G.A. Minutes 8-14-18

G.A. Minutes 8-14-18

When the Fire Magician drives up on the sidewalk outside of Peoples Plaza this evening he finds another Occupier and the homeless occasional Anon waiting for him. Several more Anons and an Occupier arrive shortly thereafter. The Magician explains, “The Occupier who brings most of the food supplies is gonna be a bit late this evening; she had to stop by her polling place and vote in the primary election. We could unload and set up all the fire and circle stuff now so we’ll be ready for her when she gets here”. So that’s what they do.

Then they wait… and wait…and wait some more. After a half an hour or so the Fire Magician exclaims, “Well, I don’t know what’s taking her so long. Our polling place is in the Duluth Public Library Main Branch; that’s just a few blocks from here and she left to go there before I left to come here. I think something’s wrong, I’m gonna call her”. As soon as the Fire Man finishes talking, the Food Occupier rolls up. When she gets out of her car she has a look of frustration on her face; she says, “What a fucking mess! I drove around looking for a way to get behind the library for just about ever. I always park there in the reserved for voters spaces and then just run in and vote. It generally takes about five minutes. I know this road construction stuff on Superior St is necessary but, damn! It must be absolute hell for all the businesses and the people who work in them. Seeing as today was voting day, one would expect that some well paid City official or someone like that would have made sure there were signs or mailings all around our district explaining to people how to drive onto Michigan St behind the library,

“One of the super old ladies, who are always doing the voter sign-in stuff, told me that no one even told THEM what to expect when they tried to access the polling place. That must have been real fun for them; most of those ladies are so hunched over or small that they can barely see over the steering wheel. Imagine what it must have been like to not see very well, to not know
the neighborhood and to be driving down a road, where the earth on either side of you has been dug into trenches big enough to swallow your whole car if you make one false move”.

Another Occupier adds, “Those League of Woman Voters women are tough. I wouldn’t be surprised if the treacherous route to our Central Hillside polling place didn’t have any directional signage on purpose. The Voter Nazis think that if they can make voting difficult to do, we are all so drunk, drug-addled and stupid that we’ll just give up, go sit by the lake and smoke dope. They’re wrong though”.

The frustrated voter Occupier agrees, “The thought of just giving up and coming to feed you all did cross my mind. I’m just too damn stubborn to give up, especially my right to cast my vote, however, I don’t really think that citizen’s votes have much effect on our oppressors. There’s so much corruption in the USA voting system; the politicians are more afraid of the small number of people who make it onto the Forbes 500 Unbelievably Rich List than they are of the billions of people on the earth who suffer greatly because of the actions of the bazillionares.” Someone comments, “Someday that’s gonna change”.

The offended Occupier continues, “So, I ended up parking behind the service vehicles in the parking lot of the Maurice’s Building and walking down a block or so, crossing over Superior St on small wooden planks with railings and humongous trenches in the earth on either side. Once I had run the gauntlet, I found myself on Michigan behind the library. It took less than five minutes to actually vote and then I got to go back to my car; same way back but uphill instead. It was not a lot of fun; technically, at least, I am an old lady. The whole thing was slightly taxing on my body, but what if I were on crutches or had breathing difficulties? I noticed there were a lot of people coming from and going to the voting booths; I wonder how many more would have come out if voting was an easy thing to do?

“Well anyway, I survived and I’m here now; I’ve brought all the usual stuff plus I have deluxe pb+j sandwiches and cold, organic, homemade potato salad with broccoli and other stuff in it. Is anybody hungry?” We all say, “Hell yeah!” and start unloading and bringing all the food up to the table. The Food Occupier always sets up the table by herself so she can get it exactly how she wants it. Her methods have a lot of good reasoning to them but the rest of us like to tease her about being OCD. The bringer of most of the food usually just laughs but she knows we speak the truth.

The weather has been ridiculously hot for almost a week now with clear skies and temperatures in the mid to high 90s. For the past month the weather gods have looked down upon us with favor. Every Tuesday evening as the Fire Magician starts up our fire, they send a strong cooling breeze so everyone can feel comfortable; it’s the same way tonight. Sweet. We’re not sure what we have done to gain the good wishes of these gods but we’ll try to keep on doing what we’re doing and hope their good will remains. Maybe they’ll let us just skip winter all together this year…… um, probably not.

