the marchers made one hell of a lot of noise, especially outside of the Amsoil building where The Moron was speaking. Later we were told that the noise was heard inside the arena: we were also told there were a lot of empty seats.

The Anons also reported they had been physically attacked by Moron supporters earlier in the day. Some of them had bruises and black eyes; they told us they had been walking down a hallway on the way to the front door of the Amsoil building. They were wearing their masks and carrying their flags and stuff; they were gonna see if they would be allowed to enter the arena (like that would have ever happened). There was a line of Moron supporters standing up beside the wall, waiting to get in. When the Anons “walked the gauntlet” the supporters started shoving and hitting them. An Anon, who generally stands out because he’s very tall and thin, tells us, “Several supporters came at me from behind to punch me in my back. Little did they know that my backpack was full of sharp rocks; this was not my first rodeo. When they hit me with full force, they did a lot more damage to their hands than they did to me”. Some Anons have black eyes; their masks protected them from further injury.

So the protest line was filled with many people, mostly those from the general Central Hillside or West End parts of town. We were probably fifty or so in number. When the Moron’s speech finished, several buses from further north in MN drove by on their way to pick up the many supporters from out of the area. The supporters who drove their own cars had to walk down Lake Ave in order to retrieve them at parking lots up the hill. They were forced to make a choice between running across the freeway to the Lake Place Park sidewalk where they would just meet tourists and street people tying to spare change. If they chose to continue on the Plaza sidewalk they would have to “walk the gauntlet” of the protesters. We watched many a big sized, white male supporter run frantically across the freeway in order to avoid the “rabid” protesters.

As the Plaza sidewalk supporters came down the overpass we could see they were nervous; some looked downright scared. When they entered the line some of the Occupiers would say, “Don’t worry, no one will hurt you”. That made some of them relax a little; when they got further down the line, some of the young bloods up on the ledge would yell at them. The worst they were forced to hear was “Fuck Trump!”. When the Anon music was thumpin’ nobody said a thing; we were all busy getting our groove on. When the supporters got to the end of the line they were safe again and could go home to their imaginary worlds. NO ONE LAYED EVEN A FINGER ON THEM. I wonder if they learned anything? Probably not.

Meanwhile, back at the fire circle, the big Native Anon reports, “Man, I couldn’t believe those Moron supporters. When we walked thru their space they went for all the women, even the visibly pregnant one. They also went for the Anons who were shorter or smaller than them. They never went near me or the big African American Anon. Finally, I had to walk over and tell them to stop abusing my friends; they then acted like I was the one abusing THEM”. He also tells us, “Since I started my job yesterday, on the night shift at Thunderbird House, I have been unable to fall asleep”. An Occupier replies, “It takes a while to adjust to a different sleep/awake pattern. What you’re experiencing is normal”. The big Anon just hit his two years sobriety mark so we can’t offer him any of the natural or unnatural remedies that we may have.

The partner of the Stylish Native Woman arrives; this is the first time this year that he’s attended our fire. He tells several stories about being jumped lately by young white dudes. The Partner is older and creakier now and he lost two fingers to frostbite the winter before last. He could still fight them but he knows he’d get beaten badly so he just asks them, “What makes you think it’s cool to beat up a homeless man?” He says to us, “Being homeless has gotten a lot harder these past few years”. We think it’s because all the Fascist and Nazi people, since they hooked up with The Moron, think they can get away with all their sick bullshit.

The retired military dude brings his guitar and joins the circle. We give him soup and stuff and he allows an Anon to play his guitar. It’s a left handed guitar; the Anon is right handed but easily plays this guitar. The retired dude is amazed.

A street guy who comes around off and on rolls up; the last time we saw him was at a Sobriety Feast last autumn. He had five months sobriety then; it looks like he’s fallen off the wagon now. We ask him about a beautiful street woman who we haven’t seen in several years. He is a friend of hers and tells us, “Well, she experienced a rape and then moved back with her family in White Earth. She’s been sober for a long time”. He also informs us, “I’m going to move to St. Cloud in a couple of days, my family bought me a house there”. An Occupier comments, “Your family must really love you”; he replies, “Yeah, they do. For much of my life I didn’t think that was very important but now I understand that it is”.

The African American schizophrenic dude who lives in the Skinner Apts joins the circle. We don’t recognize him at first because he’s grown a huge beard; he looks like a gigantic elf. Once he starts talking we realize who he is. He never has much that is interesting to say but he’s always kind and pleasant. We give him some soup.

One of the Anons, who is always fashionably dressed, drops in; he’s playing some pretty good hip-hop on his phone. He gets soup, bread and chips then cranks his tunes up real loud. We all stop talking and rock out to the music. Once the fashionable dude is finished eating, he leaves and we go back to talking.

Chicago Man is the next to arrive; he spent the weekend down in The Cities celebrating Pride. He tells us that there was a booth sponsored by The Moron at Pride Fest. He remarks, “I just could not believe it. I went over to the booth and spoke with the workers, they said, ‘Oh, The Moron is very supportive of GBLT+ people’. I said, Oh no honey, The Moron is NOT supportive of GBLT+ folks. Did they think I was stupid?”

The Occupier who is a college student opines, “I think The Moron is gonna try and get us into another war before 2020. People don’t like to vote against a president when there is a war on”. Another Occupier responds, “I think you’re right. We need to make people aware of that tactic; I wonder if we could start up the Northland Anti-War Coalition again? I could ask the lead organizers”.

The multiracial couple and their pregnant, homeless friend cruise through. They’re on their way to a movie but wanted to stop in and say hello. An Occupier exclaims, “Oh good! You are just the people I was hoping to see. Have you found a place for your friend to stay?” They tell her that they have not and she responds, “I spoke with one of the Catholic Workers from Olive Branch House; they said you should bring your friend over in the daytime to get acquainted. They have a whole house full of pregnant women and women who have already given birth right now but one of them will be moving soon so they could have room for your friend”. The female of the couple cries out, “That is so wonderful! I will take her over there tomorrow; thanks for remembering us”. They go off to their movie.

All of the homeless and/or street people have gone off to their sleeping places. It’s only Anons and Occupiers at the fire now. A conversation about religion begins; it’s centered around if there is only one God who is known by many different names in many different cultures or if there are many gods. The Water Protector from the former Makwa (bear) Camp interjects, “I’m mixed white and Native and my family members are all hardcore Christians. Someone decided to research our family’s ancestry; they discovered that we are descended from Jews. Our ancestors lied about their origins when they got to Ellis Island so they could get into America. Everyone in my family refuses to accept that fact. I tell them, “Facts are facts; there are no alternative facts”.

An Occupier asks the Occupier who likes to report things, “So what have you got for us tonight?” The reporting Occupier answers, “Just a few things; a new medical respite center has opened in Duluth. It’s for homeless people who are being released from the hospital and have nowhere to go. The grand opening was this evening. Another Occupier adds, “That’s something that is really needed here. Don’t get me started about what I have witnessed with homeless ones just being chucked out of the hospital. Everyone agrees; someone comments, “Yeah, like homeless ones being chucked out in only a hospital gown with I.V. Ports or dialysis equipment still in their arms”.

