G.A. Minutes 7-3-18
We’ve returned to Peoples Plaza this evening; the big trees are still blocking the entrance where we normally drive our vehicles onto the east side of the Plaza in order to unload. We’re forced to set up our fire circle very close to the MN Power building again. We’d prefer to set up in our regular spot but as for now, it can’t be helped.
We don’t expect many of the homeless ones to visit tonight as it’s the beginning of the month; this means that many will receive their small government checks and be able to afford a few days of relative comfort before returning to the streets
There are quite a few peeps from the Anonymous crew waiting for us when we arrive; even the Anonymous dog, who used to regularly visit our fires back in the Clayton Jackson McGhee Memorial days is waiting. She’s older of course but also chubby and no longer barking at anyone or anything that moves. We always carry a dog dish in order to provide water to any dogs who visit our circle; we fill the dish and give her some liquid refreshment.
A 30 something woman friend of the Anons is present; we met her a few weeks ago. She’s lived in Duluth for a few years and has worked with a retired union organizer friend of ours. She creates websites and decided recently she would like to make a site that features and supports all the truly progressive people in the Twin Ports area. This website creator has been filming a lot of the progressive actions that have been and/or are currently happening in our somewhat unusual small city. She hooked up with the Anons a while ago and through them was introduced to the Occupiers. The Anons think she is legit; we like her and believe the Anons are correct. Time will tell.
Because we have so many people present right from the start we are able to get everything set up quickly. The Fire Magician gets a roaring fire going; we’ll need it again tonight. The weather people said that temperatures would be in the 80s today and lows in the 60s this evening with a variable gusty wind. Well, that’s not what happened here, temperatures may have been in the 80s up over the hill but down next to the lake where most of us live it rained with thunder and lightening early in the day then never got out of the 60s. A an Occupier comments, “Who woulda thought we’d need a big fire on the 3rd of July?”
An Anon asks, “Did anyone see that video of a Duluth cop dragging a drunk dude across the skywalk?” Some have seen it, others have not. The Anon passes his phone around so everyone who hasn’t seen it can do so. A guy who appears to be a street person has been cuffed and a DPD officer has the guy by the back of the neck of his shirt and is dragging him through the skywalk hallway. When the cop gets to a stairway he just keeps on dragging the guy; the dude’s head goes bang, bang, bang all the way down the staircase. An Occupier asks, “Do you know who filmed this?” The Anon replies, “We think it came from a cop’s body camera. Did you notice the part where a hand goes over the camera? We think that’s when the cop who was doing the dragging kicked the drunk dude in the head”. The Occupiers have a few more questions but people are coming and going, getting food and drinks, smudging and such. We think we need to pay attention to our guests.
A somewhat bedraggled looking, elderly man stands outside the circle then walks around it, handing each person a small brochure. Once he’s done with that he leaves. Everyone politely takes the brochure but upon examination we see they are Christian tracts probably written to be given to children. Many of the young ones in the circle are highly insulted; they ceremoniously throw the tracts in the fire. The older and wiser people just put them in their pockets; they surreptitiously throw them in the fire later when no one is looking.
The soup is ready! Almost everyone has a bowl; it’s the same as it was last week. Seeing as it was such a hit, the Food Occupier decided to do an encore. As we are eating, a thirty something, dark haired guy, wearing sunglasses comes out of the MN Power building. He checks out everyone in the circle then walks over to the Fire Magician and says, “I’m the head of the security department here and I need to talk with the leader. I need you to come inside with me”. The Fire Magician answers, “We don’t have leaders here and you are welcome to sit down right here and say whatever you have to say. By the way, we know that having this fire here is legal”. A few of the Anons start talking about ordinances and fire codes; the security guy’s body tenses visibly, he begins to turn and walk away. Curiosity gets the better of the Food Occupier, she calls out, “Hey wait a minute! I’ll talk to you! I’ll go with you!” The paranoid dude picks up his step, gets to the outside glass (bullet proof?) door, goes through it shutting it in the Occupier’s face. She calls out, “Hey, wait a minute! I said I would talk with you”. As the fleeing guy goes through the second door he calls over his shoulder, “You can talk to me during business hours!”
The Occupier who takes care of most of the foodstuffs walks back to the circle. She looks at the group and quires, “Didn’t he just say he wanted someone to go inside the building and talk with him?” We all say, “WTF?” She adds, “They think we’re going to slit their throats, don’t they?” The Anons answer, “Yeah”. Shortly thereafter, 2 bike cops come cruising down Superior St. They’re pretending that they’re not checking us out. An Anon yells an insulting remark at them; some of the Anons are very young with not much life experience under their belts. One could say , ‘They mean well’ and in an odd sort of way, they do.
An Occupier opines to the website designer, “Non-violence is really difficult. Many times it’s so tempting to just punch the oppressor right in the nose. One has to keep an overreaching goal in mind when dealing with bullies”. The designer replies, “Kinda like ‘keep your eyes on the prize’?”
An older man who we met last year comes walking across the street towards us. We remember him and say, “Yay!” He’s the guy who makes musical instruments out of weird shit. Tonight he has something that looks like a guitar except it’s made out of an antique, outboard motor gas tank cover. He plays it for us; it sounds like a banjo. He tells us, “I’m not really much of a musician, I just like to make things”. He then bids us goodbye and goes on his way.
