G.A. Minutes 9-11-18

G.A. Minutes 9-11-18 Apparently it’s summer again, at least for tonight. When the first Occupiers arrive at Peoples Plaza the temperature is in the high 70s; the variable breeze that keeps us comfortable all summer has also returned. Sweet.

After consulting with the Occupier who brings most of the food, the Fire Magician decides to make a fairly good sized fire. That way we’ll still get the pleasure of smelling the smoke and watching the flames; if we make a big circle no one will become overheated.

The only person who is waiting to help the Occupiers upon their arrival is the Native old school skater and occasional Anon dude. He’s not drunk either; we’ve never seen him sober before. He’s a little older than most of the people who ride skateboards but he’s still young enough to easily haul out all the chairs and stuff and to begin setting everything up. Soon another Occupier and several peeps from the Anonymous crew roll up; the whole scene is together in a few minutes.

When we entered the Plaza we noticed a big brown guy with a full head of long, black curly hair yelling loudly at two young women. He screams over and over, “I want my money back!” The two young women just sit there on the east ledge, they don’t appear to be saying anything. The yelling guy doesn’t appear to be fixin’ to hit them; he’s just pacing back and forth hollering about his money. After a while the larger of the two women comes over to our circle and plunks down in one of the chairs; she exclaims, “I don’t havta listen to that shit!” This very blonde and voluptuous young woman has attended many of our fire circles this year. She works the overnight shift at a group home and drops in at Peoples Plaza most evenings before catching the bus to her job. The big brown dude is still yelling at the small young woman who remained listening to him; we’re told that she is his girlfriend. Marvelous. We figure we’ll keep an eye on the guy and if it looks like he’s gonna get violent, we’ll intervene. The chairs in the circle fill up quickly, those filling these chairs include four of the usual Occupiers, an equal amount of Anons, the city official, the tattooed occasional Anon and the Stylish Native Woman and her partner.

The Anons all go out to the protest corner to see if they can get a lot of support from the cars and passersby. The reactions they receive seem to vary from week to week.

An Occupier comments to the city man, “Oh good, I’m glad you stopped by before going down to Carmody’s for your fundraiser”. She gives him a donation from the group.

Street folks begin appearing as soon as the Food Occupier starts putting a few things on the table; she has to ask them to wait until she gets everything put out. There’s a big pot of bean with vegetable soup heating up on the little grill, the table has stay-awake-forever coffee, apple juice, cold water, pickles, chips, cookies, two pans of delicious goulash cooked by an Anon/Water Protector and….. “Oh crap!” says the food bringing Occupier, “I forgot to bring the hard-boiled eggs!”

Another Occupier hops in a vehicle and drives a few blocks up the hill to retrieve them. The very hungry street folks crowd close to the table; as soon as the Food Occupier gives the signal, they absolutely descend on the food. The hotdish is gone in minutes, the rest of the banquet in a few minutes more. In their haste, one of the starving ones knocks the sage and smudge dish to the brick pavement; it shatters into little pieces. The Occupier thinks to herself, “Oh no, I hope it’s not going to be ONE OF THOSE NIGHTS”. One of the Native people in the circle advises, “That broken dish will need to be buried somewhere”. The food Occupier packs up all the pieces and will bury them later in her garden. As for right now, she will have to use the dog water dish for a sage holder. Fortunately, so far this evening, there have been no visitors from the canine world.

Once the famished peeps get their provisions, most go off to the various ledges surrounding the Plaza. Things settle down and the Occupier keeping an eye on the table replenishes most of the food so all the just normally hungry folks can eat something too.

The Occupier who is a single parent has been working out of town for most of the summer. He’s back in town for the school year and attending his first meeting in several months. He asks, “I sent out a post about a proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution a few days ago, did any of you see it and if so, what did you think?” Many of us saw his post; someone responds, “Hell yeah, that’s a very good idea. Congresspeople should be required to obey every single law that all regular citizens are required to obey, no exceptions. We already pay them a lot of money and all most of them do for it is to follow the commands of the 1%”. An Occupier adds, “Yeah, it is a very good idea but I believe the problem is that in order for a constitutional amendment to become law, it has to be ratified by most of the states. I think that means that most of the congresspeople in each state have to vote for it. I don’t imagine the corporate whores are going to vote in favor of anything that takes away any of their perks”. We all shake our heads at the absurdity of it all.