The Occupier continues reporting, “The two resolutions for the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights passed and the two ordinance changes were read for the first time last night at the City Council meeting. At the next meeting on Monday, July 9th, the two ordinances will be read again and then voted on. We’ll really need to pack the house for that; I hope you all will be there”. Everyone would like to attend but will need to be reminded again. “There’s going to be a Stand Against Husky event in Superior sometime in mid-July, it’s on a Tuesday. The college Occupier suggests, “Maybe we could go over there for our meeting on that Tuesday?” The reporting Occupier answers, “Yeah, maybe we could, we’ll have to decide before that day comes,,,, Did you guys get a look at the column written by some reporter for the Rolling Stone in the last few days? It was about Duluth”. Many in the circle have seen it. “A lot of Duluthians were really pissed. I was racking my brain tryin’ to figure out where I was gonna find the time to write a letter to the magazine; then our mayor Emily wrote one. It was more than adequate; she may not be everything we had hoped for but she did come through on this one” To those who have not seen the reporter’s column an Occupier explains, “It said that Duluth is Moron country, everything is covered with grime, we have tons of heroin addicts and a huge problem with domestic violence. After receiving Emily’s and other complaints, Rolling Stone said they would revise the column or some shit”.

For some reason the conversation turns to drugs. The big Native Anon tells us, “I have ADHD and had to take Ritalin thru all of my public school years. In high school there were drug dealers trying to sell Ritalin to their fellow students; when they came to me, I would tell them that although they all get high on that stuff, for me, it would only make me focus better on my homework”.

We all laugh.

The Water Protector tells us a joke, “Why should you never accept shoes from a drug dealer?” We don’t know. She explains, “Because you don’t know what they are laced with and you be trippin’ all day long”. The Occupiers just crack up; the Anons don’t get it. Someone explains, “It has a double meaning, it’s also about recreational drug use”.

It’s after 10pm; we think it’s time to pack up. When we are just about done, an Anon tells an Occupier, “A woman left this backpack under a chair in the circle. She was small, Native, she didn’t have any teeth and she was crying”. The Occupier replies, “Our friends who work at CHUM should be able to help out on this one. I live just a couple of blocks from CHUM so I can take the pack and call them tomorrow”.

On that note, we all head off to our (we’re fortunate to have them) homes. We plan to return to the Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 6-5-18

G.A. Minutes 6-5-18

It looks like we’re gonna be able to hold a fire circle at People’s Park tonight.

We were rather unceremoniously run off last week. All day long last week, the weather people were saying there was a 50/50 chance that it would rain. During the day, some Occupiers were watching the weather map but by the time we arrived at the Plaza, we still didn’t know what would happen. We all stood and watched the cloud formations for a bit; it looked like the rain clouds were going to go west of us so we began setting up the circle. When we were about half way done, the rain came pouring down in sheets. Everyone got drenched while loading up; then we packed into vehicles and headed over to Coney Island to dry off.

Anyway, there’s no prediction of rain tonight; the sky is clear, the temperature is in the low 60s. A strong east wind makes things kinda chilly but a roaring fire will take care of that. The Fire Magician promptly obliges with the biggest fire that the fire pit will hold and a small charcoal grill sitting slightly outside the circle. The grill will keep the big pot of homemade chicken noodle soup with vegetables warm.

When the Occupiers bringing the supplies arrive, they find a good sized group of the Anonymous crew waiting for them. An Occupier comments, “I doubt we’ll be having many homeless and street folks visiting this evening. It’s still pretty early in the month so many will still have a little money left from their small government checks. They’ll be holed up somewhere, indulging in their substance of choice.

We notice that Taco Helping Man and his girlfriend are sitting on a bench a little away from the fire. We wave to them and when the table is finished being set up they come over and take food and tobacco. Then they go back to the bench; we figure they’re probably drinking and they both have enough sense to not profane the fire circle by bringing alcohol into it.

It’s good to see that they’re still together; they each have a lot of problems but they do a good job of watching each other’s backs. The devotion they have for each other is probably more loving than anything they ever received from their families. One of the reasons we think they are drinking is because Taco Man looks very sad; he always does when he drinks. When he’s not drinking all he can think about is the craving he has for alcohol. When he gives into it he becomes depressed, feeling like he’s failed again. His girlfriend doesn’t have an alcohol problem but likes to abuse her narcotic and anti-psychotic medications. She’s told us that she has a problem with hallucinations. The couple has been homeless for a long time; in the winter they stay at CHUM but as soon as the weather permits they take their tent and camp out in a secret place. Someday they may actually get their act together; you never know.

Speaking of alcohol, it appears that several of the Anons who come around occasionally have had a few drinks too. When an Occupier sees one of the occasional Anons pull out a little bottle and begin to pour it into a container of soda or something she says, “Please tell me that you’re not gonna drink that here. We never drink alcohol or abuse any type of substance in the fire circle. While we really can’t call this a sacred fire, we try to create a circle based on respect for Mother Earth and to make a safe space for all the people who come to sit here. If people want to do substance abuse they go away from the circle; when they’re done, providing they can keep their behavior in check, they are welcome to join the circle again. The occasional Anon replies, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know”. He goes off to a bench away from the fire; a few of the other Occasionals join him.

Another somewhat older occasional dude arrives, he tells us that he just got kicked out of the brew house across the street. He was sitting at the bar drinking with an organic gardener and sometime organizer friend of ours. Apparently, the older Anon had been given a discount on his drinks by the brew house bartender. When the Anon started buying drinks at a discount and sharing them with the gardener, the bartender became angry, canceled the discount and threw the older Anon out of the bar. The Anon reports, “When I left, the gardener was sitting on a bar stool with his head face down on the bar”.

An Occupier opines, “What is up with all this drinking tonight? I really hate being around people when they drink; they always act so stupid”. Changing the subject, the big Native Anon exclaims, “Did you see those women just give us the evil eye?” The Occupiers have not seen and the big Anon continues, “A group of middle-aged white women came walking on the sidewalk out by the street, when they saw us they stopped and all just glared at us. I don’t know why”. An Occupier explains, “Oh, we get that sort of stuff all the time. Groups of straight and privileged looking white people come walking by, see our fire circle and just stop and glare at us. I don’t know what their problem is, ain’t nothin’ wrong with people sitting and talking around a safe and legal recreational fire in a public space”. We all say, “For real”.

Another regular Anon arrives; he’s accompanied by his mother. We all know and love his mother, She’s brought a big jug of homemade tea and takes a seat in the circle. The rest of the regular Anons are out on the corner with their signs that say, No Line 3, F Enbridge, No War But Class War and stuff like that. The Anon who has just arrived goes out to join them; all the occasional Anons follow him. Within minutes, one of the Occasionals is up on the street light post waving a flag and yelling; another is out on the median waving a flag and yelling too. An Occupier sitting in the circle remarks, “Well, if they want to bring on the cops, they’re doing a real good job right now”. Another, speaking about a particular Anon adds, “He just turned 18 years old a few days ago. I congratulated him, gave him a gift and told him that he was gonna need to change his attitude toward the cops. Now that he is of so called legal age, the cops have more leeway to fuck up his life”.

The regular Anons come back to the circle; they don’t look too happy. The Occasionals also return, they’re sitting, holding their heads in their hands. The Gardener comes out of the brew house and over to the circle; he appears shit faced but can still walk and talk. He has organized some very successful events over the years but is also in the habit of coming up with grand ideas that require others to do all the work. The Gardener enthuses to the Occupiers, “I think we should hold one of your fire circles here at the Plaza on the evening after Grandma’s Marathon. You could cancel your regular Tuesday fire and do it on Saturday instead”. An Occupier replies, “I don’t think that’s a very good idea. The whole downtown area will be just crawling with straight tourist types; for all we know, the City or Chamber of Commerce or someone may have some type of activity planned on that evening to take place in the Plaza. Our fire circles work best when there are no more than 20 or so people attending and over the years we’ve seen that most privileged white folks are none too thrilled with the concept of our gatherings. Besides, our fire circles are meant to serve homeless, street and others folks who are rarely, if ever, treated with any respect or vibe that they are deserving of being served. On top of that, there’s no way we could afford to provide enough top of the line coffee, soup or anything else for a bazillion people who can easily afford to buy their own”.