As everyone gets food and drinks and takes a seat in the circle we notice that a few more folks have joined us. Among the new arrivals are several street people, including the guy with two hairstyles, our friend from the neighborhood who works for the cleaning company that cleans the MN Power Building and the city official. There are also many people hanging out under all the bushes that surround the Plaza. The chronically homeless young man who recently lost his dreadlocks crawls out from one of those bushes and fills his pockets with all the good eats. He jokingly says to the street folks in the circle, “Hey what are you doing with my peeps? You need to leave these guys alone”.

Mr Hairstyles is very stressed out; he says his Buddhist practices aren’t working well for him right now. It has something to do with his Baby’s Mama but he can’t sit still long enough to explain. He goes off to find some alcohol or drugs or something; we think he won’t have to go far.

The Occupier who writes our meeting minutes confesses, “Well, I didn’t write any minutes again last week. I went off on my annual three days disappearing act to the Bayfront Blues Festival. I’ve gone to every BBF since it first began; this was my thirtieth year. Now days, I start getting all bent out of shape about it about a month beforehand. Being a musician myself, I’m privy to a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes in our Duluth music community. I know about the dishonest things the owners of the BBF do to the local and national musicians and the blatant money grabbing the vendors are forced to participate in. Going through the security checks seems to get worse every year but once I find a good seat, get settled and start listening to all the top-notch bands play really good music, I go into a hypnotic trance and don’t come out of it for three days. I don’t know if I’m participating in a counter-revolutionary act, or just trying to keep my sanity for the next year”.

Another Occupier reports, “The Mission is going to reopen tomorrow at 7 am”. Everyone nods and smiles; someone remarks, “Oh good! The Mission doesn’t serve really tasty and marvelous food but hey, to be a person who is seriously food insecure and to then be given access to three, sort of filling, meals a day? For free? That takes a lot of stress off of one’s back”.

The city official tells us, “I notice that a couple of new businesses over on Superior St in West End/Lincoln Park were able to have a bus stop removed from in front of their establishments.” An Occupier opines, “Do tell. I suppose the business owners didn’t like all the ‘riff-raff’ standing in front of their buildings?” The city man responds, “I believe that was the idea, yes”. He also informs us, “I’ll be taking a bus full of Duluth high school students down to Alabama to visit the Legacy Museum in Montgomery soon. The School Superintendent says he’s going to come along too.” An Anon laughs, “That will certainly put a damper on the young ones good time”.

An Occupier wants to tell the city official a joke; she says, “So I’ve been watching a PBS documentary about the actual people who live in Iran. A filmmaker from Holland is married to a woman from Iran and they live in Tehran. The wife works as a visual artist while the husband goes all over Iran just talking with and filming regular Iranian people. One day he’s hanging out with a small group of male village elders; one of the elder dudes says, ‘The Koran tells us that when a husband and wife argue, the man must always have the last word. When we are tired of an argument we say to our wife, YOU ARE RIGHT. So you see, in this way, we can always follow the Koran’.” The city man laughs and says, “That’s really funny! It reminds me of my parents”.

Some Water Protectors and more Anons roll up; they bring fruit and a really good zucchini and fresh pepper salad. The conversation detours onto the recent eviction of one of the education and respite camps. Apparently, the cops and other so-called officials waited until the camp was almost devoid of Water Protectors. They then burst in and started threatening and bossing the few remaining campers around. It sounds like some of the higher management types in the DNR have been bought off, somehow or other, by Enbridge. Same ol’ same ol’.

A very thin, middle-age appearing man with a speech impediment states, “I don’t have any choice but I don’t really mind having to sleep outside. Last night though, I was sleeping when I was attacked, beaten and robbed”. We notice that this man is covered with dried blood and bruises. We have not met this male person in the past; before we can ask him questions, he limps off into the bushes.

