G.A. Minutes 10-10-17
It’s going to be another kinda weird evening again, although for a different reason this time. We’re at Peoples Plaza but the Fire Magician’s truck and all the fire supplies are up on a hoist in a mechanic shop. We’ve had to beg, borrow and steal everything except the firewood in order to make the fire circle tonight. Hopefully, everything will work out o.k.
There’s a good sized group of people already waiting when the first Occupiers arrive. Among those assembled are Chicago Man, Spiritual Man, a large contingent from Anonymous, Taco Helping Man and his partner, the older, Native, alcoholic who used to live in our former homeless camp and Mr. Evil. Everyone helps to set up the circle.
When we are finished, the Fire Magician starts up the fire. It’s going to be a cold night; the sky is overcast, and it’s almost dark already. The temperature is in the high 40s with an occasional chilly wind.
The flames roar; everyone pulls their chair up close. Spiritual Man asks, “So what was the most exciting thing that happened to you all this week?” An Occupier responds, “The benches are back!!” Everybody cheers. In case you haven’t heard, last Thursday the Duluth Police Department and/or some of the so called City leadership decided it would be a good idea to remove all the benches in Peoples Plaza and across the street in Lake Place Park. They thought removing benches would make all the homeless people leave the area.
What a bunch of lame brains. The homeless people have nowhere else to go. They’ll be made less comfortable but they’ll sit on the cement or on the planters; they won’t just leave.
Anyway, The Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition folks jumped on the issue right away. They asked everyone to contact their City Councilors and the Mayor. Someone started one of those Change.org petitions; it was on its way to 1,000 signatures on the first day. People started discreetly dropping off old couches and easy chairs where the benches used to be.
By Sunday, DPD Chief Tusken decided that fighting about benches for homeless people was not a good thing to do. The benches were put back earlier today. Yes! Power to the People! Smash the State! ….. or something like that.
Tonight we’ve decided to try something different. There are so many hungry people out and about that the food we put out each week is generally all gone in less than an hour. We know we need to put out more food but our budget is quite limited. We’ve talked about having a small charcoal grill with a pot of soup or something on it.
We were recently gifted with a small charcoal grill. The Food Occupier has made a big pot of pinto beans with onions, a few fresh mushrooms, a little tomato sauce and salt. Simple fare but tasty and filling. The beans combined with one of our deluxe PB+J sandwiches can make a meal.
None of the Occupiers has much experience with charcoal but it seems like it shouldn’t be too difficult. The Fire Magician lays out the charcoal cubes, puts a little starter fluid on them and then a match. WHOOSH!!! Flames shoot up really high. The Food Occupier just happens to be sitting between both fires as they sprout gigantic blazes. Everyone is worried that she might catch on fire. She is laughing and thinking “This is so way cool!” Once the grill calms down, we put the big pot of beans on it. The soup is heated in no time and the street folks are delighted to be able to eat hot food.
One of the young Anon women tells us that she’s recently discovered she is pregnant. Her baby’s daddy is also an Anon. They are both barely into their 20s and a little taken back by this new development. However, they’re happy about it. They seem to be a well-meaning couple; we think they’ll do the best that they can.
An Occupier who has experience with these types of things offers a bit of advice. The father to be is Native so the Occupier tells the couple, “You know there are two major hospitals in Duluth. One has a practice of trying to take away the babies of young, unmarried women who are not from wealthy families, especially when the babies belong to people of color. The other hospital……not so much. If you’re going to have a hospital birth, please be sure to have it at the hospital that doesn’t try to take babies away”.
The Occupier who is a single parent rolls up. He’s coming from the Local Solutions to Poverty Candidate Forum that was held at Denfield H.S. this evening. He reports, “They didn’t really talk much about solutions to poverty. Joel Sipress talked a lot about the importance of raising the minimum wage and a few of the other candidates agreed that more low income housing is needed. Other than that, they didn’t have any solutions. It was kind of boring”.
Another Occupier remarks, “Yeah, candidates running for political office don’t like to get too specific about anything. They’re afraid of losing votes and campaign donations. Our election system is really messed up”.
Chicago Man has been talking about how much he hates his job and how most people are big pains in the ass. A handsome young man of indeterminable ethnicity sits down next to him. The young man is a friend of most of the Anons. It’s obvious that the two men are well acquainted; they talk about some family members. When Chicago Man mentions his problems, he says, “Well, I only have myself to rely on in terms of financial support so I have to keep the job whether I want to or not”. The young guy gives the man from Chicago a list of other places that are currently hiring and assures him that these places will have better pay and working conditions. When the young dude leaves to go off with the Anons, it’s evident that Chicago Man is in a better mood.
