G.A. Minutes 8-1-17
The last couple of days the weather has been very warm; some would call it hot. Today was no exception; the temperature is in the high 80s, the sky is almost cloudless; an occasional relatively cooler, lifesaving breeze prevents people on the street from dropping dead.
The food and fire bringing Occupiers are the first to arrive at People’s Plaza this evening. They’re both moving pretty slow as they begin setting up the fire circle.
The food Occupier notices a young couple sitting on a back bench in the direct sun. They appear to be having an argument. The Occupier realizes that feeling uncomfortably warm can make a person really crabby. She offers the couple a glass of cold water; they gratefully accept. A bit later she notices the couple is no longer arguing but sitting talking softly and holding hands.
We spy the little veteran homeless dude standing out on the freeway exit holding up a sign. When we wave at him he packs up his stuff and comes over. He carries a big restaurant takeout box which he puts on the table and then tells us, “A guy stuck his head out of his car window saying he didn’t have any money but would I please accept a bunch of birthday cake. So here it is”. No problem, we’re happy to help a nameless Leo person celebrate their birthday.
Next to arrive are a few of the Anonymous folks; they finish the fire circle setup, get a bit of drink and food and head out to the protest corner.
Taco Helping Man and his partner drop in. The last time we saw them they were in need of someone with tools who would help them change a tire on their recently purchased van. Once the fire was out, an Occupier went to help them. It turned out the tire they had would not fit on their van; the lug nut holes did not align. Now Taco Helping Man explains they found a working tire the next day and headed out to St. Paul. Just as they were passing the Black Bear Casino, thick black smoke began pouring out of the rear end. They pulled over, got out and noticed flames underneath the smoke. They dialed 911 and went close to the woods to wait for help. Before the highway patrol arrived the entire van blew up and was consumed by flames. A highway patrol officer felt sorry for them so after the mess was cleaned up the officer gave the couple a ride back to Duluth.
An Occupier quietly comments to another, “I was pretty sure one could not expect much out of a vehicle that cost $240. I thought it probably wouldn’t take them very far but at least, as long as the weather was good, they could have lived in it”. Taco Helping Man says, “I just got my check for $700; I’m going to take the whole thing and buy another vehicle”. We don’t know what to say; it doesn’t matter because Taco Man never listens much anyway”.
A big group of street folks appear. They’re holding on to their bellies and talking about how full they are. They still have room for coffee and apple juice though. Tonight is National Night Out and CHUM had their annual big picnic. The street folks tell us the event was sparsely attended this year.
We had thought we wouldn’t be seeing many street folks tonight as today was payday for all the people who receive small monthly government checks. Usually, on payday everyone purchases their substance of choice and disappears to get wasted for a few days. One person will rent a room for a couple of days in a low rent motel and many others will hang out in that room getting high until their money runs out. This evening appears to be different; People’s Plaza is filling up with street people; none of whom appear to be particularly wasted.
Our friend from Veterans for Peace rides up on his bike. This is his first time at our fire this year. He pours a cup of coffee and makes a sizable donation for supplies. He reports that he and John LaForge are attempting to organize the startup of local anti-nuclear direct actions again. We say, “Just tell us where and when and we’ll be there”.
The city official and an Occupier roll up. The city official takes a seat in the circle and the Occupier goes out to join the Anons. The city man states, “I’ve got the Mayor, Police Chief Tuscan and the City Human Rights Officer on the Dairy Queen incident now. I think we’ll see good results soon”.
Two evenings ago, the official man stopped in at the Dairy Queen in Canal Park to use the facilities. Apparently, the Canal Park Dairy Queen is now the place where area young teenagers of all ethnicities hang out. The kids were all playfully goofing off as young teenagers are prone to do. Two thirteen or fourteen year old African American young men were throwing ketchup packets at each other. Instead of just speaking to the young men, the manager called the police.
When the cops arrived, the city man thought he’d better hang around to see what was going to happen. There were two polite, friendly officers who told the city man they’d been having a long, rough night. Then there was Officer #464.
The Occupiers have interacted with Officer #464 in the past. Officer #464 is different than most of the other cops. He is an unusually tall, big man. He’s also a big bully. We hypothesize that he is insecure about his masculinity. Anyway, #464 tells the two boys that they are officially trespassed from Dairy Queen for an entire year. He growls, “If you don’t leave immediately I’m going to take you to Juvenile Hall!”
