G.A. Minutes 6-27-17
Weather wise, it’s going to be another perfect summer evening at People’s Plaza. The sky is clear and the temperature is in the upper 70s. It would be almost too warm if it wasn’t for the variable, moderately strong wind blowing and creating the ideal conditions. We decide to wait to start up the fire until the sun goes behind the buildings.
Yesterday a few Occupiers attended the Socialist Action monthly gathering. A man from New Jersey who, over a year ago, had come to one of our Occupy meetings at the old Coney Island was also in attendance. He let everyone know he and some friends were planning to hold a peaceful protest about police accountability. The protest was scheduled to take place on the sidewalk outside of the Plaza, Tuesday evening at 5pm. The Occupiers informed him that we would be starting our fire circle at about 6pm and that he and the other participants would be welcome to join us.
When we roll up tonight we are pleasantly surprised to see so many folks holding signs and chanting. Some are from Socialist Action, a few from Anonymous but most are people we don’t know. Most of the cars driving by are beeping support. When they are finished they come to the fire circle.
They want to hold a short meeting in order to plan future strategy. As they discuss where they should go in order to not co-opt the Occupy meeting, an Occupier tells them, “Our meetings at People’s Plaza are different from what most people think of when they think about a meeting. The fire circle is open to everyone. We just sit around it and talk about whatever comes to mind. We wait to see who joins the circle and whatever happens just happens. You guys are welcome to hold your meeting right here”.
So that’s what they do. They discuss possible next steps and form a few working groups. The Occupiers participate in the Police Accountability meeting too. They plan to meet again at our circle on Tuesday July 11th at 6pm.
As things are winding down, the male from the couple who used to help us at the taco sales says, “Well, I just wanna know who will help the Indian people. The Indian people need help you know”. Some of the cop watching folks say, “We want to help but we’re not sure what we should do”. The Occupiers already know the taco helping man. They realize he is talking about the problems with alcoholism and substance abuse that he and most of his friends struggle with. Again, they encourage him to put down his tobacco and to pray.
The Native couple from the neighborhood arrives. They bring a big pot of very well-made manoomin (wild rice). The Occupiers have brought at least twice as much food as they normally do. We wonder how long everything will last tonight.
Menagerie Woman rides up on her bike. She’s returning from her regular Tuesday night plasma donation and on her way to her regular Tuesday night movie. She’s just stopping in to say hello. Bush Man has stayed at home.
Many street folks arrive and begin getting things to eat. A middle aged street woman who we know from our previous homeless camp appears. We haven’t seen her in years; a short hugging festival ensues.
The cop watching folks have gone; more Anons have landed. As they head out to the street corner and crank up their music, the Fire Magician lights the fire.
The Occupier who lives in Superior spent a couple of days in the hospital recently. He tells a story about his hospital roommate. The roommate is a career military veteran who is in the hospital for a possible leg amputation. He is also the primary care giver for his wife who has Alzheimer’s. Social workers come to his room to discuss what will happen if he can no longer care for his wife. They tell him he will have to come up with $37,000 in order to put his wife in a nursing home. They want him to put himself in a nursing home too. That will cost him another $37,000. The story telling Occupier says, “What is going on with our medical system? Can’t they just help people?”
Someone introduces the subject of the new healthcare plan that the Republicans are trying to push through the legislature. The plan is so draconian that even some of the Republican senators are refusing to back it. An Occupier comments, “Apparently, the most conservative senators are refusing to support the plan because women are not being required to pay more for the healthcare that woman need for their special woman’s necessities. The senators don’t think men should have to pay for anything extra that women need”. An Occupier responds, “If those senators succeed in forcing women to pay more, then those same senators should be allowed to only have sex with each other”.
Spiritual Man comes up the stairs; he’s pushing his girlfriend’s bicycle. He looks tired and more brown than usual. He tells us he’s been out on the beach in the hot sun looking for agates all day and shows us what he found. He has a couple of handfuls of really beautiful rocks and gives a heart shaped one to an Occupier. He gets coffee and plunks down in a chair. He says, “Man, my back hurts. I’m finding this getting old thing to be kinda rough”. Several of the Occupiers agree, “Yeah, us too”.
A middle aged chronically homeless man who frequently visits our fires joins the circle. He and Spiritual Man have been friends for many years. They converse about their lives.
A youngish African American man with a noticeable southern type accent sits down. He tells us he has recently come to Duluth from Chicago. He’s grieving for his partner of 8 years who died recently. He says he needs to be somewhere more peaceful than Chicago.
Another small group of young men we haven’t met before arrive. They consist of an African American, a Native and a Caucasian. They are lifelong friends and were attracted by the smell of the burning sage. All the chairs in the circle are now full; many other folks are standing or sitting nearby.
The man from Chicago begins a conversation about spirituality. The newly arrived group of men, Spiritual Man, the Occupiers and many others join in. After a while an Occupier opines, “In my opinion, it’s all the same God. There are many different names and many different cultures but all are actually worshipping the same God”. Everyone agrees with her analysis.
The food and drinks are all gone now. The only thing left is a big jug of water. The Snoozy Man who used to run the biggest spare changing group outside of the liquor store up on First St shows up. He was a regular at our fires at the Clayton Jackson MGhie Memorial. No one can remember seeing him ever eat anything so we think he won’t mind that the food is all gone.
The liquor store has gone out of business so we assume the Snoozy Man has found a different gig. He tells us he has an apartment of his own now. He announces his new address to all within earshot and says if anyone needs a place to crash for a night they will be welcome.
We notice that a cop with all his lights flashing has pulled over a motorist directly in front of People’s Plaza. He talks with the person in the car but keeps standing up, blatantly staring at us. An Occupier thinks the cop is trying to intimidate the Anons.
One of the men from the group of lifelong friends states, “Oh no, he’s staring at us. Pulling that car over was just a ruse. Trust me, I’m black. I know about these things”. Someone says, “You know, the only people who are harassed by the police more than black people are Native American people”. The Native guy from the group of friends remarks, “Yeah, that’s probably true”. The man from Chicago adds, “Try being black and also a woman living in a man’s body”. We all say, “Whoa!!!” The discussion ends there. Eventually the cop leaves.
The city official and another Occupier roll in. They are returning from having dinner on a train. The city man has a knee injury so must walk with a cane for a while. An Occupier asks the city man, “Hey, would you be willing to interview a few people from the Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights Coalition on your radio show?” The city man replies, “Most certainly; I would love for that to happen”.
The city man asks the Occupiers, “So how did the big Neighborhood Youth Services event turn out?” An Occupier responds, “It was very successful. Several hundred people attended. We helped Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance make and give away 108 fry bread tacos. After we finished and cleaned up everything I had to go home and take a nap. Someone comments, “In our Central Hillside, if you want lots of people to show up somewhere, just announce there will be free food”. Everyone laughs.
It’s now well after 10pm. Even the Anons are ready to pack it in. An Occupier says, “Well, next Tuesday is the 4th of July. Do you think we should have a fire?” Everyone answers, “Yes!”
With all the people still in the Plaza helping, we get things packed up and into the vehicles in no time. One of the Occupiers loads all the Anon signs, sound stuff and a few of the Anons into her car for a ride up the hill. We’ll be back next Tuesday to celebrate the 4th in our own way.
G.A. Minutes 6-27-17