G.A. Minutes 10-22-16

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

G.A. Minutes 10-15-16

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

G.A. Minutes 10-11-16

G.A. Minutes 10-8-16

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

G.A. Minutes 10-4-16

G.A. Minutes 10-4-16
Mother Earth has decided to be lenient with us.  She’s allowing us to experience one last late summer evening even though it’s the beginning of October.  We’re not going to complain.
We’re at People’s Plaza again.  Temperatures are in the high 60s; it’s getting dark already but we can still see the partly cloudy skies.  An occasional soft breeze tickles our skin.
As we set up, we notice someone has taken some of the benches that belong in the Plaza and made a skateboard ramp that goes down the stairway.  Judging from the way it’s lined up, a competent skater could pick up speed going down the ramp then fly between the two big planters and end up a far ways into the main street.  Cool.
A not so competent skater would smack into one of the big cement planters.  If he/she were lucky, they would only break their board.
An Occupier asks, “Do you think we should put the benches back where they belong?” Another answers, “Nah, just leave it where it is.  Someone may be coming back to use it”.
Coma Man stops by; he brings a friend.  His friend is living at a treatment center and Coma Man is walking him back to the facility.  Coma Man appears to be almost completely sober.  They get some coffee, chat for a moment and go on their way.
Next on deck is Menagerie Woman.  She rides up on her bike and reports, “I have some time to share with you all before I go to my regular Tuesday night movie”.
The Fire Magician starts up a medium sized fire.  That’s probably as much as we’ll need tonight.
The not so new anymore Occupier says, “I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to get any concessions from the 1% is through economic boycott.  Others agree. Another Occupier adds, “The top criminals in our economic system are the banks”. Everyone agrees with this also.
Someone comments, “There’s already been talk among many of our allies about shining the spotlight on the banks again”.  A discussion about what types of actions would be effective in accomplishing this mission ensues.
An Occupier has to leave early.  She asks, “Seeing as I have to leave, will you refresh my mind as to what’s coming up during the rest of the week?”  Another Occupier obliges, “Well, the SURG meeting is going on right now.  I think it’s at Peace Church.  Tomorrow is Take Back The Night.  It’s up at UMD this year and starts at 5:30pm.  On Thursday, Socialist Action and other women’s rights activists will be chalking the area in front of the Woman’s Center.  Friday is the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NDN Taco Sale. It will run from 11am-2pm at the Washington Center.  Everyone should go to the NYS entrance to the building.  Saturday we’ll probably be back here.
The first Occupier exclaims, “Wow, that’s a lotta stuff.  I won’t be able to do them all but I’ll be sure to order tacos for myself and all my co-workers on Friday.  I’ll see you guys here on Saturday”.
The Superior Occupier arrives.  He tells us, “There was shooting of a young man by the police yesterday in Hayward, WI.  The only reason I know about is because I was in Hayward today.  I haven’t seen anything in the news”.  He goes on to talk about the many ways the media misrepresents reality.
Someone remarks, “Do you know that the reason we have fluoride in so many things is because some rich dude in the 20s or 30s had a shit load of fluoride left over from mining?  He got some pretend scientists to say fluoride was healthy for teeth.  He then got a bunch of government entities to put fluoride in the water supplies.  He solved his problem but we still have the problem of way too much fluoride in our bodies”.
Another reminds us, “Our friend, the Fond du Lac wigwam maker says, “Our elders used to tell us that someday we would be buying water.  We laughed; we thought they were crazy.  So what are we doing now…buying water”.
A skater dude has been sitting in the dark over on the corner bench for some time. When he gets up to leave an Occupier calls out, “We have coffee, juice, hardboiled eggs and cookies.  You’re welcome to take some if you like”. 
The dude answers, “A cup of coffee sounds real good”.  When he comes to the table we notice that although he has a skateboard, he’s not at all a young man.  It appears he’s closer to the age of some of us.
He asks if he can sit with us by the fire and of course, we invite him into the circle.  He tells us that he is 44 years old and has been homeless for 14 years.  He says, “I camp out even in winter.  I’m addicted to the freedom.  I don’t have a mortgage or any bills.  I still go to work every day because I’ve always worked.  I’m a single parent and I raised my daughter until she became an adolescent, then I sent her to live with her grandmother so she could learn all those woman things.  I’ve been sober now for 2 years and 10 months.  My friends and my daughter say they like me much better this way”.
An Occupier informs the group, “I have a chance to go to Standing Rock.  If I decide to go, I’ll be leaving on Friday morning”.  We all think this is wonderful and we encourage him to go.
A chronically homeless man who has visited our fires for many years drops in.  He’s a mellow, laid back guy; we’re pleased to see him again.  He’s also very streetwise and regularly entertains us with survival on the street stories.  This evening he explains how one can stay at a board and lodge, check out after a week and still receive one’s small government benefits for the month.  We can see that knowing the things he knows are a matter of life or death in the homeless world.
A big, fancy black truck pulls up to the curb on Superior St.  Someone yells, “Hey, you better put out that fire!”  It’s 2 of our allies from INM/NWA.  They’ve come to pick up leftover ingredients for fry bread.  We’ve been storing these ingredients for them since the last taco sale.
The fire is beginning to die when a former editor of the Northland Reader appears.  He is acquainted with several of the Occupiers.  He wants to know what we are doing.  We give him a brief summary and explain that we have been holding fire circles for at least 4 years.  We’re surprised that he is unaware.
The man is now the editor of another local newspaper.  He gets all excited and asks if he can interview us and write an article about us for his paper.  He asks some standard questions and takes a picture of us sitting around the fire.  He then has to leave because he has a jar of live bull head fish in his car.  He’s going to set them free in the St. Louis River.
After the editor leaves, an Occupier comments, “With all his years of experience, you’d think he’d know how to take a picture”.  She nods toward another Occupier who is a talented photographer and continues, “We should have had you take the picture”. Everyone laughs.
The big clock strikes 9pm.  We decide to pack up.  We need to leave on time once in a while.  So the plan is….. No rain, we’ll be at People’s Plaza on Saturday, rain, we’ll be at Coney Island.   

