G.A. Minutes 9-30-14
Compared to what we’re used to, we know this evening will be a cold one. It’s in the high 40s with a strong east wind. At least we won’t have to worry about rain.
When we arrive it’s already too cold to stand around talking. We hustle to get stuff set up and to start up the fire. We’ll need to keep it big and blazing until it’s time to leave.
We notice one guy sitting on the back ledge. He has his hoodie pulled down over most of his face and his body language says he’s very unhappy or messed up or maybe both. We don’t think we know him.
As we ignite the flames a former camper, who we come across from time to time, arrives and sits down. He always appears happy to see us.
He calls to the guy on the back ledge and tells him to come over. The guy says, “I can’t. I can’t walk”. The camper walks to the ledge, talks with the guy and the two of them walk to our circle. The guy is walking really funny. He’s not staggering but he’s walking like he’s on a tightrope or floating on air or something.
When he sits down and looks at us we realize he is also a former camper and a person well known to us. At first he mumbles, not saying much but as we engage him in conversation he begins to respond.
The first camper tells us he has a court date soon and expects the judge to order him to leave town. He says, “I guess I’ll be moving to Colorado”. The second camper adds, “Yeah, and I’m going with him”.
An Occupier asks, “What? Aren’t you getting prepared to go to firefighting school?” The camper puts his head in his head and responds, “I just don’t know. Since my mom died I just don’t know anything”.
We knew his mother. She was also homeless for a while and stayed in our former homeless camp. She was blind and very dependent upon the second camper. We were aware she had died a few weeks ago.
A group of Native American guys stop by. They are all pleasantly drunk. Some we have met in the past, some we have not. They speak to each other in Anishinaabemowiin. We don’t know what they are saying but we can tell they are happily teasing back and forth. They warm themselves and wander off to a friends’ house.
An Occupier says, “So now that the Climate Convergence March is over, what happens next?”
Another Occupier answers, “From what I’m observing, it’s seems that groups like Sierra Club and 350.org are quite pleased with themselves and are saying we need to just keep having big marches, signing petitions, pushing current congress people and electing good congressional candidates to switch from fossil fuel to sustainable fuel, stop mining and fracking and save the planet.
The smaller more radical groups are saying, ‘No, we’ve been petitioning, marching and electing congress people for far too long. It doesn’t work. The system is rotten to the core. No matter how good the people elected to congress are, they will be swallowed by the system. We need more radical actions and we need to realize the 1% will never be persuaded to willingly give up their ill-gotten gains. We need to realize that this is a fight that will go on for generations We need to realize some people are going to be killed by the servants of the 1% before we finally win’. Right now they wisely aren’t saying what these radical actions will be”.
Still another Occupier states, “Well, I’m in agreement with the more radical groups”. We all nod in common consent.
Our friend, the grey haired woman, arrives. For once she has appeared while the meeting is still going on.
Many more folks come to sit. Tonight the Occupiers have brought the fixings for s’mores. They put out the roasting sticks, graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate. Many begin roasting the marshmallows and making their treats.
While we have been sitting in our circle a man who is vaguely familiar to us has been walking a good distance outside our circle, yelling and cussing about something while casting his glance in our direction. We’ve become accustomed to all types of strange behavior going on outside the circle so have just been ignoring him.
When he sees we are making s’mores, he stops yelling, comes over, sits down, asks to make one and tells us a somewhat confusing story about camping with his grandfather when he was a child. He roasts up a bunch of marshmallows, wolfs down two big treats, gets up, walks around the circle cussing and yelling for a while, and then walks off. Oh well……
For several months now we have noticed a grey haired, stylishly dressed Native woman sitting or standing in various places outside our circle. Overtime we notice she is not a person involved in sex trafficking or drug dealing. Many street regulars appear to know her. Tonight she sits with us for the first time. She appears calm and friendly as she listens to our conversation.
An Occupier tells us that Idle No More and Northwoods Wolf Alliance are currently researching evidence which appears to show that the real reason wolves and a few other animals were originally removed from the endangered species list was to make way for mining companies and other destroyers of the earth. When an area of land is the natural habitat of any endangered species, companies wishing to destroy the land are not allowed by law to do so as the destruction would adversely affect the endangered inhabitants.
The Occupier remembers this theory being postulated a few years ago at a conference sponsored by some Native people. Her memory of the event is hazy but she remembers various organizers expressing doubt about it, and the idea being forgotten soon. If enough credible evidence is found, INM and NWA will be bringing the idea to the forefront soon.
A group of well-dressed men are passing by on the sidewalk. One man calls out, “Do you know that Jesus loves you?” We don’t answer but wave at the group.
Then one Occupier calls back, “We’re making s’mores. You’re welcome to have some”. Two of the youngest group members come over. They say, “We’ve just come from a big dinner but can we talk to you about Jesus?”
An Occupier responds, “We don’t have a problem with the words of Jesus but we don’t talk about that stuff here. There are so many different people here with many different beliefs so we don’t want to offend anyone”.
The men say, “Well, can we tell you what Jesus has done for us?” We say o.k. It turns out they are members of Teen Challenge. They tell stories of horrible drug addiction, loneliness and suffering. They say that hearing the words of Jesus and praying saved their lives.
The Occupiers congratulate them and a conversation about various religious teachings begins. The stylish grey haired woman participates. We note that she is a very intelligent and deep thinker. The men are surprised the Occupiers are well versed in these types of subjects.
An Occupier says, “Oh, we have these types of conversations here all the time”.
As the men leave an Occupier advises, “The real test will come after you leave the program. Remember to stay strong and don’t lose your way”.
A large, young Native man who has been sitting with us says, “You know, I believe in God or Creator but I hate that motherfucker. He took my dad, my sister and two of my cousins. All He does is take”.
He then tells a story of finding one of his friends frozen to death one morning on the Lakewalk. He tells this story in much detail; tears are falling from his eyes. He wipes his face and says, “No! I am NOT crying”. The stylish woman sits at his side, talking softly with him.
It’s after 9pm so we begin to pack up. Just then our friend the infamous street woman shows up. She is slightly drunk and says, “I heard you guys were making s’mores. Can I have one?” We say, “Sure” and sit back down.
The woman tells us her latest boyfriend beat her up very badly and she had to have him put in jail. He’ll probably be locked up for a long time. She’s sorry he’s going to jail but also knows she will not put up with beatings.
She also tells us she has finally received housing. We’re very happy for her. She’s been homeless for several years. We notice she’s drinking again and hope she’ll be able to get back on the wagon and keep her new home.
Another male friend of hers arrives, we all laugh and joke for a while and then they leave.
It’s well after 10pm as we pack up for good. There’s not a cop in sight. Maybe they don’t care about us anymore. We could stay here unmolested by them all night! Then again……..
Maybe not. We all have stuff to do tomorrow.
We plan to be back on Saturday.