G.A. Minutes 8-14-18

G.A. Minutes 8-14-18

When the Fire Magician drives up on the sidewalk outside of Peoples Plaza this evening he finds another Occupier and the homeless occasional Anon waiting for him. Several more Anons and an Occupier arrive shortly thereafter. The Magician explains, “The Occupier who brings most of the food supplies is gonna be a bit late this evening; she had to stop by her polling place and vote in the primary election. We could unload and set up all the fire and circle stuff now so we’ll be ready for her when she gets here”. So that’s what they do.

Then they wait… and wait…and wait some more. After a half an hour or so the Fire Magician exclaims, “Well, I don’t know what’s taking her so long. Our polling place is in the Duluth Public Library Main Branch; that’s just a few blocks from here and she left to go there before I left to come here. I think something’s wrong, I’m gonna call her”. As soon as the Fire Man finishes talking, the Food Occupier rolls up. When she gets out of her car she has a look of frustration on her face; she says, “What a fucking mess! I drove around looking for a way to get behind the library for just about ever. I always park there in the reserved for voters spaces and then just run in and vote. It generally takes about five minutes. I know this road construction stuff on Superior St is necessary but, damn! It must be absolute hell for all the businesses and the people who work in them. Seeing as today was voting day, one would expect that some well paid City official or someone like that would have made sure there were signs or mailings all around our district explaining to people how to drive onto Michigan St behind the library,

“One of the super old ladies, who are always doing the voter sign-in stuff, told me that no one even told THEM what to expect when they tried to access the polling place. That must have been real fun for them; most of those ladies are so hunched over or small that they can barely see over the steering wheel. Imagine what it must have been like to not see very well, to not know
the neighborhood and to be driving down a road, where the earth on either side of you has been dug into trenches big enough to swallow your whole car if you make one false move”.

Another Occupier adds, “Those League of Woman Voters women are tough. I wouldn’t be surprised if the treacherous route to our Central Hillside polling place didn’t have any directional signage on purpose. The Voter Nazis think that if they can make voting difficult to do, we are all so drunk, drug-addled and stupid that we’ll just give up, go sit by the lake and smoke dope. They’re wrong though”.

The frustrated voter Occupier agrees, “The thought of just giving up and coming to feed you all did cross my mind. I’m just too damn stubborn to give up, especially my right to cast my vote, however, I don’t really think that citizen’s votes have much effect on our oppressors. There’s so much corruption in the USA voting system; the politicians are more afraid of the small number of people who make it onto the Forbes 500 Unbelievably Rich List than they are of the billions of people on the earth who suffer greatly because of the actions of the bazillionares.” Someone comments, “Someday that’s gonna change”.

The offended Occupier continues, “So, I ended up parking behind the service vehicles in the parking lot of the Maurice’s Building and walking down a block or so, crossing over Superior St on small wooden planks with railings and humongous trenches in the earth on either side. Once I had run the gauntlet, I found myself on Michigan behind the library. It took less than five minutes to actually vote and then I got to go back to my car; same way back but uphill instead. It was not a lot of fun; technically, at least, I am an old lady. The whole thing was slightly taxing on my body, but what if I were on crutches or had breathing difficulties? I noticed there were a lot of people coming from and going to the voting booths; I wonder how many more would have come out if voting was an easy thing to do?

“Well anyway, I survived and I’m here now; I’ve brought all the usual stuff plus I have deluxe pb+j sandwiches and cold, organic, homemade potato salad with broccoli and other stuff in it. Is anybody hungry?” We all say, “Hell yeah!” and start unloading and bringing all the food up to the table. The Food Occupier always sets up the table by herself so she can get it exactly how she wants it. Her methods have a lot of good reasoning to them but the rest of us like to tease her about being OCD. The bringer of most of the food usually just laughs but she knows we speak the truth.

The weather has been ridiculously hot for almost a week now with clear skies and temperatures in the mid to high 90s. For the past month the weather gods have looked down upon us with favor. Every Tuesday evening as the Fire Magician starts up our fire, they send a strong cooling breeze so everyone can feel comfortable; it’s the same way tonight. Sweet. We’re not sure what we have done to gain the good wishes of these gods but we’ll try to keep on doing what we’re doing and hope their good will remains. Maybe they’ll let us just skip winter all together this year…… um, probably not.

