G.A. Minutes 10-24-17
The Occupiers who usually bring most of the supplies are exceptionally late when they roll up on Peoples Plaza this evening. Everyone was beginning to get worried.
The Food Occupier sticks her head out of her car window and exclaims, “Today was a difficult day. This afternoon my computer crashed and we spent way too long trying to fix it without any luck. After that, we ran around like crazy trying to get all the fire circle stuff prepared. The Fire Magician left his phone in the house then locked all his keys in the truck. He had to walk a long way in order to buzz me at the front door so I could go and let him in. Dealing with that took more time; sorry we’re late”.
The Occupier steps out of her car and remarks, “Oh my god, it’s cold already!” She puts on another layer of warm clothing. The sky is dark and partly cloudy; the temperature is in the low 40s and the wind is very strong. The weather people tell us to expect gusts up to 45mph. We’ll need to weigh down many things on the table.
A few of the Anonymous crew are already out on the protest corner; more are arriving from all directions. We start a large fire right away; the strong wind shoots the flames high into the air. The Food Occupier has made another big pot of soup; this time it turned out well enough to serve. It’s a slightly different version of her pinto bean and vegetable concoction. The Fire Magician gets the charcoal grill up and running and the soup is hot in no time.
The first folks in line to eat are the older Native street woman who likes to fight when she’s drunk, the 60 something Native guy who lives with his sister up on the top of the hill when he’s not drinking and the younger cousin of the Infamous Street Woman. We’ve known these people for many years; they’ve spend the majority of their lives hanging out and living in the street. Behind them are 5 or 6 more folks that we’ve met in the past but don’t actually know. Once everyone else has been served, the Occupiers serve themselves.
The older Native woman who likes to fight has a new sweetheart again. She appears to be a serial monogamist as she changes boyfriends approximately once a year. Her new boyfriend is somewhat drunk but pleasant and wanting to have a serious conversation with us. He asks, “So are you guys Republicans or Democrats?” We tell him that we think Dems and Repubs are really the same party as they are all under the thumb of the corporations. The new sweetheart replies, “Oh, so you guys must belong to the Green Party then”. We answer that those of us who still vote will cast our ballots for Green Party candidates when possible but none of us belong to any political party. This surprises Mr. Sweetheart; he’s not opposed to this concept, he just didn’t realize one could be a community organizer without belonging to an official political party.
Someone has brought flyers and put them on the table. The flyers tell about Community Connect; a semi-annual event in the Central Hillside where homeless and poor people can get connected to all the social service agencies. Most of the street folks have been on housing, healthcare, legal aid and other lists for a long time. They generally are forced to live on the streets for 3 years or so before their number comes up. If they miss any of their scheduled agency appointments, it will take much longer. In the meantime, they just have to figure out how to survive until they qualify to have some sort of roof over their heads. Sometimes they die while waiting.
However, Community Connect also offers free foot care, haircuts, winter clothing and lunch. This time the event will be held on Thursday October 26th 11am-1pm at the Damiano Center. Most of the folks in the circle are planning to attend; a few of the Occupiers will be taking advantage of what Community Connect has to offer also.
The Anons come in from the corner; they then go off marching through the downtown. The street folks are gossiping about something as a big gust of wind blows a lot of the stuff on the table to the ground. We quickly set everything right then sit back down to listen to the folks from the street. Apparently we didn’t notice that the burning sage had been blown out of its dish; started some of the flyers on fire then ignited the tablecloth. Oh well…. we all laugh as we smother the minor blaze.
Mr. Sweetheart opines, “The real problem in this country is that we give all our money to foreign countries; that’s why we don’t have enough for our own people”. An Occupier replies, “Actually, I have no problem with giving aid to the people in foreign countries who need it. The problem is that the money is never given to the people who really lack it. It’s given to the dictators and elites of a country with the provision that they put some in their pockets and use the rest to buy American weapons and such”.
An Occupier says, “The No Enbridge Line 3 rally and the Public Utilities Commission hearing last Wednesday just rocked didn’t it?” We agree and she continues, “The newspapers and TV stations said the hearing was closed down early because of ‘extremist environmentalists’. That’s not how things really went down. There was a great rally here at Peoples Plaza with many, many people. Then a round dance in the main intersection with the police stopping traffic for it and a march to the DECC for the PUC hearing with the police leading the way. When we got to the DECC we all went in. The drummers, singers and dancers led the way and continued singing, dancing and drumming once inside the building.
“When the hearing started, the cops told the Native folks to be quiet. That just made them sing and drum louder. A lot of people don’t understand that most of the young Native Water Protectors are veterans of Standing Rock. They are non-violent but have been so horribly abused by the North Dakota police and hired security goons that they are pretty fearless.
“The cops closed all the doors to the hearing room and one of them told a jingle dress dancer she couldn’t go into the hearing room while wearing her jingle dress. That didn’t go over too well. It’s kinda like if the police were guarding the doors to a big event in a Catholic church. If one of the cops told a Catholic official who was trying to enter that he couldn’t go in as long as he was wearing his long robe and silly looking hat. That wouldn’t go over too well either.