An Occupier postulates, “I think all of ‘He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named’s minions are in serious competition to come up with the most idiotic, ridiculous idea or policy imaginable. I hear that DeVos (secretary of education) wants to use taxpayer education money to purchase guns for public school teachers. That way, the teachers will be able to defend the students when a crazed shooter shows up at their school. Great idea, aye?” Another Occupier chuckles, “I wonder what kind of disability benefits teachers will get when they accidentally shoot themselves while practicing stopping an imaginary crazed shooter. Hell, the teachers could partner up and shoot each other then they could both get a vacation.” An Anon remarks, “Well if the teachers are gonna be carrying guns, I wonder what will happen to the kid who never does his/her homework?” Sometimes you gotta laugh just to keep from crying.

The Occupier who has been out town for the summer asks a Water Protector/Occupier, “So what’s the latest news about your charges from doing that Wells Fargo lockdown?” The questioned Occupier tells him, “Well, the judge has accepted our “necessity defense”. He said that he definitely knows that climate change is real but he wants us to show him why disrupting Wells Fargo business will aid in saving the planet. We were denied a jury trial but will be having our actual trial in front of the judge on Wednesday, October 10th at 9 am. The returning Occupier opines, “Showing all the bazillions of dollars that Wells Fargo has invested in the fossil fuel industry shouldn’t be very hard to prove, I think”. The Water Protector/Occupier responds, “I know, that’s what everyone says”.

Changing the subject, the Reporting Occupier reports, “The annual vigil and press conference for The Woman Who Tells Good Stories will be held next Monday, noon, at the Central Hillside Community Center. We all hope to be there; we need to keep the story-telling woman’s memory alive as someday the truth will be found.

Chicago Man drops in. An Occupier exclaims, “Dude, we haven’t seen you in several weeks; I was beginning to get worried about you”. Chicago Man pantomimes “I can’t talk” and points to his throat. Apparently, he has a sore throat. He starts whispering to folks but gives up and starts talking anyway. We know him to be a very talkative person.

Of course, Fireproof Man shows up again; he may be planning on becoming a regular guest. He starts talking in his “word salad” language and the Yelling Man from the east ledge, who has been yelling off and on throughout the evening, starts yelling at Fireproof Man saying if he doesn’t stop talking his “word salad” language, Yelling Man will beat him up. Wonderful. As Fireproof Man stands at the table getting coffee and stuff, the partner of the Stylish Woman walks up to him, calls him by his given name and they start having some type of conversation. We are all amazed. An Occupier thinks to himself, “Oh, this is great; The Partner understands Fireproof Man. The Partner could be our clue to unraveling the mystery”.

A young street man, who we’ve not met in the past, is trying to pour himself a glass of apple juice. He’s a little shaky but he succeeds; he comments, “This is me without drugs. I haven’t taken any drugs in three days”. We congratulate him and he goes off into the shadows. An Occupier asks some of the street folks sitting beside her, “Was he talking about prescribed drugs or recreational drugs?” One of the folks replies, “It could be recreational drugs; there’s been several big local drug busts recently”. The other street person adds, “It could be prescribed drugs too. Doctors just give people new drugs and send them on their way; there’s very little in the way of monitoring going on. Both prescribed and recreational drugs can really fuck you up if not monitored correctly”.

An Occupier confesses, “I’m really confused about all this social media monitoring going on these days. Where does one draw the line between freedom of speech and hate speech? I want to be able to easily express my opinions but I don’t want to hear rantings from fascists and Nazis and such. However, I’m guessing that my freedom of speech is dependent on a Nazi’s freedom of speech too?”

Chicago Man chimes in, “I saw a Nazi once. It was back when I was working the night shift at the big box store. A big guy wearing shorts came walking through the door. He had a big swastika tattooed on his leg. I said, ‘Oh no honey, there is no way I’m going to interact with this guy’. I told my co-worker that I had to go to the bathroom and I hid until I knew that the Nazi was gone. I am seriously afraid of that shit”.

