G.A. Minutes 6-5-18
It looks like we’re gonna be able to hold a fire circle at People’s Park tonight.
We were rather unceremoniously run off last week. All day long last week, the weather people were saying there was a 50/50 chance that it would rain. During the day, some Occupiers were watching the weather map but by the time we arrived at the Plaza, we still didn’t know what would happen. We all stood and watched the cloud formations for a bit; it looked like the rain clouds were going to go west of us so we began setting up the circle. When we were about half way done, the rain came pouring down in sheets. Everyone got drenched while loading up; then we packed into vehicles and headed over to Coney Island to dry off.
Anyway, there’s no prediction of rain tonight; the sky is clear, the temperature is in the low 60s. A strong east wind makes things kinda chilly but a roaring fire will take care of that. The Fire Magician promptly obliges with the biggest fire that the fire pit will hold and a small charcoal grill sitting slightly outside the circle. The grill will keep the big pot of homemade chicken noodle soup with vegetables warm.
When the Occupiers bringing the supplies arrive, they find a good sized group of the Anonymous crew waiting for them. An Occupier comments, “I doubt we’ll be having many homeless and street folks visiting this evening. It’s still pretty early in the month so many will still have a little money left from their small government checks. They’ll be holed up somewhere, indulging in their substance of choice.
We notice that Taco Helping Man and his girlfriend are sitting on a bench a little away from the fire. We wave to them and when the table is finished being set up they come over and take food and tobacco. Then they go back to the bench; we figure they’re probably drinking and they both have enough sense to not profane the fire circle by bringing alcohol into it.
It’s good to see that they’re still together; they each have a lot of problems but they do a good job of watching each other’s backs. The devotion they have for each other is probably more loving than anything they ever received from their families. One of the reasons we think they are drinking is because Taco Man looks very sad; he always does when he drinks. When he’s not drinking all he can think about is the craving he has for alcohol. When he gives into it he becomes depressed, feeling like he’s failed again. His girlfriend doesn’t have an alcohol problem but likes to abuse her narcotic and anti-psychotic medications. She’s told us that she has a problem with hallucinations. The couple has been homeless for a long time; in the winter they stay at CHUM but as soon as the weather permits they take their tent and camp out in a secret place. Someday they may actually get their act together; you never know.
Speaking of alcohol, it appears that several of the Anons who come around occasionally have had a few drinks too. When an Occupier sees one of the occasional Anons pull out a little bottle and begin to pour it into a container of soda or something she says, “Please tell me that you’re not gonna drink that here. We never drink alcohol or abuse any type of substance in the fire circle. While we really can’t call this a sacred fire, we try to create a circle based on respect for Mother Earth and to make a safe space for all the people who come to sit here. If people want to do substance abuse they go away from the circle; when they’re done, providing they can keep their behavior in check, they are welcome to join the circle again. The occasional Anon replies, “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know”. He goes off to a bench away from the fire; a few of the other Occasionals join him.
Another somewhat older occasional dude arrives, he tells us that he just got kicked out of the brew house across the street. He was sitting at the bar drinking with an organic gardener and sometime organizer friend of ours. Apparently, the older Anon had been given a discount on his drinks by the brew house bartender. When the Anon started buying drinks at a discount and sharing them with the gardener, the bartender became angry, canceled the discount and threw the older Anon out of the bar. The Anon reports, “When I left, the gardener was sitting on a bar stool with his head face down on the bar”.
An Occupier opines, “What is up with all this drinking tonight? I really hate being around people when they drink; they always act so stupid”. Changing the subject, the big Native Anon exclaims, “Did you see those women just give us the evil eye?” The Occupiers have not seen and the big Anon continues, “A group of middle-aged white women came walking on the sidewalk out by the street, when they saw us they stopped and all just glared at us. I don’t know why”. An Occupier explains, “Oh, we get that sort of stuff all the time. Groups of straight and privileged looking white people come walking by, see our fire circle and just stop and glare at us. I don’t know what their problem is, ain’t nothin’ wrong with people sitting and talking around a safe and legal recreational fire in a public space”. We all say, “For real”.
