G.A. Minutes 6-26-18
We are at Peoples Plaza again this evening; it rained for much of the day but the weather people told us things would clear up by 6pm. We decided to take a chance and believe them. The sky is still overcast and looking like rain; the temperature is in the high 50s but a swirling, variable wind makes it feel a lot colder.
A few of the Anonymous crew are here to greet the Food Occupier and the Fire Magician when they arrive. Another Occupier shows up shortly thereafter; everyone gets to work setting up the fire circle. Setting up takes a bit longer now because we need to make a second fire on a small charcoal grill in order to keep the soup warm. This year we’ve noticed that a lot more people besides the street people appear to be seriously hungry. We decided to bring a big pot of hearty, organic, homemade soup whenever possible. Most of the folks who stop by just devour the soup; many ask for seconds. Of course, we all eat it too; it tastes really good.
Tonight we have to hold our fire circle right in front of the Mn Power Building, the same as we did last week. When we arrived at the Plaza last week we found that someone had placed a huge cement planter containing a big tree right in the middle of the two other planters that had already been placed at our vehicle entrance. The two trees were put at our entrance when Mn Power put out all their usual beautiful flowers and planters like they always do once the weather starts feeling like summer, but at first they left a little room for us to squeek between them to access the plaza.
We figured the trees were put there to make it difficult for us to drive our vehicles up into the Plaza and over to the far eastern side in order to unload all our stuff; when we’re done unloading, we drive the vehicles off and park on the street. The thing is, the majority of the Occupiers are up in age; their days of carrying heavy stuff for long distances are over. We can’t always depend on the young Anons to help us as sometimes they need to be somewhere else. We have been using the far side of the Plaza because it’s removed from the street where there are tourists and privileged fraternity boys, who have a bug up their butt about poor people being able to hold a fire circle in a public space. We don’t really care to have those probably racist folks up in our faces. Also, there are many benches where homeless and street people like to sit; they’re always happy to see us. In front of the Mn Power building we are right next to the sidewalk where all the tight asses go by and so far, many of the homeless ones have been too shy or afraid to join us. Maybe they don’t like things to change?
A couple of weeks ago, a cop told the Fire Magician that every time we’ve had a fire in the Plaza, someone working the evening shift in the Mn Power Building calls the police complaining about our vehicles being there. Every time someone calls 911 the police have to respond; we’ve noticed, this year, squad cars have parked on the street, sat for a while and then left. We thought they were checking out the Anons protesting on the corner but apparently that was not the case. They came to see if our vehicles were still parked on the site but each time, by the time they arrived, our vehicles were gone.
Every year since we’ve been holding our fire circles at Peoples Plaza when we’d start up the first fire of the year, a very straight looking dude who identified himself as the head of Mn Power Building maintenance, would come out to talk with us. He was always very friendly, welcoming us and saying he knew that we were completely within our legal rights to have fires here and how impressed he was with how well we took care of space, cleaned up when we were done and blah, blah, blah. This year he didn’t come out, we figured he was just busy and didn’t think greeting us was necessary anymore. Hmm….
None of the Occupiers can remember the guy’s name. A couple of days ago, the Reporting Occupier went to the front desk in an attempt to speak with the friendly dude. The receptionist treated her with suspicion and refused to help her in any way, then sent her on a convoluted path that ended up at a locked door out on Michigan St. The Reporting Occupier contacted the city official, asking him to help out or at least to find out the dude’s name. The official man is currently on the case… shit never ends.
Anyway, tonight we have Anons, Occupiers, the ex-military guy who had his bike stolen, a Water Protector from the former Makwa Camp and some non-street or homeless Native folks who look vaguely familiar to us sitting in the circle. The soup is heating up, everything else is set up and ready to go but… there’s no fire. It’s chilly tonight too; we always wait for the Fire Magician to light the fire because then it will burn very well throughout the evening. (don’t ask about the times when someone else took it upon themselves to light the fire). The fire pit is all set up and ready to go but the Fire Magician is nowhere to be seen. He went to park our vehicles on the street but that was a long while ago, the Food Occupier goes looking and finds him at the far eastern edge of the Plaza talking with Taco Man, his partner and a retired military, guitar playing man who we met last year. She requests, “Will you please come and light the fire? We’re all freezing”. No problem, the fire gets lit, flames roar up and we all feel a heck of a lot better right away.