G.A. Minutes 10-1-16

G.A. Minutes 10-1-16
The air is actually slightly chilly when we arrive at People’s Plaza this evening. Skies are overcast, temperatures are in the high 50s and there is a slight, variable wind.  We quickly set up the fire circle; the Fire Magician gets a big roaring fire going.  We move up close and are immediately comforted by the heat.
An Occupier apologizes to the group, “I suppose you all noticed that I didn’t post any minutes from last Tuesday’s meeting.  Sorry about that.  Remember that I was gonna give that young pregnant girl a ride up to the Neighborhood Socialite’s house after we packed up?  Well the socialite was already sleeping.  The young girl didn’t have anywhere else to go except to a family member’s house way the heck out past Gary, New Duluth.
“I just couldn’t leave her out in the street so I gave her a ride there.  I have a daughter of my own and she got herself into a few jams when she was away at college.  She was saved by complete strangers and for that I am eternally grateful.  
“We had to go through tons of road construction and it took forever.  It was at least midnight by the time I got home.  I was tired so I just went to bed.  Too bad because it was kinda fun sitting around the fire in the light rain at our last meeting”.
Our first visitors are the multiracial couple who are staying at the CHUM.  Although they have more than enough money to pay all the expenses required to rent an apartment and they have clean backgrounds, they are still having trouble finding a landlord who will rent to them.
The couple has brought a few friends from the CHUM along.  The men are engaged in an animated conversation about video games.  We have no idea what it’s all about; they are talking about the characters in the game as though the characters were actually real people.  Whatever.
A pair of Native young men come up.  They ask permission to get snacks, smudging before they take food.  It appears they are in a romantic relationship. They take seats.
We had noticed the partner of the Stylish Native Woman sitting toward the back of the Plaza when we arrived.  We waved to him knowing to just leave him alone. We know he sometimes needs space and will stop over when he’s ready. 
The partner now comes over and gets some juice and a sandwich.  As he takes his seat we see he looks absolutely exhausted.  He falls asleep sitting up.  After a while he gets up and leaves.  He’s unable to talk tonight.  We think he knows that we understand.
Someone mentions Standing Rock.  It turns out that the multiracial couple is well aware of what’s going on there.  They take turns telling us about the evils of fossil fuels, the various types of sustainable energy available and the necessity of protecting and caring for our Mother Earth.  We already know this stuff but it’s way cool to hear street folks expressing this knowledge.
Menagerie Woman and Bush Man arrive.  Bush Man is not drunk this time.  His personality is the same but he’s way laid back and mellow.  This is good.
The city official joins us.  An Occupier comments to him, “We had a pleasantly weird meeting with Officer Lepak last Thursday.  He told us he finds the whole situation just as ridiculous as we do.  He said, ‘Everyone knows that your fires at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial were beneficial to the neighborhood.  All the City departments are in support of your fires there.  All except the CJMM BOD.  I know the BOD has no legal authority over CJMM but somehow they are able to make the police department, fire department and the City Attorney dance to their tune.  I just don’t get it’.
“We told him we’d be happy to go back to CJMM but that we’re more interested in having a community fire than we are in fighting with the cops.
“I wonder if the former CJMM BOD president knows some type of dirt about the City Attorney or the inner workings of the City and is using it to get his misguided way.”
The official man responds, “That’s entirely possible.  It’s a very common thing within government”.  Another Occupier adds, “I wonder if we could file a civil lawsuit”.  The official answers, “I wish you would”.
The Occupier who does basic research says, “Well, I was starting to look for a pro bono attorney before we found out that the City Attorney was going to make new rules for CJMM.  Maybe I’ll have more time once winter happens and I’ll be able to resume my search”.
The city man comments about the young man who was found dead a few blocks from the Plaza.  He states, “The poor young man was a star college athlete and musician from an upstanding African family living here in Duluth.  He had a brilliant future ahead of him.  It’s so sad”.
An Occupier tells him, “The main homeless outreach worker said she had been trying to get him admitted to the hospital the day before.  She said the young man was having an obvious mental health crisis but the hospital would not let him in because he wasn’t suicidal.  She said the man’s death was not a suicide or homicide”.  Another Occupier remarks, “Sometimes athletes have undiagnosed heart problems and things like that.  Then all of a sudden they die”.