One of the Anons who is sober remarks, “We were thinking that we would pass out fliers here, to the passersby, on the Marathon Saturday evening”. Another Occupier responds, “Now that’s a good, doable idea. It wouldn’t cost a lot or take a huge amount of preparation; maybe some of us could join you. I imagine some of the tourists would give you the evil eye and refuse to take the fliers but so what? Others might be intrigued and stop to chat”. The Gardner leaves the circle; he lies down flat on his back under a tree.

A few of the Anons go back out to the corner with their signs; a guy in a big van slows down and aggressively yells out his window, “Take off your masks! Take off your masks!” The non-sober Anons jump up, scramble over the berm and onto the sidewalk. The yelling guy looks shocked and cries out, “Hey, watch what you say; I have kids in here!”. The Anons come back into the Plaza. We think, NOW WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD SOMEONE, WITH A BUNCH OF CHILDREN IN HIS VEHICLE, TRY TO PICK A FIGHT WITH A GROUP OF STRANGERS?

A small assortment of young folks who appear to be high school students arrive; they ask to join us. We happily invite them in and give them soup and stuff. They are wide eyed, believing they have wandered onto some type of exotic and wonderful new planet. A boy explains that they are waiting for a bus to take them all to their various homes. One of the girls tells us she has just received a full scholarship to St. Scholastica; we congratulate her. An Occupier comments, “I was considering going to CSS some years ago, I think you will be given a pretty good education there”. Another one of the high school females tells the scholarship girl, “Of all my friends, you’re the only one who is planning on doing something with their life”.

The Occupier who is a college student rolls up; he tells us he’s just returning from the Husky Oil Refinery informational event in Superior. He reports, “Oh, it was sponsored by Husky and it was just a bunch of b.s. As you know, I’m working on my masters in environmental science. I think I may have made the heads on the necks of the Husky representatives spin around a few times with the questions I asked. They assured the audience that results they had received from their air quality tests were within normal limits; I reminded them that at this point in time they should be testing the soil and water in the affected neighborhoods. They have no plans to test any of the soil and with the exception of the rainwater stream that runs through the refinery, they haven’t tested any of the water either. I reminded them that the rainwater stream is in flood stage this time of year so they would not be able to get an accurate reading.

“I thought they were all going to faint when I asked them what kind of reparations they were going to make to the community in consideration of the anxiety and inconvenience the Husky explosion and fire caused to the surrounding areas. They said they hadn’t planned on making reparations. When the event was over, many of the Husky reps crowded around me, attempting to wow me with their smoke and mirrors scientific ying yang. I’m betting that somebody recorded my vehicle license plate number as I left”.

One of the Anons asks the Occupier who likes to give information about the local goings on, “So what is up or will be up in the community this week?” The Occupier informs him, “Well, there’s going to be a meeting about our local housing situation with the City Planning Department and interested community members tomorrow, 6:30pm at the Damiono. I’m gonna go; I don’t expect to hear anything new but I want to see what they’re up to. The Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition is expecting that our proposed City resolution and 2 ordinances will be presented to the City Council next Monday, June 11th, 7pm in the Council chambers. If so, we need to pack the house again. I’ll be able to let everyone know within a few days if that’s gonna happen or not.

“Our good friend who works for Honor the Earth is running for MN Lieutenant Governor. I don’t remember the name of her running mate. I imagine she’ll need us to provide backup once in a while.

“I’m sure everyone has noticed that a new porta potty has been put up across the street. When I went to the Citizens Review Board a couple of weeks ago, I told them about the vandalized potty. One of the Deputy Chiefs said she would personally make sure that a new porta potty got put up right away. The next day I noticed a new potty being put up. It may have just been a coincidence though; I’m not sure how much power cops have over porta potty placements.

“Also, I went to Socialist Pizza recently; an animal activist with whom we are acquainted was there. She said she is a neighbor of the guy who had that video of 2 Duluth cops shaking down the homeless woman. When we told her that we didn’t know whatever happened with the video or how to find the guy who had it, she said she’d check it out. Hmm…. I think that’s all I have for now”.

A 30 something guy with a big, well-outfitted backpack drops in. He says he’s from California and recently served 8 years in the military, including several tours in Iraq. After his wife divorced him he decided to just hop on his trek bike and travel the US. So far, he’s been to the southwest, into the Dakotas and over to MN. He spent a few of his high school years living in Duluth so decided to cruise through on his way to wherever. Today he stopped in at the big grocery store down the road at 12th Ave E and Superior St. He locked up his bike and went in to get a few things, when he came out he found that his lock had been cut open and his bike was gone. An Occupier empathizes, “So sorry to hear that. We’re in the midst of an opioid epidemic right now”. The traveling dude says, “I don’t know what that means”. The Occupier explains, “You know, heroin, junkies and their thieving ways and all that”. The man who is now without a bike sees one of our fliers about The Woman Who Tells Good Stories on the table; he asks what it’s about and the Occupier tells him The Woman’s story. He is aghast.

We notice a female Duluth police officer, standing hesitantly way back in the Plaza, she’s looking at us. An Occupier calls out, “It’s o.k. girlfriend, come on over. The cop walks over and asks us if we have seen some guy who she mentions by name. We think the Anons may know who she’s talking about but they aren’t saying anything. We don’t know who she’s asking about but we aren’t saying anything either. The cop thanks us and leaves. The greeting Occupier explains, “Yeah, I realize she’s a cop but I knew and played music with her many years ago before she even thought about becoming a cop. I need to acknowledge those old days”.

We’re quite surprised to see Chicago Man come up the stairs; he’s wearing short-shorts and a little top and freezing his ass off. He’s accompanied by a former Anon and his girlfriend. They sit by the fire to warm up; we give them soup and stuff. Chicago Man tells us that he quit his job at the big box store and is now working as a PCA. He states, “Yeah, I quit that stupid job at the big box store; it was driving me crazy. They expected me to lift a lot of heavy stuff while supervising the rest of the staff and were only paying me $9.50 an hour”. We can see that Chicago Man hasn’t changed much; he’s still pleasantly complaining and unhappy. We guess that he still grieves the death of his longtime partner.

Next we get a visit from the multi-racial couple; the male has visited us at our Coney Island “winter headquarters” but we haven’t seen the female since last fall. We didn’t know if they were still together but it looks as though things are “same as they ever were”. They have a very pregnant friend with them. The female of the couple takes an Occupier aside and says, “I’m trying to find a place where my friend can stay. Do you know of any?” The Occupier gives her all the information she can think of then sighs, “I know it seems like a very pregnant, homeless female would certainly be given priority but I’ve known women who were 7 or 8 months pregnant and still couldn’t find anywhere to live. All the beds in all the shelters and other women’s programs were and are usually filled up. I sure hope you all can find help for your friend”.

It’s now going on 10pm and we’re all running out of steam. One of the Occupiers who lives only a few blocks up the street takes charge of the Gardener. He’ll bring him to his home and let him sleep on the couch. If the weather gods allow it, we plan to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 5-22-18

G.A. Minutes 5-22-18

We sure got lucky tonight at Peoples Plaza; the weather just rocks. When the first Occupiers roll up, the temperature is in the 60s, the sky is clear and a light southern breeze pays an occasional visit. Several guys from the Anonymous crew are already in the Plaza; they’ve been chalking again. This time they hit Wells Fargo and US Bank; good for them.

