G.A. Minutes 6-6-17
It looks like we’re going to get some good almost summer weather at People’s Plaza this evening. The sky is clear; the temperature is in the mid-60s with a very light northwesterly breeze.
When the Occupiers who bring the fire and food supplies roll onto the Plaza they spot a couple of guys from a local TV station setting up in the back of the space. It appears they are getting ready to broadcast something.
One of the Occupiers walks over to them to see what’s up. She just wants to make sure that we don’t get in each other’s way. The TV guys tell her, “No worries. We’re just using the foliage here as a backdrop for a short news report. We’ll be done and out of here in just a few minutes”. They ask what we are up to and the Occupier explains a bit about the weekly recreational fires.
Once the broadcast is finished, the camera person comes over to the fire and postulates, “Hey, if you folks do this every week I could ask my boss if it was o.k. for me to show up and do a short story about your group. What do you think?” An Occupier replies, “Well, I’m not too sure. I’d have to ask the rest of our people”.
As more Occupiers arrive, the supply bringing Occupiers relay the TV proposal. A consensus is easily reached; we think it would not be a good idea. Too much publicity would not be a good thing. The police and fire departments are well aware of our fires and appear to have chosen not to bother us.
Although everything we are doing is completely legal, if some of the control freak, stuffed shirts who attempt to run the City get wind of our group getting publicity they may force the DPD and/or the FPD to harass us. We’ve already been there and done that and it was decided that having a weekly fire was more important than fighting with the so called City leaders.
Also, the fire is supposed to be for other local grassroots activists, organizers and people from the neighborhood. We’re not interested in becoming entertainment for well off folks who want to go “slumming”. An Occupier comments, “We’ve already been featured in all the local newspapers, that’s enough”.
A large group of Anonymous young bloods roll up. They are wearing all their Anon gear and carrying lots of signs and their sound system. Most head right out to the street corner and begin “kicking it”.
Much to our pleasant surprise, the next person to arrive is Spiritual Man. We have not seen him for 8 or 9 months. He tells us that he was working out of state. He gives us tobacco and we give him hugs. A middle aged African American man who we haven’t met in the past is with him. Spiritual Man gets coffee and takes a seat around the fire circle. His friend, who appears to be rather drunk, takes a seat on a bench.
An elderly white man wearing a motorcycle jacket sits down. We have not met him previously. He’s very talkative and states he is a veteran. One of the Occupiers is also a veteran; they carry on a conversation about their service. When the visiting veteran suddenly gets up and leaves, the Occupier veteran says, “I told him we were Occupy Duluth; I guess that didn’t sit too well with him”.
An Anon arrives with his little dog. The dog is very cute and friendly; she jumps softly into fire watcher’s laps. We always carry a water dish for visiting animals; we give her some water.
The city official reminds us, “I’m going to be the featured speaker at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Day of Remembrance this year; June 15th at noon. I hope you all will be there to support me”. We will all be there.
A long line of street cleaning and street painting vehicles have been going up and down the street for at least an hour. They’re very noisy and look kinda like a parade. Someone remarks, “They’re probably fixing things up for Grandma’s Marathon. That’s gonna happen on June 17th you know”. An Occupier adds, “Whenever Grandma’s Marathon happens I make sure to stay up on the hill. No way do I want to become part of that mess. This year the Duluth NAACP will be celebrating Juneteenth on June 17th in the Central Hillside Community Center Park. I plan on joining them”.
The Occupier who has recently begun working at the Mission feeding center sighs, “I received some very disappointing news recently. I took the job at the Mission because my social security retirement benefit is not enough to actually survive on. I’m only being paid $360 a month at the job but it sure does help. Now I’m told the housing authority will be increasing my rent by $120 a month because I have that little job. They just refuse to let poor people get ahead at all”.
The city official says to the Occupier with the new job, “I know you were at the local DFL convention last week; tell us about it. The Occupier answers, “It was just terrible. I really don’t want to talk about it”. Another Occupier chimes in, “I hear that the local DFL is so divided between the Clinton and Bernie supporters that they were unable to come to any consensus about endorsing any of the City Council candidates except for Joel Sipress”. Someone else agrees, “Yeah, that’s what I heard too”.
The Occupier who reports stuff reports, “There’s gonna be 2 somewhat local public comment hearings about Enbridge’s Line 3 soon. One is in Floodwood on Thursday, June 8th and the other is at FDL College on Tuesday, June 13th. Both will begin at 10am. She says to the big Native Anon dude, “By the way, I did a little research about He Who Shall Not Be Named signing that executive order allowing hunting of bald eagles. Turns out it’s just a hoax; HWSNBN didn’t actually do that. It wouldn’t be surprising if he did though”.
The big Anon replies, “Oh, miigwitch for doing that. I’ll be going to both the public comment hearings. Water really is life you know. I’m so pissed about how the 1% always wants to rip off the Natives. For 500 years they’ve been trying to genocide us but we’re still here. We may be crippled but we are still some strong people”.
