G.A. Minutes 10-22-16
We find it rather amazing but it looks like we’re going to have another perfect autumn evening here at People’s Plaza. The temperature is in the high 50s and there is minimal breeze. The sun went behind the buildings shortly after we arrived; we can’t see stars or a moon so we’re guessing the sky is overcast.
Two friends of the multiracial couple are waiting for us. They tell us the couple will not be stopping by tonight. They just got into their new apartment; they are luxuriating in privacy. An Occupier comments, “Oh, that’s too bad. Well, I guess it’s not but another Occupier has some household goods to give them. I guess they can take care of that later”.
One of the friends tells us he’s from the Smokey Mountains. He’s also done a bit of traveling. We talk about the places we’ve been so far in our lives while we watch the Fire Magician get a big fire going.
A couple of thirty something year old guys we haven’t met yet come up. They tell us they are Italians from upstate New York. They’re incredulous that we are having a fire in a public space. We get that response from most folks we meet who are from the east coast. Things must be different out there.
The New York guys want to talk about the upcoming national election. They’ve come to the wrong place. Most people say they don’t vote; a few say they’ll vote for Jill Stein. The guys get some snacks and move on to somewhere else.
The city official drops in. He’s carrying a pizza box which he offers to those in the circle. He’s on his way up the hill to a choir concert at Sacred Heart. Several of our Occupiers will be singing in the choir.
The Stylish Native Woman and her partner get drinks and take their seats. The partner is calm and logical again tonight. He’s a great person when he’s not having a schizophrenic attack. They are still homeless but tell us they have found somewhere warm to sleep for the time being, at least. We don’t think they’ve been able to make long term plans however, they’re both pretty smart so will probably survive. We’ll help them if we can.
Someone mentions the fact that there has been a recent shooting in the West End. The person who was shot died. Some of the fire worshippers were acquainted with the shooter. They say that outwardly the shooter appeared to lead a pretty good life. Inwardly, he had a serious and long term drug addiction.
The shooting took place in the bar next to the infamous Curly’s Bar. An Occupier opines, “So one person is dead and another is going to lose his apparent nice life and be locked up for a long time. All over a bunch of stupid shit. Bummer”.
The Smokey Mountain dude is off in the corner talking on his phone. We hear our first siren of the night as a squad car goes roaring up the hill. The noise startles Smokey Mountain Man and he falls off his perch. He’s not hurt so we laugh. It’s elemental slapstick but still kinda funny.
The Superior Occupier appears. He’s been to a community meeting over there. The City of Superior wants to raise the tourist tax in order to spend more money on something. The Occupier reports, “The problem is, they want to add it to the purchase of hot food. I went to the meeting to speak for poor people who have to buy hot food because they have no place to cook food themselves. Another tax will cause a problem for the people who are unable to cook”.
Another Occupier changes the subject by asking, “Did you see what happened at Standing Rock today?” The Superior Occupier shakes his head no and the first Occupier continues, “The Morton County Sheriff’s Department attacked the water protectors again. I saw a short cell phone video from one of the women. The cops surrounded the Red Warrior Camp while it was still dark. They had their big lights from their big vehicles shining on the camp. The people of the camp where sorta staggering around because the lights were blinding them.
“One man was singing a Lakota song. The cops had their badge numbers taped over; a woman asked a cop for his name and badge number and the cop refused to tell her. The woman said, “You know it’s the law now that if I ask you for your name and badge number, you have to tell me”. The cop says, “What law?” The women were brave but you could tell they were afraid too. They kept saying, ‘We need you people to come out here and stand with us!’
“That was all there was in the video. I’ve heard that many water protectors were maced and many were arrested. Our friend, an Anishinaabe water protector told us last night that it looked like the Sheriff’s Department was gearing up for some harassment action.
“I feel really bad that I’m not able to go out there. All I can do is to try to help them from here. I’m able to let All Nations use some of the work rooms where I live in order to make canvas teepee covers for the camp. My husband has about forty acres worth of forest up north a little way. Lots of the trees have fallen so there will be plenty of good firewood. If we can get a small crew up there we can ship it out.
“Also, Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance and IWW are going to hold a Pasta Not Pipelines event at the Central Hillside Community Center on Saturday, October 29th 4pm-7pm. They will have Halloween games and stuff for the kids. Of course, we’ll help with that. We’ll do everything we can to help those protecting the water”.
