G.A. Minutes 8-22-17
It’s 6pm at Peoples Plaza and the sun has already gone down behind the buildings. This is the first sign that summer is not gonna last forever. Of course we already knew that but were trying to forget. Crap. The trees and other plants are still green and gardens are not ready for harvest yet so we’ll still have some warm days before it will be over. All is not lost.
This evening the temperature is in the mid-60s; the sky is partly cloudy with occasional gusts from a moderate southern wind. We’ll need a big fire again. It feels fine right now but once it’s dark it will feel a lot colder. Homeless folk won’t be able to comfortably sleep under a bush unless they have some blankets or a sleeping bag.
A young woman is sitting on a bench charging her cell phone when the first Occupiers arrive; she looks vaguely familiar to us. An Occupier comments that he thinks it’s very nice that the City leaves one of the outlets on for the use of the people. Actually, we’re not sure if it’s been left open on purpose of if the access has just been overlooked. The outlets’ existence is a closely guarded secret among street folks.
An elderly, homeless man who we haven’t met in the past walks over. He’s carrying a big piece of cardboard and asks if anyone has a marker. The Occupier who’s in charge of remembering things gives him a good black marker that she always carries in her pocket. The elderly man needs to make a sign that asks for help in meeting his survival needs.
The man tells a story that we hear frequently. He used to have a good job, nice house and family etc. He lost his job and then his wife and family; he started drinking and eventually ended up on the street. He has many health problems related to his former job. He says he just has to wait 3 more years and he’ll be able to start collecting his veteran’s benefits. When that finally happens, he expects to be able to afford a place to live.
He’s one of those people who, once he gets going, just can’t seem to stop talking. When an Occupier lights the smudge bundle and starts to smudge herself, the man begins coughing. He says, “I can’t be around any kind of smoke; they tell me I need a lung transplant”. When the Occupier informs him that they are going to be making a recreational fire, the man finishes his sign, hands back the marker and leaves.
People are starting to arrive one after the other. The city official appears followed closely by the Stylish Native Woman and her partner. It looks like the partner is fairly stable again tonight. He tells us that with the help of his ARMHs worker he has been able to get his SSI benefits paid directly to himself again. Apparently the social workers took control of his only income by mistake. We think most social workers don’t realize the immense problems they cause for poor people when they make these “mistakes”. We want to ask The Partner if he’s been given any leads related to finding an apartment before winter arrives but we don’t want to get him started. We’ll ask the Stylish Woman as soon as we get a chance.
We hear some really good music blasting out over the roar of the traffic. Some of the Anonymous crew is standing at the intersection across the street waiting for the light to change. They probably just couldn’t wait to get started; they wave at us and go straight to the protest corner.
The Native neighborhood couple who roll with the Anons come walking up the stairs; they bring many boxes of pizza for the table. It will all be consumed in no time.
A small squirrel has been running around outside the circle, possibly looking for dropped food. It doesn’t seem to be too afraid of humans. When the Fire Magician gets ready to drive his truck off the Plaza an Occupier warns him “I just saw that squirrel crawl under the hood of your truck; you might want to wait a bit before starting up the engine”. When the Fire Magician starts banging on the hood of his truck another Occupier calls out, “Hey, that’s squirrel abuse!” The Magician responds, “Actually, I don’t think squirrels are a protected class”. The squirrel climbs out from the engine and takes off running. End of problem and end of discussion.
An Occupier asks, “Did anyone read that some water protectors from one of the Line 3 camps chained themselves to some Enbridge digging equipment yesterday and shut down the pipeline project over in Wisconsin for an entire day?” Another Occupier replies, “I was at the Indigenous Commission meeting yesterday. A few water protectors from the Line 3 camp around here gave us a report. They also said that TigerSwan, the security company from Texas that was hired by Energy Transfer to direct the police action at Standing Rock, is now operating here in the Duluth and Cloquet. The water protectors told us that they have been followed by men in black pickup trucks with Texas license plates just about everywhere they go. I’m going to go check out the nearest Line 3 camp as soon as I can but first I have to find a big bandana”.
The Occupier who reports stuff reports, “The Citizens Review Board meeting will be tomorrow at 5pm in City Hall. I’m hoping they know about those 2 innocent African American children who were roughed up by a Duluth cop a couple of weeks ago. Also, the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition has resumed meeting every week again, Thursdays, 6:30pm at Dorothy Day House. They’re hoping to have the Bill put before the City Council for a vote on October 30th. We’ll need to really pack the house on that evening”.