It’s getting dark now and as usual, most of the street and/or homeless folks have gone off to find a sleeping place. The circle consists mostly of Water Protectors, Anons, and Occupiers; everyone is laughing and cracking jokes. It truly is a beautiful evening; the air is warm, a cool breeze swirls around us while the smell of the fire and the burning sage complete the homemade paradise.

Eventually all the revolutionary youngbloods take off; we’re not sure what their plan is but we know it will be good. They may be the ones who will save us all.

Two remaining homeless young guys volunteer to help the Occupiers pack up. They are quick and efficient; cleanup is done in no time. As the Occupiers who are the last to leave begin to exit the Plaza and get into their vehicles, one remarks to the other, “That yelling was coming from way over on the freeway entrance sidewalk. Two girls were trying to fight with each other and some guy in a red shirt was trying to get them to stop”. As soon as the words are out of her mouth, a young, bare-chested guy comes stomping around the corner and onto the sidewalk right in front of the Occupiers. The Bare Chest Guy has a red-haired girl with him and they are followed closely by a guy in a red shirt. Mr. Red Shirt, who has a very tiny girl with brown hair beside him, exclaims, “I just want you to hear what I have to say!” Bare Chest stops up short and WHAM! he punches Red Shirt real hard. Red Shirt falls to the ground and then……. A whole shit ton of cops drive up with sirens and lights flashing. They completely surround all possible exits from the front of the Plaza and into the street; then they light everybody up with horribly bright spotlights.

Oh, by the way, Bare Chest is white and Red Shirt is black. The Occupiers know how these things generally end; one says to the other, “We’d better hang around here and bear witness or something”. So that’s what they do. There are at least six squad cars, each one containing at least one police officer. Each officer takes one of the so-called participants or witnesses and moves them away from the others for questioning. There are only so many people to question, so the leftover officers just stand around guarding the perimeter or whatever. Then something amazing happens, the cops cuff Bare Chest and put him in a squad, they tell Red Shirt that he is free to go.

The drama is over now but the cops all just keep hanging around, it must be a slow night. An older cop growls at the Food Occupier, “Whose truck is this and why is it on the sidewalk?” The Food Occupier replies, “We had one of our fires tonight and we had to bring it up so we could load up all of our stuff”. She then explains the long sad story about the big tree planter, the vehicle entry and blah, blah, blah. The cop answers, “Well, just because an illegal act has been committed against you doesn’t mean that you can commit an illegal act to remedy it. And anyway, what fire?”

The Occupier is quite sure that she has interacted with this officer at least several times in the past but she decides to pretend that she is stupid so she explains about the Occupier fires that have been going on in public park spaces in the neighborhood for six years now. The cop tells her, “What! You can’t have a fire in a city park without a permit! Besides, the Plaza is not a city park, it’s private property owned by MN Power”. The Occupier calmly and politely refutes each of the cops pronouncements and then some. After a while the cop decides to act friendly, he tells her, “Well, if the Plaza is owned by the Parks Department then they are the ones who would have moved the tree planter. You should be contacting them about the problem”. The Occupier states, “That’s a good idea, I hadn’t thought of that. I’m gonna take your advice”. She then politely reminds him that neither she nor her fellow fire making person can get in their vehicles and leave the premises because they are surrounded by squad cars. The cop answers, “Oh, I think we should be able to clear a space for you”. He telepathically gets some of the cops to move their cars and the Occupiers finally take off.

Cops or no cops, we plan to be back to Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 7-31-18

G.A. Minutes 7-31-18

It’s a fairly warm evening at Peoples Plaza when the first Occupiers to arrive drive up on the sidewalk outside the site. The temperature measures in the mid-80s; the sky is clear, giving the sun free reign across the Plaza. Fortunately, a strong variable wind again this week will make the heat bearable. It won’t take long for the sun to go behind the buildings; then everything will be good to go.

As the first arriving Occupiers exit their vehicles, the food bringing Occupier comments, “I wonder if we’ll have a lot of street folks visiting tonight? I know it’s just about payday for many and seeing as today was the 31st, maybe they got paid today. The Fire Magician replies, “Probably not, under the so called “current administration” poor people get absolutely no breaks”. We know that if the street folks got paid today, most will be off the street indulging in their favorite recreational pastime which could run the gamut from alcohol and drugs to renting a cheap motel room where they can take an actual bath and sleep in an actual bed. You know, stuff that privileged people do every day of the week.