We hear a clacking sound coming across the Plaza. It’s two cops riding horses. These are the first cops to actually visit us since we started our fires in April. Ordinarily we love to look at the horses. Tonight we’re not in the mood to have our conversation interrupted. We pretend to ignore them and they ride on down to the street.
An Occupier tells us that a close friend of his is trying to get into treatment. He says, “She’s up at the inpatient place up by the mall but they have a ten day stay limit up there. If they don’t find a treatment bed for her within ten days, they’ll just dump her out on the street”.
Another Occupier adds, “Yeah, I know how that works. One has to wait months to get into a treatment or mental health bed. Once they find a bed for the person, the person is either back using or flipping out and doesn’t think they need the bed anymore”.
The Superior Occupier has to leave and asks to be reminded of what events are coming up this week. Another Occupier tells him, “The next Homeless Bill of Rights meeting is this Tuesday at Dorothy Day House. The Local Solutions to Poverty Candidate Forum will be this Thursday, October 27th 6-7:30pm at Holy Family Church on West 3rd Street. They need us to help table there and then of course, the Pasta Not Pipelines event on Saturday. Take care, see you later”.
We see a man coming up through the shadows. We’re pleasantly surprised to see that he’s the dancing, gay, street man who was a regular at our fires over the years. He appears to be at least 100% sober. We knew that he was arrested and sentenced to jail toward the end of the summer of 2015. We hadn’t seen him since then. We were told that he was trying to defend himself from being attacked and managed to do some serious damage to his attacker. The judge didn’t see it that way.
We all hug him and welcome him. He’s just recently been released and is staying with his mother. We encourage him to use his obvious intelligence and talent to his own benefit this time around. We sit and chat a while and then he has to catch his bus home. We ask him to be sure to visit us again.
The Occupiers are now alone at the fire with the Stylish Native Woman and her partner. The partner tells us stories of his past. We know that over twenty years ago he spent some time in prison. He explains that he had a party at his house and unknown to him; a couple of the partiers were playing Russian roulette with a gun. One of them died and because it happened in his house, he was charged with a serious crime. He was young and didn’t know any better so when the D.A. offered him a lesser charge even though he was innocent, he took it. He says, “Do you know that some of the people in prison are actually innocent?” We know.
The big, young Native dude who attended our Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial fires over the last year or so comes up the stairs with a friend. They appear to be mid-drunk. Like when they’re not just a little drunk so they’re kinda nervous and shy or when they’re really drunk so they stagger around, slur their words and act silly. Right now they’re just glassy eyed and stupid looking. The big dude asks, “Do you have any food left?” We do, so they take some and wander off.
The city official returns. He comments, “The concert was o.k. but I wanted to come back here and watch the fire”. We all sit and watch the fire. The city man gets a phone call and the woman and her partner need to go off to sleep.
The Occupiers begin to pack up when the little, young, veteran homeless dude appears. We have not seen him since springtime. An Occupier gives him the description of a middle aged woman and tells him, “She was here looking for you several times over the summer. She said she was your mother”.
The little guy smiles and responds, “Yeah that sounds like my mother”. He appears a little shaky and says he’s feeling bad because he got into an argument with the street friends he usually hangs around with. He says, “I was so glad when I saw your fire. I’ve passed by here a couple of times over the summer when you were having a fire. I was really fucked up though and I know you guys like people to be straight around the fire so I didn’t stop in. You guys have the best coffee.”
We decide to sit with him while he drinks a big cup of coffee. An Occupier notices that the young guy is out of tobacco. She makes him a paper carton of tobacco with papers and a lighter included and gives it too him.
After a while we start packing up. The young guy helps. The tobacco giving Occupier goes off to get the car that carries all the supplies. When she returns, she finds that the little guy has picked a flower out of one of the Plaza flower gardens. He offers it to her. She thinks oh, don’t pick the flowers but she catches herself, accepts the flower graciously and puts it in her hair.
So we’ll be at the Dorothy Day meeting next Tuesday and the Pasta event on Saturday. It looks like we won’t be back at People’s Plaza until the following Tuesday. Hopefully all will be well in the meantime.