G.A. Minutes 10-3-15
Brrrr….It’s a really cold one tonight. When we arrive at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial the temperature is in the low 50s with a very strong east wind.
The space and the streets are empty but we know that as soon as we start setting up, many people will arrive from wherever it is that they come from.
Yup, that’s exactly what happens. As soon as our vehicle doors are open many street folks appear; some of them know our routine too. Everything is quickly set up; people are cold and were hoping we’d show up this evening.
Every time, as we’re leaving a meeting, we tell those who live on the street what day we plan to return but either they forget or just don’t know what day it is.
Ms. Community Cleanup is among the first to help. She’s really drunk and that just increases her normally aggressive and confrontational behavior. We notice her left eye is practically swollen shut; we can’t imagine how that happened.
An Occupier lights up the fire. The wind is blowing mightily and shoots up ginormous flames. Yes! Finally some warmth.
Our friend who is running for City Council arrives. She scoots close to the fire with the rest of us. The local election campaigns are in full swing so she’s busy. The majority of the citizens around the fire don’t even vote so we take it as a real compliment that she chooses to spend her Saturday evening with us.
Ms. Community Cleanup wanders off, allowing us some peace. Spiritual Man joins the circle, he says, “There’s something really powerful about a fire. It just draws me to it”. An Occupier agrees, “Yeah, it’s kinda mesmerizing”.
Another Occupier rolls up. He comments, “I see the fire department is having a fire for homeless people over in Peoples Plaza. It’s been going on since yesterday and their fire circle looks just like ours except all their stuff is more expensive”.
Someone reports, “Ms. Cleanup told me she went over there and asked them for a sandwich. They didn’t give her one and they told her if she didn’t go away they were gonna call the cops”. Everyone laughs.
With only one empty chair left, the Ho Chunk man plunks down. He’s either very drunk or frozen, maybe both.
Ms. Cleanup returns. This is not good news. She begins to taunt several of the men in the circle, calling them vulgar names. It seems she’s trying to make at least one of them angry. No one takes the bait so she saunters off to the back ledge.
We’re about to relax again when a DPD squad pulls up. Officer McShane #420 gets out and comes to the circle. In a manner as though he were an older uncle talking to his slightly rambunctious younger relatives, Officer McShane states, “Well you know what we have to do now”.
The Occupiers roll their eyes. Officer McShane has a warm hat on; he puts on his gloves and agrees that it is cold tonight. He just stands around for a bit and then says to an Occupier, “So I suppose you guys are not going to put out this fire?” She answers, “Nope”. He responds, I’ll make a call then”. He pulls out a little tablet and asks the Occupier for her name and birthdate. She knows he already has this information but provides it again. The DPD keep their records and the Occupiers keep theirs. ‘Merica.
While we’re waiting for the fire department to arrive, an Occupier tells the officer, “You know we’ve contacted some City Councilors and are going to arrange a meeting with Chief Ramsey. This is a legal fire and we are taking steps to get this acknowledged. The officer responds, “Good, I’m glad to hear that. We’re getting really tired of doing this”.
Ms. Cleanup comes back to the circle and whispers to the African American man with the slumbering nickname, “I’m gonna tell the cop that you beat me. I will if I want to.” The slumbering man looks mildly concerned. He knows if she says this, as a black man, he will be going to jail.
The fire truck drives up and a few of the passengers get out. The Fire Captain tonight is #233. He looks familiar and says we already know him. Who can tell anymore? We’ve spent too much time with too many of the protectors of the wealthy to be able to remember them all.
So they put out the fire with just water this time. They really drench it too. The crabby fire dude from last Tuesday probably ordered them to make sure it was really out. Like it matters. We have a truck full of wood; if we wanted to we would just start up another fire.
As all the government employees are leaving, another DPD officer walks over to an Occupier and imparts, “We have got to get this fixed. I want to thank you folks for being cooperative. We don’t like doing this”.
Sounds good but trouble is, cops lie so much one never knows if they are telling the truth. At least we know what they want us to believe.
It’s cold right away; most of the street folks have scattered. Most of the Occupiers have warm clothes and warm homes so can afford to stay a while and talk. The street folks who are homeless need to get to the warmest place they can find quickly.
The City Council candidate questions, “So this is what it’s really like? You guys make a fire so everyone can keep warm and the DPD comes and shuts it down?” An Occupier answers, “Yup, that’s what’s been happening for the past several weeks”. The candidate continues, “Wow, it’s really cold out. How can they do that?”
As we leave we notice Ms. Cleanup is on the back ledge snuggling up to the Ho Chunk man. Knowing her, she may try to pick his pockets if he passes out. Not good. Unfortunately, he’s in such a zombie like state there’s not much we can do for him.
We plan to return on Tuesday and….(wait for it)…..of course we’ll have a fire.