An Occupier concurs, “It appears to me that Native people are no longer accepting the rip offs”. The Native Anon exclaims, “You’ve got that right! We’re taking back our traditions and our languages; we’re standing up and fighting for our rights as human beings and as indigenous peoples. The 1% is totally freaked out by that and they’re coming down hard. As you saw at Standing Rock, they tried their hardest to break us but we stood and will continue standing”.
The Occupier who is a single parent to 3 children changes the subject, “Being a poor person in this world is so difficult. Just trying to survive feels like slavery”. The city man answers, “If you want to see slavery, just look at our prison system. Now that’s slavery”. Another Occupier adds, “It is; I think that work stoppages are where prisoners have the most power and are most effective. Of course, I know they pay real heavy for doing that”.
All the sandwiches, cookies and coffee have been gone for a while. There’s still a bit of apple juice. Many people have been at the table and the fire circle tonight. As the sun sets completely we feel the full effect of the fire.
An Occupier opines, “I notice that CJMM is empty of street folks since the Bottle Shop Liquor Store closed. The street is empty too, even on good weather days. She says to Spiritual Man, “Do you know where all the street folks who are drinkers go for their liquor now that Kenny’s Bottle Shop has closed?” The Spirit Man replies, “I think they go up to the store on 4th St”.
Another Occupier adds, “Oh yeah, Loiselles. I thought that’s where they might go. I wonder where they’ll go after they get their alcohol. I know they don’t like to go too far from the store. I guess CHCC Park is the closest place to hang out. They’re gonna have a hard time asking for spare change in that 4th St neighborhood. None of the residents have much money. They’ll have to target people visiting Essentia Health. I don’t think that will go over very well”.
Spiritual Man’s friend has been quietly sitting on the bench in the shadows all evening. Apparently, he’s also been sipping on something. He suddenly jumps up and begins staggering around and yelling. He looks at a small group of Anons who are now sitting at the fire. “What’s wrong with you!?!” he hollers, “Are you all gay? How come you ain’t got no wimens?” He sits in the circle and continues, “If I had a fire like that I’d bring it into the house and sit with my arm around my woman. I’d rap and make love to her all night long”. An Occupier laughs, “If you brought that fire into your house, you’d burn the place down. That would not be very romantic”.
The drunk man doesn’t seem to have cared for that comment. He says, “You guys ain’t shit! I’m gonna go find me some white boys who like to shoot pool” and staggers off. Spiritual Man just shakes his head. The drunken man is not really a friend of his; just someone he met on the street that followed him over to our fire.
It’s well past 9pm and we are planning on packing up but the Anons keep putting more wood on the fire. Just as we start to gather up the wood we see the Stylish Native Woman and her partner coming across the street. This is great! We haven’t seen them since last fall. Nevermind….. We put more wood on the fire.
The couple has come for coffee but have to settle for apple juice. We’d heard that the partner was forced to have a couple of his fingers amputated during the winter but that’s all we know. He shows us his left hand; the first 2 fingers have been amputated. He wants to tell his story; we listen.
We’d forgotten how soft his voice is; the traffic drowns out some of his words. From what we can gather the story is, he was sleeping outside all winter. At some point his fingers became frostbitten and he went to Essentia ER. They bandaged him and gave him some medicine and sent him on his way. Seeing as he had no place else to go, he continued to sleep outside. His fingers became frostbitten again and the police forced him to go back to the ER.
In the ER he was given a large dose of morphine and then asked to sign a paper. He doesn’t remember signing anything but his signature was on the paper. They then put him into an induced coma. When he eventually woke up he found that his fingers had been amputated. He wasn’t real happy about that.
They then refused to allow his visitors, even the Stylish Woman and his parents, to visit him. They tried to make him take his medication for his schizophrenia but he refused. He absolutely hates to take it. They called some lawyers and a judge and said he was incompetent. He says, “I know they were trying to have me committed to St. Peters. They’ve tried before. I just kept arguing with them and refusing to go along with their program. Finally they just let me go so now I’m missing 2 fingers, can’t even roll my own cigarettes and still don’t have a place to live.
“I must have got their attention though. Now I have an ARHMS worker and a couple of social workers. They say they will find me an apartment that I can rent. If I don’t find a place by next winter I guess I’ll have to sue all concerned”.
We know it will be hard to find a place for the partner to live. He has 2 old felonies on his record and his schizophrenia causes him to have fits of yelling. However, he always tries to go off by himself to yell; he’s considerate of others. We think the mental health people get really pissed off at a guy with his illness who still manages to see the game they’re playing and to stand up for himself. He seems to always land on his feet. We admire the Stylish Native Woman who has stood by his side for many, many years.
So now its’s after 10pm and we really must go. We say, “Now that the fire’s back you’ll know where to find us on Tuesdays, at least”. We will also look for them on the street.
So……… Good lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise….. We’ll be back here next Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 6-6-17