The Occupier who brings most of the food says, “Man, we just made it here under the wire this time. We were running around like crazy, trying to get everything together and get here on time. We made it though and I think we have everything”. The Anons haul all the food out of the Food Occupier’s car then help the Fire Magician set up the circle, the fire pit and a table. When they are finished, an Anon comments, “I think there’s something missing here”. The Fire Magician exclaims, “Oh crap! I forgot the bucket that sits under the fire pit; I’ll go back home and get it right away. He jumps in the Food Occupier’s car and takes off; it’s a good thing he lives just a few blocks away. He returns in a very short time and makes a small fire; we have the chairs sitting a good way from the fire pit as we probably won’t need the fire’s warmth tonight. The smell and sound are nice though; the fire also serves as a focal point for people to focus their energy.

Our first visitors are Menagerie Woman, Bush Man and two little dogs. We have not seen them since mid-October of last year when we were forced to discontinue our fires due to an early winter. At that time, Bush Man was in some type of a mental health facility and it was unclear if he and Menagerie Woman would stay together as a couple. Well here they are, still together. They tell us that Bush Man has been in mental health facilities several times over the winter; he’s now staying up the hill a bit in a halfway house. The outside visitation policy at this house is generous so as long as Bush Man attends all his scheduled classes and meetings, he’s able to spend many days and nights staying in the home of Menagerie Woman. He informs us that he hasn’t had a drink of alcohol in four days. Considering how he used to be, four days is an absolute miracle; we all congratulate him.

A couple of folks who we haven’t met in the past arrive, get food and drinks and take seats in the circle. They appear to be people of the street. An Occupier informs everyone, “There was a forum up at the Damiano at 5pm tonight called Beyond Backgrounds. I would have liked to attend but had too much work to do in order to get stuff ready for our fire circle. Anyway, it was about how people who have felonies on their record have a very hard time finding an apartment to rent. I believe the event was created by folks who have that felony problem. The female of the unknown couple nods toward her partner and informs us, “That’s his problem exactly, he has a felony; he served his time in prison but even though he’s out now, no one will rent to him”. The Occupier adds, “Yeah, I know that all of the low income public housing places refuse to rent to anyone who has a felony. That really sucks! Anyone who has finished their time in prison and is out should be given the same so called rights afforded to all other citizens. I hear that local housing advocates are formulating plans to get housing for so called ex-cons. That’s kinda why I wanted to go to their forum so I could hear what they have going on. I know quite a few peeps with felonies who could seriously benefit from having a place of their own”.

An occasional Anon, who has somewhat of a drinking problem, arrives. He brings three guys with him; two of them appear to be pretty drunk, the other one appears to be really, really drunk. The two pretty drunk dudes are helping the really drunk dude to stand and to walk; they’re not having much luck. One of them runs over to the water jug saying, “We’ve got to get this guy some water!” An Occupier thinks to herself, “Looks like he could use a stretcher too”. The drunk dudes all go to sit on a side bench outside of the fire circle. The occasional Anon sits up on the ledge that overlooks the fire circle; he comments, “This is so weird! Those guys are all drunk and I’m not. I haven’t had a drink in 5 days; isn’t that weird?” We assure him that while it may be unusual, it’s not weird and we encourage him to maintain his sobriety.

Another Occupier remarks, “I wonder when the trial of the Water Protector Occupiers will take place. I think their pre-trial hearing happened about a month ago. Seeing as neither one of them are here tonight I guess I can’t find out. Oh well, I’m sure we’ll see them soon”.

The next person to walk up is Mississippi Woman; she’s another one who we haven’t seen since mid-October. As usual, she’s hungry; she greets everyone then commences to survey the food table and the soup pot. She takes some of everything, lines up three full bowls of food and begins to do some heavy eating.

An Anon reports, “Next Tuesday we plan to have a protest out on the corner against Line 3; we hope that a lot of people will join us”. An Occupier replies, “Well you know we’ll be here”.

The big Native Anon strolls in, it’s been a week since he had his tonsils removed and he’s not feeling so hot. He complains, “You all know I’m a regular cigarette smoker but I haven’t been able to smoke since I had my surgery”. All the smokers in the circle groan and he continues, “Then to top it off, someone stole my pain medicine. I was given a big bottle of liquid hydrocodone and it was in the nurses med room and then it wasn’t. They think it was probably one of the staff members who stole it. It was some pretty strong stuff; the nurses had a hell of a time getting the pharmacy to give me another bottle”.

It turns out that Bush Man and the big native Anon are residents in the same halfway house. They’ve seen each other around but have not actually spoken until this evening. The budding of a new friendship?

The female of the unknown couple spies one of the fliers for The Woman Who Tells Good Stories that we always have sitting on the table. She sighs, “You mean they still haven’t found her? Oh my god, how long has it been?” An Occupier answers, “Close to three years; her body has still not been found. We always put those fliers out to keep her memory alive in people’s hearts and minds; when ever there’s a murdered and missing Indigenous women’s event we carry a big sign with her picture on it. Someday the answer will be found, until then, we need to keep her in our prayers or whatever”.

Menagerie Woman tells us, “Many years ago, I lived next door to The Woman Who Tells Good Stories. I didn’t think she was very nice at all; she was always yelling at me. I don’t think we ever had a normal conversation”. We all have to admit that although The Woman Who Tells Good Stories was always nice to us, when she was drunk we’d seen her be very aggressive to other people. Menagerie Woman continues, “To tell the truth, if something bad happens to someone who I don’t know, I don’t really care about it, it doesn’t mean a thing to me”. We all begin to make statements about how “We are our brother’s keeper” and stuff like that. Mississippi Woman comes up from her feeding frenzy and exclaims, “Oh no honey, you got to love everybody! I love everybody”. Then she gets “that look” on her face. We all think, “Oh no, she’s about to go into one of her rants; we have to distract her right away”.

Fortunately, an Anon accidentally knocks over a glass of apple juice that is sitting on the floor. It spills all over the notes of the Occupier who writes the meeting minutes. The Anon is very apologetic; the writing Occupier calmly states, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll just lay the papers out and they’ll quickly dry”. Mississippi Woman is sufficiently distracted and goes back to eating; problem solved.

A young man with spiky blond hair drops in. He’s been attending our fires off and on for a couple of years; the last time he was at our fire he was very upset because he had been kicked out of CHUM and all his belongings had been thrown away. He was kinda strange (who isn’t?) but could make himself easily understood. Then something happened; a few of the Occupiers had seen him around the neighborhood during the winter. He was babbling and completely incoherent. Tonight is no different; he’s not really interested in food or anything, he just wants to talk but no one can understand a word that he says. We all just smile and nod; maybe being forced to spend the winter out on the street just put him over the edge.

An Anon asks, “Did you all notice that someone started a fire in the porta potty across the street?” We say “What?!? Oh, no!” An Occupier remarks, “I did notice that it was sitting kinda crooked”. The Anon replies, “Everything on the inside is melted; the opening is still there and men can use it when standing up but if a person needs to sit down, it’s not gonna happen”.

The big Native Anon looks at one of the fliers for the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights and opines, “You know, I don’t really believe in this. What difference does it make? You all go to all this trouble to pass this policy and then the cops, business owners and others will just ignore it. You won’t have changed anything”. An Occupier responds, “That’s why we’re insisting that the HPB of R be voted in as an ordinance; we refuse to accept anything else. You’re correct, a policy doesn’t really have to be obeyed and it can be changed or discontinued at any time. The public doesn’t even have to be notified. An ordinance is the law; if anyone disobeys it there are consequences” The big dude says, “Oh”.