The city official states, “Oh, I really want to attend the CRB meeting this month. Will you remind me tomorrow?” The reporting Occupier answers, “Sure, and then, if you like, we can go over to the Superior Organizer’s first March Against White Supremacy meeting at 6pm or so”
Our conversation is interrupted by the sound of a female yelling very loudly out on the street. We can’t see anything from our circle but whatever is going on does not sound good. The city man and the magician go out to the sidewalk to see what they can see.
The middle-aged African American man who lives at the Skinner Apartments sits down. He tell us, “I’m sorry, I’m a little drunk and know I shouldn’t come into the fire circle when I’m drunk but I’m having a problem right now”. The zipper on the Skinner Man’s pants has busted and he has to walk while holding his pants up with both hands. That, combined with the fact that he’s somewhat drunk, is making a pretty big problem for him. The Occupiers scrounge around trying to find a rope or something but they don’t find anything.
Menagerie Woman and Bush Man ride up on their bikes. They’re coming from the usual Tuesday night plasma donation, dinner and a movie. Today is Menagerie Woman’s birthday. We all wish her a happy one. Bush Man appears to be sober but not particularly anxious. This is good.
The city man and the Occupier return from the sidewalk. The city man opines, “A man and a woman who appear to be a couple are having a loud argument about something. It’s escalating; there’s a crowd of onlookers forming and it looks like they’re about to start physically fighting. I think we need to call 911. Hopefully, the cops will just separate them and not make any arrests”.
The city man and the Occupier both call 911 on their cell phones. After about 5 minutes, several squad cars arrive. The yelling stops; the crowd disperses. One of the street people tells us, “They just separated the couple; they didn’t arrest anyone”.
Taco Helping Man and his partner drop in. They’re trying to find someone who’s going to the Pow Wow in Bad River this weekend. No one in the circle is planning to attend. We advise them to go over to the Red Lake Urban Office tomorrow; maybe someone there is planning to go.
Now the boyfriend of the African American former street man rolls up. He’s talking a lot and moving quickly; he spots the squad cars still out in the street and comments on how much he hates cops. He tells a few stories about some of the times cops treated him really rotten. Then he gets some coffee, takes off his belt, gives it to Skinner Man and goes out to the corner with the Anons.
After the boyfriend leaves, an Occupier remarks, “Man, he seems very wired tonight”. Taco Man replies, “Oh, he’s doing meth right now. Even so, he’s a really nice guy”.
A Duluth police officer comes over to the circle. He’s looking for the people who called 911. The official man and the Occupier identify themselves. The cop just wants to know what they witnessed; they tell him. The cop is polite and friendly but still does that barely concealed look around the area. After receiving the information that he asked for, he wishes everyone a good evening and leaves.
An Occupier returns from out on the corner. He reports, “Wow, I just inadvertently walked into another couple having a big argument out on the street. An Anon who is taking a break informs him, “Oh, those two do that just about every night”.
The developmentally disabled man who lives at the Wet House stumbles in. As usual, he’s pretty shit faced. He’s limping and tells us he fell down somewhere recently. He can’t remember where it was or what happened but his knee is rather messed up now.
It’s getting late when Mississippi Woman appears. She wishes everyone a good evening and commences to eating. Because of all the pizza provided by the neighborhood couple, there’s still plenty of food left. Mississippi will be able to eat her fill. She’s seems calm tonight, so as long as no one gets her started, she might not begin to rant.
It’s already dark when 2 more cops come to the circle. They want to know if anyone knows anything about the other couple who were arguing on the street. We figure someone must have called 911 but it wasn’t any of us. Apparently, that couple is gone now. We think a few folks in the circle may know who they were but fortunately, no one says anything.
These cops are polite and friendly but they’re doing the look around thing too. We’re not sure what it is that they are looking for but they’re surely not gonna find it in our circle. If they were looking for a little peace and good vibes they could find that here. However, they’re on duty so probably don’t have time for stuff like that. After a little meaningless chit chat they wish us a good evening and leave.
It’s late and the fire is dying so everyone helps us pack up. As we are finishing, we see the original yelling woman coming down the street yelling like crazy. She’s having a conversation with someone who isn’t there. Maybe she doesn’t realize that her partner is not with her.
An Occupier comments, “Gee, she’s really in a bad way. I’d like to try and help her but I’m afraid she’ll punch me if I do. Another Occupier remarks, “Yeah, it’s obvious she’s under a lot of stress but sometimes there’s nothing you can do. You just have to let them be”.
It’s time to go. An Occupier is going to give an Anon and all his equipment a ride home. Another Occupier will give Wet House Man a ride home too. Wet House Man is incapable of walking.
We plan to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 8-22-17