If the street folks won’t get paid until tomorrow, they’ll be seriously hurting. Some will be down to their last crumbs of tobacco and hungry too. Some will stay awake until one minute after midnight; they’ll then be able to get their small monthly stipend, which will be somewhere between $600 and $190, from the Wells Fargo ATM. Either way is fine; we try to take things as they come.

A group of fire circle people come walking down the street; they’re just in time to participate in the unloading and setting up. Of course, everything gets set up like clockwork right away. The helper peeps include another Occupier, the city official, an Anon and a couple of occasional ones, an Anon’s mom, the tall, very tattooed street/occasional Anon guy, two street guys and Lil’ Bear.

After we all get our snacks and take seats, an Occupier says to the city official, “So I hear that Dave Montgomery is gonna retire?” The city official reports, “You heard correctly. Personally, I’m miffed at Mayor Emily Larson because she didn’t fire him shortly after she took office. His type of pro-business, pro-developer philosophy of city administration is incompatible with the mayor’s stated goal of making her administration accessible to regular Duluth citizens and making their needs her priority. The Occupier agrees, “I know you’re right but I think that, given the choice, Emily is pretty non-confrontational. Mr. Montgomery may have been given the choice to retire. Maybe he will get a job working for our former mayor, Don Ness”.

We hear some talking coming from deep under one of the trees in the back of the Plaza. We turn to see that the schizophrenic man who lives in the Skinner Apartments and another man who has his back to us are under a tree smoking a joint or something. As usual, Skinner Man is talking loud enough to be heard all over the space and out into the street. His attempt at hiding is not successful.

Another group of our usual suspects roll up, among them are another Occupier, three Anons, two Water Protectors from Fond du Lac, The Gardener and the homeless guy with two hairstyles. Mr Hairstyle informs us that no one got paid today and that he will be joining everyone who will be staying up until midnight. We notice that there are more people than usual hanging out under the trees and bushes this evening.

The Occupier who works part time on the pm shift at the Mission tells us, “The Mission is going to be closed for two weeks starting tomorrow; they have to remodel the bathrooms”. Another Occupier exclaims, “Oh no! That’s gonna be real hard on our homeless ones. The Mission is the only place that provides three meals a day, seven days a week. The Dom serves a few meals everyday, I can’t remember their schedule right off the top of my head. Whatever it is, there’s going to be a lot of hungry people on the street. It would be nice if some of the churches would get together and provide a few meals over the next two weeks; the problem with that idea is that privileged folks take some time to get moving, they don’t have a lot of experience with desperation and urgency. By the time they would be able to get something together the Mission would be open again. Hmm…. I guess I’ll have to figure out what I can cook that’s cheap and will feed a lot of people on the next few Tuesdays at least”.

This evening an Occupier has made a main dish using the traditional ingredients for Three Bean Salad. About fifty percent of those present inside and outside of the circle take a bowl; the others do not. The food making Occupier whispers to another Occupier, “I forgot that this type of dish is one that people either love or hate. I think we’re gonna have leftovers tonight”. The listening Occupier remarks, “That’s true; personally I love Three Bean”. The Food Occupier concurs, “Me too”.

Several of the Anons have been living and working out at the Healing Souls Camp. An Occupier asks them, “So how are things going out at the camp?”. An Anon sighs, “Oh, I guess you haven’t heard, Healing Souls got closed down today”. We all say, “WTF?” The Anon tells us, “ Even though I was there, I’m not totally sure of what happened. I believe that Enbridge got the ears of some of the Fond du Lac DNR guys. They came out today and ordered the closing of the camp. They said something about there being too many non-Natives living there. That doesn’t really make sense to me”. An Occupier cries out, “Since when does the DNR have jurisdiction over Tribal Government sovereign land? I mean, if the Tribal Council, or whoever they are, ok’d the eviction that would be one thing but I don’t see how that could be. The Mille Lacs Band issued a very strong statement that said they were completely opposed to the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline going anywhere on Mille Lacs land”. The Anon sighs again, “I don’t know the answer to your question”.