Menagerie Woman gives her dogs to Bush Man and comments, “I have to use the bathroom, I’ll be right back”. She is gone for a long time and when she returns she reports, “Well, you’re right, the porta potty is unusable. I went into the brew house across the street and used their bathroom. When I came out the staff people were blocking the door. They said, ‘You can’t use our bathroom unless you buy something. You are supposed to use the porta potty across the street’. I was too scared to say anything, I just ran out the door and over here”.

An Occupier tells her, “I’m going to the Citizens Review Board meeting tomorrow; I’ll tell them about the potty. I think they will be able to grease the wheels that will get the potty company to put up a new potty. This fire business sounds like some stupid, drunken, college boy prank to me. Maybe the cops have a camera by the potty so might be able to see who started the fire”.

Changing the subject, the Occupier who lives in Superior reports, “I went to that meeting with area college science professors last Wednesday. It was about the explosion and fire at the Husky Oil Refinery. The professors said that the soil in the surrounding neighborhood is definitely polluted but the company and the government say they don’t have instruments that are capable of measuring what or how much dangerous material is in the soil. The professors also said we should expect the Husky company to be telling lots of lies; they said we should not believe anything the company says. Great, huh?” We all groan.

An Anon has a small packet of something that is supposed to make the flames of the fire turn colors; he throws it into the fire. We all move far enough away so that we won’t breathe in whatever it is that is in the packet. It certainly works; soon the flames turn all sorts of beautiful colors. Everyone is quiet, just watching the flames.

A couple of possibly street young men arrive. They are very hungry; Fortunately, Mississippi Woman has gone home. She actually left some food for everyone else. An Occupier tells the young men, “Please eat you fill; I really don’t want to take any of this home”. The young men oblige; they get some soup from the pot and cookies, hard boiled eggs, pickles, chips and juice from the table. Once they have finished and seeing that it’s almost 10pm, we begin to pack up.

A few of the Anons will go to an Occupier couple’s home for a while. We plan to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 5-15-18

G.A. Minutes 5-15-18

We are finally holding our first recreational fire at Peoples Plaza! It’s about time!! In the past years we’ve been able to start up again sometime in April; this time winter started in mid-October and didn’t let up until the beginning of May. That’s way too long; hopefully it’s not the new normal. Climate change doesn’t appear to be cutting any breaks though.

We’ve had a couple of really nice days with temperatures in the 70s and southerly breezes however, this evening is chilly with partly cloudy skies, temperatures in the low 40s and a gusty east wind. We don’t care, we just dress warmly; the Fire Magician builds a big fire.

When the Occupiers who are responsible for bringing most of the supplies drive their vehicles onto the Plaza, they find The Anarchist, an Occupier who has been unable to be around for many months and a small group of the Anonymous crew waiting for them. Everyone helps to get the table and fire circle set up. We’ve been fortunate to be able to provide a big jug of clean water, organic apple juice, deluxe pb+j sandwiches, cookies, pickles, chips and whole bean “Stay Awake Forever” coffee. A big pot of organic whole made soup containing hamburger, vegetables and other good things sits on a small charcoal grill within the reach of an Occupier who fill bowls for all who wish to partake.

The Anons have chalked the entire Plaza before anyone else arrived; it looks great. The chalk letters mostly cover two topics; No Line 3 and Free Palestine. An Occupier suggests, “It might be a good idea to start connecting the Husky Oil Refinery explosion and fire in Superior WI with No Line 3. After all, Enbridge’s nasty tar sands oil pipeline 3 is planned to end up at the Husky Refinery. According to a well known Anishinaabe prophecy, a black snake will slither across the land; if the people don’t stop it, it will destroy the earth. It’s commonly believed that the black snake is all the oil pipelines. It seems to me that wherever the black snake ends could be considered the head of the snake. We could make good use of that analogy”.

Another Occupier adds, “I think Honor the Earth is pretty much the leader around here in the fight to stop Line 3. We should present this idea to them and listen to what they say. I’ll give our friend, one of the organizers for HTE a call and find out what she thinks about it”.

An Occupier tells us, “I recently saw on the local commercial TV news that the mayor of Superior and the County Board (or something like that) have told Husky that they will absolutely not be allowed to have that big tank of hydroflouric acid on the refinery premises anymore”. Another Occupier adds, “No shit aye?! Hardly any oil refineries use that stuff anymore because of how seriously dangerous it is. When the asphalt tank at the Husky Refinery caught on fire and then exploded, the hydroflouric acid tank was sitting almost right next to it. If the acid tank would have exploded it would have taken entire surrounding neighborhoods with it. Thousands of people would have been killed. Another Occupier interjects, “If it was up to me, I’d say get rid of the refinery completely and put solar and wind power making facilities in its place. I know that will be a really hard sell to the families of the 195 employees who work at the refinery but it’s definitely the direction we should be going in”. Everyone in the circle is down with this idea.

A slightly built, older man who appears to be homeless walks up to the fire. We don’t recall ever meeting him in the past. He has a small sign the says, Will Work for Food. The guy waits for a bit then asks, “So what are you folks doing?” An Occupier deadpans, “Sitting around a fire”. We explain the basic premise for our fire circle, offer him free reign on the provisions on the table and invite him to sit with us. He doesn’t take any food but happily pours himself a cup of coffee and rolls a cigarette from the tobacco pouch. He briefly sits in the circle then remarks, “Well I guess I’d better get back out there”. Once the old dude leaves, an Occupier opines, “The letters on his sign are way too small; the people in the vehicles won’t be able to read it”. Fortunately, a person with a sign anywhere around the intersection of Lake Ave and Superior St is a common site. Most drivers will know that the person is asking for some type of help. Some drivers will hand the sign person some money, some will give food and some will yell mean things. “Different strokes for different folks” or something like that.

A middle aged former street woman, who we have known for many years, was hired by a cleaning company last year to work the evening shift helping to clean the MN Power Building which is on the west side of Peoples Plaza. When we see her coming over to empty our big garbage can, we realize she has managed to hold on to her job since last autumn. This is good. We offer food and such; she takes a small glass of apple juice and nervously replies, “I’m on the clock so gotta keep moving”. Off she goes.

A couple of youngish white guys, who are dressed like privileged jocks, walk by out on the sidewalk outside the Plaza; they stop and stare at us. It’s obvious they are not pleased. Their expressions are of shock and indignation; they appear to frown upon a bunch of raggedly looking people sitting around a camp fire in a public place and right out in the open too. Oh well….. too bad for them; we ignore them and they move on.

Both members of one of the Occupier couples are dragging their asses around tonight. When someone comments on this the couple explains, “We were out with some of the Natives Against Heroin crew this weekend. They had us wearing N.A.H. T-shirts and walking up and down throughout our hood. I think the lead organizer wanted us to make our presence known. We’re not sure that’s the best way to go about things but we’ll wait to see how the group develops. Anyway, those N.A.H folks are mostly young; they can easily walk on concrete for hours while climbing up and down the hills. As you may have noticed, we can’t easily do that anymore. We didn’t want to look like slackers though so kept up the pace with everyone else. We’re still paying for it”. Everyone laughs.

