G.A. Minutes 5-15-18
We are finally holding our first recreational fire at Peoples Plaza! It’s about time!! In the past years we’ve been able to start up again sometime in April; this time winter started in mid-October and didn’t let up until the beginning of May. That’s way too long; hopefully it’s not the new normal. Climate change doesn’t appear to be cutting any breaks though.
We’ve had a couple of really nice days with temperatures in the 70s and southerly breezes however, this evening is chilly with partly cloudy skies, temperatures in the low 40s and a gusty east wind. We don’t care, we just dress warmly; the Fire Magician builds a big fire.
When the Occupiers who are responsible for bringing most of the supplies drive their vehicles onto the Plaza, they find The Anarchist, an Occupier who has been unable to be around for many months and a small group of the Anonymous crew waiting for them. Everyone helps to get the table and fire circle set up. We’ve been fortunate to be able to provide a big jug of clean water, organic apple juice, deluxe pb+j sandwiches, cookies, pickles, chips and whole bean “Stay Awake Forever” coffee. A big pot of organic whole made soup containing hamburger, vegetables and other good things sits on a small charcoal grill within the reach of an Occupier who fill bowls for all who wish to partake.
The Anons have chalked the entire Plaza before anyone else arrived; it looks great. The chalk letters mostly cover two topics; No Line 3 and Free Palestine. An Occupier suggests, “It might be a good idea to start connecting the Husky Oil Refinery explosion and fire in Superior WI with No Line 3. After all, Enbridge’s nasty tar sands oil pipeline 3 is planned to end up at the Husky Refinery. According to a well known Anishinaabe prophecy, a black snake will slither across the land; if the people don’t stop it, it will destroy the earth. It’s commonly believed that the black snake is all the oil pipelines. It seems to me that wherever the black snake ends could be considered the head of the snake. We could make good use of that analogy”.
Another Occupier adds, “I think Honor the Earth is pretty much the leader around here in the fight to stop Line 3. We should present this idea to them and listen to what they say. I’ll give our friend, one of the organizers for HTE a call and find out what she thinks about it”.
An Occupier tells us, “I recently saw on the local commercial TV news that the mayor of Superior and the County Board (or something like that) have told Husky that they will absolutely not be allowed to have that big tank of hydroflouric acid on the refinery premises anymore”. Another Occupier adds, “No shit aye?! Hardly any oil refineries use that stuff anymore because of how seriously dangerous it is. When the asphalt tank at the Husky Refinery caught on fire and then exploded, the hydroflouric acid tank was sitting almost right next to it. If the acid tank would have exploded it would have taken entire surrounding neighborhoods with it. Thousands of people would have been killed. Another Occupier interjects, “If it was up to me, I’d say get rid of the refinery completely and put solar and wind power making facilities in its place. I know that will be a really hard sell to the families of the 195 employees who work at the refinery but it’s definitely the direction we should be going in”. Everyone in the circle is down with this idea.
A slightly built, older man who appears to be homeless walks up to the fire. We don’t recall ever meeting him in the past. He has a small sign the says, Will Work for Food. The guy waits for a bit then asks, “So what are you folks doing?” An Occupier deadpans, “Sitting around a fire”. We explain the basic premise for our fire circle, offer him free reign on the provisions on the table and invite him to sit with us. He doesn’t take any food but happily pours himself a cup of coffee and rolls a cigarette from the tobacco pouch. He briefly sits in the circle then remarks, “Well I guess I’d better get back out there”. Once the old dude leaves, an Occupier opines, “The letters on his sign are way too small; the people in the vehicles won’t be able to read it”. Fortunately, a person with a sign anywhere around the intersection of Lake Ave and Superior St is a common site. Most drivers will know that the person is asking for some type of help. Some drivers will hand the sign person some money, some will give food and some will yell mean things. “Different strokes for different folks” or something like that.
A middle aged former street woman, who we have known for many years, was hired by a cleaning company last year to work the evening shift helping to clean the MN Power Building which is on the west side of Peoples Plaza. When we see her coming over to empty our big garbage can, we realize she has managed to hold on to her job since last autumn. This is good. We offer food and such; she takes a small glass of apple juice and nervously replies, “I’m on the clock so gotta keep moving”. Off she goes.
A couple of youngish white guys, who are dressed like privileged jocks, walk by out on the sidewalk outside the Plaza; they stop and stare at us. It’s obvious they are not pleased. Their expressions are of shock and indignation; they appear to frown upon a bunch of raggedly looking people sitting around a camp fire in a public place and right out in the open too. Oh well….. too bad for them; we ignore them and they move on.
Both members of one of the Occupier couples are dragging their asses around tonight. When someone comments on this the couple explains, “We were out with some of the Natives Against Heroin crew this weekend. They had us wearing N.A.H. T-shirts and walking up and down throughout our hood. I think the lead organizer wanted us to make our presence known. We’re not sure that’s the best way to go about things but we’ll wait to see how the group develops. Anyway, those N.A.H folks are mostly young; they can easily walk on concrete for hours while climbing up and down the hills. As you may have noticed, we can’t easily do that anymore. We didn’t want to look like slackers though so kept up the pace with everyone else. We’re still paying for it”. Everyone laughs.
