G.A. Minutes 9-22-15
We’re not sure what we’re going to find when we arrive at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial this evening. Things on the street and in the homeless community have been very tense and crazy over the last week or so.
The woman who tells good stories has still not been found. It’s probable she is no longer alive. This hits home with most street folks. The story telling woman is/was one of them. The same thing could happen to them. They could be “disappeared” and the only people who would care would be some of their street friends. The street folks believe they are powerless so probably would do little to force a police investigation.
The Occupiers, the Native community and many homeless advocates are making a big stink about the disappearance of the much loved story teller. It looks like the DPD is actually investigating. So far, they haven’t found the answer or at least they’re not telling us the answer.
There is an epidemic across the North American continent. An epidemic of missing or murdered indigenous woman. It’s been going on for a long time.
Anyway, CJM is completely empty when we enter the space. The sun is shining; it’s in the upper 60s with a soft eastern breeze. It feels real good but we know that as soon as the sun goes down it will be cooler. We’ve brought clothes suitable for autumn weather.
The short, usually drunk, older white guy cruises by, helps us set up, smudges and then leaves. The gray haired woman arrives. She’s in a giggly mood tonight.
We light the fire and a few regular folks take their seats on the back ledge. A young African American man calls over, “Hey, are you gonna barbeque tonight” and an Occupier answers, “Nah, we’re just gonna have a fire, we don’t have any food to cook”. The young man says, “I’ll go to the store and get some hot dogs in a while”.
Around the corner comes Ms. Community Cleanup. We haven’t seen her in months. She tells us she was just released from jail up in Bemidji earlier in the day. She’d been locked up for almost three months and when they released her this morning, she hitchhiked back to Duluth and has just arrived in town. As she goes to the back ledge to greet the peeps she calls back to us, “Oh yeh and I’m a born again Christian now”.
The partner of the stylish Native woman is having some type of a breakdown. He’s been walking around the block across the street and screaming really loud. It’s hard to understand what he’s saying but he seems to be yelling at someone we can’t see and his dialogue has a lot of Fs in it. He’s generally a smart, nice guy; we empathize with him.
The stylish woman is just hiding in the shadows, waiting for him to get a grip. Eventually he does and they come into the circle.
If things weren’t weird enough already, here comes two DPD officers. It’s #484, Officer Hurst; he’s one of the few cops we can physically recognize because he’s a neighborhood regular cop and has visited our fires in the past. Once in a while he makes a probably feigned attempt to be just a regular, friendly guy.
It’s also #479, Officer Roe. He’s been around before but only in his professional capacity.
Officer Hurst reminds us that the last time he attempted to join our circle he was told to leave. We remind him that it was only the most obnoxious street man who told him to leave and tell him he is welcome to join us.
He says, “O.K. but first I have to ask you to put out that fire”. We look at him like he is nuts. He continues, “Look I have to do what my bosses tell me. I have a memo from Deputy Chief Tuscan that says that every time I see you guys having a fire, I have to make you put it out. If you don’t put it out then I have to call the Fire Department and have them put it out. If I have to do that, it’s going to cost money and time for the fire department. So please be helpful and put the fire out”.
We show him the letter we have from Chief Ramsey and reply, “We not going to willingly put it out so you’ll have to call the fire people.
Officer Hurst calls and a big fire truck pulls up and a bunch of young fire dudes, all dressed up in their new fire pants and tee shirts, jump out. They appear to think they are “all that and a bag of chips” so they stand around looking manly.
The head fire captain tells us he’s going to put out our fire. He doesn’t really know the relevant fire codes but he insists he does. He gives us a brochure that says there can be no recreational fires on public lands.
We are not impressed and tell him, “Anybody can make a brochure”. We show him some of the copies of state and local ordinances we have but he doesn’t want to look at them. A couple of his guys spray lots of water on the fire.
While we’ve been dealing with all the bad guys there’s been something else going on beside our food table. The woman from Mississippi has been observing things. She’s freaking out and going into her semi-trance about, “Why you messing with these good, innocent people when there’s criminals all around that you don’t do nothin’ about?”
The gray haired woman has never seen Mississippi woman on a rant before so she’s trying to reason with her and calm her down. She finally gets exasperated and walks over to the cops. She implores, “You just have to do something about that woman, she’s disturbing the peace”. Officer Hurst rolls his eyes and answers, “That’s just Mississippi woman. She gets that way sometimes”.
All the bad guys leave; the sun is down and it’s chilly without a fire. An Occupier comments, “No way are they gonna think they can make us leave”. Everyone puts on all their extra clothes.
The young African American man and a few others arrive with bags of hot dogs and fixins. There’s no fire.
We consider restarting the fire but think a better move will to be to plan strategy. We pull our chairs together. Most of the street folks go off walking around in order to keep warm. A few stay with us in the circle.
We have quite a discussion about the real meaning of ‘Merika’. The CRB is meeting tomorrow and an Occupier plans to be there. It looks like we’ll have to file a complaint against the Fire Department too.
The highlights of our good conversation include: The gray haired woman, when speaking about the so called rulers of our city, exclaims, “It’s because they’re not free. When they see that we are, it really pisses them off.
Also, the middle aged Lakota man states, “All of this is my land”. We respond, “Yeah, we know but please let us stay. We are so removed from our homelands that we don’t even know where they are”.
The man who is always laughing arrives. He’s not laughing too much tonight. He asks what happened and we tell him. He then says he still has not had his baby returned to him by Child Protection.
He’s been to many court hearings and jumped through every hoop he’s been given. He fired his Public Defender as the PD told him no one, including the PD himself, cared about his baby or was gonna try to help him. He’s lost the phone number we gave him for the African American community activist. The always laughing man says, “I talked with that guy once and he gave me a lot of good advice. I really need his help again”.
We write down the number and give him another one too. As he leaves we tell him we’ll keep him in our thoughts.
We’ve been having such a good discussion we hadn’t noticed the time or the cold. Time to pack up.
We plan to return on Saturday. The wood will be dry by then so we’ll have a fire. You could join us if you wished.