Changing the subject, an Anon reports, “Did-ya see where the MN House of Reps passed the anti-protest bill a week or so ago?” When some of us say, “Huh?” the Anon continues, “That’s the bill that increases the penalty for blocking a freeway or any other form of transit. I think pedestrians are considered transit too”. An Occupier, referencing the past Black Lives Matter protests, exclaims, “I guess some of those legislators think we should make it even easier for cops to kill black men”. Another Occupier interjects, “Well it still has to pass the Senate and the governor has to sign it, so I’ll just have to put it a little down on my list of things to worry about for right now”.

An Occupier reports, “The US Senate will vote tomorrow on whether to override the FCC ruling to cancel net neutrality. That’s a pretty big one; I hope it goes in favor of the people”. We say, “For real”.

Someone else reports, “I see that North Korea has pulled out of the agreement to have official talks with South Korea. That’s not surprising as the US went ahead with their scheduled war games or whatever it is in the waters outside of North Korea. All this tit for tat crap will probably go on for a while before the two countries actually have talks.” Everyone groans.

A slender Native man, who looks younger than his years, comes quietly into the circle. After a minute or so, an Occupier calls out the man’s name. The slender man smiles and replies, “You remember me! After 3 years you still remember me”. The Occupier responds, “Oh yeah, most definitely. So how you doing?” The man is about to answer but looks around and asks, “Where’s my girlfriend? Did anybody see where she went?” An Anon points and tells him, “Yeah she took off that way about a minute ago.” The man runs off after her.

An Occupier thinks to herself, “Damn! I hope he’s not back in another bad relationship. It can’t have been very long since he got out of prison because of the false abuse accusations that his last girlfriend made against him. She was a very mean person; when she died in her sleep while he was in prison, I wonder how he felt”.

A dude with a thick head and beard of black hair arrives. We don’t know him but we’ve seen him around the hood for several years. Tonight he’s selling well made, hemp bracelets. An Occupier buys one from him and the furry dude goes on his way.

Another Native guy who we’ve met in the past rolls up. He is immaculately dressed in full skater regalia and possibly a bit drunk. He’s a good friend of the Anons; they give him one of their masks. He says, “You know I’m gonna have to design this mask to match my style”. They laugh and say, “Yeah, no problem”. The skater dude tells an Occupier, “You know, I’m really trying to walk the Red Road but I keep falling off”. The Occupier answers, “All you can do is to get back up and get back on it. Don’t ever stop trying”.

The Most Obnoxious Street Woman turns up. We’re never particularly happy to see her but as far as we have seen, she hasn’t been very obnoxious for almost a year. However, many of the other street folks assure us that she is still very obnoxious. Anyway, she gets coffee, pickles and a bowl of soup. Once she gets her food settled, she gives a gift to the Occupier who brings most of the food and tells her, “Maybe you could use this to put purple streaks in your hair”. The Occupier thanks the formerly obnoxious woman and puts the gift away for later. A friend of the gift giving woman arrives, she gets coffee and the two women sit in the circle and chat.

Another Anon, accompanied by a large group of friends, come up the stairs. We know most of them; everyone is laughing and pleasantly talking all at once. Most get food and drinks and warm themselves by the fire. The Native skater is joking with an Anon, he laughingly announces, “Man, I’m old school. I’m 33 years old; do you know how old that is in skater years” He then takes off on his board and begins doing all sorts of marvelous tricks like going real fast then spinning around, flipping his board 360 degrees and landing back on the correct side, riding down the stairs without falling, leaping over a bench while his board goes under the bench and landing on the board as it comes out from under and riding on the edges of the concrete walls. An Occupier is impressed, “Wow, can you imagine what he could do if he was sober?”

After the show is over, someone asks what time it is. Eventually we figure out that it’s around 9:30pm. Probably time to pack up; everyone helps to put the chairs away. People with vehicles arrange to give rides to those without. Just before peeps start to leave, an Occupier remembers, “Hey, tomorrow over in Superior there’s going to be a discussion with environmental science professors from all the local colleges. It’s going to be a discussion about the explosion and fire at the Husky Refinery. It will be held at Zion Lutheran Church at 2022 E 2nd St and starts at 7:30pm. For anyone who is able to get there, it will probably be worth your while”.

The last few Occupiers who are tasked with putting the food away and putting out the fire are just getting started when a former Anon who is working mostly with N.A.H. these days, appears. They stop what they’re doing and stand around the fire with the big Native dude and talk for a while. He’s going into the hospital tomorrow to have his tonsils removed and seems to be trying to hide the fact that he’s nervous. The Occupiers just listen to the big guy until he feels better then he helps the Fire Magician put out the fire.

The Occupier who brings most of the food reaches in a big bin and pulls out the gift from the Obnoxious Woman. Upon inspection she sees that the stuff inside the bottle will not die anyone’s hair. The label says Egyptian Dark Tanning Cream. The Food Occupier calls out, “Does anyone want to use this stuff to make their skin look darker than it already is? I must warn that my lengthy lifetime has shown me that this type of stuff turns white people’s skin orange. Everyone laughs and she confides, “Sorry but I’m just gonna throw this bottle in the garbage. It’s shaped like an alcohol bottle and if I just leave it here, I’m betting that some messed up person will stagger through here during the night and try to drink it. It might kill them, who knows?

With that, the cleanup is finished and everyone heads out with plans to hold another fire circle here, at Peoples Plaza, next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 5-8-18

G.A. Minutes 5-8-18

We’re back at Coney Island again; we’re kinda bummed out about it too. We were so psyched up about starting our recreational fires at Peoples Plaza tonight and for the rest of the non-winter months but all the weather forecasts said it was definitely going to rain. It’s been darkly cloudy with a strong east wind all day however, it has not rained. Now we’re wondering if we made the wrong decision. Oh well…..it is what it is.

The Occupiers come straggling in a few at a time; one of the Anonymous crew puts himself into the mix. As we arrange the tables and order food we do a brief overview of last week’s May Day events. The Anons did a little marching then hooked up with some Occupiers and lots of other folks at the Memorial for Murdered, Missing and Trafficked Indigenous Women that was held in Canal Park. That event was well attended with many indigenous songs and drumming; some good speeches too. A woman from Makwa (bear) Camp who is originally First Nation from Canada gave an impassioned speech about her attempts to get the so called authorities to protect her sisters from the Man Camps that have sprung up all over her province and throughout First Nations territories in Canada.

A Man Camp is a temporary area where lodging is provided for all the workers who arrive to work in an area where fossil fuel extraction is happening. The mostly male workers are paid high wages; nearly all have little to spend their earnings on in the remote and predominately First Nations land. Unscrupulous persons see an opportunity to exploit this situation so bring in alcohol, drugs and sex trafficking. Kidnapping, rape and murder are common however, all of this stuff is uncommon to the First Nations folks who have just been living, practicing their indigenous ways of hunting, fishing and such. Once the corporations are finished extracting the fossil fuels, they and all the workers leave and the people of the land are left to deal with polluted soil, water and the aftermath of the Man Camps. We have Man Camps in the USA too wherever fossil fuels are being extracted.

The so called authorities barely gave the Makwa/First Nations woman or any others attempting to protect MM+TIW the time of day. Many of us were quite moved by the woman’s story. It’s hard to believe that there are places where governments give their indigenous people a worse time than they do in ‘Merica but I guess there are.

After hearing the music and speeches and going in mass over to the canal to place flowers in the water to honor the MM+TIW, some of the Occupiers went up to the Central Hillside Community Center to participate in the Democratic Socialists of America’s May Day Picnic. We arrived late of course, so most of the food and people were gone but we hung around for awhile. We ate the last of the food while sitting with Skip Sandman, his wife and one of Skip’s lead campaign organizers. The discussion revolved around the question of, why did Leah Phifer, possibly the leading Democratic candidate for the MN 8th CD seat currently held by Rick Nolan, withdraw from the race a few weeks ago.

