G.A. Minutes 10-15-16
The weather people decided to tell the truth today. They said it was gonna look like it was gonna rain all day but it wouldn’t actually rain. That’s just what happened. The sky cleared just before the sun went down behind the buildings across the street from People’s Plaza.
As a matter of fact, it was a pleasant autumn day and it’s turning into a pleasant evening. The temperature is in the high 60s with a soft southern breeze. Not bad….
The multiracial couple and one of their friends arrive at the Plaza the same time as the first Occupiers do. They say to their friend, “It’s much better here than it is sitting around at CHUM”. Everybody joins in and sets up the circle. The female of the couple and the Fire Magician tear up birch bark. The Magician gets a medium sized fire going.
The couple has good news; they have been accepted as tenants in the apartment they were hoping for and will be able to move into it in about a week. They’re quite happy.
An Occupier reports, “Hey, I just received an email from the Homeless Bill of Rights organizers. The next meeting will be at Dorothy Day House, this upcoming Tuesday at 5pm. The email said there is the possibility of getting a grant to pay for the port-a pottys. Another Occupier exclaims, “That would be so cool. If the pottys are paid for, I doubt even Fosle would vote no”. The first Occupier agrees and adds, “I still think the City should make a financial contribution to the wellbeing of our homeless folks. The City needs to ‘take its own personal responsibility’. We all laugh.
An Occupier comments, “I’m hearing talk from several places about organizers wanting to do actions related to the big banks”. Another Occupier says, “Yeah, me too. I would like to tie the actions to the fact that the big banks are invested in Energy Transfer and the Dakota Access Pipeline. I need to speak with some elders from Standing Rock first though. I need to find out if that is something they would want us to do”.
The first Occupier opines, “I think we should set up a meeting with likeminded people interested in making this thing happen”. We discuss days and times and agree to get the details worked out soon.
A member of the multiracial couple states, “I think the question about MN legalizing marijuana will be on the November ballot. An Occupier answers, “Actually, I believe the question about legalizing weed will be on the ballot in 7 states but MN is not one of them. Marijuana will never be legalized as long as Dayton is governor. The cops and the prosecutors are against it and Dayton is joined at the hip with law enforcement”. The couple both say, “Bummer”.
More Occupiers and the city official appear. An Occupier comments to the official man, “I wonder what the heck is going on with the Human Rights Commission. I went to City Hall for the monthly meeting but no one was there. In fact, there was a whole other meeting about storm cleanup going on in the room”. The city official responds, “Oh really? I know that some of the commissioners need to renew their seats but I thought they would continue with the work in the meantime. The Occupier adds, “There’s so much important work to be done. Making a big deal over petty issues is counterproductive”.
Changing the subject, an Occupier reports she has recently been talking with a local Native elder. The elder was telling her about the hoops the City is requiring the Indigenous Commission to jump through in order to change the name of Lake Place Park to an Anishinaabe name. The elder said some of the City people were concerned that if the name were changed then only Native people would be allowed in the park. Another Occupier exclaims, “That is so lame! Exclusion is not even a tenet of Anishinaabe culture”.
The city official explains, “The people who will be making the decision about the name change are the members of the Canal Park and downtown hotel and restaurant organization. That organization is primarily controlled by the Goldfines. They also disperse all the funds from the tourism tax. The decision will be based primarily on money of course”. We all say sarcastically, “Of course”. The city man continues, “They will try to figure out if establishing an official indigenous presence in the tourist area will bring them more tourist dollars or less”.
We notice that the Stylish Native Woman and her partner are talking out on the sidewalk. Eventually they come up, get some coffee and take seats in the circle. The partner is perfectly calm, coherent and able to participate meaningfully in the conversation. Of course, the stylish woman always has her wits about her.
Someone says, ‘Oh, look at the moon!” We all get up and look. The moon is very big and white. An Occupier informs us, “It’s a full moon. It’s called a Super Moon”. There are many oohs and awes.
Ms. Community Cleanup and her partner step out of the shadows. They are very hungry and gobble down lots of hard boiled eggs, cookies and chips. When they come up for air Ms. Cleanup apologizes, “Sorry we’re being such hogs”. An Occupier replies, “No worries. That’s why we bring the food, so people will eat it. It makes me feel good to see hungry people getting to eat”. When they are finished they go off to their sleeping place way back in the back bushes. On this warm night they should be able to sleep soundly until daylight.
Most of the homeless folks are leaving for their sleeping places. An Occupier gives the biracial couple a ride back to CHUM. A nicely dressed guy somewhere in his 30s rides up on a beat up old bike. He used to ride up at the end of our fires at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. We always found it amusing that he paid a lot of attention to his appearance yet rode around on his beat up old bike. This is the first time we’ve seen him this year.
He tells us that he’s spent the last 7 months in jail and just got out today. He has 2 months’ probation and then he’ll be “off paper”. He says he ended up in jail because he got in a fight with his girlfriend. We chat a bit and then he rides off.
There are only Occupiers at the fire now. One of them tells us, “I received an invitation to some type of Housing Focus Group that will be happening on Thursday, October 20th at 4pm in room 303 of City Hall. I’m not sure what it will be about but I imagine it will be City people and NGO people. The usual lots of talk about doing something but never doing much of anything. I’ll check it out and make my usual pitch for low income housing. If anyone wants to come with me that would be fine”.
Another Occupier asks, “Has anybody been paying attention to the national prison strike?” Someone replies, “I’ve been trying to but I haven’t been able to find out much”. The asking Occupier states, “No one has been able to get much information. Many prisons are on lockdown and any inmates who they think are organizing the strike have been transferred to other prisons. Communication between the prison system and the outside world is pretty much at a standstill. However, I’m told the strike is still going on”.
An Occupier wants to know more so the asking Occupier continues, “This time they’re hitting the prison system where it really hurts. They’ve gone on a labor strike. In most prisons the basic functioning of the facility is maintained by the inmates themselves. They cook and serve the food, do the cleaning, maintenance, laundry and all that stuff. In some prisons they also make things that are sold to major corporations. Inmates get paid very little to nothing for their work. I’ve heard that wages are generally between 22 cents and $1.14 an hour. In Alabama, at least, they don’t get paid at all.
“So when the inmates refuse to go to work that hits the prison system right in the pocketbook. I didn’t know this before but I’ve learned that the 13th Amendment to our Constitution outlaws slavery except in the case of incarcerated persons. That is really creepy”.
A couple of young Native men ask if we have any food left. We do so they chow it down. They look vaguely familiar and appear to be mildly drunk. They don’t smudge before eating. One of them tells us he has just returned from spending 2 years in Phoenix, Arizona. He says, “It’s a lot easier to sleep outside in Arizona”. He also informs us that he is related to the disappeared Storytelling Woman. The other young man is grieving because his aunt recently died. He states, “She was only 41 years old”.
We make some small talk about catching and eating fish. The youngsters have eaten many types of fish but have not heard of abalone. An Occupier tells them, “It doesn’t get much better than abalone. Of course, the way things are going now, abalone is probably over fished and/or endangered”.
The kids see a few friends out on the street and off they go. It’s a little after 9 pm. We watch the fire burn down and then we pack up.
Next Tuesday we’ll be going to Dorothy Day House so we’ll plan to return to People’s Plaza on Saturday.