A woman who is a resident of the FDL rez arrives; she brings her boyfriend and her two young daughters along. We are all well acquainted with this woman. She states, “Well, we finally made it here in one piece but we have a problem. We have a flat tire; I’d sure appreciate it if somebody would come and help me change it”. A couple of peeps from the circle go across the street to help, the rest of us keep an eye on the daughters; soon we hear a lot of loud banging of metal. It appears that getting the old tire rim off the vehicle is not easy; the banging goes on for about a half an hour then everyone comes back. They’re all smiling; the family has their ride back and the helpers feel like heroes. Problem solved.

Once everyone has returned to the circle, the FDL resident asks, “So who is down with attending the No Line 3 Noise Parade on Friday?” Absolutely everyone raises their hand. She continues, “Well then, I think we need to have a little planning meeting right here”. So that’s what we do; we discuss logistics and who will be responsible for what and who, out of the myriad of other peeps who are not here but are down with the parade, will also be responsible.

The male of the interracial couple checks in; he has two 40 something white appearing men in tow. These men look like they’ve been around the block at least a few times. They all take seats in the circle; within a short time the interracial couple man starts talking on his phone and wanders off. His two friends remain with us, one of them comes over to the table and smudges himself. He tells us, “I’ve always been really drawn to smudging, I think I’m probably Native. Actually, knowing who my father is and where he’s from, I’m pretty sure that I am”. An Occupier suggests, “Why don’t you just ask him?” The man explains, “Oh no, can’t do that. We haven’t spoken since I was ten years old. I saw him hitting my mother and I ran up and smacked him real hard in the face. I haven’t seen or spoken to him since that day” The man also tells us that he is homeless; he says he’s been homeless in the past but hasn’t been so in a long time. When he says he lives in a board and lodge, we think to ourselves, “Well, technically that qualifies as being homeless but he’s not really HOMELESS – homeless, like a lot of the people we know”. Both guys get real excited when we give them a copy of the proposed Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Ordinance. One of the guys exclaims, “This is exactly how things should be. One doesn’t become a bad or evil person once they become homeless. I could tell you some stories about how I’ve been treated since I became temporarily homeless”. We say, “We know, we know”.

A Native appearing woman and her three children arrive; the woman smudges. When she tries to smudge her youngest child, he pushes her away crying, “Ick, smoke! Smoke!” The mom confides, “I wish I would have known that you were here, we would have stopped by earlier”. They hang around for a bit, the kids get a few cookies but then it’s time for them to go. Children who are well cared for have early bedtimes after all.

Another Anon rolls up; “Where is everybody?” he asks. We report that most of the other Anons have gone back to the rez with some of the Water Protectors. An Occupier mentions, “The Water Protector driving the vehicle was missing a headlight so wanted to get back before headlights were necessary”.

It’s pretty late and all the visitors have gone so we start thinking about packing up. Wrong. Wet House Man and a middle-aged Native man who has visited in the past stop by; a young, flamboyantly dressed street woman sits down too. Wet House Man is babbling on about something; the other two folks are very hungry. We feed them and then we start packing up for real.

When we’re almost finished, an occasional Anon and Mr Two Hairstyles come running up. We have no idea what they have been up to but they are famished. We show them where we put out all the leftover food and they dive in.

Now we are really gonna leave. As we survey the entire Plaza like we always do before leaving, we notice quite a few full backpacks and plastic bags laying around the edges of the space. We wonder if they’ve been forgotten or if the people who sleep under the trees and in the bushes have left them there on purpose. We know that if the stuff is left there for very long, someone will come by, go through the stuff and help themselves to whatever they want. We’re just too tired to make a decision so hope the homeless ones are smarter than we are. We actually depart to our homes this time.

We plan to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 7-24-18

G.A. Minutes 7-24-18

The air is pleasantly warm this evening when the first arriving Occupiers drive up on the sidewalk outside of Peoples Plaza. The temperature is in the high 70s and will probably noticeably decrease once the sun goes behind the buildings. A strong, variable and gusty wind should give us very fine weather tonight.