Another Occupier reports, “Remember when the porta-potty across the street got removed and I said I would be talking to a person from the City about it? Well, I did and it turns out she’s a personal assistant to the mayor. Anyway, she said the mayor is willing to put up another potty in the area but she wants the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition to choose the next spot. I went to the HPB of R meeting a few days ago and we came up with a list of eight possibilities”. The HPB of R Coalition Occupier reads off all the possibilities on the list; we think that one of the spots behind Pizza Luce’ or the one at the entrance to Lake Place Plaza, directly across from the Norshor Theater are the best choices. The Occupier continues, “I emailed our choices to the City woman yesterday, now she’s gonna see what spots are actually owned by the City and get back to me on that. I hope the whole process doesn’t take too long because a potty that’s easily accessible in the Peoples Plaza area is very much needed”.

Someone remarks, “I wonder why all these flags are flying at half mast; it can’t be John McCain because he’s already been buried”. An Anon tells him, “It’s 9/11. Today is the anniversary of 9/11, you know, the Twin Towers and all that”. We all say, “Oh right! We can’t believe that we’d forgotten”.

Most of the street folks have gone off now, the rest of us are just chillin’ around the fire. The young, schizophrenic dude with the blonde, spiked haircut rolls in, only he doesn’t have blonde spiked hair anymore. It looks like he’s letting his hair just grow out natural; it’s still kinda short but it lays down on his head and is kinda red-brown. Anyway, he doesn’t say much, just gets whatever is left on the table and sits quietly listening to the conversation. He has the same big goofy grin on his face as per usual.

We hear an ambulance come roaring down the street; an Occupier states, “I believe that’s the first siren we’ve heard all night”. Another Occupier answers, “Come to think of it, I think you’re right”. Hmm… Many evenings we have sirens blaring back to back all night long.

As we are packing up to leave we hear yelling coming from the east ledge again. This time it’s the small girlfriend of Yelling Man; she’s screaming something and chasing the formerly spiky blond guy around the ledge. The young dude is yelling at the top of his voice, “BUT I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING!” We know that the no longer blond schizophrenic dude has become quite streetwise since he got kicked out of CHUM at the beginning of spring. We’re gonna let him handle this one himself.

Some of the Occupiers and Anons will go over to the Occupier couple’s home for a bit of R&R before calling it a night. We plan to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 9-4-18

G.A. Minutes 9-4-18
We’re having some pretty strange luck these days or else the weather people enjoy making fun of us. Last Tuesday they told us it wasn’t gonna rain and we ended up getting soaked while attempting to have a fire circle outside in the rain. This Tuesday they told us it would most definitely be raining all day and night so we came to Coney Island. The rain stopped around 3pm and although it’s been looking like it’s gonna start up again any minute; there is not and has not been even one drop of water from the sky. We imagine there are street folks at Peoples Plaza who are waiting for us but we are not at all prepared to start a fire now. Bummer.

The staff guys actually remember us and seem pleased to see us; they even remember what our usual food orders are. We have almost two booths worth of people consisting of three Occupiers, four people from the Anonymous crew and one city official. The city official is organizing a fundraising event for the trip to the Legacy Museum. It will be held at Carmody’s Irish Pub in downtown Duluth from 6 pm ’til around 8:30 pm on Tuesday, September 18th. We’ll probably be holding a fire circle at that time; an Occupier comments, “We’ll have to send someone down there with a donation”. This time of year we have to take everything one week at a time. Last year, winter closed our fire down in mid-October; some years it doesn’t arrive until late November. We just don’t know; apparently, the weather people don’t know either.

The city official comments to an Anon, “Did you see the new entryway at our neighborhood Wells Fargo building?”

The Anon laughs, “Yeah, I did. It’s all encased in glass now. I guess they want to have only one public entryway to their bank; when the ‘terrorists’ show up they want to be able to see them right away so they can close the entryway before the ‘terrorists’ get inside”.

An Occupier adds, “ I went to the Citizens Review Board last week; one of the cops said that the higher-ups in the Duluth Police Department had a meeting with the local Wells Fargo officials concerning ideas for protecting themselves against ‘terrorists’.

Another Occupier suggests, “What a bunch of stupid shit! I don’t suppose Wells Fargo will ever realize that if they’d stop investing in earth destroying activities and ripping off their members, ‘terrorists’ wouldn’t bother them anymore”.