An Occupier has gone back to school for a Master Degree. He talks about some of his classes. He informs us, “I think I’m taking an environmental science class that was created in the 70s. The professor keeps saying that we have plenty of time to get a handle on climate change. He allows me to respectfully disagree with him but refuses to debate the issue. He keeps saying that we need to give the corporations time to adjust”. Another Occupier comments, “Fuck the corporations!” An Anon is passing by the circle; he hears what the second Occupier just said. He smiles at her and says, “Thank you”.
Menagerie Woman rides up on her bike. She’s finished with her usual Tuesday night activities. She getting some juice and then going off to the casino. She remarks, “Last week I won four dollars!”
The Most Obnoxious Street Woman and her partner appear. The woman is not being obnoxious again tonight. We could get used to this. They’re hungry and partake of several bowls of soup. The partner reports that they have just been kicked out of the nearest liquor store. They were trying to decide what they wanted to buy when the clerk told the partner that he had thirty seconds to decide; he then ordered them out of the store. This couple is multi-racial so we figure it must have been some racist kind of thing or maybe the clerk thought they were fixin’ to rob the place. Maybe both things; whatever it was, the clerk was in the wrong.
We don’t even bother to offer to help them file a complaint. We know that they won’t do it. Most street folks are so used to being mistreated that they just accept it. They figure that if they complain, they’ll just end up in jail. Most of the time they’re right. In the long run, the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights aims to change that. After eating, the couple has to go off to catch a bus to the next closest liquor store.
It’s only 8:30pm but the Anons are taking off. They leave en masse so they’re probably going marching. Suddenly, there are only Occupiers at the fire. Someone opines, “This is like old times at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial”. It is.
The College Occupier asks, “I have a lot of homework this week. What do you think are the most important events needing attendance this week?” Another Occupier responds, “The Human Rights Commission is going to do their first reading of the final draft of the legal language for the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights tomorrow at 5:30pm, 4th floor, Mayors Conference Room in City Hall. We need bodies to show up and just sit there so they will see that many citizens of Duluth support the HPB of R.
“Then, of course, there’s the march and rally to Dismantle the Legacy of Racism on Saturday starting at 10am. We need a really big turnout for that”.
The older burned out Native dude makes an appearance. He states, “I need to find Lil’ Bear. His girlfriend has my girlfriend’s phone and I need to get it back”. An Occupier imparts, “He was here earlier but he left with the Anons. They went that way”. The burned out guy answers, “O.K. Miigwitch (Thank you)” and heads out toward the west end of Superior St.
A young street couple who we haven’t met in the past comes up the stairs. They are clean, stylishly dressed and well spoken. The man is nice looking, the woman is exceptionally beautiful. They are both quite hungry and gratefully consume several bowls of bean soup. They are trying to find a place to sleep for the night. Once they have eaten, they go off to look for a place that is not already taken.
An Anon who wasn’t present when the rest were in the Plaza arrives. “Where is everybody?” he asks. We tell what we know and he tells us that he just got a new job two days ago down in Canal Park. There are no buses running down there when his shift is over so he has to walk two and a half miles to his home. He says, “I got here as soon as I could. I was hoping they would wait for me”.
All of a sudden, a large group of people come up the stairs. Word must have gotten around that we have hot food. Among this group is Spiritual Man, the male from the regular multi-racial couple who have visited our fire for many years and the young couple who left to find somewhere to sleep. We give them all bowls of beans.
Spiritual Man is acquainted with the beautiful young woman. As they chat she comments, “I don’t know how we’re going to be able to keep carrying all this stuff”. Spiritual Man answers, “Well, I have my backpack here. We could put some of your stuff in it and I could follow you and your partner to where you’re going”. The woman replies, “I know you mean well” and proceeds to tell about the many times she trusted someone and they ripped her off.
Abruptly, she stands up and heads off down the street. As her partner begins to go after her, Spiritual Man pulls him aside for a quick minute and says, “You need to get her off the street, man. If you don’t, she is one that will definitely be targeted”.
The male of the regular multi-racial couple seems sad this evening. He sighs and tells us, “Well, we had to break up. She went back to doing drugs again. I hated to do it but I just had to let her go. I wish her well but I can’t let her ruin my life. I’m too old to have to start over again”.
An Occupier sighs and replies, “I’m so sorry. I know she was clean and sober for over a year. She told me that it was the first time in her entire young life that she hadn’t been using something. It was quite obvious that she loves you. I hope she will miss you so much that she will decide to try and get clean again”. The male adds, “She was doing real good but then her father died; her brother died shortly after that. I guess she just couldn’t cope with the pain”.
So it’s now at least 10:30pm; well past time to go in and live to fight another day. The Anarchist rides up on his bike just in time to help us pack up. He’s always helping people.
It had better not rain next Tuesday because we intend to be back at Peoples Plaza with more soup.
G.A. Minutes 10-10-17