An Anon brought his skateboard along tonight; almost all the Anons are or at sometime were skaters. A few of the regular Anons go into the middle of the Plaza to try out the board. Apparently, the board is the type that is better for traveling long distances but not very good for doing tricks. The particular Anons who are using the skateboard have not done much skating in the last several years; they try doing some tricks and take some hard falls. A bunch of occasional Anons arrive, they get food and drinks and go back to socialize with the regular Anons. They’re all laughing and having a good time.
The web designer remarks to no one in particular, “I’m really depressed about the state of the internet these days. It used to be a good source for exchange of information and such. The 1% are trying to make it just another money making source”. An Occupier agrees, “For real. Take back the web”.
The occasional Anons leave; the regular Anons return and attempt to do tricks for us outside the circle; they’re not having much luck but it’s still fun to watch them. The retired, confirmed atheist, neighborhood man who regularly visited our fires at CJMM rolls up. We haven’t seen him in several years; he tells us that he had cancer surgery. Bummer. The retired man chats with us for a while then needs to go on about his business; as usual, he leaves a generous donation.
So the sun is setting, everything is nice and mellow and….. A BIG FIRE TRUCK PULLS UP. Great. Someone remarks, “I can’t imagine why they’re here”. Two fire guys get out; it looks like there are more still in the truck. One guy has a uniform on and the other is in full firefighting gear. The uniformed one appears to be the boss; he looks vaguely familiar, when he says his name, an Occupier remembers and inquires, “We exchanged emails a few years ago didn’t we?” The fire boss replies, “Yes we did. The first thing I want to say to you all is that I am on your side but when somebody makes a call I have to respond. Unfortunately, the Fire Department has a policy that says one cannot have fires in a public park… the Occupier who keeps track of this sort of stuff politely interrupts him by saying, “A policy does not supersede a City Ordinance. The City Ordinance, the MN Statute and the MN and International Fire Code all state that the fire we have here is perfectly legal”. The fire dude responds, “Well, you’ve got me there. I’ll have to go research all that but if I get called back again I’ll have to bring the police with me. The Occupier gives him a few clues as to where to look for the information. Everyone says, “Have a good evening”.
Once the fire people are gone the keeper of the legal information groans, “Oh no, don’t tell me that we’re gonna have to go through all that again. It’s so time consuming and boring”. Another Occupier consoles her, “When I was complaining about this same type of thing a while back, one of our most respected local organizers told me, ‘It happens about every 3 years. They act like they’ve forgotten everything and you have to teach them again”.
It’s after 9pm and we’re wondering if we should pack up; our query is answered when Menagerie Woman rides in on her bike. She’s wearing a uniform of sorts with a glow in the dark vest. We haven’t seen her in at least a month; the last time she was in the circle she told us she had applied for a few jobs. It turns out that she was hired part time by 2 different companies. She tells us that she really likes one of the jobs; the other job, not so much. The job she really doesn’t care for is at a gas station/food store. On that job she is never allowed to sit down, even when she has nothing to do. The manager states she should always look as though she is busy; other staff constantly look over her shoulder, criticize her and ask questions about her personal life. She confides, “I hate it when people are constantly breathing down my neck, telling me what to do”.
The other job, which she enjoys, is working for the City of Duluth on the Clean and Safe Team. Menagerie Woman reports, “ Working on the Clean and Safe Team really rocks! I work by myself, at my own pace and am encouraged to socialize with people on the street. The people on the street are really interesting and nice; I have my own key to the manager’s office and can go in, change into my uniform and hit the street without being monitored by anyone. I’ve always hated to see cigarette butts scattered all over the place and would sometimes fantasize about getting a big bag and a pickup stick and picking them up myself. She laughs, ‘I’m living my dream!’ The job is only during the tourist season but they do keep some of the seasonal staff on for the whole year. I hope I’m one that they keep. I’ve gotta go now; I need to catch my bus. My animals are waiting for me.” Off she goes.
We don’t know if Menagerie Woman has ever had a job in the past; we do know what it’s like to have to work for a paycheck and how good it feels to be done when your shift is over.
So now it’s really time to pack up. We just get started when…… Oh. Come. On. The big red fire truck is back. The head fire dude jumps out, he calls over to us, “I have to go talk to these guys”. He walks up to the glass door and rings the bell. We can see that the security men are not happy; they and the fire guy go into a room and close the door. When the fire guy comes out he walks over to the circle and tells us, “If you just give the security guys some consideration and respect and move your fire to the east side of the Plaza then I think everything will be o.k”. An Occupier is about to say, “But they have blocked us from getting there”; the head fire guy cuts her off saying, “Gotta go now, there’s a HOUSE FIRE!”, he jumps in the big truck, on go the flashing lights and whistles, the truck makes a u-turn in the middle of the main street and goes zooming off.
We don’t know whether to get angry or to laugh; we choose laughter. An Occupier groans, “Straight people are sooooo weird”. Another Occupier responds, “Yeah, I know. And life is way too hard without somebody throwing in some stupid shit for no reason”.
As we are all heading to our homes an Occupier remembers, “Next Monday, July 9th at 6:45 pm at City Hall, 3rd floor, the City Council is gonna vote on the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights first 2 ordinances. WE NEED BODIES!!! I hope you all remember and show up, you don’t have to speak or anything. Just take a seat”.
We expect to return to Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.