Changing the subject, an Occupier tells everyone, “I’m thinking that it might be a good idea for me to file an official complaint with the Human Rights Department concerning our problem with the Mn Power Company, their contracted security department and the blocking of the public entryway when we need to briefly get our vehicles up in Peoples Plaza so we can unload. I brought a copy of the HR form. As you can see, it’s supposed to be filled out by one singular person and then the person is supposed to present all their witnesses. I could fill out the form if you guys are willing to sign on as witnesses”. Everyone is down with her idea.

The smokers go out for a smoke break; as they are smoking, the retired neighborhood man strolls by. He stops to chat and tells us, “I was down at the Plaza looking for you all and now here you are”. We explain about the confusion with the weather forecasters and make other small-talk. The retired man is still interested in the inner workings of the establishment Democratic party so we can’t go very deep with him. Still, if one doesn’t speak about religion or spirituality, he’s a pretty nice man. If one mentions anything having to with the ethereal world, the retired man goes ballistic. He doesn’t believe in any of that crap and he doesn’t think anyone else should either. So like I said, we can’t go very deep with him.

When the smokers return, they find the rest of the group just kinda slouched in their seats, some with heads resting on their arms. Everyone is tired and meetings at Coney Island are usually less exciting than the ones at Peoples Plaza. The dark, almost rainy day doesn’t help either. Actually, we do need to rest and relax; we’ll be gearing up for the International Climate March on Saturday. It’s being led by the Sierra Club so it’s possible they will be able to turn out a large crowd.

An Anon remarks, “Some of us will be getting together on Friday to make a banner and some new signs for the march”.

The march will form at 10 am from AICHO and leave for the Civic Center at 10:30 am. A rally will happen there and then the march will head out for the Harvest Festival at Bayfront Park; ETA 12:30 pm. We hope to all meet up at Bayfront once the march is finished.

The reporting Occupier reports, “There’s a sort of emergency meeting of the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition at 6:30 pm on this upcoming Thursday. They’re planning an event for later on in the month”.

Another Occupier, who can’t stop yawning, sighs, “Guys I’m gonna have to head out; I can barely keep my eyes open”. Everyone else feels the same way. We don’t have much packing up to do; we just gather our belongings and say goodnight to the staff guys.

As we are about to head out the door, an Occupier asks one of the staff guys, “I hear there was a murder last Thursday right in this general neighborhood?” The staff guy answers, “There sure was. A guy shot another guy and the man who got shot fell down right in front of our door. We called 911 and they arrived immediately but by the time they got him the few blocks to the hospital, the injured man had died”. We all shake our heads in sadness. Stuff like this doesn’t happen very often in our Central Hillside but it does happen. So we’re off to rest and do good things; we sure hope we will be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 8-28-18

G.A. Minutes 8-28-18

Of course, the big tree planters are blocking the vehicle entryway again when the first Occupiers arrive at Peoples Plaza this evening. This is despite the fact that they were moved earlier in the day to accommodate the Farmers Market folks. Fortunately, a group of young ones from the Anonymous crew are already present and waiting for us. They all pitch in and the fire circle set up is quickly finished.

When the Food Bringing Occupier and the Fire Magician were leaving their apartment building up the street they noticed a heavy mist in the air; at the Plaza the mist has become a very light rain. When the Occupiers and Anons hold an impromptu conference about the evening’s plan, as most of us have not brought rain gear, an Occupier opines, “Oh, don’t worry about it. It’s just a little bit of moisture; the weather people say it won’t rain anymore tonight. This stuff will soon pass”. So the Fire Magician makes a big, roaring fire and then a smaller charcoal fire in a little grill. We have a big pot of pinto bean soup that needs to be heated up. One of the Anon/Water Protectors, who is a very good cook, has brought a tasty noodle hamburger casserole too. Along with all the other usual fixins, we’re gonna be well fed tonight.

The Plaza appears to be almost empty of street and/or homeless peeps but as soon as the fire roars up, many appear from wherever they were and take seats in the circle. The Anons gather up their signs and music speaker and head out to preach to the cars; because of the rain, there are few people walking on the sidewalks.

