G.A. Minutes 11-5-19

G.A. Minutes 11-5-19

When the first two Occupiers arrive at Coney Island this evening they find staff guys who they haven’t met before working behind the counter. However, this is not a problem; these new guys have been informed about the Occupiers and friends and their regular Tuesday evening gatherings. For some unknown reason, the new staff knows these first arrivals are a part of the Tuesday evening crew. The workers are friendly and welcoming.

The female Occupier comments to the servers, “We’re not expecting to have many people joining us tonight. There are a lot of other things going on right now”. Among the things going on this Tuesday are the big Anonymous Million Mask March down in The Cities and a citywide election for City Council and School Board seats. The two Occupiers have shown up a little earlier than usual because they have come from voting. One Occupier opines to the other, “Even though voting went really quickly for us, I noticed that a lot more people than usual in our precinct had cast their ballots. I guess folks feel more inclined to vote given the state of government affairs since He Who Shall Not Be Named took the helm”.

The other Occupier agrees, “Yeah, that could be true; I just wish there were better candidates to vote for. With the exception of Mike Mayou for City Council-at-large, all the other candidates range from boring to absolutely despicable and evil”. The first Occupier states, “For real, the other three candidates for City Council-at-large are some serious 1% worshipers. It’s scary because, seeing as there are two Council seats open, you know at least one of them will win a seat. Our City Council never was really progressive but I’m afraid it will be worse after this election. I know we’re really gonna miss having Em Westerlund as the Councilor for our district”.

The other Occupier responds, “Bummer. I’m really sorry that the city official had to quit his campaign; he would have easily filled Em’s shoes. He didn’t have much choice though after WPR illegally fired him from his radio show. They said it was because he had declared himself to be a candidate for District 3 City Council but they coulda just told him that a popular radio host, according to his contract, was forbidden from running for public office. He coulda made his choice then; it’s pretty obvious that they just wanted to get rid of his show. Even though the show had higher ratings across the state than anything else they had on the air. The city official’s radio show wasn’t even a flaming revolutionary one; he just dealt with a lot of issues that didn’t get any attention from the major media clones”. The first Occupier adds, “NPR and the rest became a lot more conservative when Bush Jr. was president and it hasn’t gotten back to normal since then”.

Magically and as if on cue, the city official rolls in and asks, “Where is everybody?” An Occupier explains, “Well, some are down at the Million Mask March in the Cities, a few are at Mike Mayou’s post election gathering and the rest are in hiding or something. Meetings at Coney Island aren’t anywhere near as exciting as the ones at our fire circle, you know”. The other Occupier concurs, “True, but it looks like this is gonna have to make due until spring. This evening is a little warmer at thirty degrees than it has been lately but even then it’s only comfortable if one is walking or just outside for ten minutes or so”.

The city officials asks, “So what’s the latest on the fire situation anyway?” The Occupier who accepted the original citation, last May, answers, “Well, you know that my citation from the City was dismissed and then I received a threatening letter from the Acting Fire Marshal. The last fire circle we held was around the second week in October and the cops and fire department showed up and put it out. A few days later I received a notice of an official Administrative Citation being filed and a demand that I pay a $200 fine for starting an “illegal fire”. I filed an official letter to contest the citation and now I’m waiting for a notice about a hearing to be held, supposedly in early December. Our attorney friend has agreed to represent me at the hearing”. The other Occupier contributes, “Of course you know, none of this crap really has anything to do with any fire. It’s really about MN Power and the people who work in their building next to Peoples Plaza. They are scandalized when they look down from their high windows and see neighborhood regular and street people sitting in a circle or standing around outside of it. They observe these folks sharing food, talking and laughing while watching the little kids draw chalk pictures on the worn out brick floor and the older ones skateboarding and such.

The folks who work in the MN Power building appear to live on another planet; they’re horrified by the sight of poor people congregating in plain sight and acting like they belong there. Especially in a place where tourists and rich Duluthians can see them. So some people who work for MN Power are putting pressure on the cops and the fire department to do something to make us disappear. They don’t care where we go; they just want to cage us some place where no one else will see us. The first Occupier responds, “Yabut, you know what? Tough shit! Our fire conforms to all their fire codes and ordinances and according to the US Constitution and all that, we have the same right to make use of public space as rich peeps do”.

The city official changes the subject saying. “You know, I just don’t know what’s wrong with me; I couldn’t bring myself to go and vote in this election. I just didn’t think that any of the candidates were worth voting for”.An Occupier emphasizes, “Man, you’re still grieving. It’s only been about a week since Xavier Bell died; his sudden death, at such a young age, was a tremendous shock to the whole community. He was one of your best friends! It will take a long time, if ever, to recover from such a loss; it’s no wonder you don’t feel any enthusiasm for anything right now. There’s nothing wrong with you”.

The city official sighs, “I think I’m still in shock”. Another Occupier agrees, “ ‘X’ did so much good for this community; he was a role model for all the youngbloods and parents who came in contact with him. Yet, with all that he accomplished, he never just sat back and took it easy. He was always looking for more grassroots ways to improve upon what he did. I don’t imagine there will be anyone who can fill his shoes”. The city official remarks, “Well, he left behind a very competent wife and five grown, well raised children who are all committed to continuing his legacy. I think X’s organization will live on; it’s just that we all really miss the man”.

The female Occupier tells the others, “I went to a way cool art opening and discussion last night at the Zeitgeist. The art show was created by Terry Moses; she’s an art professor at UMD who specializes in silkscreen and related mediums. She’s also the main secretary or record keeper for our local NAACP chapter. The subject matter of her current show is the contrast between the way an African American woman and a Caucasian woman experience the same situations. I found the artwork of Terry Moses to be technically first class as well as deeply moving. The discussion featured the artists, Ms Moses, Carla Hamilton and Kym Young. The attendees were around 95% female with the black girls talking and the white girls (hopefully) listening. I’d guess the main takeaway from the discussion was, forget all the stupid and erroneous stereotypes; African American woman want to be seen as the unique, individual, autonomous beings that they truly are”. She laughs and opines, “I think that sounds pretty reasonable to me”. The city official comments, “I wasn’t able to make it to the opening but I’ll be down to see Terry’s work asap”.

The other big item of news this week is that the Anon/Water Protector couple’s baby has been born. Everything went well and mom and dad were blessed with a nine pound, healthy, little boy. The Occupiers have seen Mr Baby who is named after his father but will be called by his “Indian name”. The couple and the three little girls are currently “cocooning” with the newborn bundle of joy. We all wish them well and hope to see them soon.

We see the staff guys are starting to clean up; it’s a bit early but there have been almost no customers this evening. We think we should give them a break and let them go home. As we are packing up one of the Occupiers imparts, “I’m not sure how our next Tuesday meeting will work; I know I have to be at the Planning Commission meeting at 5pm that evening and I think we’re also gonna be called on to speak before the City Council concerning the fact that Essentia is building their new high-rise health center and that they’ve purchased some low income apartments near the building site. They’re planning on demolishing the low income housing and turning the space into another parking lot. WTF? Anyway, I don’t know yet if that topic is scheduled to be addressed next Tuesday or not. I’ll let you all know as soon as I find out”.

So we might be back at Coney Island next Tuesday or we might not. Time will tell.

G.A. Minutes 10-1-19

G.A. Minutes 10-1-19

On the first day of October, Mother Earth and all of her helpers have joined together to let us know that there’s no turning back; autumn is definitely upon us. This evening the sky is overcast and the temperature is somewhere in the low 50s. Very strong gusts of wind blow from the east, making the air feel about 20 degrees colder.

When the first Occupiers arrive they find Peoples Plaza completely empty of humans or any other animals. The Fire Magician exclaims, “Where is everybody? I thought the Water Protectors and the Anonymous crew were joining peeps from Socialist Action for a demonstration against ICE and the fact that the US Border Patrol and all its minions are putting captured immigrant children in cages”.

The Food Preparing Occupier responds, “I think that demo started a couple of hours ago; all the rush hour traffic is gone now so I’m betting they’re in one of the vicinity’s restaurants keeping warm and waiting for us to show up. I think we should just sit in our vehicles until a few others roll up. It’s kinda cold and we’re just too damn old to haul all the stuff by ourselves” So that’s what they do.

Within a very short time they see their friend, formerly known as Chicago Man, walking across the street. A few weeks ago, Chicago Man said to the Occupier who records the meeting minutes, “Ya know, I don’t like being identified by that name; it doesn’t really doesn’t describe who I am”. The Recorder agreed saying, “I’ve been thinking that same thing; you were given that name years ago when we had first met you. What if we were to call you Blue?” The renamed man smiles, “That will work”.

So anyway, Blue reports that the Anons, W.P.s and others are across the street at a relatively new brew house. As soon as those in the brew house realize the first Occupiers are outside, they pack up and quickly begin carrying firewood, chairs, food and everything else onto the center of the Plaza. Everyone works as fast as they can in order to stay warm. Soon others appear; among them are another Occupier, the tattooed street guy and sometime Anon and his girlfriend, the guy from Loaves N Fishes and his girlfriend, a young Life House client, Menagerie Woman and a pleasant hippie couple who we are meeting for the first time.

The Fire Magician gets the fire pit and the small charcoal grill going while everyone else sets up the chairs (close to the fire tonight) and puts all the food out on the table. The charcoal grill will heat up the homemade tomato, rice and vegetable soup that is a favorite with our regular fire circle attendees. The fire roars up; everyone sits down around it. This is probably the coldest evening we’ve experienced so far this year.

Menagerie Woman tells us she’s just started a new job; she’s working in housekeeping and laundry for one of the big hotels in Canal Park. The woman with a house full of animals reports, “All my co-workers are really nice and very patient with me. It’s so much better than my old job working at Mini-Mart. When I worked there, most of my co-workers were mean to me and each other; they gossiped behind each other’s backs. Someone started spreading the rumor that I was developmentally disabled. Of course, being D.D. is totally cool but they were saying it as an insult even though I don’t have that condition. The other day at my new job a guest left me a $10 tip! I was thrilled; I’ve never received a tip in my whole life.

Many of the people in the circle participated in the Gitchie Gumi No Line 3 event which took place last Saturday in Gitchie Ode’ Akiing Park. The event took place on the last day of National and International Climate Strike Week. The impetus for Climate Strike Week in North America came from middle and high school students who began leaving their classes every Friday to get out and protest to raise awareness about the severe climate crisis happening across our entire planet. The young people are understandably angry because most adults are not taking the fact that our Mother Earth is dying seriously. The young ones realize that most of the current adults in the world will be dead before the worst effects of climate change reign down. Not so, with the young people and their children. The students would like to kick the adults in the butt to make them wake up and help save our planet for the next 7 generations. The adults who are already “woke” welcome the actions of these wonderful kids; we’ve been having a hard time getting the sleeping adults to wake up too.

A W.P. comments, “Did the Climate Strike event in Duluth rock or what?!?” Everyone agrees, it certainly did rock. The W.P. continues, “I think the organizers expected about a 750 or so attendees but it turned out to be around 1,500. It was so refreshing to see all those NGOs and other organizations working together, co-operating to make everything run smoothly. He nods toward the Fire Magician and his partner, “It was way cool that you all were asked to be the keepers of the Spiritual Fire”. The Fire Magician agrees, “Yes it was. We were at the fire all day and early evening; we didn’t get to cruise around or go on the march but we had many visitors including folks from all over the country. I hear that over 7.5 million people all over the world participated in The Strike”.