Of course, the big tree planter is still blocking the vehicle entryway onto the Plaza so the Occupiers bringing the majority of the supplies are forced to unload and drag everything up and across to the center of the space again. Fortunately, within a few minutes of the supply bringing Occupiers’ arrival, a bunch of our regular people come walking up; they are all prepared to help with the fire circle set up.

Among the regular folks are the big Native member of the Anonymous crew and the youngest Anon, another Occupier and the city official. Another Occupier and a former Anon and his fiance’ follow close on their heels. The big Anon asks, “So what’s up with the rest of my crew?” An Occupier tells him, “Some of them are out in the country helping to get the Healing Souls Camp up and running. The big guy then asks, “Well, is the Noise Parade still gonna happen this Friday?” The Occupier states, “Nope, that’s been moved to Friday, August 3rd. The big Anon has recently started a new job working the night shift, his circadian rhythms are still a bit off.

Everything is ready except there’s no metal bucket to catch the fire’s burnt embers once it gets to really going. The Fire Magician hops in his truck and runs up the hill to get it. The rest of us gather around the food table to retrieve our preferred snacks and drinks then choose a seat in the circle. The city official reports, “Tomorrow is Bag Day at St. Micheal’s”. An Occupier exclaims, “I just love Bag Days! My entire wardrobe has been purchased during Bag Days at St. Micheal’s” St. Micheal’s is a somewhat high end thrift shop in the Central Hillside. It’s donors are from a more well-to-do area of the city so the quality of the shop’s merchandise is par excellence. The prices are good on any day but on Bag Days one can donate a grocery sized bag of items that one no longer needs; in return, the donating person can take that grocery bag and fill it with any items throughout the entire shop that they find desirable. The cost of the newly filled bag…. five dollars. Cool aye?

The Fire Magician returns in a flash with the fire bucket; he gets a small to medium fire going right away. We don’t really need the fire for warmth right now but it’s nice to watch, smell and listen to it. A couple of young street guys, who we don’t recall meeting in the past, come over. One of them is brown and the other is not. The brown dude takes a seat in the circle while the not brown dude stands, chowing down, at the table. The young man in the circle, who is probably not African American, says, “I remember when you guys used to do this at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. Actually, I don’t think that creating CJMM was a good idea; I think it makes the black people in Duluth feel bad. We don’t need to make them feel embarrassed or ashamed”. We all wait for the city official, who is African American and also one of the founding members of CJMM, to respond. He doesn’t say anything; maybe he’s not in the mood to deal with such a lame-brained analysis? We all figure that if the city official not going to say anything then we’re not going to say anything either.

An Occupier reports, “Socialist Pizza is this upcoming Friday, 6:30pm at the Women’s Building”. The brown young man responds, “What is socialism?” We all try to think of a 25 words or less response; an Occupier begins, “There are many kinds of socialism”….. Chicago Man rolls in. Everyone greets him and he flits around the circle, giving hugs and such.

Seeming to have forgotten his previous question, the brown young man announces, “I’ve been to college; I studied Minority Relations and I think God is a woman”. He then begins to give us a lecture to prove how smart he is or something. He uses lots of big words but doesn’t appear to know the actual meanings of the these words or how to properly use them in a sentence. The question of who or what is God has come up many times over the years in our fire circle; the Occupiers, Anons and others in tonight’s circle give each other a look that says, “Let’s just leave this dude’s conversation alone”. However, Chicago Man bites and begins discussing the question in earnest. When the man from the Windy City starts explaining his personal pagan practices and beliefs, the little brown man and his companion quietly disappear.

The food bringing Occupier has made another summer salad; this one consists of organic whole grain noodles, fresh peas, onions and mayonnaise. When she describes what she has brought, many of the people say, “No thanks, I’ll pass on that”. When she hands bowls of the salad to the few who have asked for some, the others look at the filled bowls and say, “Hmm… I guess I’ll try some after all”. Pretty soon people exclaim, “Wow, this is really good!”. Most ask for seconds, some even have thirds.