The Native man who used to help with the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance Anishinaabe Taco Sales arrives. He rolls some cigarettes from the tobacco pouch and tells us that his partner has the flu so has decided to stay inside tonight. It sounds like his partner may have gotten into Women’s Transitional Housing in a big building a bit east of Central Hillside. This will be good for both of them; he won’t be able to live there with her but will be able to visit, rest,eat, take a shower and stuff like that. Another good thing is that Taco Man doesn’t appear to be drunk or unhappy tonight. That’s a good sign.

Fireproof Man is here again too; he’s wearing some really strange looking goggles that have yellow lenses. He’s still talking in “word salad” but doesn’t appear to be interested in “becoming One” with the fire. He gets food and coffee and takes off to somewhere else; we have no problem with that.

The city official and one of the Occupiers roll up; they’re dressed head to toe in rain gear. They’re people who know how to plan ahead. The city official is deep into a fundraising drive in order to raise money for travel costs for the group of high school students he’d like to take to Montgomery, Alabama. He and many others would like the students to see the Legacy Museum. The museum is newly opened and is the only museum in the world to show the history of lynching in the USA.

The young man who has recently lost his dreadlocks drops in too. He tells us he has to call his P.O. (parole officer) everyday now. When he calls, he’s put into a type of lottery system. If he wins, he doesn’t have to go into her office and is free for the rest of the day; if he loses, he has to go in and provide a urine sample that is then tested for drugs or alcohol. If the test comes back positive for any of these substances he will be sent back to prison for almost two years. He never knows if he’s gonna win or lose and is smart enough to stay straight just in case. He reports, “I kinda like my P.O.’s system because if I still want to use, I can do that on the weekends. The rest of the time I stay straight; things look really different from this perspective”.

The rain has become slightly stronger; we say, “Oh well……..whatever”. We can afford to do that; we all have homes to go to later where we can take off our wet clothes, take a shower, put on dry clothes and whatever else we see fit to do. The homeless ones can’t do that, they’ll be wearing their wet clothes until the clothes dry on their bodies. That’s a perfect prescription for catching a cold or worse.

Anyway, most of the homeless folks quickly disappear. A few of them run to the Mn Power building where they take shelter under a small overhang at the base of the building. They’re not doing anything, just standing there being protected from the rain. About five minutes later, one of the tall African American Duluth Police Department officers arrive; he doesn’t look too happy. He talks to one of the homeless folks for a bit then leaves. The people attempting to take shelter come over to the fire; we give them hot soup. They inform us that the cop said he was real sorry to have to do it but the Mn Power security assholes had called the police and demanded that the sheltering people be removed from standing next to the building.

Someone exclaims, “You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me!” Shortly thereafter another cop comes walking up to the circle. She seems kinda nervous and softly states, “I’d like to contribute to the next meal you guys put on” and hands an Occupier some money. We tell her thank you and then she leaves. We suppose it just goes to show you, some cops have limits on how mean they are willing to be.

As the homeless people who were not allowed to keep out of the rain eat their soup and pb+j sandwiches, the male of the group sits next to an Occupier and begins to explain himself a bit. He states, “I’ve been watching you guys and your fire for at least a month now”. The Occupier informs him that she has noticed him hanging around the edges of the Plaza. He continues, “I wanted to see what you all were up to, if you were for real. I’ve concluded that you probably are for real. I’m always paranoid about people who come around us out here because they usually have some kind of ulterior motive. I’ve been living on these streets for a long time; people who have houses to live in always tell me that I should go stay at CHUM. Not everybody can stay at CHUM. The Occupier opines, “Yeah, I’ve noticed that sometimes CHUM closely resembles a psych ward”.

The new homeless friend replies, “The best thing we ever had was Graffiti Graveyard. Some people didn’t like to go there because they said it was dangerous. Well, it was dangerous but so what? Veteran homeless people know how to handle that shit. Regular people complain about the fact that there are so many homeless people on the streets. That’s true but Graffiti Graveyard kept a lot of unhoused folks off the streets. The City made a big mistake when they closed it down about five years ago.

The man’s girlfriend is sitting a bit away from the man and chowing down like she hasn’t eaten in a week. The man confides, “I’m trying to take good care of her but she makes it very difficult. She says that I’m going to abandon her but that’s not true; when she says or does stuff that makes me angry I always walk away so I can calm down and not yell at her. I never walk more than a block away and I’m watching her the whole time. If she were to be in danger, I’d be right there. I’m always watching her back. I suppose that you’ve noticed that I have a very deep voice?” The Occupier nods in agreement. “I can’t help that, it’s the way I was born. Whenever I have any emotion in my voice she accuses me of yelling at her. I’m not yelling at her; I’m actually a naturally kind person”.