Another regular Anon arrives; he’s accompanied by his mother. We all know and love his mother, She’s brought a big jug of homemade tea and takes a seat in the circle. The rest of the regular Anons are out on the corner with their signs that say, No Line 3, F Enbridge, No War But Class War and stuff like that. The Anon who has just arrived goes out to join them; all the occasional Anons follow him. Within minutes, one of the Occasionals is up on the street light post waving a flag and yelling; another is out on the median waving a flag and yelling too. An Occupier sitting in the circle remarks, “Well, if they want to bring on the cops, they’re doing a real good job right now”. Another, speaking about a particular Anon adds, “He just turned 18 years old a few days ago. I congratulated him, gave him a gift and told him that he was gonna need to change his attitude toward the cops. Now that he is of so called legal age, the cops have more leeway to fuck up his life”.
The regular Anons come back to the circle; they don’t look too happy. The Occasionals also return, they’re sitting, holding their heads in their hands. The Gardener comes out of the brew house and over to the circle; he appears shit faced but can still walk and talk. He has organized some very successful events over the years but is also in the habit of coming up with grand ideas that require others to do all the work. The Gardener enthuses to the Occupiers, “I think we should hold one of your fire circles here at the Plaza on the evening after Grandma’s Marathon. You could cancel your regular Tuesday fire and do it on Saturday instead”. An Occupier replies, “I don’t think that’s a very good idea. The whole downtown area will be just crawling with straight tourist types; for all we know, the City or Chamber of Commerce or someone may have some type of activity planned on that evening to take place in the Plaza. Our fire circles work best when there are no more than 20 or so people attending and over the years we’ve seen that most privileged white folks are none too thrilled with the concept of our gatherings. Besides, our fire circles are meant to serve homeless, street and others folks who are rarely, if ever, treated with any respect or vibe that they are deserving of being served. On top of that, there’s no way we could afford to provide enough top of the line coffee, soup or anything else for a bazillion people who can easily afford to buy their own”.
One of the Anons who is sober remarks, “We were thinking that we would pass out fliers here, to the passersby, on the Marathon Saturday evening”. Another Occupier responds, “Now that’s a good, doable idea. It wouldn’t cost a lot or take a huge amount of preparation; maybe some of us could join you. I imagine some of the tourists would give you the evil eye and refuse to take the fliers but so what? Others might be intrigued and stop to chat”. The Gardner leaves the circle; he lies down flat on his back under a tree.
A few of the Anons go back out to the corner with their signs; a guy in a big van slows down and aggressively yells out his window, “Take off your masks! Take off your masks!” The non-sober Anons jump up, scramble over the berm and onto the sidewalk. The yelling guy looks shocked and cries out, “Hey, watch what you say; I have kids in here!”. The Anons come back into the Plaza. We think, NOW WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD SOMEONE, WITH A BUNCH OF CHILDREN IN HIS VEHICLE, TRY TO PICK A FIGHT WITH A GROUP OF STRANGERS?
A small assortment of young folks who appear to be high school students arrive; they ask to join us. We happily invite them in and give them soup and stuff. They are wide eyed, believing they have wandered onto some type of exotic and wonderful new planet. A boy explains that they are waiting for a bus to take them all to their various homes. One of the girls tells us she has just received a full scholarship to St. Scholastica; we congratulate her. An Occupier comments, “I was considering going to CSS some years ago, I think you will be given a pretty good education there”. Another one of the high school females tells the scholarship girl, “Of all my friends, you’re the only one who is planning on doing something with their life”.
The Occupier who is a college student rolls up; he tells us he’s just returning from the Husky Oil Refinery informational event in Superior. He reports, “Oh, it was sponsored by Husky and it was just a bunch of b.s. As you know, I’m working on my masters in environmental science. I think I may have made the heads on the necks of the Husky representatives spin around a few times with the questions I asked. They assured the audience that results they had received from their air quality tests were within normal limits; I reminded them that at this point in time they should be testing the soil and water in the affected neighborhoods. They have no plans to test any of the soil and with the exception of the rainwater stream that runs through the refinery, they haven’t tested any of the water either. I reminded them that the rainwater stream is in flood stage this time of year so they would not be able to get an accurate reading.
“I thought they were all going to faint when I asked them what kind of reparations they were going to make to the community in consideration of the anxiety and inconvenience the Husky explosion and fire caused to the surrounding areas. They said they hadn’t planned on making reparations. When the event was over, many of the Husky reps crowded around me, attempting to wow me with their smoke and mirrors scientific ying yang. I’m betting that somebody recorded my vehicle license plate number as I left”.