“Anyway, I was already in the hearing room having just finished speaking. The leader of the women’s singing group was testifying when I heard a lot of screaming and yelling going on outside. The judge stopped the hearing, the cops backed down, let the people in and things calmed down for a while.
The judge was pulling names of people wishing to speak out of a box; a guy from a miners’ union up on The Range spoke; he ended by saying’ God bless America and God bless mining!’ The judge called out a Native woman’s name then looked up and said, ‘Oh, you’ve spoken at a previous hearing; I recognize your face. You’ll have to go to the back of the line’.
That’s when all hell broke loose. An African American/Native dude started chanting ‘Racism! Racism! You let the tobacco chewing, good ol’ boys speak but not us? She can’t speak because you recognize her face? Racism! Racism!’ The rest of the Native Water Protectors took up the chant too.
“The judge had been acting like a cheerful kindergarten teacher all night long. She said, ‘If you won’t be quiet, we’ll just stop the hearing until you are’. Of course, that was the absolute wrong thing to say. Louder chanting commenced; the judge said, ‘If you won’t be quiet, I’ll have to shut this hearing down. The Native Water Protectors chanted, ‘Shut it down! Shut it down!’ Other Water Protectors joined in. The judge said, ‘I declare this hearing hereby canceled!’
The people from Enbridge ran out of there so fast I bet they thought their pants were on fire. All the rest of the suits left shortly and things quieted down. I and another Occupy Water Protector stayed around for a while because there were lots of cops outside the building and we wanted to make sure that the Native young bloods were not harmed.
“The cops just stood around; they talked with those who wanted to talk. No one was harassed; there was no violence. If this had been North Dakota, the piggies would have beaten the kids heads to a pulp. That’s not to say the cops won’t be violent with us at a later date. We are very serious when we say we don’t want Enbridge’s earth and water destroying pipeline on our lands.
Many people don’t understand that most folks who live on the reservations are very poor. Many live on less than $5,000 a year. They have had their land, culture, language and children stolen by the dominant culture. The gathering of manoomin (wild rice), maple syrup, medicine and such is all they have left. They use the foods and medicines provided by the Creator for bare survival. Now Enbridge wants to take that away too?!? We don’t think so!”
Another Occupier comments, “I thought the Native Water Protector/Anonymous takeover of Wells Fargo yesterday was pretty cool too”. The first Occupier answers, “Yeah, I saw the video of the takeover. It was well coordinated; you all did a good job. Some of us were unable to be there as we were busy stacking all the wood that we hauled in and also making tonight’s soup. I sometimes wish I could be at least two places at once”.
The newly pregnant Anon arrives; she shows us a picture of the ultra sound she had taken today. No one can actually see anything we can recognize but we “oohh and aahh” anyway. The Anon tells us, “It’s twice the size that it was two weeks ago”.
The multi-racial couple who are regulars at our fire appear. We’re pleased to see that they are back together again. The woman reports, “Well, I had a little relapse when my father died but I’m back on track again”.
The strawberry blonde homeless guy who has serious mental health issues has become a regular at our fire circles this year. As he sits telling harmless jokes an Occupier whispers to another, “Do you think that nice insulated vest that we have left over would fit him?” She says to the blond guy, “Do you have any warmer clothes than what you are wearing?” When he says, “No, everything I had got left behind when I got kicked out of CHUM” she nods to the other Occupier who goes to get the vest and gives it to the homeless guy. Mr. Strawberry Blonde is then a very happy camper.
The pregnant Anon and the woman from the multi-racial couple are talking about Child Protection Services. The Anon turns to an Occupier and states, “I think you are right. I’m only two months pregnant but the people at the hospital I’ve been going to already want to bring CPS into the picture. I’m gonna change hospitals”. The Occupier replies, “You can get all the services and programs that the bad hospital is offering at the good hospital too. The difference is, the good hospital will treat you like a human being instead of a criminal”.
Just then, a huge gust of wind sends everything flying. It even knocks over some of the stuff that is weighted down. It’s only a little after 9pm; the homeless ones have gone off to their sleeping places. We think this may be a sign that we need to take our sorry asses home too.
As everyone leaves, three Occupiers agree to stay and do the packing up. A youngish guy of indeterminate ethnicity appears out of nowhere. He has long dark hair and a beard. The wind makes the temperature seem like twenty degrees or less but this guy is not wearing a shirt or any other covering on his upper body. He’s sagging his pants too.
He starts grabbing chairs and stacking them in the back of the truck. He doesn’t say a word but is quick and efficient. He has all the furniture put away in a minute or less. When we turn to thank him, we find that he has disappeared. Did we hallucinate the whole thing? The chairs are all stacked neatly in the truck so it must have happened. We’re sure we didn’t do it.
Whatever…….. this time of year is kind of iffy but if the weather gods allow it, we’ll be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 10-24-17