The Occupier suggests, “It sounds like your girlfriend might have PTSD”. The frustrated man replies, “She’s from a very small town outside of Duluth. I know that her father kept her locked in her room most of the time and that he was very abusive. She’s not with her father now though; she’s with me. She should just put all that stuff behind her”. The Occupier answers, “It doesn’t work that way; people with PTSD can’t just put their past abuse out of their minds. They need to face their past; they need to get therapy or counseling and talk about what happened to them. If they don’t do that, their PTSD just gets worse and worse”.

The Anons return from the corner, they are cold and wet and stand up close to the fire. One of them reports, “Hey, the porta potty across the street is now gone. WTF?” The man who was refused shelter from the rain expounds, “A few nights ago someone stole all our clothes and stuffed them down the hole of the potty”. An Occupier remarks, “How awful! I received a message a few hours ago from my contact in the City Planning Department. It said that she wanted to talk with me about the porta potty on Lake Ave and Superior St. I’ll take a guess that the potty was removed because the porta potty company said they weren’t gonna keep putting potties there only to have them destroyed. I’ll call the City woman back tomorrow and see what’s up”.

An Anon cries out, “That is so sick! Why would anyone want to deny the homeless ones a place where they can go to the bathroom? These damn HWSNBN supporters are seriously fucked up; just because The Moron pulled a lot of dirty tricks that made it appear like he was actually elected to be the president, they think they rule the country now and can do anything they want to”.

An Occupier inquires of an Anon, “I think I’m gonna file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission about the Mn Power Company’s security guards denying us the passage of our vehicles onto the Plaza. If I do that, would you be willing to sign on as a co-complainant?”. The Anon responds, “Yeah, I could do that”.

The Occupier who reports things reports, “Remember that the Anons are having an event, this Friday from 1p-7p here at the Plaza. They’ll be silk screening t-shirts and doing other art stuff. Then, I told you wrong last week; Socialist Pizza is this upcoming Friday, 6:30pm at the Women’s Building”.

We are all thoroughly soaked. All the street people are gone; they’re smarter than us, they’ve gone somewhere to keep as dry as possible. It’s only 8pm but we decide to pack up. We don’t want word to get around that we don’t have enough sense to come outa the rain.

We expect to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 8-21-18

G.A. Minutes 8-21-18

Earlier today when an Occupier drove by Peoples Plaza; he noticed that the yearly Farmer’s Market that always happens in the Plaza during harvest season was in full swing. There were lots of people, booths and fresh produce throughout the space. The big tree planters that have been blocking the vehicle entryway for several months had been moved and there were lots of cars parked up in the Plaza too.

When the Occupier reported this news back to a few others, another Occupier commented, “Oh good, we’ll be able to drive our vehicles up for the fire circle tonight. That will make everything so much easier”. However, no such luck; when the first Occupiers arrive at 6 pm they find the planters have been put back in place in order to block the entryway. Just great…. no one else is there yet so they start hauling and dragging all the supplies up the stairs again. Within a few minutes, the mother of some of the Anonymous crew joins in, one of her sons arrives shortly thereafter. An Occupier asks, “Where is everybody?” The work is difficult with only four people to do it but it gets done; the older folks need to sit and rest for a bit once all the basics are complete.

After the last few weeks of really intense heat, the weather tonight is normal. The sky is clear although a good rain that probably made all the trees and gardens happy came through around mid-afternoon. The temperature is in the low 70s, a soft variable breeze skips through from time to time. As the evening progresses, we’ll possibly need long shirts or light jackets. Maybe summer is fixin’ to move on?

A mid-sized group of Anons roll up; they have signs and their sound system Tonight they plan to put the issue of Abolish Ice and No Human Being Is Illegal out to the cars and people on the street. The American immigration system and everything related to it is seriously out of whack. The 1% types, who caused the problems that the immigrants are now fleeing from, are pissed off because the people who are forced to leave their own ruined countries are now at our borders asking for protection and a job. Go figure. If we didn’t have to feed the people and watch the fire, we’d be out on the corner with the Anons in a minute. One of the Anons contributes a burrito casserole to the table….. Yum! We get some right away; we know it will all be eaten within the next half an hour.