Changing the subject, an Occupier says to the city man, “Remember that Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance will be having their next NDN Taco Sale on this upcoming Friday 11am-2pm at the Washington Center.  People will need to enter by the NYS door which is the one closest to 3rd Street.  I think there will be some confusion the first time about how to get there but it’s really not hard to figure out”.
Ms. Community Cleanup comes up the stairs.  She is accompanied by two of the biggest drunks on the street.  We know them well; they’re pretty mellow guys but they sure do drink.  Ms. Cleanup is not drunk.  She tells us, “I’m using marijuana now.  It works better for me”.  The two guys appear to be only half drunk…… for now.
Two other young men appear.  They were attracted by the smell of the burning sage.  They tell us they are from Cass Lake and are in Duluth because they are both in treatment.  They smudge themselves and one guy says, “This is so unbelievably wonderful that you do this for the people.  Thank you very much”. 
The other guy adds, “You wouldn’t happen to have a little bit of sage that we could take with us, would you?  In treatment they don’t let us smudge whenever we need to.  Smudging is the best thing for a person whenever they’re feeling down”.  We give them a couple of handfuls of loose sage leaves.
The city official comments to the group, “The movie Dirt and Deeds in Mississippi is going to be shown on Sunday, October 23rd at Trepanier Hall”.
An Occupier tells about some millennial transgender people who gave a presentation at the U.U. Church.  He tells us that when addressing a person who is gender non-specific one should use the pronoun zee.
Bush Man says, “WTF?  What are you talking about?  A person who is both male and female?”  We say that’s not exactly it but we decline to explain more.  The city official states, “I’m not going to do that.  I will simply address the person as a human being”.  An Occupier groans and another Occupier says to her, “You don’t support gender non-specific people?”  She responds, “No, that’s not it.  I already speak two languages and am trying to learn a third.  I just don’t want to have to learn a gender non-specific one too”.
Someone looks up at the sky and comments, “Tonight there is a Black Moon”. Another adds, “The moon is actually there but we can’t see it because its backside is facing us.  Its backside is the one that doesn’t face the sun.  Also, it’s called a Black Moon because it’s the second new moon of the month”.  Cool.
A man from the Skinner who has been a regular attendee at our fires for years sits down.  He never talks much.  Tonight he says, “So how’s everybody doing?”
Suddenly we hear yelling from out on the intersection behind the bushes.  We hear a male voice shout, “No officer!  Don’t do that!”  Some Occupiers run quickly and peer over the bushes.  They shrug their shoulders and return.  Apparently someone is making a video.
Most of the fire worshippers have gone; only Occupiers remain.  We watch the flames and think about packing up.  A thirty something man who we don’t know sits down.  He asks if he may join us.  When we welcome him and give him some coffee he tells us a sad and very long story.
A condensed version of his story is as follows:  He says he’s from Mankato and is visiting Duluth for the first time.  He was sober for eight years and then he fell off the wagon.  A neighbor convinced him to sell a small amount of meth for her.  It turned out that the neighbor was in trouble for welfare fraud.  She agreed to help the narcs in order to be absolved of her legal woes.  When the dude sold the meth to an undercover cop, he was busted and ended up in drug court.
He was sent to several treatment places and until today had been sober for six months.  He was allowed to take his parents brand new fancy car and bring his girlfriend and his three kids up to Duluth for the weekend.  They went to Grandma’s Restaurant earlier and he had a drink.  On their way back to the hotel, with him driving, some woman crashed into his car.  He realized that he’d had a drink, had his three kids in the car, and then had an accident.  He sort of freaked out.  His girlfriend told him to just leave them all alone and to go for a walk. 
So that’s how he found us.  He says he feels very guilty.  We listen to him for a while then tell him we need to pack up.  An Occupier advises, “If you’re going to keep walking, be sure to stay on this street.  It’s called Superior Street.  Do notgo up the hill onto First Street”.
As we’re leaving an Occupier calls out, “The weather people say it’s going to rain on Tuesday”.  If it doesn’t rain we’ll be back at People’s Plaza next Tuesday.  If it rains, we’ll go to Coney Island.