One of the Anons asks the Occupier who likes to give information about the local goings on, “So what is up or will be up in the community this week?” The Occupier informs him, “Well, there’s going to be a meeting about our local housing situation with the City Planning Department and interested community members tomorrow, 6:30pm at the Damiono. I’m gonna go; I don’t expect to hear anything new but I want to see what they’re up to. The Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition is expecting that our proposed City resolution and 2 ordinances will be presented to the City Council next Monday, June 11th, 7pm in the Council chambers. If so, we need to pack the house again. I’ll be able to let everyone know within a few days if that’s gonna happen or not.
“Our good friend who works for Honor the Earth is running for MN Lieutenant Governor. I don’t remember the name of her running mate. I imagine she’ll need us to provide backup once in a while.
“I’m sure everyone has noticed that a new porta potty has been put up across the street. When I went to the Citizens Review Board a couple of weeks ago, I told them about the vandalized potty. One of the Deputy Chiefs said she would personally make sure that a new porta potty got put up right away. The next day I noticed a new potty being put up. It may have just been a coincidence though; I’m not sure how much power cops have over porta potty placements.
“Also, I went to Socialist Pizza recently; an animal activist with whom we are acquainted was there. She said she is a neighbor of the guy who had that video of 2 Duluth cops shaking down the homeless woman. When we told her that we didn’t know whatever happened with the video or how to find the guy who had it, she said she’d check it out. Hmm…. I think that’s all I have for now”.
A 30 something guy with a big, well-outfitted backpack drops in. He says he’s from California and recently served 8 years in the military, including several tours in Iraq. After his wife divorced him he decided to just hop on his trek bike and travel the US. So far, he’s been to the southwest, into the Dakotas and over to MN. He spent a few of his high school years living in Duluth so decided to cruise through on his way to wherever. Today he stopped in at the big grocery store down the road at 12th Ave E and Superior St. He locked up his bike and went in to get a few things, when he came out he found that his lock had been cut open and his bike was gone. An Occupier empathizes, “So sorry to hear that. We’re in the midst of an opioid epidemic right now”. The traveling dude says, “I don’t know what that means”. The Occupier explains, “You know, heroin, junkies and their thieving ways and all that”. The man who is now without a bike sees one of our fliers about The Woman Who Tells Good Stories on the table; he asks what it’s about and the Occupier tells him The Woman’s story. He is aghast.
We notice a female Duluth police officer, standing hesitantly way back in the Plaza, she’s looking at us. An Occupier calls out, “It’s o.k. girlfriend, come on over. The cop walks over and asks us if we have seen some guy who she mentions by name. We think the Anons may know who she’s talking about but they aren’t saying anything. We don’t know who she’s asking about but we aren’t saying anything either. The cop thanks us and leaves. The greeting Occupier explains, “Yeah, I realize she’s a cop but I knew and played music with her many years ago before she even thought about becoming a cop. I need to acknowledge those old days”.
We’re quite surprised to see Chicago Man come up the stairs; he’s wearing short-shorts and a little top and freezing his ass off. He’s accompanied by a former Anon and his girlfriend. They sit by the fire to warm up; we give them soup and stuff. Chicago Man tells us that he quit his job at the big box store and is now working as a PCA. He states, “Yeah, I quit that stupid job at the big box store; it was driving me crazy. They expected me to lift a lot of heavy stuff while supervising the rest of the staff and were only paying me $9.50 an hour”. We can see that Chicago Man hasn’t changed much; he’s still pleasantly complaining and unhappy. We guess that he still grieves the death of his longtime partner.
Next we get a visit from the multi-racial couple; the male has visited us at our Coney Island “winter headquarters” but we haven’t seen the female since last fall. We didn’t know if they were still together but it looks as though things are “same as they ever were”. They have a very pregnant friend with them. The female of the couple takes an Occupier aside and says, “I’m trying to find a place where my friend can stay. Do you know of any?” The Occupier gives her all the information she can think of then sighs, “I know it seems like a very pregnant, homeless female would certainly be given priority but I’ve known women who were 7 or 8 months pregnant and still couldn’t find anywhere to live. All the beds in all the shelters and other women’s programs were and are usually filled up. I sure hope you all can find help for your friend”.
It’s now going on 10pm and we’re all running out of steam. One of the Occupiers who lives only a few blocks up the street takes charge of the Gardener. He’ll bring him to his home and let him sleep on the couch. If the weather gods allow it, we plan to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.