G.A. Minutes 5-10-14

Tonight is our 1st meeting of the season back at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. Everything is quite clean. It’s been that way since last fall when somebody moved the big cement permanent garbage container from across the street on to the Memorial grounds.
The evening is mild with temps in the low 50s. The space is empty except for one street woman who we have been acquainted with for several years. We exchange pleasantries and begin setting up the chairs and beverages and getting the fire started. We’ll make a courtesy fire until the sun goes down; then we’ll crank it up for warmth.
Most of the regular Occupiers are present and we take our places, pass the smudge dish around and begin talking while waiting to see what will happen on our 1st night back.
An Occupier reports the mayor’s monthly open office will be on this upcoming Monday at noon. Another says, “Monday at noon? That’s a dumb time. Nobody wants to do anything on their Monday lunch hour”. One more responds, “That’s probably why he chose that time. I doubt he really wants to hear from regular people”. The 1st Occupier says, “Well I’m gonna go. I want to ask him why he hasn’t appointed the new applicants to the City commissions. He was supposed to appoint them in April. I also want to ask him about his back pedaling on low income housing. Another Occupier says, “Yeah, I want to get a few words in about Enbridge. I’ll meet you there”.
At this point we get our 1st visitors, 2 youngish guys we haven’t met before. They ask what we’re up to, smudge, get some drinks and sit down. They’re somewhat shy and very polite. Next a man arrives who says he’s a friend of one of the Occupiers who is not present tonight. He says he’s visited us in the past. We don’t remember him but of course invite him to sit. He says, “I don’t believe in any of the things you guys are working for but don’t be offended because I don’t believe in anything. All I care about is where I’m going to get my next bottle”. As he sits down, a very large bottle of alcohol falls from his coat. He quickly picks it up. Ordinarily we ask people not to drink around our fire because we know the cops will use peoples’ drinking as an excuse to stop and harass us. Seeing as tonight is our 1st time at CJM in a good while we figure we shouldn’t make any demands as we attempt to re-secure our place in the hierarchy. The man says he has lived in Duluth for 30 years. As a way of starting conversation an Occupier says, “So where did you come from when you moved to Duluth?” The man responds, “What does it matter where I came from? I was a different man when I came here. I probably would have walked up here and (making the motion of putting a gun to his head) pop….pop..pop…each one of you. I’ve been here 30 years and I’m different now”.
He then says, “Are you burning sage?” We nod yes. He responds, “Well you better put it out. You aren’t supposed to burn sage when there’s alcohol in the circle and the alcohol’s not leaving. If you keep burning it, bad things will happen”. An Occupier thinks for a minute and says, “Well I know one is not supposed to use it if they’re drinking but I suppose you would know so you’re probably right”. She puts out the sage.
A man we have met many times in the past arrives. At 1st we don’t recognize him because his beard is much grayer and he’s wearing a stocking cap. As he gets closer we see exactly who it is. One of the Occupiers had previously established a rapport with him so there is hugging and such. Our new arrival opens the conversation by repeating a tired old refrain we have heard a bazillion times before. “See those 3 black guys up there? They have a Memorial. What about all the Natives who were murdered? What about all the unspeakable crimes committed upon Native women and children? Where’s our memorial?” We respond as we always do with, “Oh man, both Natives and African Americans have had unspeakable crimes committed upon them. You’re taking it out on the wrong people. That’s just what “the man” wants; all the groups of regular people fighting for crumbs so they won’t notice who their real oppressor is”. Of course the new arrival already knows this and agrees. He begins talking about Mother Earth, Father Sky, respect for women and we all have a long conversation about spirituality vs religion. The drinking man becomes bored with all this and leaves. We fire up the smudge pot again.
Soon people are coming up right and left. Some we know, most we don’t. Among them is an infamous woman of the street who had lived at our previous homeless camp. The last time we saw her she was screaming and accusing one of the Occupiers of beating her up, putting her baby’s daddy in prison and causing her to miscarry. Then we heard she went to jail for a while. Well she’s back and it appears she’s still crazy. Tonight she hugs the Occupier and says, “I forgive you”.
Another unknown man with a gift for street slang sits down next to a female Occupier who is experiencing one of her 1st CJM meetings and politely begins hitting on her. He says, “You know, when I get with a woman, I’m there, I’m really there”. She takes it all in stride. When we tease her about it after he leaves, she says, “Oh he wasn’t such a bad little guy”.
As darkness descends people start wandering off to wherever. We get one last visit. This is from a pretty young woman who is in a zombie like state of drunkenness. She plunks down, looks quite unhappy and begins making demands. It takes us a minute to understand what she is saying but we finally get that she wants a lighter. We give it to her; she puts it in her mouth and then looks confused. She says, “I want…. I want..” An Occupier says, “A cigarette?” She smiles. We give her one and she smokes then suddenly jumps up, goes to the table, lays a rag down, pours coffee creamer on it and then apple juice on top of that. A female Occupier says, “Hey girlfriend, what are you doing?” She says, “I didn’t know, I didn’t know”. She grabs the rag, smears the mess around, throws the rag in the fire and leaves. The female Occupier says to the novice female Occupier, “A lot of evenings end like this. A young woman who is zombie drunk comes in, acts really weird and leaves. We always worry about what will happen to them after they’ve left”. Someone retrieves the rag and cleans up the mess. The female Occupier says to another, “We’d better watch our time”.
Throughout the entire evening we have observed a DPD SUV driving around and around the block and scoping us out. He never stops but makes it obvious he is watching. We guess he’s gotten the word from the Chief that we are not to be bothered. Just in case, we will always carry a copy of the letter signed by the Chief of Police in our supply box.
We figure the DPD is just hoping we will lose track of time and stay past 10pm. They will then swoop on us and charge us with being in a city park after curfew. We know the Memorial is not a city park and we don’t have to be out by 10pm but it’s not an important battle to fight. It also gives us a reason to go home just as the “2nd shift” of street folks are arriving.
The novice Occupier says, “So what happened to our meeting?” We laugh and someone quickly says, “There’s an Idle No More meeting next Friday, noon at Randy’s. Honor the Earth has a Love Water Not Oil event at Clyde Iron at 7pm Tuesday, May 27th. We need to find out when the DFL is having their big conference at the DECC and see if any other groups are going to attempt to protest. Skip Sandman is running against Nolan in November on the Green Party ticket and needs volunteers. We still need to find a way to hook up with some Native leaders or elders and get some lessons about being good allies and we should have further discussion about the proposed idea for a bench”.
With that we start packing up and putting out the fire. The police officer is making his rounds again. He’s probably disappointed because it’s only 9:30pm so he won’t be able to bust us. Oh well, we’ll be back on Tuesday. We’d like to say to him, “There’s always hope”.