occupy minutes 9-20-16

occupy minutes 9-20-16

G.A. Minutes 9-17-16

G.A. Minutes 9-17-16
The Occupiers still have not been able to get the brakes on the truck fixed.  The main problem is lack of funds.  They are relying on mechanically gifted friends to get the job done.  The friends are only able to help during the spare time their slave jobs allot.  So fixing the brakes may take a while. 
The Fire Magician is riding with the Food Occupier again tonight.  They arrive at People’s Power Plaza in a little car stuffed to the gills with supplies for the circle. More Occupiers quickly follow; they are bringing things too.
The Occupier who usually does a quick general cleanup of the space is amazed at how clean everything is this evening.  He says, “Wow, they must have had a whole cleanup crew here this afternoon.  Another Occupier laughs and adds, “Maybe that head maintenance dude was embarrassed about what poor condition he and his crew were keeping the Plaza in, especially now that they have regular guests”.
We think it will be a slightly chilly evening.  The sun is down; skies have been covered with dark, threatening clouds all day but no rain.  Temperatures are in the low 60s; a chilly, light and variable wind has caused us to bring our jackets. 
The Magician starts up a big fire right away.  It produces a lot of smoke at first then settles down, soothing us with tall glowing flames.
Immediately a big young man walks up.  We remember him from one of our earlier fires.  He was living and sleeping on one of the benches.  An unassuming middle-aged man who appears to be chronically homeless comes up too.  The two men know each other well.
The city official arrives.  As is not unusual, his dance card is full tonight.  He’s just coming from a dinner event and on his way to hear a speaker from the St. Paul Black Lives Matter group.  He’ll stop and visit for a while.
He comments to an Occupier, “So I heard the Human Rights Commission has been disbanded”.  The Occupier responds, “Well, that’s not exactly what happened.  Apparently, the mayor or whoever is responsible for such things, neglected to inform the current commissioners that their terms were up and that they needed to reapply.  The mayor still has not appointed any new members to any of the commissions so technically, there are no commissioners so therefore, no Human Rights Commission”.
The city man states, “Oh, so that’s what happened.  I knew there was more to the story than what I was told.  Well, considering how government works, this will all be worked out”.
An Occupier changes the subject, “I don’t know how the Water Protectors are gonna make it through winter in tents.  I mean, a winter in North Dakota?”  Another Occupier answers, “Well, they’re not gonna have white man camping tents. They’re gonna have teepees and wigwams.  Those things must be warm.  Native people have been using those structures and living in winter for thousands of years.  I think they must know something”.
The Newest Occupier tells a few stories.  She reports, “I placed a call to the Energy Transfer’s vandalism hotline the other day.  A lady answered and asked me who was doing the vandalism.  I said, ‘Actually, I want to report your company for vandalism.  They sicced dogs on peaceful women and children and ripped up sacred artifacts and graves’.  As I started to explain more, she hung up on me. When I thought about it later I thought maybe I should have asked everybody to call the hotline”.
Another Occupier exclaims, “What a brilliant idea!  Tuck it in the back of your mind for the next time the oil company commits a faux pax”.
The New Occupier continues, “Did you hear what the women of Indiana did when the legislature was trying to pass a bill that said anytime a woman suffered a miscarriage she would be mandated to report it to a government agency and then come in for ‘tests’?  The women called the Governor to report every time they were having their periods.  They’d say stuff like ‘Well, I had unprotected sex and now I’m having my period so do you think I might be doing something wrong?  Just wanted to check in, you know’.  The Governor received thousands of calls. Unfortunately the bill passed so now they’ll have to call all the legislators who voted for the bill too”.
Bench Man pulls out a paper bag.  We look at him quizzically.  He says, “I remember, no drinking in the circle.”  All the homeless men in the circle, except one, take their food and go over to another part of the Plaza to share a drink or two.
Bench Man soon returns.  He tells us he’s from Red Lake and that many of his relatives are out in Standing Rock.  He tells us, “Yeah, the oil company sicced attack dogs on our women and children.  The local warriors went home and got their own dogs.  I don’t think their dogs would be much of a match for our dogs”.