The Anons announce that they will be holding a No Line 3 rally tomorrow starting at 11am. Many people in the circle plan to attend. If they have enough folks they’ll march over to the Enbridge office and scare the crap out of the employees. We have to laugh at the Enbridge office staff; whenever anyone holds a rally and marches to an Enbridge office, the employees lock all the doors, cover all the windows and hide behind their desks pretending no one is there. Occasionally, they’ll send a supervisor out to talk but it’s always the same ol’ same ol’; the guy (it’s always a guy) says he can’t talk right then but gives us his business card and tells us to call him anytime with questions or whatever. When we call his number he never answers or returns calls to the messages we leave; most of the time we even leave polite sounding messages. Maybe the Enbridge peeps subconsciously know that what they are doing is wrong?
The soup is ready! Yay! Everyone gets a bowl and chows down; tonight its lentil with various vegetables. A little bit of wine vinegar and uncured bacon make the flavor perfect.
The Occupier who writes the meeting minutes comments, “I supposed you’ve all noticed that I haven’t put out any minutes for the last two weeks? Having He Who Shall Not Be Named show up last week took precedence over everything else”. We all say, “No shit aye?” She continues, “You know that I was one of about fifty of the main organizers; we were forced to drop everything else that we were doing in order to concentrate on showing HWSNBN that he was not welcome in our city”. All of the Occupiers and Anons were consumed with preparations for unwelcoming the moron who thinks he’s our president.
Our last meeting was the day before HWSNBN was scheduled to arrive. We were all excited and a bit nervous too. HWSNBN supporters are known to be violent and we knew we’d be coming into contact with them at some point but it couldn’t be helped.
So things went down like this: There were three anti- Moron Guy rallies last Wednesday, each were scheduled to take place during the hours that The Moron was speaking; one was held in Leif Erickson Park, it was proclaimed to be a total peace and love event with lots of good words and music and stuff. The Occupiers are pretty much peace and love types but we felt that it was important for all Duluthians to make their objections to the inhumanity, stupidity and Russian roulette playing nature of Moron Guy and his minions seen and heard. We didn’t even ask the Anons what they were gonna do; we knew they’d be on the front lines.
Another rally was held in Lake Place Park and sponsored by the local establishment Democrats. A third rally and march was held at the Civic Center; it was the one for peeps who wanted to make Moron Guy and his supporters realize that he was not welcome in our city. The Occupiers went to this rally; the Anons showed up towards the end. It looked like there were about one thousand protesters in attendance. Everyone listened to speeches and looked at all the way cool signs most people were carrying. When the rally part was over almost everyone went on the march. Some of the Occupiers and all the Anons left with the march; other Occupiers went down to the protest corner at Peoples Plaza to hold down the fort until the Anons and others arrived.
When the Occupiers arrived at the corner we saw about twenty people, presumably Democrats, holding signs across the street (Lake Ave). We couldn’t read their signs but assumed they were about voting and candidates and stuff. We all waved at each other then the Democrats went back into Lake Place Park. When the Anons arrived they reported that the marchers made one hell of a lot of noise, especially outside of the Amsoil building where The Moron was speaking. Later we were told that the noise was heard inside the arena: we were also told there were a lot of empty seats.
The Anons also reported they had been physically attacked by Moron supporters earlier in the day. Some of them had bruises and black eyes; they told us they had been walking down a hallway on the way to the front door of the Amsoil building. They were wearing their masks and carrying their flags and stuff; they were gonna see if they would be allowed to enter the arena (like that would have ever happened). There was a line of Moron supporters standing up beside the wall, waiting to get in. When the Anons “walked the gauntlet” the supporters started shoving and hitting them. An Anon, who generally stands out because he’s very tall and thin, tells us, “Several supporters came at me from behind to punch me in my back. Little did they know that my backpack was full of sharp rocks; this was not my first rodeo. When they hit me with full force, they did a lot more damage to their hands than they did to me”. Some Anons have black eyes; their masks protected them from further injury.