The lead organizer told us (and he would know) that Ms. Phifer did not have a “Plan B”. He said that she and her campaign team thoroughly expected to get the endorsement from the MN Democratic Party so when the party deadlocked at their convention, she and her team didn’t feel confident continuing their campaign. The Occupiers don’t really have much interest in the inner workings of the the 2 parties in 1 party system but we enjoy the company of those at the table, so we sit and listen. Before Skip’s campaign, the lead organizer was a mainstay in our local Democratic party. A few months ago, when he told us that he had finally given up on the Democrats we congratulated him then pretended to bow down saying, “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”

Anyway, since May Day one of the Occupiers has attended the now bi-weekly (every other week) Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition meeting and one of the Occupier couples has begun attending the weekly Language Table lesson in the basement of the Gimaajii Native American housing complex. The Occupier who is a member of the HPB of R Coalition tells us, “One of the leading members of the coalition attended a meeting recently with the City Attorney, the Human Rights Officer, the City Councilor who is tasked with pushing the HPB of R forward and the attorney from the City Attorney’s office who is tasked with researching the city codes in order to find places where the 11 proposed rights can reasonably be attached. The HPB of R coalition member reported he was quite pleased with the attitudes expressed at the meeting, especially those expressed by the attorney who is tasked with researching the codes. The rest of us at the HPB of R Coalition meeting expressed doubts about the attitude of the City Attorney. Someone said, ‘The City Attorney has been publicly expressing his opposition to the HPB of R since day one; we need to watch him very carefully and definitely not trust him’. The lead HPB of R Coalition member stated that he would schedule another meeting with the C.A,’s office asap. Hopefully, a few more of us will be able to attend”.

The Occupier couple report they are quite pleased with the Ojibwe language classes they’ve started attending at Gimaajii. The class is being taught by Anishinaabe elder, educator and healer, Rickey Defoe. The female of the couple opines, “The Ojibwe language is kinda difficult to learn but the way Rickey teaches it, it seems easy. He gets everyone chatting and laughing and trying to speak the language no matter what their level of experience”. Language Table is held every Monday evening from 5p-7p.

An Occupier inquires of the Anon, “So how are things going with your job, school and everything? The Anon replies, “I quit the job and ever since then I’ve been doing really well in school. That job was more trouble than it was worth; everything is looking looking pretty good on the college front though. I should end up with good grades then have the summer off. When I start again in the fall I’ll be in good standing and eligible for the full amount of financial aid . Also, at the last meeting of the Anonymous crew, we decided we might want to stay out of the public light for a while and build up our chops by helping out other good groups”.

The smokers go out for a smoke and discover that……It’s Raining!! Yay!! It’s the really good kind of rain too; soft and steady, soaking deep into the ground and giving all the wonderful growing things a reason to live. We feel vindicated by the rain because we actually wouldn’t have been able to have a successful fire this evening. On top of all this, the brain injured and/or developmentally disabled dude who lives in the Wet House and sometimes attends our fires, comes bumbling up. He asks, “Does anybody have some spare change or a cigarette?” It seems like he doesn’t realize he has met us many times in the past. We give him a dollar and a cigarette then put out our smokes, wish him good evening and head back in. No one is particularly interested in listening to one of the dude’s long and somewhat boring stories.

When we return to the tables, an Occupier says to the Occupier who likes to report things, “I bet you know some of what will be going on for the rest of this week”. She does and reports, “Well, tomorrow there;s going to be a rally about the Husky Oil Refinery explosion and fire on April 26th in Superior WI. It will happen in front of the Douglas County Court House at 5:30p”. Another Occupier adds, “Man that refinery emergency was some serious shit! It was some sort of miracle that lots of people weren’t killed; there’s no telling what the health effects will be on all the Superior folks who were forced to breathe in that toxic thick smoke for hours. Many activists are saying the Husky Refinery is the head of the black snake and that we should chop it off”. We all think that would be a good idea.

An Occupier states, “So what else do you have?” and the reporting Occupier continues, “ Tomorrow, the Human Rights Commission meets at 5:30p, City Hall Rm 303 and the Sobriety Feast starts at 6p in the Central Hillside Community Center. Natives Against Heroin will be doing another neighborhood cleanup on Saturday, May 12th. Peeps will be meeting up at the CHCC at 2p. On Monday, May 14th, the Earned Safe and Sick Time Ordinance will be voted on by the City Council. I’ll be going to the Language Table but it gets over at 7p so I’ll shoot up to City Hall to be a supporter. I think I won’t need to stay long because there will probably be so many supporters already there that there won’t be room for me to even fit into the Council Chambers. On Tuesday, May 15th, we should be holding our first fire circle at Peoples Plaza. Everyone should pray, cross their fingers, sacrifice a burnt offering or whatever they do in attempt to control the universe, in order to insure that we have good weather and everything else we need in order to hold a marvelous recreational fire next Tuesday. We all solemnly swear to do as she asks.

Although Coney Island has extended their open hours recently, we still absent mindedly yak on past closing time. We are incorrigible. The staff guys are quietly standing behind the counter holding their coats; we hurriedly gather up our stuff and head out into the gentle and peaceful spring rain.

G.A. Minutes 4-24-18

G.A. Minutes 4-24-18

The weather people told the truth last week; this past week has been remarkably pleasant, just like they promised. The snow in the downtown and Central Hillside has melted almost completely. Temperatures have been in the 50s with slight or gusty north west winds; skies have been partly cloudy to clear. The wind cools things down a bit but no one’s complaining. It’s still the best weather we’ve had in 6 months. One day the sun was shining brightly with no wind and temps in the 60s. Whoo hoo! Life is sweet (sometimes).

Occupiers and some of the Anonymous crew arrive at Coney Island simultaneously tonight. As we’re pushing tables together an Occupier comments, “It looks like we’re going to have a scheduling conflict on Friday. We’ve got Skip Sandman’s Anishinaabe Taco Sale from 4p-8p at the Central Hillside Community Center and Socialist Pizza at the Women’s Building on 1st St from 6:30p-8:30p. I’m not sure how we should navigate this”. Another Occupier suggests, “I think we’ll have to play it by ear. If things are under control at the taco sale then some of us can leave early and go over for pizza. Hopefully, the rest of us will be able to stop in for the end of the pizza event. I really love Socialist Pizza and hate to miss any of it but I know that my taco making skills are needed by Skip. It’s a good thing that both venues are within a few blocks of each other”.

An Anon states, “I think we had a pretty good turnout for the Socialist Action rally on Earth Day. It was gratifying to see so many of our Anonymous peeps in attendance”. We all agree and he continues, “Before you guys arrived, we were chalking Peoples Plaza with slogans for resisting Line 3. Skip Sandman and his crew showed up; they’d been over at Lake Place Park having a ceremony in preparation for the changing of the name Lake Place Park into an Anishinaabe name. I think they said it was Gitchii Ode Aking or something like that. Anyway, they had some drummers and a big drum with them; the drummers played and sang a few honor songs for us. That was so way cool”.