The unassuming middle-aged man who did not go off for a drink smudges himself. He talks about the many places in the Central Hillside where sage grows wildly. He talks about building sweat lodges and wigwams.  He says, “I’m not genetically Anishinaabe but I know their ways.  He tells us he has lived on the streets for 11 years.  The rest of his story is fairly typical of the stories we hear from older homeless men.  He had a wife, family and very good job.  Something bad happened, he lost his job and things fell apart.  He ended up homeless.
An Occupier who is facing the lake exclaims, “Look at the moon!”  We turn and look.  It’s very large and sort of melon colored.  Someone says, “It’s a Harvest Moon”.  We sit in silence for a while, looking at the moon.
An Occupier asks of another, “Did you get that meeting set up with Officer Lepak?”  The questioned Occupier answers, “I did.  We’re supposed to meet him on Thursday, September 29th, 1:30pm at his office in the Transit Center”.  To those who look confused she says, “We’re going to talk about the possibility of bringing our fires back to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.  I don’t really expect anything to come of the meeting but we can’t turn down a chance of going back”.
Another Occupier reminds us, “Remember to give one of those Homeless Folks Pizza Nights flyers to everyone who comes by.  The event will be Thursday, September 22nd 5pm at Trepanier Hall.
“Also, we’re needed to help Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance with some kind of Pancakes Not Pipelines event on Saturday, September 24th at the Hillside Community Center.  I’m not sure what they want us to do yet but I think the event will run from 11am-2pm.  I’ll try to have more info for our next meeting”.
The male from the couple who have been forced to live at CHUM shows up.  He’s on his way to make curfew at CHUM but stops to express his solidarity with the circle.  He remarks, “My partner has decided to spend the night somewhere else. She’s entitled to her choice but I hope she’s o.k.”
A couple of Native hipster kids who we may or may not know come to the table. They are happy that there is good food left.  When they spot the double use salt and pepper shaker that sits by the hard boiled eggs, one of them exclaims, “You guys have really been around the block a few times!”
Ms. Community Cleanup’s partner is on the stairs.  He is with a group of fashionably dressed adolescent boys.  They all have skateboards.  The partner is attempting to do some tricks.  It appears that he was once a real skateboarder but he’s much older now.  He seems to have lost his touch.
The middle-aged man quietly comments, “You know those kids are just watching him and waiting for him to take a bad fall so they can laugh”.
The man then tells us a story about watching ducks.  He points over across the street to a tree in front of the Lake Place entrance.  He and his former wife watched a mother duck build a nest in that tree and lay her eggs.  They watched her sit on the eggs and they talked to her a lot.  Eventually she got to know them and the sound of their voices.  The mother duck hatched eleven ducklings.  The man talked about how cute it was when he and his wife would arrive and call to the mama.  Eleven baby ducks would come popping out from under her.  They watched the first time mama took all the ducklings to the lake.  Only four of the babies actually made it to the lake.  The others died of various mishaps during the trek over the property of the humans.
The city official returns.  He says the BLM speaker was fantastic.  An Occupier remarks, “We were all wishing to attend his speech but we found out about it too late.  We’d already promised everyone a fire, so couldn’t change horses in the middle of the stream”
Another Occupier says to the official, “So what’s up with our local BLM Chapter?” The city man smiles knowingly and replies, “I think we’re about to hit the streets”.
We should be thinking about packing up but instead, we get a visit from the grey haired woman.  We haven’t seen her since springtime.  She laughs, “I finally found you!  I’ve been looking for you forever!”  We know we told her dates and times to look for us the last time we saw her.  We also know that the grey haired woman’s short term memory is basically toast   It doesn’t matter though.  Given the small area of town that she covers and the fact that everyone knows her, she gets along just fine.
We sit around chat, laugh and tell jokes with the woman of the grey hair.  When the big clock strikes 9:30pm, she and the city official help us pack up.  We give her times and dates again but we know we’ll just see her when we see her.
We hope to be back at People’s Plaza on Saturday.     

Red Warrior Camp is reported though social media to have issued a call to action alert, urging everyone to come to Standing Rock.

Update 201609140338 Red Warrior Camp is reported though social media to have issued a call to action alert, urging everyone to come to Standing Rock in a good way.  All kinds of supplies are needed.  If you can go, bring enough for yourself and more to share.



G.A. Minutes 9-13-16

G.A. Minutes 9-13-16