A local community activist, retired public school teacher and good friend of the Occupiers joins the circle. She brings grapes, crackers, butter and cheese and sets them on the table. We are all pleasantly surprised to see her as she’s been spending a lot of time living in the Cities over the last several years. The activist takes a seat next to the Fire Magician; they become immersed in conversation about an event she is helping to organize. The event will take place in August and will be centered around the issues of a guaranteed annual income and a $15 minimum wage. A member of the German parliament will be explaining how Germany is handling these issues. We hope to be able to attend.

The middle-aged, brain injured, alcoholic guy who lives at the Wet House bumbles in. He’s attended many of our fire circles over the years; the Wet House guy is a good hearted person but he has a habit of talking very loud and repeating himself a lot. We don’t dislike him but we’ve heard all his stories many times already; his loud voice pretty much takes over any other discussion that may be trying to happen. We find him to be a little annoying however, the Anons and others haven’t met Wet House Man or heard his stories yet. They are speechless with laughter; some are laughing so hard that they fall off their chairs. So majority rules; the Occupiers just sit back and let Wet House Man roll.

A tall, very tattooed Occasional Anon and his small female partner arrive. The Occasional Anon has one of those cylinder shaped music playing things hanging from his belt. He has it playing some kind of pop classical music, after a while it switches to some good hip-hop. The sound is very clear and can be heard throughout the Plaza and the street. It even silences Wet House Man; everyone stops whatever they are doing in order to get their groove on.

Once the Anon and his partner have eaten, they bid us good night and go off to their sleeping place. The music goes with them. A 30 something man, who we have not previously met, stands just outside the circle then goes to sit next to the Fire Magician. Once the man is seated, the big Native Anon tells him, “Hey, I don’t appreciate the way you were rubbing my back. I don’t like anyone touching me without my permission”. The unknown man stands up and screams, “You better shut the fuck up! YOU FUCKING FAGGOT!!!” Then he storms off. We say, “WTF?” The big Anon answers, “Hey, no kidding guys, that dude, who I’ve never seen before in my life, comes, stands behind me and starts rubbing my back the way my girlfriend or other loved one would. I was really shocked and it took me a minute to find my words. The Fire Magician reports, “When the guy came and sat next to me, I casually asked, ‘So how’s it going?’ He started swearing at me and trying to pick a fight”. Another Occupier comments, “Over the course of my life I have occasionally run across a person who really wants some strangers to beat up and humiliate them. I have no idea what that’s about but it is….. soooo weird”. We all say, “For real.”

Several Occupiers volunteered to work at Honor the Earth’s “Water Is Life” Festival last Sunday at Bayfront Park. They recount for everyone the very nice time they had. Someone opines, “There were a lot of people there; I was told that over one thousand tickets were sold. I was working the medical tent but nobody needed any medical attention though I did give out one bandaid. Mostly I was just hanging out, talking to lots of friendly people and rocking with the music. I’m guessing that HTE was able to make a few bucks to aid in the fight against Line 3 and fossil fuels in general”.

Suddenly, we hear and see the young chronically homeless man, who recently had to cut off his dreadlocks, yelling and walking quickly away from the east side of the Plaza. He throws his hands in the air and hollers, “Why can’t you just stop talking?!?!” He stomps around outside the circle for awhile then returns to one of the trees that grow on the ground next to the Plaza’s eastern ledge. We figure that’s the end of that but no…….. flying stuff comes crashing down on the floor outside the circle. We turn to see the formerly dread locked dude pulling everything he owns out of his big pack and throwing it as hard as he can across the Plaza.

We find this to be surprising because every time, over the past several years, that we have interacted with this veteran homeless young man, he’s been friendly, cheerful and content. An Occupier remarks, “So what the hell is up with that?” A 20 something, white appearing, shirtless man with two different hair styles tells us, “Oh, don’t worry, he’s just coming down from a run on meth or something like that. Have you ever been so tired and unable to sleep that even the slightest thing will piss you off?” We say, “Oh, that makes sense”. We know that the angry guy’s street name is a slang term having to do with some of the body language commonly seen in meth head behavior. We never use that name though because the guy’s mother asked us not to.