The city official wonders why it was only the two African American youngsters who were singled out for punishment. There were very many other young people present. He also wonders about the length of the punishment and remarks, “An entire year? That’s a lifetime for a kid to be forcibly separated from his friends. I could see a week or even a month but an entire year? It’s not right”.
As Mississippi Woman comes up the stairs, the sky becomes covered with dark menacing clouds; a strong, cool breeze blows over the Plaza. It feels great! Mississippi loves hard boiled eggs and begins eating her fill.
Menagerie Woman rides up on her bike; Bush Man is back at her house again. She comments, “As long as he acts right he can stay. If he starts bossing me around and being violent I’ll put him out again”.
A locally well-known professional photographer and singer rides up on his bike. He says, “I’ve always wondered what you guys had going on here”. The big Native Anon and several other Anons arrive. They greet us and go out to the protest corner. A middle aged Native Woman and a white street guy appear. We know the woman well; she attended our fires all the time at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. When she’s sober she’s just as sweet as can be; when she’s drunk she becomes dangerously violent. She doesn’t appear to be inebriated tonight.
We notice that two young Duluth cops are standing out on the Superior Street sidewalk looking at us. Eventually they come up to the circle. They act friendly, polite and they make small talk with us. We can tell they are looking carefully all over our area, probably to see if they can find anything that might be construed illegal. No such luck; they bid us good evening and walk back to their squad car.
Everyone feels a few drops of rain on their skin. Hmmm…… we hadn’t calculated for this. There was no mention of rain in any of the weather forecasts. A big DPD SUV pulls up in front of the regular squad car, Officer #464 gets out. He talks with the two cops and then they all head out towards the Anons. One cop is yelling, “Take off your masks! Take off your masks!” Oh great…..
An Occupier opines, “I’d better go and check this out”. She goes down the stairs and around the corner. She quietly stands where she probably won’t be noticed but can still see and hear what’s going on. #464 is sternly telling the Anons that it is illegal for them to be wearing their masks. The Anons don’t say much; they push their masks up on their heads. As the cops are leaving, the Occupier thinks the two young cops are probably still in training and #464 is trying to teach them how to be mean.
The Occupier and an Anon go back to the circle and tell everyone what happened. The Occupier says she knows that during the beginning Occupy protests, many cities passed laws forbidding people from wearing masks at protests. Another Occupier pulls out his phone, the first Occupier postulates, “I’m pretty sure Duluth does not have an anti-mask ordinance so it would probably be under state ordinances”. The phone Occupier does a quick search and the state ordinance pops up right away. It says something like “no one can wear a mask that conceals their identity during a protest”. Someone says, “Oh really? But the cops can come to protests all dressed up like Darth Vader and carrying deadly weapons too?” Someone else adds, “Yeah, I don’t recall ever hearing about the cops telling the KKK to take off their masks”.
The ordinance has a few exceptions like when using masks for religious or theatrical purposes. The Occupiers think the Anons could get by with calling themselves a Street Theater Troupe. However, the Anons will respond as they see fit.
The drama is over for now and Mississippi Woman has eaten enough eggs. She begins her usual rant. It’s not really awful but we’ve heard it so many times that we could save her the trouble and recite it ourselves. Her rant contains all the usual things spoken by Southern Baptist or Pentecostal preachers.
Most of the people in the circle break off into small groups and chat among themselves. The Occupiers, the city official and a young street man with long brown hair and a full beard are all who remain in the circle. The street man is really digging Mississippi Woman; he keeps saying, “Oh yeah, that’s right” and stuff like that. Eventually she winds down and bids us goodnight until next time.
It’s only 9:30pm but the fire is dying out and everyone is pretty exhausted from trying to cope with the heat of the last few days. As we pack up, an Occupier calls out to Taco Helping Man, “Hey, don’t forget that the Sobriety Pow Wow out at Mash-Ka-Wisen is this weekend”. Taco Man answers, “Oh right, are you going? Can I catch a ride?” The Occupier responds, “Sorry, I don’t think we’re going. We went to the Veterans Pow Wow a couple of weeks ago so probably won’t be able to make the one this weekend.
We’ll be able to make it to the fire circle at People’s Plaza next Tuesday though. Expect us.
G.A. Minutes 8-1-17