As everyone gets food and drinks and takes a seat in the circle we notice that a few more folks have joined us. Among the new arrivals are several street people, including the guy with two hairstyles, our friend from the neighborhood who works for the cleaning company that cleans the MN Power Building and the city official. There are also many people hanging out under all the bushes that surround the Plaza. The chronically homeless young man who recently lost his dreadlocks crawls out from one of those bushes and fills his pockets with all the good eats. He jokingly says to the street folks in the circle, “Hey what are you doing with my peeps? You need to leave these guys alone”.

Mr Hairstyles is very stressed out; he says his Buddhist practices aren’t working well for him right now. It has something to do with his Baby’s Mama but he can’t sit still long enough to explain. He goes off to find some alcohol or drugs or something; we think he won’t have to go far.

The Occupier who writes our meeting minutes confesses, “Well, I didn’t write any minutes again last week. I went off on my annual three days disappearing act to the Bayfront Blues Festival. I’ve gone to every BBF since it first began; this was my thirtieth year. Now days, I start getting all bent out of shape about it about a month beforehand. Being a musician myself, I’m privy to a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes in our Duluth music community. I know about the dishonest things the owners of the BBF do to the local and national musicians and the blatant money grabbing the vendors are forced to participate in. Going through the security checks seems to get worse every year but once I find a good seat, get settled and start listening to all the top-notch bands play really good music, I go into a hypnotic trance and don’t come out of it for three days. I don’t know if I’m participating in a counter-revolutionary act, or just trying to keep my sanity for the next year”.

Another Occupier reports, “The Mission is going to reopen tomorrow at 7 am”. Everyone nods and smiles; someone remarks, “Oh good! The Mission doesn’t serve really tasty and marvelous food but hey, to be a person who is seriously food insecure and to then be given access to three, sort of filling, meals a day? For free? That takes a lot of stress off of one’s back”.

The city official tells us, “I notice that a couple of new businesses over on Superior St in West End/Lincoln Park were able to have a bus stop removed from in front of their establishments.” An Occupier opines, “Do tell. I suppose the business owners didn’t like all the ‘riff-raff’ standing in front of their buildings?” The city man responds, “I believe that was the idea, yes”. He also informs us, “I’ll be taking a bus full of Duluth high school students down to Alabama to visit the Legacy Museum in Montgomery soon. The School Superintendent says he’s going to come along too.” An Anon laughs, “That will certainly put a damper on the young ones good time”.

An Occupier wants to tell the city official a joke; she says, “So I’ve been watching a PBS documentary about the actual people who live in Iran. A filmmaker from Holland is married to a woman from Iran and they live in Tehran. The wife works as a visual artist while the husband goes all over Iran just talking with and filming regular Iranian people. One day he’s hanging out with a small group of male village elders; one of the elder dudes says, ‘The Koran tells us that when a husband and wife argue, the man must always have the last word. When we are tired of an argument we say to our wife, YOU ARE RIGHT. So you see, in this way, we can always follow the Koran’.” The city man laughs and says, “That’s really funny! It reminds me of my parents”.

Some Water Protectors and more Anons roll up; they bring fruit and a really good zucchini and fresh pepper salad. The conversation detours onto the recent eviction of one of the education and respite camps. Apparently, the cops and other so-called officials waited until the camp was almost devoid of Water Protectors. They then burst in and started threatening and bossing the few remaining campers around. It sounds like some of the higher management types in the DNR have been bought off, somehow or other, by Enbridge. Same ol’ same ol’.

A very thin, middle-age appearing man with a speech impediment states, “I don’t have any choice but I don’t really mind having to sleep outside. Last night though, I was sleeping when I was attacked, beaten and robbed”. We notice that this man is covered with dried blood and bruises. We have not met this male person in the past; before we can ask him questions, he limps off into the bushes.

It’s getting dark now and as usual, most of the street and/or homeless folks have gone off to find a sleeping place. The circle consists mostly of Water Protectors, Anons, and Occupiers; everyone is laughing and cracking jokes. It truly is a beautiful evening; the air is warm, a cool breeze swirls around us while the smell of the fire and the burning sage complete the homemade paradise.

Eventually all the revolutionary youngbloods take off; we’re not sure what their plan is but we know it will be good. They may be the ones who will save us all.