An Occupier adds, “Well, that’s what it’s gonna take; almost a billion people all over the world making a really big stink about the man made destruction of the planet and the people of the world’s right to live. It’s not gonna be easy and we’re all gonna have to unite in order to save ourselves and each other. Serious discussions will be needed but petty arguing and big egos are out of the question. There’s gonna be infiltrator people sent in by the extractive industries and their minions who will attempt to pit us against each other. If we fall for it our cause will be lost. We will need to stay focused on what’s really important. ‘The times they are a-changing’”.

An Anon observes, “It looks like we’re not gonna have any cops again tonight. If we don’t, it will make an entire month since they last visited us”. The young woman who is connected with Life House cries out, “What!?! The cops come and bother this fire?” An Occupier answers, “Yup, we’ve been doing this for 7 years and every couple of those years we get hassled by the cops. It’s always because some rich person with a lot of so called power doesn’t want to see homeless, street or other regular people openly congregating in a public space. The thing is though, what we’re doing is perfectly legal but some people think that folks who don’t have their own back yards should just crawl under a bush and die. We’re always quite civil with the cops but we don’t back down because we’re not doing anything wrong or illegal. This past year and a half or so the cop callers have been the trump head, bozo security guards from the MN Power office building over there. Most of the City department heads and government officials are afraid of MN Power so they order the cops and fire department to run us off. They come and tell us all kinds of ridiculous and untrue things, then the fire department sprays out our fire.

“Last May Day the cops gave one of us an actual citation for having this fire. Our cited one plead not guilty, the D.A. demanded they take a plea deal and when they refused, he pressed criminal charges. We thought we were gonna be able to take our fire issue to court but at the next hearing the D.A. dismissed the charges. I guess someone must have actually read the laws and the fire codes. About a week after the charges were dropped, the cops stopped bothering us”. The Cited One remarks, “It is possible to fight City Hall but it’s one hell of a lot of work”.

The female of the hippie couple opines, “Do you think the NGOs will be successful in stopping climate change?” A W.P./Anon replies, “Well, the big NGOs have their place but the only way we will save humankind is if the majority of the people on the planet realize the urgency of the situation and demand that the so called leaders do their part. I say ‘do their part’ because we can’t just rely on leaders; they can’t be completely trusted anyway. It’s gonna take many, many people making saving Mother Earth, the water and the air the primary focus of their lives. I know that some scientists have a lot of good ideas; I think the people who have the most knowledge though are the decolonized Indigenous people of the world. I guess I should say the very lightly colonized folks, because people who have had no contact with colonizers or their governmental and economic systems are extremely rare.

“Anyway, the lightly colonized Indigenous peeps have spent a bazillion generations living close to Mother Earth. They understand the way She works and the best ways to heal Her. So of course, very few colonized people (aka the majority of the people on the planet) ever listen to the Indigenous ones, I guess they figure that anyone without an Iphone or a Wall Street stock portfolio is a complete ignoramus”. An Occupier exclaims, “Yeah, and it’s the colonized humans who are the real ignorant ones!’ The W.P./Anon continues, “For real. Some colonized folks are beginning to realize this; some scientists too”. The young woman associated with Life House adds, “I hope everyone gets their shit together real soon. There’s not much time left and that is very scary”.

Someone in a light blue hoodie has been been sitting in the dark and the cold under a tree on the east ledge of the Plaza for over an hour. Despite what the employees of MN Power believe, Peoples Plaza is meant to be for everybody so we never bother folks who choose not to join our fire circle. Now the blue hooded one slowly and shyly comes over, standing just outside of our chairs. An Occupier turns her head and immediately recognizes the dude. He’s one of the street guys who attended our fires back in the day when they were held at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. He’s an African American gay man who used to sing and dance a lot when he was drunk; he was usually singing and dancing.

We never could figure out why he preferred to live on the street as he had family that cared about him and he was given a tremendous amount of shit re: being gay, by many other street people. He ended up doing a short stint in prison because a cop arrested him as he was defending himself from a physical attack. When the cop rolled up all he saw was the hooded guy hitting another man with a bottle; the cop didn’t see the previous 24 hours or so when the other guy was putting serious abuse on the hooded guy. Anyway, that was some years back; the hooded dude has been out of prison for a few years now. As far as we know, he’s been able to stop drinking, he’s rarely on the street anymore and is usually painfully shy. We welcome him and give him a bowl of soup; he gratefully accepts it, then stands beside the charcoal grill for a bit before fading into the shadows again.

Although the wind has been gusting all evening, suddenly a humongous gust of wind rolls over us. The flames of the fire shoot way up and everything goes flying; we all scurry around grabbing cups, plates, clothes and everything else that weighs less than a couple of pounds.

The Occupiers, Anons and Water Protectors had a baby shower for the Anon/W.P. couple who will be having a baby in a few weeks. Folks of all genders and non-genders were invited. We had a good time, played pin the sperm on the egg and ate lots of good food. The couple were given a shit ton of diapers and some other stuff too. Most of the folks who help to make the fire circle are low-income; we’re happy when we have our basic needs met.

The Anon/W.P. who is one of the lead organizers of the fry bread making class happening at the Central Hillside Community Center this upcoming Saturday at 2 pm reports, “My mom was gonna teach the class but she’s been having health issues so the main CHUM staff guy, who is also organizing this class, is looking for another teacher. He knows lots peeps in the Indigenous community so I’m sure we’re gonna be o.k”. Many of us are interested in learning how to make fry bread; all of us are interested in eating it.

The hippie couple attended the Rainbow Festival in the Chequamegon Forest this summer; one of the Occupiers was there too. The female hippie comments, “The forest and the land were so incredibly beautiful and I really liked the way the people were living. When you all talk about wanting a different type of society to live in, I think I would want one that worked like the way the Rainbow People live. You know, everyone sharing and helping each other”. An Occupier replies, “Yeah, I would like something like that too. Did you find many deer ticks on you when you were there?” The woman says, “No, I don’t think we had any but I heard that a lot of people did and that they came down with Lyme Disease too”. The Occupier confides, “It’s true, I was one of them. I got Lyme Disease and had to take a course of the most horrible antibiotics; they made my entire digestive system miserable and all I could eat was kefir and yogurt for a long time. I’m better now at least”. A W.P. adds, “We’re gonna see a lot more insects, snakes and other stuff we’re not used to seeing up here as everything moves north with the advancing of climate change”.

It’s getting late and has been dark for hours; many of those in the circle have gone off to their sleeping places. The basic fire making crew sit and chat for a while longer. An Occupier has been putting a big pile of big logs on the fire all evening; the fire has been large and putting out a lot of much needed warmth. As this same Occupier comes back from the wood pile with another arm load, someone cautions, “Wholly shit man! If you put those on the fire we’ll be sitting here til midnight. We have things to do tomorrow”. We all laugh then sit and watch the flames die down and turn into coals.

Time to pack up; we plan to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 8-27-19

G.A. Minutes 8-27-19

It’s raining this evening so, of course, we’re at Coney Island. The sky was only spitting but all the weather maps and forecasts predicted lots of rain so the group decided earlier not take the chance and end up hungry and drenched trying to meet at Peoples Plaza.

It’s never any fun to be having a meeting complete with a fire and food when all of a sudden big dark clouds roll up and pour lots of water on our heads. Then we all hafta run like crazy gathering up all the chairs, tables, food, fire pit and its accouterments while making sure that we don’t leave any kind of a mess behind. Many of the supplies are ruined and after it’s all over and we wind up at someone’s house drying ourselves off, the children and the old folks have colds. Nevermind…. it may not be paradise but Coney Island is the better option.

When the first Occupiers arrive, they find Chicago Man waiting for them; he’s been spending a little more time with the Water Protectors, Anonymous crew and the Occupiers this year so he knows when the meeting place has been changed. The Occupiers greet him and he tells them,”I just had to get out of my apartment; it’s driving me insane. There are so many drug dealers, heavy drug addicts and really mean people living there. It’s always very noisy and the management people couldn’t care less. If I try to ask the so called property manager a question or even just say good morning, she looks at me with complete disdain and refuses to respond. I have got to find another rent subsidized place to live!”

An Occupier comments, “I know the apartment building you’re talking about well. Everyone I’ve ever known who moved in there spent the majority of their free time trying to find somewhere else to live. The big rent subsidized buildings are all like that; in street parlance they’re called ‘crack stacks’. Duluth and most other big and small cities have severe shortages of rental housing that can be afforded by poor and working class people. Most landlords are not willing to accept people with any type of rent subsidy; I think there are two main reasons why they won’t do it. One is that along with government rent subsidies comes extra, very picky inspections that can force the landlord to spend a lot of extra money to make the apartment comply and cold running water, properly functioning drains and toilets, electricity and stuff like that. extra money to make the apartment comply with subsidy standards. Subsidy standards are good because everyone should have adequate heat, hot and cold running water, properly functioning drains and toilets, electricity and stuff like that. Sometimes though, the inspectors like to throw their weight around and make landlords do a lot of expensive but really petty things like replacing exit lights that have a superficial crack on the frame or windows that have a very tiny chip in the corner. Because we live under the stinking capitalist system landlords expect to make a profit on their rental units.

“The other reason is that some landlords have negative attitudes towards people of color, immigrants, folks who work in certain occupations, LBGTQ+ peeps, non-Christians, poor people and just about any other group of people you could imagine. If they accept government rent subsidies they generally can’t get away with that shit. To quote a really lame, trivial saying, ‘I feel your pain dude’. There’s a huge shortage of affordable housing in Duluth and tons of people are struggling just like you. I promise I will keep my eyes and ears open; if I find out about any available place I’ll let you know right away”.

A couple of Anon/W.P.s arrive, they have the three little girls with them. Tomorrow is their mom’s birthday and in a turnabout, Mom has brought a homemade birthday cake, fry bread and the fixins for Indian tacos. We think this is absolutely wonderful and everyone begins to chow down. As more folks roll in they fill plates and take seats. One of the good things about Coney Island is that the staff does not mind if we bring in outside food as long as we also order some food from them. We notice there are generally few customers coming in on Tuesday nights, so maybe our presence which takes up the entire back section of the restaurant, creates job security for the workers?

The Occupier who is a single parent drops in; he’s been working a job outside of town over the summer so we haven’t seen him in a while. After much hugging, pats on the back and such, he assures us, “I’m done with that job now and I don’t think I’ll be working out of town over the summer anymore. I prefer to be in the Twin Ports so will look for work here next summer.
He nods toward the Occupier who has been defending our little recreational fire in the court system and asks, “Hey, I heard that the D.A. dropped all the charges against you; is that true?” The Occupier/Defendant replies, “Yeah, it’s true. At my second court hearing the D.A. tried to get me to accept a plea deal that said I was guilty of violating a City fire ordinance and that I promised to not make another fire for at least a year. In return, if I was able to be a ‘good girl’ for a year then they would drop the charges. Oh sure, like that was gonna happen. I told him no, that I was not guilty of anything so he tried to threaten me with increasing the whole thing to criminal charges which, if I was found guilty, would result in a one thousand dollar fine and 90 days in jail.

“The funny thing was, he was using the same MN Statue the we have in our defense arsenal; it shows that our fire is legal. I think he was relying on my being ignorant and scared. So my attorney friend and I went over all our evidence, got all our ducks in a row and I went to my third court hearing prepared to throw down. I’m sitting in the hall waiting to be called into the court room when a woman carrying a clipboard walks up and tells me that all my charges have been dropped. The actual D.A. was nowhere to be seen. When I go into the court room the judge tells me the same thing and says, ‘You’re free to go’. So I went.

