G.A. Minutes 9-3-16

G.A. Minutes 9-3-16
It’s going to be a great night for a fire.  We’re at People’s Plaza again.  The brakes on the truck have not been fixed yet so we can’t bring our chairs this time either.  The benches belonging to the Plaza will have to be used again and will work reasonably well.  It’s nice that they are moveable.
The sun is already behind the buildings, the sky is cloudy, temperatures are in the low 70s and a strong, cool wind is blowing.  We start the fire right away.  The wind makes the flames shoot high; it also makes the air slightly chilly so the heat feels good on our skin.
An Occupier comments, “Seeing as it’s still the first days of the month, I don’t expect we’ll have many street folks visiting tonight.  Most of them just received their small government checks so will be off having their monthly indulgences”.
We’re missing Occupiers tonight too.  They and a large group of our allies left yesterday for Sacred Stone Camp at Standing Rock.  They were bringing a big trailer full of supplies; food and lots of blankets, caps and gloves for when the weather turns cold.  Most of the donations were from people on the Fond du Lac Reservation.
An Occupier tells us, “I received a message from our friend who works at CHUM.  He said they all arrived safely at Sacred Stone.  He also said the oil company had their construction crew start working on the pipeline this afternoon.  So far, one protestor had been arrested.  He sent a few pictures; they were of the confrontation in progress.
Another Occupier exclaims, “What?!?  They’re not supposed to do any work until the court decision comes down on September 9th.  The first Occupier responds, “Yeah, I know.  I guess the oil company thinks it can do anything it wants because it has the whole state of North Dakota in Its pocket”.
A man walking a dog comes up.  He is wearing top of the line walking your dog on the street type clothes.  He asks us what we are doing and we explain.  He knows about Occupy but didn’t realize there are still small groups of Occupiers all over the country.
He’s quite well versed in progressive issues and tells us he is the nephew of our Federal House Representative, Rick Nolan.  We say we think Nolan is good on a lot of progressive issues but his support of the Polymet mine and of pipelines is unforgiveable.
The man states, “Yeah, I feel the same way.  Uncle Rick says his job in the House is very difficult; because the House is so messed up and he pushes hard on many progressive issues, he has very few friends among his colleagues.
“Rick is the reason I’m now living in Duluth.  I was living in Florida until six months ago and really wanted to move; he told me that Duluth was a good place to live.  I recently became the director of The March of Dimes here”.
We ask him what he likes about Duluth so far and he answers, “The abundance of nature is great and I’m also glad there are no poisoness insects or snakes.  I’m overwhelmed with how nice all the people are too”.
An Occupier adds, “Have you heard about ‘MN nice?”  Or as I prefer to call it ‘MN passive aggression’?”  The man laughs and says, “Oh yeah, I’ve come across that too”.
When we ask him what he doesn’t like about Duluth, he responds, “The cold winters are horrible and I’m just appalled at the amount of prejudice against Native Americans here”.
An Occupier agrees, “I know what you mean.  I’m from here but I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years.  When I left this area, people who were Native American tried to hide their heritage.  In the Bay Area I saw racism related to black people, Latinos and Asians.  I ran across very few Native Americans.  When I returned to this area I saw Native people were no longer hiding their heritage but the amount of general hatred toward them was just unbelievable”.
The March of Dimes man says, “Many rich people refuse to donate to us because they know that we give about 90% of our donations to the Native American community.  That’s because they are the ones that need it the most”.
The man wants to know what other things are going on.  We tell him about our friends at Standing Rock, the Homeless Bill of Rights, the meeting at the Red Herring on Wednesday and the vigil for trafficked women on Saturday. He puts this information in his phone, says he’ll see us there and continues his walk.
As he is leaving, an Occupier remarks, “I wonder if I should have mentioned the vigil for the disappeared Storytelling Woman at noon on Wednesday at Central Hillside Park?”
 The city official arrives.  He’s later than usual because he’s just finished a long volunteer shift serving food to hungry people at the Dom.  He tells us, “I wasn’t scheduled to serve tonight but some of the other volunteers didn’t show up so they asked me to help”.
Someone comments, “That’s a problem with volunteers, they don’t have to show up if they don’t want to.  I imagine the holiday weekend caused them to make other plans”.
A couple who we have known since they stayed at our homeless camp comes up the stairs.  We have not seen them for almost a year.  They are not homeless but they look unhealthy and very unhappy.  They don’t seem in the mood to tell us their problems; we don’t ask.  They take food and leave.
The new Occupier asks, “Did anybody attend the Pride Festival today?” Another replies, “No, I would have liked to because I think they were going to have some really good bands.  However, the bands I wanted to see were playing at the same time as our fire circle.  I decided to come here instead”.
One of the quiet men who usually come around for food comes out of the shadows.  He gets what he needs and makes a little small talk.  We notice he is wearing a medallion that leads us to believe he has come from the Pride Festival.  We comment on that fact; he just smiles and leaves.  We’ll probably see him again next time.
A man with a long beard and backpack who appears to be in his early forties is standing a ways away looking at us.  We invite him to take food and/or join us.  He steps forward and responds, “Do you have any clean water?” We show him the water jug and give him a cup.
He sits and tells us he’s been homeless for much of his life.  He’s hoping to move into an apartment in a week or so.  His cat is being fostered by a friend and he’s looking forward to being reunited soon.
The homeless man is a quiet but good conversationalist so we sit and talk about many things.  The place where he pitches his tent, the cops who don’t actually give him much trouble, things that happened in the 60s and 70s, memories of cartoons and children’s shows watched as kids, the stupidity of the current election cycle, climate change and the fate of the world.  An Occupier gives him a copy of the Homeless Bill of Rights.
The big clock chimes 10pm.  We were so lost in conversation with the homeless man; we didn’t notice the time go by.  As he helps us pack up, we tell him that we are generally at the People’s Plaza, if it’s not raining, on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 6pm til 9pm.  Except for next week, we’ll be at the Homeless Bill of Rights meeting on Tuesday and at the Hildegard House Vigil on Saturday.
We expect to return to the Plaza on Tuesday, September 13th.