An Occupier adds, “Yeah, the Indigenous Commission has been trying to get the park renamed for 5 years. The City has required them to jump through so many hoops, it’s ridiculous! I mean, come on, this place was covered with Native American villages from the Twin Ports all the way down to Cloquet before the settlers arrived and destroyed it all then tried to make the Indigenous people act like white folks. Northern MN is covered with Native folks to this day; quite a few are living in our Hillside and over west but there is nothing that signifies a Native presence in the city of Duluth. I’m told that when the Indigenous Commissioners were required to meet with the Chamber of Commerce, one of the Chamber members said, ‘Well, if you rename the park, will we still be able to go there?’ Everyone groans and then cracks up. She continues, “That’s the kinda crap one has to deal with when forced to associate with ‘the suits’. We deal with the same shit in the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition. We’ve also been fighting for the HPB of R for 5 years. I guess obstructionists think, if they throw enough roadblocks in our way, we’ll all give up. It ain’t gonna happen!”

An Anon remarks, “Going back to the Earth Day action for a minute, did any of you see that video that a guy that we didn’t know had on his phone? It was of a couple of rookie Duluth Police Department officers randomly searching a homeless woman who had a cart full of stuff”. An Occupiers answers, “Yeah, I saw it; it was pretty bad. Apparently, the cops said they were doing a training exercise. Great. They were going through all the woman’s stuff without asking her permission, patting her down too. The woman was screaming, ‘What’s wrong with you? I didn’t do anything! Get your hand off my ass!’ And stuff like that. Cops have no right to search people who aren’t under suspicion without their permission. A lot of the veteran homeless folks out in the streets are suffering from schizophrenia. By doing that shit to the innocent street woman, the cops might have exacerbated the night and day mares that she already has.

“Do you know the name or anything about the guy who showed us his video?” The Anon replies, “No actually I don’t; he came with one of our occasional Anons. I don’t recall meeting him before last Sunday”. The Occupier exclaims, “Bummer. There was no internet access out on Protest Corner so the video dude was gonna sent the video to our friend from Socialist Action, the S.A. dude was gonna send it to me and I was gonna take it to the Citizens Review Board tomorrow. So far, I haven’t received anything. I’d like to follow up on this and file a complaint on behalf of the woman”. Everyone agrees to keep their eyes and ears open re: the video.

An Anon reminds us, “We’ll be doing another march and bank action on May Day (May 1st) starting at noon. As always, you all are welcome to join us”. An Occupier explains, “Some of us need to attend the Annual May Day Memorial for Trafficked and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. It will start at the plaza in front of the Dewitt Sietz building in Canal Park at 4:30pm and end up on the lake shore around 6pm. I’m sure we’ll catch up with you either before or after”.

Another Anon reports, “On our way here we noticed a bunch of people hanging out at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. Anybody know what’s up with that?” An Occupier tells him, “Those people were waiting for a chartered bus to pick them up and take them to Montgomery, Alabama for the opening of a big memorial to lynching. I hear it will be a major event with people from all over the nation and the world coming there. In Duluth there were even some scholarships available to people who couldn’t afford the cost of the trip. One of our Occupiers is going, so are the city official and the Superior Organizer. I heard that even DPD Chief Tusken is going. I’ll look forward to all the pictures and stories that everyone will bring back”.

An Occupier confesses, “I was making mental preparations for starting up our recreational fires at Peoples Plaza for our next meeting but then my brain kicked in and I remembered next Tuesday would be May Day. Whadaya say to starting up our fire the week after that on May 8th? Everyone exclaims in unison, “YYEEEESSSSS!!!” Well, o.k. then, if it doesn’t rain, that’s what we’ll do.

Another Occupier tells us, “I was just given directions to the other Line 3 Resistance Camp. Some of our friends are there. I plan to go there as soon as I can”. Others express interest in accompanying her.

Someone says, “Oh, that reminds me, did anyone see that an administrative law judge ruled Enbridge should not be allowed to use their preferred route for their Line 3 pipeline? An Occupier answers, “Now that you mention it, I believe I did see a headline about that flash by my eyes this afternoon while I was trying to do a bazillion other things”. No one else has heard this news. The person reporting the judge’s decision continues, “I just saw the information in a 10 second or so report on one of our local commercial TV stations. I don’t know if the judge is the same one who did all the pipeline hearings or not. Her decision will give us some more time and cost Enbridge more money at least. In her decision the judge said that Enbridge could use the same route as their old pipeline but not their preferred route which detours around Leech Lake. I think that means Leech Lake will have the final say as to whether the pipeline goes through or not. Leech Lake is already on record as saying they won’t allow any new pipelines to cross their land. This could get interesting.

The Occupier who lives in Superior opines, “You know, I wish there was a way one could report something to the police or fire department without having to dial 911. Maybe a 912 number or something like that? I really hate to call the police at all but sometimes my neighbors get to fighting so bad that I have to call. I wish there were a way I could alert the cops without having them show up with guns drawn and all that. Another Occupier agrees and tells him, “Here in Duluth we have no choice but to call 911; the City gives us no other options, they say if we’re not calling in an emergency we should just say, ‘This is not an emergency’. Remember how we used to call and report that we were starting up our recreational fire? We did that to prevent a big fire truck from showing up because somebody from the neighborhood called 911 saying that CJMM was on fire. We haven’t had to do that for several years because the cops and fire department already know what we’re up to”.

Another Occupier adds, “Yeah, the very few times that we did call the cops it really was an emergency. Like when we’d be fixin’ to leave and we’d see someone passed out under the tree. They’d be totally unresponsive and we didn’t know for sure if they were even breathing. We didn’t want to just leave them there because who knows what would be done to them by unscrupulous street peeps. You don’t want to get too close to someone like that because you never know if they’ll come up swinging. I’d rather call the cops than end up with a black eye or stabbed or whatever. The second Occupier agrees and says, “Remember that time when that asshole homeless dude was waving a bottle of alcohol all around in front of a bunch of the regular CJMM crowd then when they asked for some he told them no, he wasn’t gonna share”. Many Occupiers still remember the incident. The Occupier resumes the story, “Then a few of the street guys jumped him and started beating the crap out of the asshole dude. They wouldn’t stop when we asked them to so we had to call the cops. As soon as we announced that the cops were on their way, everybody split. When the cops got there, all they found was us and the dude all beat up and bloody with an empty bottle of alcohol”.

Another Occupier remembers, “I actually knew who the guys were who were beating on the selfish dude but when the cops asked if I knew who they were I said no. I figured the beat up guy had it coming. Come to think of it, I don’t believe we ever saw the asshole again”.

On a different note, the Occupier who likes to research stuff asks, “Did any of you know that North Korea’s main nuclear facility blew up last September?” No one was aware of that. The Occupier explains, “China reported it at the time but major media didn’t pick up on it. North Korea had its major facility inside of a big mountain; something happened and the whole mountain collapsed. North Korea doesn’t really have a nuclear program right now. So when we saw Kim Jung Un sucking up to South Korea and other nations, it’s not because they have become terrified of He Who Shall Not Be Named, it’s because they don’t have other options right now. I’m sure HWSNBN is aware of the mountain’s collapse but still, he and his minions will take credit for KJU’s sudden change of heart, of course”. We all say, “Of course”.

It’s not quite 9pm but we’re pretty much talked out. An Occupier couple queries, “Anyone want to stop over to our place for a bit and relax?” A few Occupiers and all of the Anons say, “Sure”. So we head out either to the couple’s home or to our own homes.

Remember now, next Tuesday is May Day so we’ll be out and about celebrating. On Tuesday May 8th, we should be starting our first fire of the season at Peoples Plaza. If you look out your window and up at the sky around 5:30pm on the 8th, you should be able to tell if we’re gonna be at the Plaza or back at Coney Island.