The youngbloods go out to the protest corner; a few street folks, the Anarchist, and the city official take seats in the circle. One of the women who is new to our fire this year but a regular on the street tells us, “Well, I went and moved into a Board and Lodge this week. It’s not the greatest but I just couldn’t take sleeping in the alley or under a bush anymore. I told my boyfriend, that I love him and all that but my nerves just can’t take the stress of being homeless. I think I’ll call him now and invite him down here to join us”.

We haven’t seen the Anarchist in at least a month, he’s been having a few health issues and tells us he’s trying to lose a little weight. We tell him we don’t know where he’s gonna lose it from; he’s pretty much solid muscle. The Anarchist is older than any of the Occupiers or anyone else in the circle; he’s also more physically fit. It probably has something to do with his vegetarian diet and the fact that he rides his bike everywhere that he goes.

The city official asks if anybody has been paying attention to today’s news related to the big investigation into the presidential campaign of He Who Shall Not Be Named. An Occupier responds, “Well, I noticed that something that was supposedly important happened today but I don’t remember what it was”. The city man explains, “Oh, this is really big, it looks like HWSNBN is going to be taken down. His former presidential campaign manager was found guilty on eight counts; he’ll definitely be doing some prison time. Then his former personal lawyer agreed to fully cooperate with the lead investigator so he’ll be ‘spilling all the beans’. It’s very possible that HWSNBN will be impeached”

An Occupier opines, “Impeachment would be nice but then we’ll just end up with the vice president. He’s an insanely evil scumbag too only more subdued and sneaky”. The official man replies, “I think the vice president will be taken down right along with HWSNBN”. Another Occupier adds, “It goes down the chain of command from there. I think the speaker of the house comes next; he’s already announced his retirement. I wonder if he could just refuse to accept the presidency? He’s just as evil as the rest of them but I don’t think he was ever part of HWSNBN’s circus After that, I think it goes to the secretary of state. Oh man, just think of the amount of damage that SOB would do”.

Someone states, “Whoever they get to be the president out of that bunch is sure to be a serious disaster. In fact, almost all the people in the entire congress are a bunch of whores for the corporations. The real problem is that no matter who’s running the show, it’s the regular people living in our country and other countries too who pay the price. Nothing will work properly until we get rid of the capitalist system”. Enough said.

The schizophrenic guy who lives in the Skinner Apartments, the former partner of the sadly deceased Ms. Community Cleanup, the homeless dude with two different hairstyles, the chronically homeless young guy who recently lost his dreadlocks and a young woman who is crying all take seats in the circle. The generally pleasant and friendly guy who’s trying to grow his dreadlocks back tells us that the main homeless outreach worker is helping him to get an apartment in public housing. He expects to be off the street by winter. We say, “This is wonderful news!” An Occupier asks the crying woman what is the matter; she replies, “Oh, nothing in particular, I just need to have a good cry”.

It’s dark now and those that have long shirts and such put them on. We all move closer to the fire. An occasional Anon and his finance’ stop in for a minute. They are waiting for a bus and will sit by the fire until just before it arrives. Many more street folks join in; the chairs in the circle are full so the peeps in the overflow stand around the almost empty food table or behind the chairs. Among the late arrivals are the Stylish Native Woman and her partner; they sit quietly in the shadows. An Occupier sees them and remembers how much the Stylish Woman loves our coffee. The Occupier quickly grabs a cup and pours what is almost the last of the good brew into it.

She brings it to the Stylish Woman who smiles and says, “Thanks, what time are you guys starting the fire this year?” The Occupier tells her they start around 6 pm and the couple make a mental note to get to the Plaza early next week. We know their lives are very stressful and it’s difficult to remember what day it is and stuff like that.

The Skinner Man has been chatting with this one and that one all evening. He tells everyone the same thing, “I have a 40 oz waiting for me in my apartment. I’m not allowed to have visitors through”. As time goes on he begins to describe the type of beer that is waiting; we think his beer is calling to him but he’s enjoying the good vibe and relaxed atmosphere of the circle.