Eventually the angry guy calms down, picks up his stuff and walks over to Lake Place Park hoping to find a place under a tree over there where he can get some sleep. We empathize with the dude because we are acquainted with the other chronically homeless guy who was sitting on the eastern Plaza ledge yakking away with no consideration for others. The yakking guy has no shut off valve on his mouth; he’s been kicked out of just about everywhere because of this. Unfortunately, Yakking Guy doesn’t have any problem but he thinks the entire rest of the world does.

The young man with the two different hairstyles has been sitting in the circle for a while; this is the first time he has spoken. Now that the ice has been broken, he becomes talkative and tells an interesting story. He tells us that he was abandoned by his birth parents but adopted by a couple who treated him well. He says, “I know who my birth parents are; they live here in Duluth. If I died tomorrow neither one of them would attend my funeral or acknowledge my death in any way. My adoptive father died about a year ago; he was the best man that ever lived. He was always there for me, no matter what. I really miss him”.

The man goes on to describe how he was raised in a small town in MN. Both his parents were very good to him but they were extremely active in a church that, over the years, just scared the shit out of him. He confides, “I have always had some pretty severe anxiety issues and all those commandments and demands from God created extreme stress in me. I mean, Christianity requires that a person be absolutely perfect; if one makes a mistake they must be punished. I just could not take it. Then one day I came across Buddhist philosophy; it really rang true for me. Since I began practicing Buddhism I feel so much more at peace.

The Buddhist man goes on to explain the real meaning of karma and a few other things. He changes the subject by saying, “Being homeless, like I am right now, really sucks. If you guys get that Homeless Persons Bill of Rights thing, I hope you get us a place to shower. I haven’t taken a shower in three days and I feel really grungy. When I try to go into the bathroom any place around here just to wash up a bit, they tell me, ‘If you don’t buy anything you can’t use our bathroom”. I tried to use the shower at CHUM but that was pretty much impossible. Have you ever tried to keep an eye on your stuff so it doesn’t get stolen and take a shower at the same time?”

An Occupier replies, “Oh, we are definitely going to get places to shower, it’s just going to take a long time. But you know what?….. You can take a shower at Dorothy Day House, just knock on the door during the weekday and ask to use their shower”. The man with opposing hairstyles exclaims, “OH, RIGHT! Dorothy Day, I forgot about that. I stayed there for a while a few years ago. I had to leave though because my anxiety was keeping me up all night. They all thought I was taking drugs”. The Occupier laughs, “That won’t matter; when I go there I see all kinds of people coming to take showers. As long as you don’t appear to be planning to kill them, they will let you take a shower. They serve dinner for everyone who shows up at 6pm too”.

The big clock up the hill lets us know that it’s after 10pm. Most of the homeless or street folks have gone off to sleep. The only ones left around the fire are some of the Occupiers, one Anon, Wet House Man, the Buddhist, the local activist and Chicago Man. The Activist and Chicago Man have been chatting for a while; they discover that they both live in the same East Duluth neighborhood. She offers him a ride home and he accepts; off they go. The others do too, so the Occupiers begin the task of cleaning up and putting everything away. Wet House Man offers to help. The Occupiers think to themselves, “Oh no, he will make a mess and everything will take longer”. It didn’t happen that way; Wet House Man is very purposeful and efficient. He makes our job quicker and easier. Once we are finished, the Fire Magician offers to drive Wet House Man back to the Wet House. Everyone else drives off to their homes in order to get some sleep and live to Resist The Man another day.

We expect to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 7-17-18

G.A. Minutes 7-17-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

G.A. Minutes 7-10-18

G.A. Minutes 7-10-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

G.A. Minutes 7-3-18

G.A. Minutes 7-3-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We expect to return to Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 6-26-18

G.A. Minutes 6-26-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We all laugh.

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

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

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

G.A. Minutes 6-5-18

G.A. Minutes 6-5-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

G.A. Minutes 5-22-18

G.A. Minutes 5-22-18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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