So the protest line was filled with many people, mostly those from the general Central Hillside or West End parts of town. We were probably fifty or so in number. When the Moron’s speech finished, several buses from further north in MN drove by on their way to pick up the many supporters from out of the area. The supporters who drove their own cars had to walk down Lake Ave in order to retrieve them at parking lots up the hill. They were forced to make a choice between running across the freeway to the Lake Place Park sidewalk where they would just meet tourists and street people tying to spare change. If they chose to continue on the Plaza sidewalk they would have to “walk the gauntlet” of the protesters. We watched many a big sized, white male supporter run frantically across the freeway in order to avoid the “rabid” protesters.
As the Plaza sidewalk supporters came down the overpass we could see they were nervous; some looked downright scared. When they entered the line some of the Occupiers would say, “Don’t worry, no one will hurt you”. That made some of them relax a little; when they got further down the line, some of the young bloods up on the ledge would yell at them. The worst they were forced to hear was “Fuck Trump!”. When the Anon music was thumpin’ nobody said a thing; we were all busy getting our groove on. When the supporters got to the end of the line they were safe again and could go home to their imaginary worlds. NO ONE LAYED EVEN A FINGER ON THEM. I wonder if they learned anything? Probably not.
Meanwhile, back at the fire circle, the big Native Anon reports, “Man, I couldn’t believe those Moron supporters. When we walked thru their space they went for all the women, even the visibly pregnant one. They also went for the Anons who were shorter or smaller than them. They never went near me or the big African American Anon. Finally, I had to walk over and tell them to stop abusing my friends; they then acted like I was the one abusing THEM”. He also tells us, “Since I started my job yesterday, on the night shift at Thunderbird House, I have been unable to fall asleep”. An Occupier replies, “It takes a while to adjust to a different sleep/awake pattern. What you’re experiencing is normal”. The big Anon just hit his two years sobriety mark so we can’t offer him any of the natural or unnatural remedies that we may have.
The partner of the Stylish Native Woman arrives; this is the first time this year that he’s attended our fire. He tells several stories about being jumped lately by young white dudes. The Partner is older and creakier now and he lost two fingers to frostbite the winter before last. He could still fight them but he knows he’d get beaten badly so he just asks them, “What makes you think it’s cool to beat up a homeless man?” He says to us, “Being homeless has gotten a lot harder these past few years”. We think it’s because all the Fascist and Nazi people, since they hooked up with The Moron, think they can get away with all their sick bullshit.
The retired military dude brings his guitar and joins the circle. We give him soup and stuff and he allows an Anon to play his guitar. It’s a left handed guitar; the Anon is right handed but easily plays this guitar. The retired dude is amazed.
A street guy who comes around off and on rolls up; the last time we saw him was at a Sobriety Feast last autumn. He had five months sobriety then; it looks like he’s fallen off the wagon now. We ask him about a beautiful street woman who we haven’t seen in several years. He is a friend of hers and tells us, “Well, she experienced a rape and then moved back with her family in White Earth. She’s been sober for a long time”. He also informs us, “I’m going to move to St. Cloud in a couple of days, my family bought me a house there”. An Occupier comments, “Your family must really love you”; he replies, “Yeah, they do. For much of my life I didn’t think that was very important but now I understand that it is”.
The African American schizophrenic dude who lives in the Skinner Apts joins the circle. We don’t recognize him at first because he’s grown a huge beard; he looks like a gigantic elf. Once he starts talking we realize who he is. He never has much that is interesting to say but he’s always kind and pleasant. We give him some soup.
One of the Anons, who is always fashionably dressed, drops in; he’s playing some pretty good hip-hop on his phone. He gets soup, bread and chips then cranks his tunes up real loud. We all stop talking and rock out to the music. Once the fashionable dude is finished eating, he leaves and we go back to talking.
Chicago Man is the next to arrive; he spent the weekend down in The Cities celebrating Pride. He tells us that there was a booth sponsored by The Moron at Pride Fest. He remarks, “I just could not believe it. I went over to the booth and spoke with the workers, they said, ‘Oh, The Moron is very supportive of GBLT+ people’. I said, Oh no honey, The Moron is NOT supportive of GBLT+ folks. Did they think I was stupid?”
