G.A. Minutes 8-15-15

G.A. Minutes 8-15-15
The weather over the past couple of days has been downright dangerous.  The heat index has been over 100 with few clouds and very little breeze.
You can imagine how relieved we are to find temperatures in the 70s with a slight east wind as we arrive at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening.
The streets are empty but a few folks are waiting for us in the Memorial space. They help us set up.  We’d expected another hot night so came prepared with extra ice; now we see it’s a good thing we brought plenty of hot coffee.
As people take their seats, an old white man who is known to a few of the street folks but unknown to the Occupiers joins the circle.  It appears he’s prepared to give a lecture.  He talks non-stop about the US constitution, the behavior of police, entrapment laws, direct action (though he doesn’t use that term) and other things too numerous to remember.
He doesn’t allow anyone else to speak.  We know he’s much older than any of us so we want to give him the respect due an elder but he’s getting to be annoying.
The woman from Mississippi comes around the corner, says hello to us and goes straight to the side ledge behind us where some of her women friends are sitting.
She starts in on a rant about how the DPD is abusing the Occupiers.  She says we only bring good vibes and a chance for neighborhood people to get together in a good way.
So the guy in the circle is talking loudly about direct action and Mississippi Woman is talking loudly about the police abusing us.  Maybe we’ll just sit and listen. 
They are both on a roll.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t last very long.  The Mississippi woman’s friends all get up and leave.  She comes over to the circle.
Now she’s talking about God’s word and the Bible.  The elder man keeps talking about his stuff too.  They’re both talking at once and it sounds really nuts.
Soon the elderly man walks off.  We kinda wish he would take Mississippi Woman with him but no….. she just keeps talking.
Most of the street folks get up and leave too.  Mississippi will stop ranting if someone says something that interests her but the minute anyone pauses for a breath, she’s right back on the rant again.  Her speech is very familiar to us.  She’s just repeating words and stories commonly used by African American preachers across the land.
A young white girl who we don’t know takes a seat.  She’s contemptuous of the preaching woman and makes snide remarks about her subject matter.  The young girl then picks up the last bit of the sage bundle and begins smudging everyone left in the circle.
An Occupier tells her, “Please but that down.  It’s starting to fall apart and needs to burn out in the dish.  The girl pays no attention and goes over to smudge the Occupier.  Big pieces of burning sage leaves are falling off the bundle and on to the Occupiers’ bare skin.
The Occupier screams, “Are you nuts?  Put it down!”  Another Occupier grabs the young girls’ wrist and gently forces her to put it down.  The girl leaves immediately.
Mississippi Woman has wandered off to the back ledge where a few African American men are sitting.  They argue loudly about religion and the Bible.
The Occupiers and the few remaining street people just sit in amazement for a bit. Is the whole evening going to be like this?   
An Occupier reminds us that we will need to attend the Citizen’s Review Board meeting next Tuesday at City Hall, 5pm on the 3rd floor.  She explains, “We just sort of need to be there to give copies of our paperwork to Board members and to remind the cops they need to address our complaint about their unnecessary harassment of our fire on the 4th of July.
“I think our real argument is with the Fire Department but we need to start with the DPD and let them tell us that.  Again. “
“By the way, I found a copy of the MN Fire Code in the reference department of the Duluth Public Library.  I made a copy of all the codes the Fire Marshal showed me and of anything else that could possibly pertain to our fire.  All the codes, statutes and ordinances say pretty much the same thing, just with different wording.  If worse comes to worse it will probably mean that a judge will have to decide the meaning of a few very common words”.
Another Occupier says, “Hey, did you hear that just a day or so ago the US Department of Justice stated that it is unconstitutional for any city, town etc. to make a law that says people sleeping in public spaces is illegal.  They said that the right to sleep is a constitutional right.  That’s probably going to be a good thing for homeless people in the long run”.  We all agree that this DOJ statement is pretty cool.
An Occupier reports she’s received an email from the leader of Duluth Move To Amend.  Duluth MTA is attempting to get a referendum on the November ballot supporting a US constitutional amendment and an end to Citizens United.  The email said a few of the City Councilors who had originally supported this cause were now asking for a doubling of the amount of signatures on the MTA petition.
The leader said MTA doesn’t have enough money to get that accomplished in time.  The leader stated, “Trying to get the money out of politics is what MTA is trying to do.  So now they want us to spend more money in order to do it?”
The Occupier continues, “I thought he had a really good point.  I hope he uses it when he speaks with the City Council again”.
The Occupiers who have been bringing much of the food for our meetings report they may be unable to afford to do this for the rest of this month.  Another Occupier offers to take over this task.
We receive a visit from the man from Senegal.  We haven’t seen him in a long time.  Apparently he’s been very busy with a full time job and going to nursing school.
He talks, as he usually does, about the racism he has to deal with in his life.  He experiences racist behavior from both white and black people.  The man has been in many countries and has lived in the US for 19 years.  He says America is more racist than anywhere he has ever been.
The Senegalese man tells us in 1992 his father was a government official.  There was a change in the government and his family was forced to leave the country. His immediate family now lives in a large Midwestern city.
He tells us he could not return to his country for many years as he would have been murdered.  Now that he is an American citizen, he can safely visit.
2 Park Rangers come up.  They are good friends with the man from Senegal so they laugh and joke with him for a while.  One of the Rangers comments, “This fire circle thing that you guys have going on is just great.  It’s exactly what this space was made for”.
In the course of conversation 1 of the Rangers says, “We lost a cop”. 
“What?” responds an Occupier.   
The Ranger explains, “Well, we don’t want to put it out on the radio but we’re trying to find a cop.  We don’t know where he is”.
The Rangers have also found a recently broken window in the back of 1 of the downtown buildings.  They want to find the owner of the building but don’t know how to go about it.  1 of the Occupiers is well versed in this type of thing so he explains to them what they should do.
We have a few more folks drop by.  The former building manager who worked for the evil landlord of our former homeless camp appears.  Next comes the neighborhood retired man and then one of our former campers who now walks the straight and narrow (sort of).
These people haven’t seen each other in a while so have some catching up to do.
As happens many evenings, the grand finale is enacted by the African American gay man.  He’s not singing and dancing as much as usual but he still manages to tell a few stories and pretend to perch on the edge of the unlit fire pit without even getting his pants dirty.
Anyone else would have fallen in.  How he does it, no one knows.
It’s way past time for us to be gone.  Everyone helps to pack up.
So next Tuesday we’ll be making our presence felt at the Citizens Review Board then back here again next Saturday.