“I kinda wanted the whole thing to go to trial because I’m pretty sure we would win. Then there could have been no more arguments about whether our fire is legal; we also would have been able to publicly expose MN Power for the hating, classist, racist, corporate motherfuckers that they are. With the D.A. dropping my charges, all that says is that I am not guilty, it doesn’t say anything about the legality of our little fire. So the cops can still come and put it out. We really need to get the ‘suits’ and their minions off our backs.

My attorney friend says that the reason the D.A, dropped the charges is because they know our fire is legal, they don’t want to lose the case and have that fact become public. My attorney friend and I have a few things up our sleeves that will probably make the so called government leaders back off”. The formerly criminally charged Occupier turns to the Occupier who records things and asks that none of the information about to be divulged be written down. The Occupier then begins to divulge.

She is about to finish but recollects, “Oh right, I almost forgot. When I got home from all the court stuff I opened my mailbox and found a threatening letter from the Acting Fire Marshal. She threatened to charge me with violating three different MN Fire Codes and to serve me with a two hundred dollar Administrative Fine. The only thing is, the fire codes she cited were either completely irrelevant or incorrect as pertains to our particular fire. It seems that someone in City government is really desperate to stop us from giving the homeless ones respite. My friend tells me that the Acting Fire Marshal actually can fine me but that there are several ways to appeal the fine. That would also expose what is going on with ‘the powers that be’.

A conversation begins regarding all money and programs for poor and working class folks that He Who Shall Not Be Named has discontinued. The Occupier who is a college student sighs, “Yeah, school is just about to start up again and when I went to the financial aid office to get all the grants I have been given every semester, I was informed that HWSNBN had canceled one of the grant programs. That meant I was twenty five hundred dollars short and had to take out a loan. When I finally graduate and go looking for a job, that loan is gonna come back and bite me in the ass”.

Several of the W.P.s who live on the Fond du Lac Reservation are also members of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Relatives Coalition. Many of the rest of us serve as allies. The Coalition members speak about their anger and frustration with the various police departments on the Rez and in Cloquet, Duluth and surrounding areas. One member explains, “The reason we search mainly for Indigenous and sometimes other people of color is because no one else does. When a so called white person goes missing, the media puts out tons of publicity and search parties containing hundreds of searchers are organized. When an Indigenous or other person of color goes missing, the only people who care are the immediate family members and sometimes not even them.

“We attempt to assist the family members in searches or we do it by ourselves. Most of the time we only find the dead bodies of the missing; occasionally we find a person who is still living. When we find a body, the cops label it a suicide no matter what the circumstances. Many times the circumstances point obviously to murder but if the cops label it a suicide they don’t have to do an investigation. They say the murdered person doesn’t matter anyway because they were involved in the drug or sex trade or what ever. We say NO! Everyone is somebody’s child, sister, brother, father, mother, lover or what have you. Every missing person has value; many of us have family members or friends who have been lured into dangerous situations. That doesn’t mean that we no longer worry about them or love them. MMIW&R work is extremely stressful but we still do it because no one else does”. Those of us who live in the Twin Ports area find it difficult to make it out to the Rez to participate in a search at the drop of a hat. We attempt to assist the Coalition by printing up and/or distributing flyers that have pictures and information about the missing persons. When we are able we help out with gas money.

Several of the Occupiers attended the Husky Oil Refinery meeting yesterday in Superior WI. One of those in attendance reports, “It was pretty lame; there were about twelve of us who were there because we’re concerned about the fact that the Husky hydrogen fluoride tank could blow up and easily annihilate all 180,000 residents of the Twin Ports in a matter of minutes. There were also about one hundred refinery and other extraction industry union members. Their main concern was, of course, jobs. I’m sure that Husky scheduled the meeting for 11:30am in order to prevent other working people from attending.

Things are starting to wind down and we’re beginning to gather our dirty dishes when a Water Protector from the western US walks in. We are so pleasantly surprised! He hasn’t been around for many months; hugs and other greetings abound. Seeing as we are just packing up, some Occupiers invite everyone over to their house where we can catch up on old and new times.

We hope it doesn’t rain next Tuesday because we prefer to be back at Peoples Plaza.

G.A. Minutes 7-16-19

G.A. Minutes 7-16-19

After being rained out last week, this evening we are back at Peoples Plaza. There is no rain in tonight’s weather forecast; the sky is clear, the temperature is in the high 80s with a very occasional light breeze. In other words, it’s really flippin’ hot! Fortunately, once the sun goes behind the surrounding buildings, the temperature will be noticeably cooler.

Whatever…… as usual, the fire and food bringing Occupiers are the first to arrive; they’ve lucked out too, having managed to find two empty parking spaces right next to the Plaza. No one else has arrived yet so the old-ass Occupiers begin to slowly unload their stuff. The Fire Magician (a very clever and resourceful fellow) has strapped a cart onto the back of his truck; this enables folks who are hauling supplies to carry more things at a time up to the Plaza stairs at least. After they’ve deposited the first load, the guy from Loaves N Fishes arrives; this is great because along with being good company, he is capable of cutting the load-on time in half.

About halfway through the unloading job the Fire Magician comments, “Did you notice that the vehicle entryway is open tonight?” The food bringing Occupier responds, “What?!?!” and runs to see if this is true. She exclaims, “OMG, it IS open!” Seeing as the unloading is at least halfway finished they decide that it would be more trouble than it’s worth to drive the vehicles onto the Plaza, however, they do push the supply laden cart through the entryway and then onto the chosen fire circle space. It is soooo much easier.

As they work they hypothesize as to why, after over a year and a half of having a third big tree planter blocking the entryway, it was suddenly moved thereby allowing vehicles to pass through between the other two tree planters. The maker of most of the food opines, “Was it something that I said? I’ve been very busy over the last month running to lots of Duluth Commission meetings to report the hateful and probably illegal actions of the MN Power security guards. I was even on TV a week or so ago reporting the security assholes to the City Council. I wonder if that made them change their ways?” The Fire Magician answers, “Well, that could be it but I noticed the tree that was pulled away appears to be dying. It could be something as simple as that”. An acquaintance who works for the cleaning company contracted to clean the MN Power building comes out to empty all the Plaza garbage cans; those doing the unloading quiz her as to what she knows. She thinks for a bit and then guesses, “Well, MN Power just hired a different security company so maybe that has something to do with it”. The information we get from this cleaning acquaintance is not always accurate but sometimes it is. We say, “A DIFFERENT SECURITY COMPANY!!!???!” Can a person actually die from experiencing feelings of extreme joy and euphoria? We hope not.

More people arrive; among them are a Water Protector/ member of the Anonymous crew, his partner Anon/W. P. and her 3 little girls, 2 more Occupiers, the girlfriend of the LnF guy, the Stylish Native Woman and her partner, Chicago Man and 3 more street folks who are regulars at our fire circles. We try to relay the information that our cleaning company acquaintance gave us; we attempt to provide this info in a nonchalant manner so as to not cause any deaths from extreme joy etc.

Some of the Occupiers, Anons and Water Protectors attended the annual Veterans Pow Wow out at the Mash-Ka-Wisen Center in Sawyer, MN (read Fond du Lac Indigenous Reservation). They invited Chicago Man to join them; he tells us, “I haven’t had such a good time in many years; the entire event just reeked of spirituality and I was so happy. You know that I’m very attuned to that sort of thing and have really missed sharing those things with others. The public housing apartment building that I live in is a complete zoo making it difficult to maintain any peace of mind. It felt wonderful to be able to relax and feel safe while I was on the Pow Wow grounds”.

An Occupier agrees, “I felt the same way; my living situation is not stressful but I’ve been having all kinds of conversations, meetings, emails and whatnot with many people who work in our City government. I’m trying to get as many of them clued in as to what the fire ordinances, statutes and codes actually say. I’ve been working with the only City Councilor who offered to help us; actually he’s not very much help but he does open a few doors in order to connect me with City government people who I probably would not be able to hook up with on my own. He’s tasked me with setting up a meeting with Marnie Grondahl, the Interim Deputy Chief of the Duluth Fire Department and another high ranking DFD official of her choice, two high ranking Duluth Police Department officers, myself, the City Councilor and another Occupier (she nods toward the Occupier who works at the Mission). I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to do this because, I’m happy to say, I have absolutely no clout with City government types”.

An Anon/W.P. sighs, “I don’t know how you can stand hanging out with those types of people; they’re so creepy”. The Occupier replies, “I know. I don’t know how I can stand it either; some of them are reasonable but most seem to live on an entirely different planet and have absolutely no idea how the rest of us live. I think talking to them is worth a try though; I mean, how cool would it be to get the DPD, the DFD and some of the City Councilors to all look at the same fire laws at the same time and place? If good notes are taken, they won’t be able to claim miscommunication or lack of knowledge anymore. Shit, they just might decide to leave us alone for a few years”.

Another Occupier is not convinced, “I don’t know girlfriend, politicians and government types are a pretty sleazy bunch. Even if they know for sure what all the laws mandate, they’re still gonna try to do whatever they want.” The Occupier tasked with organizing a meeting tells him, “You’re probably right, I know I’m not going to dedicate all my energy into making this happen but I’ll give it a try so the next time a government type says to me, ‘But you need to contact your City Councilor and the DPD and DFD about this’. I’ll be able to show that I already did to no avail.

“My court date has been pushed back to July 26th, 10 am at the St Louis County Court House so I’m preparing for that too. I suppose you’ve noticed that I haven’t put out any meeting minutes for a month, AGAIN”. We have noticed but know the Occupier can’t do more than is humanly possible. “So anyway, instead of sitting home writing up minutes, I went out to the Pow Wow for the day. I found it to be very relaxing and peaceful too”.

The fire pit has been quietly burning for a while, we’re keeping it small tonight because the surrounding air is warm enough already. We’re still doing a charcoal base but we’ve discovered that putting hickory chips on top makes a good flame and we’ve been getting away with it so far. The problem is that hickory chips are expensive and we already have a whole cord of good firewood just waiting to be put to use.

People are happily getting what they need from the food table; we have the usual fixin’s plus a tub of hard-boiled eggs, some fried chicken from a local deli and a bowl of cold rice, fruit, marshmallow and whipped cream salad. Not too bad for a bunch of old hippies and their friends. We notice 2 bicycle cops riding out on the sidewalk, they glance over at us but just keep on riding.

The Anon/W.P. who has 3 children and is 6 months pregnant with another also has a flooded basement. Her partner and some of the Occupiers are arranging to meet early tomorrow morning, go out to her house and spend the day cleaning and fixing things. We all watch each others backs as best we can.

Then we get a big surprise; from the shadows we hear a familiar voice calling out, “Hello, good people”. It’s Spiritual Man! We have not seen him for over a year; we knew that he had left town a while ago but we hoped that we would see him again. He introduces us to a middle-aged woman saying she is his girlfriend. She’s very pleasant and friendly and coincidentally happens to be the grandmother of the youngest of the little girls. All 3 girls run to Grandma for hugs and kisses then she pulls out her makeup bag and begins putting lipstick and what have you on them. They are delighted and look funny and cute with lavender or shocking red lips. Spiritual Man confides, “The first time I met my girlfriend, I was smitten by her gorgeous eyes”. Grandma does have naturally gorgeous eyes.