Changing the subject, an Anon reports, “Did-ya see where the MN House of Reps passed the anti-protest bill a week or so ago?” When some of us say, “Huh?” the Anon continues, “That’s the bill that increases the penalty for blocking a freeway or any other form of transit. I think pedestrians are considered transit too”. An Occupier, referencing the past Black Lives Matter protests, exclaims, “I guess some of those legislators think we should make it even easier for cops to kill black men”. Another Occupier interjects, “Well it still has to pass the Senate and the governor has to sign it, so I’ll just have to put it a little down on my list of things to worry about for right now”.
An Occupier reports, “The US Senate will vote tomorrow on whether to override the FCC ruling to cancel net neutrality. That’s a pretty big one; I hope it goes in favor of the people”. We say, “For real”.
Someone else reports, “I see that North Korea has pulled out of the agreement to have official talks with South Korea. That’s not surprising as the US went ahead with their scheduled war games or whatever it is in the waters outside of North Korea. All this tit for tat crap will probably go on for a while before the two countries actually have talks.” Everyone groans.
A slender Native man, who looks younger than his years, comes quietly into the circle. After a minute or so, an Occupier calls out the man’s name. The slender man smiles and replies, “You remember me! After 3 years you still remember me”. The Occupier responds, “Oh yeah, most definitely. So how you doing?” The man is about to answer but looks around and asks, “Where’s my girlfriend? Did anybody see where she went?” An Anon points and tells him, “Yeah she took off that way about a minute ago.” The man runs off after her.
An Occupier thinks to herself, “Damn! I hope he’s not back in another bad relationship. It can’t have been very long since he got out of prison because of the false abuse accusations that his last girlfriend made against him. She was a very mean person; when she died in her sleep while he was in prison, I wonder how he felt”.
A dude with a thick head and beard of black hair arrives. We don’t know him but we’ve seen him around the hood for several years. Tonight he’s selling well made, hemp bracelets. An Occupier buys one from him and the furry dude goes on his way.
Another Native guy who we’ve met in the past rolls up. He is immaculately dressed in full skater regalia and possibly a bit drunk. He’s a good friend of the Anons; they give him one of their masks. He says, “You know I’m gonna have to design this mask to match my style”. They laugh and say, “Yeah, no problem”. The skater dude tells an Occupier, “You know, I’m really trying to walk the Red Road but I keep falling off”. The Occupier answers, “All you can do is to get back up and get back on it. Don’t ever stop trying”.
The Most Obnoxious Street Woman turns up. We’re never particularly happy to see her but as far as we have seen, she hasn’t been very obnoxious for almost a year. However, many of the other street folks assure us that she is still very obnoxious. Anyway, she gets coffee, pickles and a bowl of soup. Once she gets her food settled, she gives a gift to the Occupier who brings most of the food and tells her, “Maybe you could use this to put purple streaks in your hair”. The Occupier thanks the formerly obnoxious woman and puts the gift away for later. A friend of the gift giving woman arrives, she gets coffee and the two women sit in the circle and chat.
Another Anon, accompanied by a large group of friends, come up the stairs. We know most of them; everyone is laughing and pleasantly talking all at once. Most get food and drinks and warm themselves by the fire. The Native skater is joking with an Anon, he laughingly announces, “Man, I’m old school. I’m 33 years old; do you know how old that is in skater years” He then takes off on his board and begins doing all sorts of marvelous tricks like going real fast then spinning around, flipping his board 360 degrees and landing back on the correct side, riding down the stairs without falling, leaping over a bench while his board goes under the bench and landing on the board as it comes out from under and riding on the edges of the concrete walls. An Occupier is impressed, “Wow, can you imagine what he could do if he was sober?”
After the show is over, someone asks what time it is. Eventually we figure out that it’s around 9:30pm. Probably time to pack up; everyone helps to put the chairs away. People with vehicles arrange to give rides to those without. Just before peeps start to leave, an Occupier remembers, “Hey, tomorrow over in Superior there’s going to be a discussion with environmental science professors from all the local colleges. It’s going to be a discussion about the explosion and fire at the Husky Refinery. It will be held at Zion Lutheran Church at 2022 E 2nd St and starts at 7:30pm. For anyone who is able to get there, it will probably be worth your while”.
The last few Occupiers who are tasked with putting the food away and putting out the fire are just getting started when a former Anon who is working mostly with N.A.H. these days, appears. They stop what they’re doing and stand around the fire with the big Native dude and talk for a while. He’s going into the hospital tomorrow to have his tonsils removed and seems to be trying to hide the fact that he’s nervous. The Occupiers just listen to the big guy until he feels better then he helps the Fire Magician put out the fire.
The Occupier who brings most of the food reaches in a big bin and pulls out the gift from the Obnoxious Woman. Upon inspection she sees that the stuff inside the bottle will not die anyone’s hair. The label says Egyptian Dark Tanning Cream. The Food Occupier calls out, “Does anyone want to use this stuff to make their skin look darker than it already is? I must warn that my lengthy lifetime has shown me that this type of stuff turns white people’s skin orange. Everyone laughs and she confides, “Sorry but I’m just gonna throw this bottle in the garbage. It’s shaped like an alcohol bottle and if I just leave it here, I’m betting that some messed up person will stagger through here during the night and try to drink it. It might kill them, who knows?
With that, the cleanup is finished and everyone heads out with plans to hold another fire circle here, at Peoples Plaza, next Tuesday.