The Anons return from the corner; a Water Protector/Anon reports, “There were a lot more haters than usual out on the street tonight”. They bring their good music with them. Mr Two Hairstyles is out in the middle of the Plaza dancing with a girl who is on roller skates. The food is long gone; everyone is quiet, nodding their heads to the music.

An Anon quires the Occupier who reports things, “So what is going on for the rest of the week?” The reporter responds, “Hmm… that’s a good question. I forgot to look at my calendar before I left home. Off the top of my head, I know that the Citizens Review Board meets tomorrow, 5 pm at City Hall. That’s always kinda interesting in an odd sort of way. Socialist Pizza will be this upcoming Friday, 6:30 pm at the Women’s Building”.

A middle-aged, alcoholic man, who has been on the street and at our fires for many years, appears; we haven’t seen him since our first fires of spring. It appears he has lost quite a bit of weight. The middle-aged man isn’t looking for food or anything; he just wants to speak with one of the Occupiers for a while. He seats himself very close to the Fire Magician and imparts, “I think I’ve made a big mistake, I’m addicted to a drug now. If I don’t have it I get real sick. I don’t like this but I don’t have the courage to change. I want to be like you guys, I want to be a good person and help others”. He begins to silently cry. The Fire Magician offers the man words of encouragement; he says, “I think you’re stronger than you think. You will be able to conquer your addictions”. The tear-stained fellow dries his eyes, replying, “Thank you for listening to me”. He gets up and wanders off.

The Anons are getting ready to leave; we all exchange long goodbyes. There are only a few people around the fire now. A tall, skinny guy, who we have not seen before, walks quickly up to the roaring fire. He looks around as if he wants to see who is watching him; then he sticks his entire head directly into the fire and turns it from side to side. An Occupier yells, “Hey! Don’t do that!” Another Occupier mumbles, “It’s a good thing he has a shaved head”. The fire-breathing dude stands up then plunks himself down next to an Occupier and begins babbling. The Occupier tries very hard to understand what Fireproof Man is talking about but she just can’t get it. He’s talking in what mental health workers call a “word salad”. The most the Occupier can gather is that the guy is or was a firefighter in WI.

A young Native man, who has been spending small amounts of time in our circle this year, arrives. He remarks, “Sorry I’m showing up so late but I was in Canal Park celebrating my 27th birthday”. The birthday guy takes the sage dish and begins to smudge himself; Fireproof Man begins babbling again. Birthday Guy tells him, “Please don’t talk to me while I’m smudging, it’s disrespectful”. Fireproof Man jumps up, runs to the fire, takes a big chunk of red hot, burning embers in the palm of his bare hand and holds it up, posing like he’s the Statue of Liberty. The Fire Magician jumps up, grabs the really big water jug and dumps the whole thing on the fire, dousing it completely. He states, “O.K. that’s it. Time to go home”.

The remaining Occupiers begin to pack things up; Birthday Guy and another guy we don’t know who comes out of the shadows help us. Fireproof Guy grabs the burning sage bundle and carries it like a torch over to the eastern ledge of the Plaza. The Food Occupier exclaims, “Damn! There’s still a lot of sage in that bundle; we can use it again next week”. Birthday Guy tells her, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it. I’ve gotten into fights with dudes a lot stupider than him”. The food bringing Occupier cautions, “Don’t bother with it, man. The guy is obviously very mentally ill; he can’t help what he’s doing. Besides, there’s something not quite right about fighting with somebody because they stole your sage”.

We see the middle-aged, currently drug addicted man coming down the sidewalk. He’s stumbling and has the look of a zombie in his eyes; he clearly does not see us. He squeezes himself into a dark crevice next to the sidewalk and looks unseeingly out on the street. He appears to be very sad.

When everything is packed up and the last Occupiers are heading towards the stairs, a Duluth Police Department bicycle officer comes riding up. He asks, “Is everything alright over here?” An Occupier replies, “Oh yeah, we’re fixin’ to head out now”. The Occupier watches as the cop rides over to the eastern ledge. She notices that all the people who normally sleep under the Plaza trees and bushes are sleeping on the benches under the lights, right out in the open. She remembers the stories she’s been hearing from the street folks about being beaten and robbed while they were trying to hide out and get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.

The bike cop has a brief conversation with Fireproof Man but doesn’t bother any of the sleepers. He rides off; the Occupiers ride off too. They plan to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

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.