The Occupier, who reports things, reports, “So we know that MN Power and the City are going to remodel Peoples Plaza. I’m guessing they’ll do that at the same time that they repair the last stretch of Superior St from 2nd Ave W to the intersection right in front of the Plaza. I’m guessing they won’t start until next year but that still means at some point we’ll have to move our fire circle again. I was chatting with Chief Tusken a few weeks ago; he said we should go up the hill to Central Hillside Park and use the fire pit that was built for Duluth’s Indigenous population. Well, I didn’t say anything at the time but I knew the fact that the Chief of Police gave us permission to use the Indigenous people’s fire pit would mean next to nothing to the Indigenous population. However, I thought CHP might be a good idea in the long run so I went to yesterday’s Indigenous Commission meeting and asked what I should do and who I should bring tobacco to. The Commissioners didn’t actually answer my question but instead took a long time praising all the work we do; then they moved on to other agenda items. So I guess the next thing I’ll try is to bring tobacco to one of the main, local Anishinaabe spiritual healers and hear what he has to say. Someone says, “That sounds like a good plan; thanks for taking it on.”

The African American guy who attended a lot of our fire circles back in the days of our fires at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial rolls in; he’s brought a friend, who we have not met in the past, with him. The friend is very hungry and takes seconds on everything we have; this is good because we love being able to feed peeps who would otherwise go hungry, until 7:30 am at least, when the Mission opens for 45 minutes to serve breakfast to those able to get there during that short window of time.

We notice there is a DPD squad car parked outside the Plaza; the officer inside of it appears to be watching us. When he gets out of his vehicle an Occupier exclaims, “Great, now what? I’m so sick of these motherfuckers and their stupid bullshit!” Instead of coming to bother us, the cop walks over to the public easement for vehicles at the western edge of the Plaza. Then the 2 bike cops ride up to the same place. We can’t see them because they are behind some high flower beds; after a while an Anon/W.P. walks over to see what the cops are up to. When he returns he tells us, “Damn! Those cops were surrounding the dude we know from our CJMM fires and were yelling at him and harassing him. When they saw that I was watching them they changed their tune real quick; they started patting the dude on the back and saying how proud they were of him for getting off heavy drugs. I stayed there watching until they took off, allowing the CJMM guy to go on about his business.

An Occupier adds, “Yeah, I’ve noticed police officers change their behavior whenever they notice people filming with their cell phones; they don’t seem to have any shame about doing stuff like that when a bunch of people are
watching. I’m guessing that honor is not a characteristic valued by police departments anymore. Another Occupier agrees, “Yup, you’ve got that right. As for the CJMM dude, if you remember, when he would join our fire circle he would just nod out in his chair. If someone would try to talk with him, he didn’t seem to even know where he was. He never fell out of his chair, or cracked his head on the floor or caused any problems so we just let him be. I notice that since he’s been coming around this year, he still doesn’t have anything to say but he appears alert and aware of his surroundings. More power to him, I hope he’s able to maintain his sobriety”.

A W.P. inquires, “Is anyone going to the Honor the Earth Water Is Life Festival this Sunday?” An Occupier responds, “Oh right, I almost forgot; HTE has asked to be able to use our animal puppets for their Species Parade during the festival. We’ll be loading them up from the front of our building at about 10am; anyone who wants to help with the loading should be at our house before then. People are also needed to march and carry the puppets in the parade”. Several folks in the circle volunteer to take on the tasks.

It’s dark now and more hungry people are arriving but we’ve completely run out of food. Someone suggests, “I suppose we should just pack up now; I feel kinda sorry about not having anything more to feed the hungry folks. So that’s what we do; there are plenty of helpers still around so packing up is easy this evening. We expect to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 6-18-19

G.A. Minutes 6-18-19

It’s no big surprise that we’re back at Peoples Plaza again this evening. We’ve been holding fire circle meetings here every Tuesday evening for the past month but because of all the trouble we’ve been getting from City government, MN Power and all their minions (read street cops) and all the work required to defend ourselves, the Occupier who records stuff has had no time to publish any reports.

The weather is a little iffy but an Occupier checked the weather map before he came down and assured everyone that if it did rain it would be very minor. The sky is lightly overcast, the temperature is in the low 60s with occasional slight and variable gusts. It will be comfortable for our little fire circle tonight, unless it rains.

Of course, the vehicle entryway is blocked by gigantic planted trees again, just like it’s been for the last year and a half (except for winter time which is when we don’t use the Plaza). The Occupiers who bring most of the supplies are delighted to find a young man from the Loaves N Fishes community waiting and ready to help them unload; he carries all the heavy stuff which makes things much easier for the somewhat elderly, supply bringing Occupiers.

We are just beginning to set things up when two bicycle cops from the Duluth Police Department come up the stairs; they’re trying to look cool by riding their bikes right up the stairs. It doesn’t work too well though; the more junior of the cops tips over and lands flat on his face. The Occupier, who generally plays the role of police liaison, pretends she didn’t see the one cop disgrace himself (that’s how cops look at it anyway) smiles and says, “Good evening”. The slightly senior cop responds, “Good evening; you know it’s illegal to have a fire in a city park.” The Occupier has to bite her tongue to keep from saying, “Do you have any idea how many times I’ve heard that stupid ass remark from all you DPD clones?” She doesn’t say that though, instead she answers, “Well actually it’s NOT illegal to have a fire in a city park; no worries though, tonight we are using charcoal”.

The bike cop replies, “Just a minute, I gotta call my supervisor”. He walks off and blabs on his phone for a few minutes, returns and informs the Occupier, “Well, as long as you’re using charcoal your fire is o.k. but you have to get your vehicles off the sidewalk right now”. The Occupier tells him, “Oh yeah, for sure. We’re almost done unloading; the MN Power security guards have blocked us from using the vehicle entryway so we’re forced to park and unload in that little space that is next to the sidewalk”. The cops growls, “Get your vehicles off the sidewalk right now or I’m gonna write you a citation!” The Occupier who brings most of the food and the Fire Magician look at each other and roll their eyes; the Fire Magician gets into one of the vehicles and drives it out on the street and into the nearest parking spot. When he returns for the second vehicle the cops are happy and ride off on their bikes; presumably to right all the other wrongs going on in the neighborhood.

So now we’re stuck having to haul all the stuff that is still in our vehicles from across the street and halfway down the block, this is ridiculous. The LnF guy is unperplexed, he starts hauling all the stuff onto the Plaza. The Occupiers stand and watch him in amazement. One says to the other, “Do you think we could get him to come and live with us? Then we could bring him with us every Tuesday and he could haul all the stuff”. The super hauling guy’s girlfriend shows up just then and the other Occupier opines, “Probably not”.

We know that legally there is no difference between burning charcoal or burning firewood in our fire pit but a couple of weeks ago some cop who showed up with the fire department to put out our fire said to us, “If you were burning charcoal then everything would be o.k.; we wouldn’t have to put your fire out”. We decided to test it out so the next week we made a fire consisting of charcoal and mesquite and were amazed and amused when the cops showed up, called their supervisor and reported that as long as our fire was made with charcoal, we were good to go. That is so f”ing dumb. We’re guessing that some sargent or lieutenant decided that a charcoal fire was permissible and then all the other bosses just fell in line; they probably don’t really want to put out our fire anyway. There is absolutely nothing in any of the ordinances, statutes or fire codes that establishes a wood fire as legally different from a charcoal fire. We don’t know for certain why the MN Power security guards hate us so much; we’re betting healthy doses of classism and racism combined with the currently popular, “He Who Shall Not Be Named is President so we can do what we want” mantra has a lot to do with it. We don’t know if the upper echelons of MN Power actually support what their security guards are doing or if they are just unaware of the true situation. It would not surprise us if the so-called bigwigs are in support; the only thing we do know is that the real reason police forces exist is to protect the rich folks from the rest of us. When the wealthy call on the police forces, the police forces promptly fall in line. In spite of this, we hope to get to the bottom of this mess sooner or later.

We do have one big problem right now though; charcoal fires just don’t cut it. They don’t give off enough heat to keep the folks in the circle warm and they don’t have that wonderful wood fire smell or the snap and crackling sound. Wood fires also serve as an effective focal point capable of allowing homeless and/or street peeps a few hours of feeling safe and relaxed; something they rarely experience anywhere else. So we think we won’t be having charcoal fires indefinitely. To be continued…….

A couple more Occupiers, a Water Protector and her friend, 2 street guys who have visited our fire in the past and a young woman who does not appear to be a homeless or street person join the circle. They’re just in time too; the homemade soup that sits on a small charcoal grill between 2 Occupiers is hot and ready to eat. This evening we are having a cream of potato soup with carrots, celery, onions and spices; almost everyone takes a bowl, some ask for seconds or thirds. It’s also deluxe PB+J sandwiches night, along with our usual killer coffee, apple juice, chips, pickles and cookies.

As we are eating, an Occupier comments, “Hey, do you guys know that the city official is running for a seat on the City Council representing District 3 (this is the district where many of us live)? He just announced his candidacy today”. Most had not heard and comments like, “Whoo Hoo!” and “Alright!” come from all who know the city man. We think he would be the most honest, incorruptible and effective City Councilor our small city has ever had.

A Native street guy who visits our fire, from time to time, rolls up. He greets us by saying, “Aaniin”. Some people in the circle respond, “Boozhoo” or Aaniin”. The guy chats for a bit and then goes on his way. An Occupier asks, “What’s the difference between aaniin and boozhoo?” Another Occupier opines, “I believe they’re interchangeable”. The Water Protector who is Native from Mille Lacs explains, “Actually, it’s deeper than that; aaniin means hello but boozhoo is something different. In our history there are many teachings about a spiritual man named Nanaboozhoo (sometimes Wanaboozhoo) who was sent by The Creator to help the Anishinaabe (human beings). He was a very humble, kind, gentle and loving being; he lived with his grandmother.

“He helped the people in every way for a long time but eventually the people got so used to him that they began to disrespect him and take him for granted (i.e. “Hey Nana! This thing is broken; you need to get your ass over here and fix it!). Nanaboozhoo, being a humble being, tried to just continue helping but eventually it proved to be too much. He packed up his grandmother and left; as he was leaving, he promised the people he would come back some day. Once he was gone, the people missed him greatly and looked everywhere for him but no one knew what Nanaboozhoo was gonna look like when he returned. Therefore, whenever they would meet someone they would first ask, “Are you Nanaboozhoo?” Over time it became shortened to, “Boozhoo?” Now days, when we greet someone with “Boozhoo” we are saying hello but we are also recognizing the spiritual aspect of that person”.

Some of us are familiar with Nanaboozhoo and a few of the many stories; we always love to hear them again though. Suddenly everyone stops talking; somebody gasps, “I think I just felt some rain drops; a few others add, “Yeah, so did I”. The probably not homeless or street woman concurs, “It feels kinda misty on my cheeks”. An Occupier explains, “The weather people said it wasn’t gonna rain tonight; if you look carefully at that little cloud above us, you will see that it’s just a little bit darker than all the rest of the clouds. The other clouds all look perfectly harmless. Once the cloud currently over our heads passes by everything will be fine”. All activity ceases; in silence, everyone watches the small, slightly gray cloud hovering over us and then…….it just moves along and eating and conversation return.

Menagerie Woman rides in on her bike; she tells us that she’s scored big today. She got fired from her job in the morning, walked a couple blocks down the road to another establishment and was hired on the spot. The woman with a houseful of animals reports, “ They’ll be paying me $6 more than I was making at the other place and all I have to do is wash dishes. I think the bosses are gonna be nicer too”.