The Occupier who is a college student opines, “I think The Moron is gonna try and get us into another war before 2020. People don’t like to vote against a president when there is a war on”. Another Occupier responds, “I think you’re right. We need to make people aware of that tactic; I wonder if we could start up the Northland Anti-War Coalition again? I could ask the lead organizers”.
The multiracial couple and their pregnant, homeless friend cruise through. They’re on their way to a movie but wanted to stop in and say hello. An Occupier exclaims, “Oh good! You are just the people I was hoping to see. Have you found a place for your friend to stay?” They tell her that they have not and she responds, “I spoke with one of the Catholic Workers from Olive Branch House; they said you should bring your friend over in the daytime to get acquainted. They have a whole house full of pregnant women and women who have already given birth right now but one of them will be moving soon so they could have room for your friend”. The female of the couple cries out, “That is so wonderful! I will take her over there tomorrow; thanks for remembering us”. They go off to their movie.
All of the homeless and/or street people have gone off to their sleeping places. It’s only Anons and Occupiers at the fire now. A conversation about religion begins; it’s centered around if there is only one God who is known by many different names in many different cultures or if there are many gods. The Water Protector from the former Makwa (bear) Camp interjects, “I’m mixed white and Native and my family members are all hardcore Christians. Someone decided to research our family’s ancestry; they discovered that we are descended from Jews. Our ancestors lied about their origins when they got to Ellis Island so they could get into America. Everyone in my family refuses to accept that fact. I tell them, “Facts are facts; there are no alternative facts”.
An Occupier asks the Occupier who likes to report things, “So what have you got for us tonight?” The reporting Occupier answers, “Just a few things; a new medical respite center has opened in Duluth. It’s for homeless people who are being released from the hospital and have nowhere to go. The grand opening was this evening. Another Occupier adds, “That’s something that is really needed here. Don’t get me started about what I have witnessed with homeless ones just being chucked out of the hospital. Everyone agrees; someone comments, “Yeah, like homeless ones being chucked out in only a hospital gown with I.V. Ports or dialysis equipment still in their arms”.
The Occupier continues reporting, “The two resolutions for the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights passed and the two ordinance changes were read for the first time last night at the City Council meeting. At the next meeting on Monday, July 9th, the two ordinances will be read again and then voted on. We’ll really need to pack the house for that; I hope you all will be there”. Everyone would like to attend but will need to be reminded again. “There’s going to be a Stand Against Husky event in Superior sometime in mid-July, it’s on a Tuesday. The college Occupier suggests, “Maybe we could go over there for our meeting on that Tuesday?” The reporting Occupier answers, “Yeah, maybe we could, we’ll have to decide before that day comes,,,, Did you guys get a look at the column written by some reporter for the Rolling Stone in the last few days? It was about Duluth”. Many in the circle have seen it. “A lot of Duluthians were really pissed. I was racking my brain tryin’ to figure out where I was gonna find the time to write a letter to the magazine; then our mayor Emily wrote one. It was more than adequate; she may not be everything we had hoped for but she did come through on this one” To those who have not seen the reporter’s column an Occupier explains, “It said that Duluth is Moron country, everything is covered with grime, we have tons of heroin addicts and a huge problem with domestic violence. After receiving Emily’s and other complaints, Rolling Stone said they would revise the column or some shit”.
For some reason the conversation turns to drugs. The big Native Anon tells us, “I have ADHD and had to take Ritalin thru all of my public school years. In high school there were drug dealers trying to sell Ritalin to their fellow students; when they came to me, I would tell them that although they all get high on that stuff, for me, it would only make me focus better on my homework”.
We all laugh.
The Water Protector tells us a joke, “Why should you never accept shoes from a drug dealer?” We don’t know. She explains, “Because you don’t know what they are laced with and you be trippin’ all day long”. The Occupiers just crack up; the Anons don’t get it. Someone explains, “It has a double meaning, it’s also about recreational drug use”.
It’s after 10pm; we think it’s time to pack up. When we are just about done, an Anon tells an Occupier, “A woman left this backpack under a chair in the circle. She was small, Native, she didn’t have any teeth and she was crying”. The Occupier replies, “Our friends who work at CHUM should be able to help out on this one. I live just a couple of blocks from CHUM so I can take the pack and call them tomorrow”.
On that note, we all head off to our (we’re fortunate to have them) homes. We plan to return to the Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.