While we are listening to her story, Chicago Man arrives, he’s followed by a small group of young street guys. Chicago Man appears restless, he’s walking around, talking on his phone and conversing with folks in the circle all at the same time. As usual, he croons to the Occupier who brings most of the food, “Hey Grandma, do you have an extra cigarette?” She gives him one and he kisses her on the cheek. The young street guys are getting coffee and standing in the shadows talking about stuff that young street guys talk about.

The neighborhood retired man stops by; this is the first time we’ve seen him this year so we have to fill him in on all the latest developments. An Occupier begins, “Well, as you can see, the vehicle entryway is still blocked and we’ve been having to fight with the cops again too. Every Tuesday evening since we returned to Peoples Plaza on May 1st, the entryway’s been blocked so we have to park our vehicles up on the little place just off the sidewalk and unload and haul everything up the stairs. As soon as we start unloading, the MN Power security dudes call the police to complain about our impending legal recreational fire and the fact that our vehicles are parked up past the sidewalk. The cops tell us the same, tired, old stuff they were telling us 5 or 6 years ago. You know, like ‘it’s illegal to have a fire in a public park’. Another Occupier picks up the story, “They have a new one this year when we explain to them about all the actual laws that support recreational fires, they say, ‘The laws have changed’”. The neighborhood man exclaims, “What?!?” The storyteller laughs, “I know. We had to try really hard not to laugh when they sprung that one on us.

“We’re hoping to bring this thing to a head this time though; I’m going to court next week to present evidence to a judge showing that our fire is legal and that the Duluth Police Department and the Duluth Fire Department should not be messing with it. I’ve been going to meetings of government people, emailing back and forth with City Councilors and trying to get some attention as to what has been going on here with MN Power employees and us. Tomorrow I’ll be going to have coffee with one particular Councilor who has actually shown some interest in our situation. I’ve been pretty much working my butt off with this since May Day. I’m just trying to prove that our fire is legal; I’m thinking the storm troopers leaving us alone should follow”. Another Occupier sighs, “There you go again, using logical thinking. You know that the City rulers don’t operate according to logic”. We all laugh and the storytelling Occupier continues, “For real; this court thing will be pretty much a thing of good luck or not. The justice system in our country is seriously broken; I think it will mostly depend on which judge I get. I don’t know one from the other but I do know that some judges are more supportive of regular people’s civil rights than others.”

The neighborhood man comments, “Well I’m happy to see that you guys are still doing this thing, you all are performing a service that’s very necessary to this community”. As he is speaking, we notice the 2 bike cops trying to surreptitiously look up the stairs and over the flower beds to see what they can see. Fortunately, neither one of them smacks into a pedestrian or light post while performing their spy duties. The neighborhood man continues to chat with us for a bit and then he is on his way home. As he is leaving, he gives us a generous donation. The LnF guy observes, “It appears that man is your patron”. We say, “Truth”.

An Anon/Water Protector couple, 3 little girls and another W.P. appear. The little girls are always thrilled to be at the fire circle in the Plaza; they have a box of differently colored chalk so they immediately begin decorating the floor. They’re having a great time. Their parents are a little hesitant about letting the kids go on a decorating spree but an Occupier reassures them, “No worries, it will all be gone by tomorrow and besides, who’s gonna complain about little kids chalk drawings?” We know the security guards will complain; they complain about everything.

It’s a little after 9pm, the sun has set and the temperature takes a nose dive. Time to pack up; we expect to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 5-21-19

G.A. Minutes 5-21-19

After being rained out last week, we’re back at Peoples Plaza this evening. It’s been raining a lot over the last few weeks and the weather people predict more rain for the next few days but tonight we’re being given a break. The sky is overcast, temperatures are in the mid-40s and the wind is unbelievable. The weather people said there was gonna be an east wind with gusts up to 40 miles per hour. They were not kidding; the gusts are blowing everything off the tables and knocking over some of the chairs too. We can handle this; we put rocks to hold the table things down and we sit in the chairs. It works; we realize the strong breeze is gonna burn up a lot of wood and sage but…… whatever.

When the first Occupiers arrive on the scene, they find the big guy from the Anonymous crew waiting to help unload the main supplies. Perfect; while the Fire Magician and the big Anon unload supplies, the Occupier, who brings most of the food, scours the flower beds for decent sized rocks. Soon a few others arrive, our small group now consists of a couple of Occupiers, the big Anon, an Anon/Water Protector and her elementary school-aged daughter, the no longer dreadlocked, persistently homeless young man who has attended our fire circles for several years, the African American guy from the neighborhood who drops by from time to time and a street woman we are meeting for the first time.

The Fire Magician lights the fire and the wind joins in, it shoots the flames way high up. The Anon/W.P. and her daughter have brought all the ingredients for the making of s’mores. They will fit nicely with all our usual food offerings; the young girl is having a great time toasting marshmallows, putting the s’mores together and passing them out to all the so-called grownups. This is her first time attending our fire circle; we’re betting she’ll ask her Mom to bring her again.

The big Anon asks one of the Occupiers, “I heard the cops gave you a citation on May Day; so what’s going on with that now?” The Occupier tells him, “Well I’m gonna plead not guilty of course. I have my first court date on Wednesday, May 29th. I don’t think I’ll need anyone to come with me for moral support as I think this will be just a meeting with the prosecutor. I’ll just bring copies of all the ordinances, statutes, fire codes and that type of stuff, show them to the prosecutor and take it from there. Then the prosecutor will say something to try and intimidate me and when I don’t flinch they’ll either dismiss the case or move it on down the line to wherever it goes next. You never can tell with The Suits, some are actually conscientious, professional people who try to be compassionate while following the law and some are mean, nasty, power-hungry sickos who will go to great lengths to get a person to do as they’ve been ordered to do.

“I know I have white privilege so I probably won’t have to do any jail time”. We all laugh and she continues, “I spoke with one of the court clerks the other day and she told me that my the fine for my violation, that in reality was not a violation, is $278. Give me a break! If a financially stable person gets a citation, they generally just pay the fine as it’s more convenient for them but, this is a major way that cops destroy the lives of poor people. They issue citations over really petty things just because they can. Even if the charges are eventually dropped, a poor person still has to show up, on time, to court which is not that easy if one needs to hustle up bus fare or try to get time off from their very low waged slave job. I mean, shit, slave jobs don’t acknowledge an employee’s right to anything. If the employee needs time off for any reason, the boss will just fire them. If the cited person happens to be homeless, they may not even receive the paper in the mail that tells them when they’re supposed to be in court.

“If the person who has been given a citation is unable to make it to court at the assigned date and time, a warrant for their arrest will be issued. Sooner or later a cop will run across the cited person, find they have an outstanding warrant and then take them to jail. That really fucks poor people up; they may miss very important appointments, be unable to pay their rent or have their children taken away by Child Protection Services. All this because, in many instances, some cop wanted to throw his/her weight around”.

A W.P. comments, “I’ve heard that cops have monthly quotas that specify the number of tickets they have to issue”. The Occupier replies, “I’ve heard that too but I don’t know if it’s true. The cops say they don’t have quotas but who really knows? Cops have been known to lie, you know”. An Anon incredulously exclaims, “No!?!?” Everyone chuckles.

The currently cited Occupier sighs, “I’m sorry to have to inform you all that things are getting even more precarious for our friendly little fire circle. I went to the monthly Planning Commission meeting last week because I’d been told that MN Power was going to inform the Commission about a new plan they had related to Peoples Plaza. An MP+L dude was there; he made a presentation, part of which, contained a plan to discontinue the public easement (vehicle entryway to Peoples Plaza) that goes in front of the MN Power building and then turns onto the Plaza. The dude made a point to say they’d be happy to open the entryway for the Christmas tree people and for the Farmers Market. After he was done, I went up to the mic and asked, ‘Well, if the easement is gone, how will all the other people who need to get their vehicles onto the Plaza be able to do that?’ One of the City people put a picture of the three big planters currently covering the entryway up on the big TV screen so I could easily show everyone in the room what’s been going on for over a year now.

“The Commissioners asked the MP+L guy for an answer; I could see that this really pissed him off. He runs up to the podium and growls, “They can ask us and we’ll let them in!” We all say, “Yeah, right”. The cited one continues, “So… now we have more shit that we’ve gotta do! All I can think of is that we need to ask ourselves and our supporters to email ALL of their City Councilors requesting that they NOT ALLOW MN Power to vacate the easement. I think that the official legal name of Peoples Plaza is Lake Superior Park West. MN Power is scheduled to present their marvelous new plan to the City Council on Monday, June 10th, 7pm at City Hall in the Council Chambers. I think we should start the emailing around June 1st. Also, we need to get a few people who are willing to speak to the Councilors in support of keeping the entryway open. I hate public speaking but in this case, I will do it. So, that’s all I can think of; if you guys have better ideas please step up, I can’t do this by myself”. We will all step up but first we need a little time to digest this new information.

Just as we begin our digestion, a group of Duluth police officers accompanied by two Duluth firefighters with big water tanks strapped to their backs come walking up the stairs. An Occupier mumbles to himself, “Oh crap! Not this again!” All the cops and firefighters appear to be just fresh outta high school. The cop who appears to be the lead one tells us (with a straight face), “Before you say anything I need to inform you that the laws have changed; you can no longer have a fire here”. An Occupier needs to turn her face away for a moment so that she doesn’t laugh; she responds, “Oh really? Who told you that the laws have changed?” The tells her, “Chief Tuscan and the City Council”. Seeing the skeptical look on the Occupier’s face, the cop continues, “Hey look, I’m just a grunt; I have to do what they tell me”. Someone opines, “I’m guessing the MN Power security guards called to illegally report us again”. The officer nods in agreement.

The Occupier pretends to empathize, “Oh I definitely get that. I’ve spent a large portion of my life having to bite my tongue while working with oppressive supervisors and such. I’m very happy to be retired”. One of the firefighters begins to absolutely drown our fire. Another Occupier laughs, “You must be trying to make up for May Day when your boss yelled at you for not putting it all the way out”. The fire dude smiles and nods his head to say yes.

The first Occupier gets the name and number of the lead cop, the rest of the cops just stand around like they’re watching some kind of training session. She attempts to get the same information from the one fire guy who doesn’t have a water tank on his back but he won’t answer her. None of the fire guys will admit to being the person in charge. Once the heroic deed is done and all government people prepare to leave, the lead police officer says to the first Occupier, “Thank you for being cooperative”. The Occupier nods her head to acknowledge that she heard him.

After they leave, the guy from the neighborhood interjects, “They sure is some dumb muthafuckas”. An Anon/W.P. groans, “So I guess we just sit here now until it gets too cold or until it’s dark”. An Occupier opines, “We need to find a way to stop this shit. If we just do nothing but jump through their hoops we’ll still be fighting this years from now”. The city official arrives; he looks around and asks, “So, they put the fire out again?!” We say. “Yup”. He exclaims, “This is not right!” An Occupier agrees, “I know, this needs to stop”. The city official and the Occupier step out of the circle; they are formulating a plan. To be continued……

The city official needs to leave as he’s not dressed for the kind of weather we’ve been left sitting in. A couple of young men from Natives Against Heroin stop in; a street woman who has attended our fires,off and on for many years follows close behind. They commiserate about our fire; we offer them bowls of soup. Our soup tastes mighty good in the cold weather; the cops and fire people didn’t even notice our little charcoal grill quietly burning away. The young girl and her mom warm their hands over the hot coals.

The Occupier who likes to report stuff reports, “By the way, the Indigenous Commission DOES want us to bring our fire to the Naming Ceremony at Gitchie Ode Akiing Park on Friday, May 31st at 1pm. Then, Socialist Pizza will happen on that same day at 6:30pm in the Women’s Building”. An Occupy elder remarks, “Imma help do the fire then go home and take a nap so I’ll be able to say something intellectual, if needed, at Socialist Pizza” We all crack up.

It’s getting dark now so we begin to pack up. We expect to be back at Peoples Plaza, with our fire pit, next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 5-7-19

G.A. Minutes 5-7-19

We are about to hold our first recreational fire of the year at Peoples Plaza this evening. As usual, the Fire Magician and the Occupier who brings most of the food are the first people to arrive. They notice that the big tree planters are blocking the vehicle entryway again; this forces them to park their vehicles up on the sidewalk in order to unload all the fire stuff. The food bringing Occupier exclaims, “Oh for christ sakes! The entryway was left open all winter and there were many vehicles driving on and off the Plaza the whole time we were gone. I suppose the MP+L security goons realized we were due to return soon so they ordered some maintenance workers to put the big planters across the entire entryway. The goons must think they’re still in jr. high”.

The Fire Magician replies, “I know, it’s such a drag that we and most of the rest of the people in the world have to fight tooth and nail to have even a few hours of actual freedom in our lives. I wonder why the Human Rights Commission hasn’t addressed our human rights complaint yet; we been waiting over half a year haven’t we?” The Food Bringing Occupier answers, “I think so, they’re meeting tomorrow evening at City Hall; I plan to attend and I’ll insist that they put our complaint next in line to be dealt with”.

So now, the old and battered Occupiers are faced with the job of hauling a shit ton of stuff up the stairs and across the Plaza. If they have to do it alone, it will take them at least an hour just to get everything over to the fire circle area. Never fear, another Occupier, several Anonymous peeps, the city official and many Water Protectors roll up. With everyone working together things get hauled and set up in about 15 minutes.

The weather is cold, cloudy, misty and kinda miserable. Strong gusts from an annoying east wind aren’t helping either. The Fire Magician gets a roaring fire going; that helps a lot. He also sets up a small charcoal grill which will keep a big pot of homemade tomato-rice and vegetable soup warm. A Water Protector/Anon provides a couple of different and very tasty hotdishes to go with all the usual stuff on the tables. There are deluxe PB+J sandwiches, pickles, chips, cookies and our semi-famous “stay awake forever” coffee. It’s early enough in the month that many homeless and/or street people are still relaxing in inexpensive motels or in some cases, drug houses. The few folks, who may not receive small government checks and are still out on the street, join us for a good meal, the warmth of the fire and the friendly and interesting discussion going on in the fire circle… Sweet.

An Anon reports, “In case you don’t already know, there’s going to be a No Line 3 rally right here tomorrow morning starting at 9 am. There will be an Enbridge shareholders meeting going on tomorrow in Calgary so there will be No Line 3 rallies across northern MN and Canada in all the places that are threatened by the planet-destroying Black Snake. The rally here is sponsored by the Sierra Club, MN 350 or Honor the Earth or maybe all three of them, I’m not sure, but I think it means that a lot of people will show up”. All of the fire-worshipers who are able will be there too.

An Occupier in a chair in the circle that faces the street sighs, “Don’t look now but I think we’re gonna have a replay of May Day”. Some W.P.s and Anons say, “What!?!”. An Occupier mutters under her breath, “Oh, fuck!” A couple of very young guys from the Duluth Fire Department come walking up the stairs; they have water spraying tanks strapped to their backs. The Occupier, who reports and records things, gets up and goes to greet them; in the most friendly manner she can muster she says, “Hey guys, what’s up?” The slightly older firefighter responds with the standard but false statement generally utilized by Duluth government types who have no idea what they’re talking about, “You can’t have a fire in a public park; the Plaza is a public park so you have to put your fire out. If you refuse to put it out then we have to put it out ourselves”.

The recording Occupier attempts to explain, “Actually, what you are saying is just not true. One CAN have a fire in a public park under certain circumstances and our fire complies with all those circumstances. Let me show you a copy of the City ordinance regarding fires”. The fire dude is not interested and tells her, “Let’s just wait until the police get here”. As if on cue, 2 cops arrive. The bigger and older officer is one half of a pair of brothers who are both on the Duluth police force; these brothers are the only African Americans in the DPD so they’re kinda famous. The other cop is a much younger white guy that we sort of recognize. Everyone who for various reasons, does not want to interact with the police, leaves the circle and quickly disappears. The older cop is friendly but still says, “People can’t have fires in public parks”. The explaining Occupier states, “I know that is a DFD policy but it is overridden by the City Ordinance, the MN Statute and the International Fire Codes”. She shows the officer copies of all these things; as they are chatting, the Occupier is surprised to see that the cop appears to actually be listening to her.

The older officer opines, “You know, this is really stupid; you guys aren’t doing anything wrong or causing any trouble. Let me call my lieutenant to see if we can fix this”. He gets on his phone; the recording Occupier turns to go back to the circle and sees that the firefighters have quickly snuck in, put out the fire and left. An Anon remarks, “They probably wanted to get back to the fire station so they could eat their dinner”. The big cop returns, looks around and says, “Wow, it’s really cold now; as soon as we leave just start your fire up again. We won’t be bothering you all anymore tonight”. He tells the younger cop, “Go into the MN Power building and tell the security people that this fire is on City property not MN Power property so they have no jurisdiction. Tell them we don’t like it when people call in frivolous reports”.

The cops leave, the Fire Magician cleans up the mess that the fire dudes made and starts up a fire again. Yes!!! Everyone crowds around it; we were all freezing. As the folks who needed to leave begin to come back again, an Occupier jokes to a couple of returning W.P.s, “The Revolution is over, we won and… YOU MISSED IT!” We all think that’s pretty funny.

A 40 something homeless guy, who has attended our fires regularly over the past few years, inquires, “So what happened on May Day?” Someone replies, “Pretty much the same thing that just happened here except there were a lot more people from all sorts of local progressive groups joining in the celebration. The weather was just as crappy as it is now but we had a good sound system, good music, and a big canopy tent over many tables full of food. Of course, we had our fire and a pot of soup heating on the little grill. Some folks went marching around the neighborhood and upon their return, about 20 Duluth cops and some from the Sheriff’s Department showed up. The lead cop was a real asshole. The recording Occupier agrees, “Yeah, he was definitely an asshole. I had forgotten to bring copies of all the relevant ordinances, statutes and codes but I gave him the appropriate numbers and info so he could look it up on his phone. He refused to do so; I asked him to call a supervisor but he refused to do that either. After asking him about 10 times he finally looked up the City Ordinance but then refused to read or interpret it properly. I hate having to deal with blockheads.

“Anyway, he said, “I really don’t want to issue a citation to anyone so if you guys put out your fire yourselves then I won’t have to give a citation to anyone”. We told him we would not put out the fire so he says, “Well, whose fire is this?” We know that game already; if we say it belongs to everyone (which it does) then the cops say that means it doesn’t belong to anyone and they confiscate it. I was the only Occupier who had never been issued a citation for anything up until then so I said the fire belonged to me. The asshole cop asked for my ID; I said I had to go get it from my car so he follows me all the way there. My ID was in my pack in the trunk and I noticed he was looking in my trunk and inside my vehicle. He didn’t ask to search my vehicle though, which was a good thing because I would have said no and we’d probably still be there arguing right now.

“Officer Asshole kinda changed his tune after he looked at my ID; he was definitely middle-aged but I imagine he noticed that I was 10 or 15 years older than him. He began speaking politely and acting friendly towards me but I couldn’t have cared less, he was still an ignorant jerk in my book. So he goes back to his vehicle to write the citation and I went back to the fire circle. The fire dudes had already put out the fire and left but they didn’t put it out completely and it was starting to flame up. Everyone was standing around in a circle with their backs to the fire; they were trying to shield it so the cops wouldn’t notice that it was still burning. No such luck, one of the cops noticed and they called the firefighters and told them to come back. When they returned a supervisor stood over a young recruit, instructing him exactly how to put out the fire. Hello? I doubt that anyone would need instructions on how to put out our little fire.

After that was done we were all freezing our asses off; the Anons still had their sound system on and a really rocking hip hop tune came on. The singer said ‘fuck’ every once in a while so Officer Asshole turned it off, saying, ‘you can’t play that vulgar language in public’. That caused one of the Anons to blow a gasket, and he said, ‘What about freedom of speech? What about the Constitution?’ The cops just ignored him and started to leave, then Asshole comes back again and I blew a gasket; I scolded him and said, ‘Now what? Whatdaya want now?!?’ He mumbled something and left.

“The rest of us just sat around for a few more hours, freezing ourselves to death because there was no way we were gonna let the cops think they could drop in and spoil our event whenever they felt like it. Some of us came down with colds from sitting in the cold, rainy weather for so long but that’s a small price to pay in order to defend our right to freedom of assembly and all that. I’m gonna take the fucking citation to court, plead not guilty, present all the laws that protect our fire and see what happens. I’ve already turned in a request to view Asshole’s body cam footage and I’ll file a complaint with the Citizen’s Review Board too. The so-called ‘powers that be’ are not gonna get off easy this time. So anyway, that’s what happened on May Day”.

Another Occupier adds, “Yeah, May Day was quite a fiasco this year. I had to go pick up my kids so couldn’t stay around for the freeze your ass off part but damn! There sure were a lot of cops that day; most of them were just standing around sorta not knowing exactly why they were there. It was only Officer Asshole running around trying to make a big deal outa nothing.

“I wasn’t able to make the 1 Year Anniversary of the Husky Oil Refinery Explosion and Fire event; how did it go?” A W.P. states, “It went really well, a good bunch of people showed up at the former Enbridge building that’s across the street from the jail and County Court House in Superior. Winona LaDuke was there too with the big Honor the Earth decorated bus and many HTE folks. The local media was there and some of us gave speeches and interviews about how Husky needs to get rid of that hydrogen fluoride tank and replace it with something safe”. An Anon interjects, “Better yet, they should close down the refinery and get the hell offa our land!” The W.P. agrees, “For real. So once the rally was over everyone took various modes of transportation out to a boat landing in East End; I think it was on the Nemadji river. It was nice and quiet; the Occupiers had a fire going and some food and coffee. Peeps from the Honor House showed up with a big pot of soup and a chocolate cake; one of our good traditional friends from the Fond du Lac Rez brought a bunch of tipi poles and showed everyone how to put them up and take them down.

“After a while one cop showed up but he was acting all laid back and chill”. An Occupier concurs, “He was, wasn’t he? I went over to chat with him; he was a sergeant or something. He said that he got a frantic call from his supervisors demanding that he get out to the boat landing right away to see what we were up to. He told me, ‘I don’t see what the big deal is; you guys have a rally or something, speak your mind to get your message across and hopefully get on TV then you leave and go on about your business and we go on about our business too’. He went on to tell me about members of his family who had worked for Husky or Enbridge and then came down with serious illnesses. Apparently, anyone who gets a job working hands-on for Enbridge has to sign a waiver promising not to sue Enbridge after they retire. Most of the retirees come down with some rare and deadly type of cancer within a few years of retiring. He also confided, ‘I’ve noticed that all the Enbridge people are just TERRIFIED of you guys’. As he left he said, ‘A lot of people are gonna be really pissed about you guys being here. After all, this is where the teenagers come to have sex’.

Everyone laughs. The Occupier who reports things reports, “They’ve finally officially decided when the Naming Ceremony for Gitchii O’de Akiing Park is gonna be. Friday, May 31st at 1 pm; I still don’t know if they want us to bring our fire or not. I’ll find out in plenty of time to be ready, I hope”.

It’s getting late and we think we should pack up; tomorrow morning at 9 am will arrive very soon. Some of us live a little ways outside of Duluth and will sleep over at the houses of those of us who live nearby so as to make it to the event at the Plaza on time.

We start packing up; once the fire is put out, we realize just how really flipping cold it is outside. So even though most of us are already tired, the cold air gets us moving quickly. We expect to be back at Peoples Park next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 4-16-19

G.A. Minutes 4-16-19

It comes as no big surprise to us that we had one last (hopefully) blizzard before spring truly kicked in this year. The Great White North played host to around 5 inches of new snow during the middle of last week. Wonderful. The entire city shut down for at least 24 hours; driving or walking around was a complete mess for at least 2 days. However, temperatures remained in the +20s and as far as we know, none of our homeless ones froze to death. An Occupier couple reported that once it became possible to see out the windows again, they saw a big, fat robin sitting on a snow covered branch. They said, “The poor little guy was sitting completely motionless with a small pile of snow on his head; he didn’t look very happy”.

This evening, when the first Occupiers, Water Protectors and Anonymous crew arrive at Coney Island, it’s still light out, the sky is clear, temperatures are in the upper 40s with little wind. The snow has melted on all the sidewalks and streets and much of the ground too; the only white stuff left is in the big piles the snowplows left when they plowed the streets and every day those piles get smaller. So that means only one thing; spring has actually arrived for sure now. That’s true isn’t it? Well, ISN’T IT?

We all say hi to the staff guys, place food and drink orders and head to the back of the large restaurant; we find the research activist, one of her friends and an Anon waiting for us. Once we get settled, a Water Protector quires, “So what did you all think about the Say No to Hate event at the Central Hillside Community Center last Saturday evening?” Everyone thinks it was a good starting event and we hope that all the genuine caring and good energy that was present at CHCC a few days ago, will turn into effective concrete action. An Occupier comments, “It was decided by general consensus that there would be another No Hate meeting this upcoming Saturday. All the attendees were supposed to receive an email telling us what time this next meeting would be starting; has anyone heard anything yet?” We all say, “Nope”.

About a week and a half ago, a white supremacist (s) put posters advertising a national white supremacist group all over a park just outside of downtown Duluth. Once the word of this insult got around the Twin Ports area, most people of color and many so-called white people were quite upset. Hence, the creation of the “Say No to Hate” event. This despicable white supremacist ideology has plagued the world for over 500 years; it serves as one of the tools used by the 1% to keep various groups of people divided from each other. The concept of white supremacy is deeply ingrained in American culture and present in many parts of the world. White supremacy is ingrained in American institutions, sometimes in ways so subtle that most so-called white folks don’t even notice; most people of color do notice though.

So anyway, this is not the first time white supremacy has challenged our city. This is not the first time that well-meaning community members have gathered together to try to address the issue. In the past, community members have held a couple of meetings, then the leaders get involved in other things, meetings fall to the wayside and the so-called white folks just go back to their daily lives; white supremacy gets put on the back burner until the next racist incident occurs.

People of color don’t have the option of putting white supremacy on the back burner; racism is continuously present in their daily lives. During the Say No to Hate meeting, a person of color said to the predominately white group, “We want you all to take care of this. You know ‘your people’ better than we do besides, we’re tired; we deal with this stuff all the time and it takes a toll both physically and emotionally on us. We need you all to step up”.

The Occupiers, Anons and Water Protectors all hope that the aforementioned community members do step up; we will assist them. We know we can’t take the lead, our plates are already full; also, a lot of the so-called white community members and some of the people of color are afraid of us. They’ve watched or read too much of the major media’s misinformation and lies about us. If we tried to take the lead, the only people who would show up would be the people who know and work with us already. We continuously do anti-racist work between the white and persons of color in our groups already. White supremacy needs to be eradicated throughout our community and throughout the world.

An Occupier remarks, “While we’re on the subject of racism, did you all hear about the hockey riot on Saturday night?” Some of us have heard, others have not. The Occupier continues, “Well, the UMD hockey team won some sort of important hockey game on Saturday night and the fans were very happy about it. They began to take over parts of Canal Park, they were extremely noisy and rowdy. The Duluth Police Department closed down the street for about an hour, somebody knocked over a big light pole and one person was arrested for being drunk. That’s it; the cops did not put on their riot gear”.

Another Occupier reports, “I saw some of those rioters that night; I stayed after the No Hate meeting to help the main organizer clean up. I went out on the back porch to have a smoke; I heard, then saw, a large group of well dressed, white, jock type young men stomping down the sidewalk on the upper side of E 4th St. They were obviously drunk and hollering about what bitches women are. I dipped into the shadows so they wouldn’t see and possibly target me. I had no idea what they were about but thought it very strange to see such a sight in our neighborhood. It’s a good thing they didn’t wake up any of the neighbors; they may have had some real trouble then”. We all laugh and the Occupier continues, “When I gave the main organizer a ride home about a half an hour later we came across another large group of young, white guys doing the same type of thing. That’s when I found out about the hockey game”.

A Water Protector tells us, “They were over east in my mom’s neighborhood too. She said they were tipping over garbage cans and making a general mess. She turned off all her lights and stayed quietly hidden in her house hoping they didn’t come into her yard. She said this was not the first time the young hockey fans rioted”.

The first Occupier states, “There’s actually a moral to this story, see if you can guess what it is. So I heard this story from sort of a big shot woman who holds a leading position in one of our city’s most important NGOs; I’ve observed this woman’s work for several years now and I have no reason to believe she would tell me anything that wasn’t true. Anyway, she said that a few days before or after the hockey riot event, there was a problem up at Woodland Hills (a local company that provides residential and so-called correctional services for so-called delinquent teenage boys from all over the state. These boys are, more often than not, children of color). A couple of the boys were fighting and the DPD was called; 21 cops showed up! Once the fighting was over the cops charged one guy with “inciting a riot”. So what do you think is the moral of this story?” An Anon exclaims, “That Duluth police officers and a large part of the people who live in Duluth are racist as fuck?!?” The storytelling Occupier smiles and says, “Very good; you may go to the head of the class”. We all laugh.

The smokers go out for a break and while they are outside, a group of 5 or 6 young people come over to talk with them. The young ones appear to be an equal mix of males and females and are dressed in the same casual manner that most of the innocent kids in our neighborhood prefer. They tell us they are on a Scavenger Hunt and wonder if we can help them. First off, they need a quarter which a Water Protector promptly produces; they just need to take a picture of the quarter with their cell phone. Next, they need a 1978 penny; the smokers dig through their pockets and coin purses. They find plenty of pennies but none from 1978. The smokers and the youngsters go inside and ask the rest of the group; the staff guys even empty the stash of pennies from the cash register. No luck. Among the hundreds of pennies that all the adults produce, there is not one from 1978. The kids go off down the street; an Occupier opines to another, “There must be something different about pennies made in 1978; they’re probably a collector’s item”.

Somebody asks, “So it might be time to start up our recreational fires at Peoples Plaza again pretty soon, doncha think?” The Fire Magician responds, “Yeah, you’re probably right; I drove past the Plaza yesterday and noticed that almost all the snow has melted. The vehicle entryway is completely open too. We don’t have enough firewood to last for the whole season but we have enough for a start. Our wood people have more wood for us but they live up north in the woods and there’s still so much snow there that they can’t get their splitter and all the other stuff out of the garage. Let’s get through the Husky Rally in Superior on April 27th and the May Day event at the Plaza on May 1st and then we can focus on starting up our fires”. We say, “Sounds like a plan”.
A few of our Water Protector friends tried to hold a Water Walk somewhere in Michigan; it didn’t turn out very well. They were very innocently attempting to carry a vessel of water while walking and praying for the recovery and health of Lake Superior and of water everywhere. When they began to walk on the sidewalk of a big bridge, they were surrounded by a bunch of Michigan cops, cuffed and put in jail. They stayed in jail for a couple of days while we and other allies rushed around trying to gather money for their bail.

They’re all out now but they’re charged with all sorts of ridiculous, felonious things. They’ll be stuck going back and forth to court for months and months and it will cost a lot zhoon (money). It’s quite unfair seeing as all the charges are false and they weren’t doing anything wrong or even illegal. We think they were just in a very redneck area while looking like hippies. Are they terrorists? Well, no…… A terrorist hippie is a very rare thing indeed.

On the other hand, a Water Walk is a thing that is supposed to be sanctioned by the elders of the Water Walker’s tribe. The route is carefully planned and allies living along it are notified that the Walker should be passing through around some particular time. There’s lots of other stuff that we don’t know about that must also be done. We don’t think that our Indigenous friends and other allies made all the proper preparations before starting off. Of course, we will try to help them throughout their ordeal but we think it just goes to showya, real Indigenous ceremonies have a lot of power so their protocols should be seriously followed.

The Occupier who lives in Superior tells us, “I think I’m gonna be on the local TV news later tonight or tomorrow. I went to that open house sponsored by Husky Oil earlier; I brought my oldest son with me; we’re both scientifically inclined and the reporters interviewed us both. I wanted to say something about our despicable mayor but I had no way to fit it in”. An Anon/WP wonders, “So what’s up with your mayor?” The Occupier explains, “Our mayor, Jim Paine, really betrayed us. After last year’s explosion he issued a demand that Husky Oil remove its hydrogen fluoride tank and replace it with a chemical that has been proven to be much safer. He’s recently changed his tune; he and Husky cut a deal whereby the City of Superior receives a certain amount of money for each gallon or some other measurement of oil that Husky pumps out of its refinery. The total payment promised comes to at least a million dollars”. We think that means Jim Paine puts a value of one million dollars upon the lives of the more than 100,000 people in the Twin Ports that will be killed when the hydrogen fluoride tank explodes. That doesn’t include all the trees, plants, earth, birds and animals that will also be toast. WTG, Jim.

The lights flash off and on again. Time to go; we pack everything up, including the 3 little girls who are becoming regular attendees at these Coney Island soirees. They have been so intent coloring and sculpting that we almost forgot they were here.

We expect to be back at Coney Island next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 4-2-19

G.A. Minutes 4-2-19

It appears we are being freed of dangerous icy sidewalks and streets, 6-foot high snow banks that are close to impossible to see or climb over and freezing temperatures that keep those of us who have homes, trapped in them until the cabin fever makes us desperate enough to risk contracting hypothermia. We are all hoping and/or praying that this thing (aka winter) will pass early this year. It will be very good to have April showers bringing May flowers for once.

When the first Occupiers and an activist walk through the front door at Coney Island this evening they see a very large group of people sitting at all the tables in the midsection of the space. An Occupier exclaims, “Wow! I wonder who all is here; I was thinking we weren’t gonna have hardly anyone at tonight’s meeting”. Upon closer inspection, they realize the large group is a working-class family celebrating someone’s birthday. In the very back of the restaurant, where the Occupiers and their accomplices usually sit, they spy just two Anonymous/Water Protectors waiting for them. They expect that a few others will roll in as the meeting progresses.

When everyone has ordered their food and settled in, an Occupier asks, “So what did you all think of the Ende Gelande event last night?” Ende Gelande means Just Stop in German. All who are present this evening were also present at the event which featured some organizers from Germany, who were participating in a Resistance Tour throughout the U.S. The activist, who was one of the lead organizers of the event, comments, “I hope it went well; I was doing the childcare so didn’t get to participate”.

A Water Protector responds, “Things did go well and I learned a lot but I think our situations are different. They organize one or two gigantic events a year while we organize three or more small events each month. The German organizers are focused solely on stopping coal mines while we’re focused on pipelines, sulfide mining, murdered and missing Indigenous women and relatives, anti-capitalism and lending support to other like-minded groups. However, both of our groups definitely are into stopping the plundering of Mother Earth, fighting against climate change and saving the planet for at least the next seven generations. Despite our differences, we are all on the same page”.

An Occupier adds, “I thought it was way cool how they were amazed at our concept of being connected or part of the land where we live. The German dude said they and all the people who they organize to come and block the passageways of coal mines are from the cities; they are fighting for clean water and air and to halt climate change but the thought that they are connected to the actual land that they live on just never occurred to them”. An Anon agrees, “Yeah and he said they will never be able to use words like Mother Earth because they’re too close to words like Fatherland and Motherland and their horrifying history with Hitler and such. I hope they come back again someday; they’re pretty interesting peeps”.

The Occupier who reports things reports, “Speaking of organizing, these guys (she nods toward the Anons and the activist) are organizing an anti-Husky Oil Refinery event in Superior on Saturday, April 27th. An Anon also reports, “Right, we’ll start at 4:30 pm by rallying in front of the Douglas County Court House (Hammond Ave and Belknap St) then march through town and over to the boat landing on the Nemadji River for a feast at 7 pm. The main focus of the event will be the hydrogen fluoride gas tank that Husky is unwilling to remove from the refinery site and replace with something safer. I mean, wholly shit! If that hydrogen fluoride tank explodes like it almost did last year, the entire Twin Ports area would be blasted into smithereens in a matter of minutes. Our signs will say stuff like No Husky, No Hydrogen Fluoride Gas”. We all plan to participate in the event.

An Occupier informs us, “I joined in with a bunch of peeps from Natives Against Heroin last Sunday for a cleanup of some of the Central Hillside neighborhood. We had about 20 folks from the neighborhood; some of the N.A.H. folks from Minneapolis and the Fond du Lac Rez came up to help too. It turned out to be kind of a fun afternoon. The activist asks, “Did you find a lot of used needles?” The cleanup Occupier tells him, “I didn’t find any but others found some; I was working at the intersection of W 4th St and 1st Ave W which generally is covered with them. I think the Needle Exchange people were out around that area a day or two before our cleanup but I bet that if I went there tomorrow, syringes will have accumulated again. A WP sighs, “That is so sad”. The Occupier continues, “Yeah I know, this opioid epidemic destroys the lives of addicts and non-addicts alike. Anyway, so once the cleanup was done I stayed and hung out in the parking lot with some of the Native folks. The men were cracking me up; the initials for Natives Against Heroin are NAH/nah. They had some signs and T-shirts that said Just say nah; you know, like Nancy Reagan’s sorry ass slogan of Just Say No. They’re going to do another cleanup soon; I’d advise you all to come and help because it’s helpful for the neighborhood and fun too”. Another WP adds, “I was there too; the weather was so warm and beautiful. I was sorry that I had to leave early”.

The reporting Occupier has more to report, “The date for the Gitchie-ode Akiing Park Naming Ceremony has been changed to Saturday, May 18th starting at noon or 1 pm. I’m betting the weather will be real nice by then”. The activist cautions, “I sure hope so; it’s always a problem trying to have outdoor events because there’s never a guarantee that it won’t rain. Fortunately, John LaForge is going to allow me to borrow that gigantic tent of his for the Naming Ceremony and for May Day too”. We all say, “Cool”.

Someone reminds us, “Well, the City is gonna start major street repairs on April 8th which will probably continue until just before winter starts again. There’s a big sign outside of the Electric Fetus that says repairs begin on April 8th; I wonder how that’s gonna affect our ability to get in and out of Gitchie-ode Akiing and Peoples Plaza. An Occupier who lives in Greysolon Plaza tells her, “There’s an identical sign outside of my building at Superior St and 3rd Ave E. I think that they’ll be working from just east of Lake Ave to 3rd Ave E. The Plaza should be no problem and there’s a back entrance to Gitchie-ode Akiing; I haven’t checked it out yet but I will”.

An Anon exclaims, “I am so excited for May Day!” We are all excited but we know there’s going to be a lot of work needed over the next month or so to make it happen. The older folks are hoping the youngbloods in the assemblage will step up and take charge: the gray-haired ones are best at maintaining the fire and the food. That said, the Anons and the activist move into a separate booth to discuss May Day plans and duties.
The rest of us get into a discussion about the many new anti-protest laws being proposed across the country, especially in states that have new pipelines about to start construction. We are still deep in conversation so everyone agrees to head over to a private home. The lights all politely flash off and on and we take our cue.

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

G.A. Minutes 3-19-19

G.A. Minutes 3-19-19

It appears that spring may be arriving early this year; the temperatures have been in the high 30s-low 40s for the last week or so. The snow is melting, even the gigantic piles of it are shrinking. Most people have shed their arctic gear and have switched to spring/autumn attire. It’s definitely abnormal weather for the month of March.

When the first Occupiers, activists, Water Protectors and Anonymous crew arrive at Coney Island, someone remarks, “Wow! This weather just rocks; if it keeps on like this we may be able to start our fire circles at Peoples Plaza in a few weeks. An Occupier sort of agrees, “It sure does look like it, doesn’t it? However, many years of past experiences has taught me that March can look all sweet and mellow but just when you relax it allows a blizzard to pass by and dump 3 feet of sloppy wet snow on you. The weather in March is unpredictable; we should probably wait a bit longer to be sure that winter is finally over”. An activist, who has also been around the block a few times, adds, “That stuff about March going in and out like a lion and a lamb is a fallacy too. March will do whatever, wherever it wants; there’s just no telling”. An Anon/WP exclaims, “Yeah and now that we’ve entered the age of Climate Change, all sorts of ‘once in a lifetime’ shit is happening on a regular basis!”

A WP/Anon has brought her 3 very young daughters along this evening. When they’re not whining or fighting they’re wonderfully cute and charming. We know these kids already as they have hung out with us at many venues. We always try to limit the amount of swear words we use when the little girls are around but we aren’t very good at it. “Old habits die hard”? We know that fighting among siblings is mandatory in capitalist culture but swearing while fighting is still frowned upon. When one is poor, there is always a social worker or two lurking in the background, just waiting for an excuse to take one’s children away. Especially if one happens to be a Person of Color. We grownups need to get our shit (whoops) together.

An Occupier asks everyone, “Did anyone see the video of our Indigenous WP friend explaining about the Water Walk that they and a few of our other Indigenous WP friends will be starting in a few days?” Almost everyone responds, “Huh?” or “No I haven’t, what’s up with that? The Occupier opines, “I can’t remember everything but I think they are going to walk the southern shore of Lake Superior from Cloquet and the Fond du Lac Rez to somewhere in Michigan. It will probably take a long time.”

An activist wants to know, “So what exactly is a Water Walk?” A WP attempts to explain, “Well, you know that in Anishinaabe culture women are considered to be the caretakers and protectors of water. A Water Walk is an ancient Anishinaabe undertaking where a woman or many women of Anishinaabe heritage walk along the shore of one or more of the so-called Great Lakes while carrying a container of water and praying to the Creator for the health and protection of the water. The Walk is beneficial for the lake waters and for the persons doing the Walk too.

“I think this particular Walk coming up may have something to do with the fact that Josephine, the famous and deeply spiritual First Nations water walker, passed away very recently. I suppose you all know about how the colonizers tried to unleash genocide against all Indigenous people in the western hemisphere?” We do and the WP continues, “After they killed as many of us as they could, then tried to starve us to death on reservations then kidnapped our children and forced them into boarding schools where they were regularly beaten and raped and stripped of any knowledge of their culture and language and then forced to relocate into the colonizers cities, most of us had lost considerable knowledge of who we really were. In my opinion, it seems like First Nations people from so called Canada managed to hold on to a little more of the true ways than many of us in the so called USA.

Anyway Josephine, who was fairly advanced in age when she passed, was taught about water walking by the older women in her family. Over time and without deliberately seeking any attention for herself, Josephine helped the tradition of walking and praying for the water become a renewed tradition among Indigenous nations who live in areas that contain significant amounts of water”.

An Occupier adds, “I met Josephine a few years ago at an event at the FDL Rez. She struck me as a very wise and humble person. An Anon cries out, “Well damn! I mean heck, my main focus is on anarchy but any and every part that any person of honorable intention plays in the struggle is welcome in my world”.

An Occupier reports, “Our friend, a local freelance organizer, is attempting to organize an event for May Day (Wed. May 1st) at the newly officially named Gitchi-ode Akiing Park (Grand Heart Place). He wants us to bring our fire pit and stuff. Another Occupier responds, “Well ya sure, providing he gets this thing off the ground, we should certainly bring our fire and stuff”. The reporting Occupier answers, “Our friend has organized some very effective events over the years, it wouldn’t surprise me if this May Day thing is successful”.

One of the activists remarks, “So the City finally approved the name change of what was previously called Lake Place Park?” The Occupier tells her, “Yup, they did; it only took them 5 years”. We all say, “5 YEARS!?!?” The Occupier continues, “The Indigenous Commission made the official request to the City 5 years ago; after that, the Commissioners had to attend a bazillion meetings with rich people. They got asked some pretty stupid things too but managed to keep their composure throughout. Like at, I think it was a Chamber of Commerce meeting, some privileged white guy asked, ‘Well if you get a name change, will we still be able to go there?’ Somebody else asked, ‘Will you be able to protect us if we go there?’

“So anyway, there’s going to be a Gitchie-ode Akiing Naming Ceremony at the park tentatively set for Saturday, May 4th starting around noon. They want us to bring our fire”. We all say, “Cool”.

An Occupier, who has been absent for many months because of health issues, cruises in. We are overjoyed to see him. After all the usual hugs and pats on the back, the newly arrived Occupy interjects, “Do you all know about the big explosion and fire that happened a few days ago in a petrochemical plant outside of Houston, Texas?” We nod in the affirmative. “Well as usual, the major media is not telling the whole truth. That plant had many of the same chemicals in it that were present in the Husky explosion and fire last April in Superior, WI. During that whole time Husky Oil said there was no danger from any of the smoke and fumes coming from the refinery but they still evacuated thousands of people. In Texas, the Intercontinental Terminals Company is also saying there is no danger and they haven’t evacuated anyone. All the people who live in the highly populated area are just staying home, sucking poison into their lungs”. An Anon says sarcastically, “Oh sure, when a major corporation says that everything is o.k., we should certainly believe them”.

A WP reminds us, “There’s gonna be a dinner with the Valve Turners this upcoming Sunday at AICHO, 5pm”. An activist queries, “Valve Turners?” The WP laughs, “You know, those Catholic Workers who shut off one of the valves on Enbridge’s old Line 3 pipeline up around Grand Rapids”. The activist also laughs, “Oh yeah, that’s right; I do know that. I think it will be a pretty cool event; Catholic Workers are so inspiring”. Everyone plans to attend the dinner.

Someone wants to know, “So what’s up with the warming center these days?” The Occupier who is a member of the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition informs, “It’s closed for the season now unless the temperatures” plunge into the deep freeze again”. We all shutter and say, “Eewwww!”

Suddenly, all the lights are flashing off and on. We stop talking and look up; it’s just a little before 8pm and the staff guys want to go home. No problem. The little girls are very tired and need to go to bed anyway. We do all the packing up, paying up and final goodbyes then head out the door AND we don’t need hats or gloves. We expect to be back at Coney Island next Tuesday.