Two remaining homeless young guys volunteer to help the Occupiers pack up. They are quick and efficient; cleanup is done in no time. As the Occupiers who are the last to leave begin to exit the Plaza and get into their vehicles, one remarks to the other, “That yelling was coming from way over on the freeway entrance sidewalk. Two girls were trying to fight with each other and some guy in a red shirt was trying to get them to stop”. As soon as the words are out of her mouth, a young, bare-chested guy comes stomping around the corner and onto the sidewalk right in front of the Occupiers. The Bare Chest Guy has a red-haired girl with him and they are followed closely by a guy in a red shirt. Mr. Red Shirt, who has a very tiny girl with brown hair beside him, exclaims, “I just want you to hear what I have to say!” Bare Chest stops up short and WHAM! he punches Red Shirt real hard. Red Shirt falls to the ground and then……. A whole shit ton of cops drive up with sirens and lights flashing. They completely surround all possible exits from the front of the Plaza and into the street; then they light everybody up with horribly bright spotlights.

Oh, by the way, Bare Chest is white and Red Shirt is black. The Occupiers know how these things generally end; one says to the other, “We’d better hang around here and bear witness or something”. So that’s what they do. There are at least six squad cars, each one containing at least one police officer. Each officer takes one of the so-called participants or witnesses and moves them away from the others for questioning. There are only so many people to question, so the leftover officers just stand around guarding the perimeter or whatever. Then something amazing happens, the cops cuff Bare Chest and put him in a squad, they tell Red Shirt that he is free to go.

The drama is over now but the cops all just keep hanging around, it must be a slow night. An older cop growls at the Food Occupier, “Whose truck is this and why is it on the sidewalk?” The Food Occupier replies, “We had one of our fires tonight and we had to bring it up so we could load up all of our stuff”. She then explains the long sad story about the big tree planter, the vehicle entry and blah, blah, blah. The cop answers, “Well, just because an illegal act has been committed against you doesn’t mean that you can commit an illegal act to remedy it. And anyway, what fire?”

The Occupier is quite sure that she has interacted with this officer at least several times in the past but she decides to pretend that she is stupid so she explains about the Occupier fires that have been going on in public park spaces in the neighborhood for six years now. The cop tells her, “What! You can’t have a fire in a city park without a permit! Besides, the Plaza is not a city park, it’s private property owned by MN Power”. The Occupier calmly and politely refutes each of the cops pronouncements and then some. After a while the cop decides to act friendly, he tells her, “Well, if the Plaza is owned by the Parks Department then they are the ones who would have moved the tree planter. You should be contacting them about the problem”. The Occupier states, “That’s a good idea, I hadn’t thought of that. I’m gonna take your advice”. She then politely reminds him that neither she nor her fellow fire making person can get in their vehicles and leave the premises because they are surrounded by squad cars. The cop answers, “Oh, I think we should be able to clear a space for you”. He telepathically gets some of the cops to move their cars and the Occupiers finally take off.

Cops or no cops, we plan to be back to Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 7-31-18

G.A. Minutes 7-31-18

It’s a fairly warm evening at Peoples Plaza when the first Occupiers to arrive drive up on the sidewalk outside the site. The temperature measures in the mid-80s; the sky is clear, giving the sun free reign across the Plaza. Fortunately, a strong variable wind again this week will make the heat bearable. It won’t take long for the sun to go behind the buildings; then everything will be good to go.

As the first arriving Occupiers exit their vehicles, the food bringing Occupier comments, “I wonder if we’ll have a lot of street folks visiting tonight? I know it’s just about payday for many and seeing as today was the 31st, maybe they got paid today. The Fire Magician replies, “Probably not, under the so called “current administration” poor people get absolutely no breaks”. We know that if the street folks got paid today, most will be off the street indulging in their favorite recreational pastime which could run the gamut from alcohol and drugs to renting a cheap motel room where they can take an actual bath and sleep in an actual bed. You know, stuff that privileged people do every day of the week.

If the street folks won’t get paid until tomorrow, they’ll be seriously hurting. Some will be down to their last crumbs of tobacco and hungry too. Some will stay awake until one minute after midnight; they’ll then be able to get their small monthly stipend, which will be somewhere between $600 and $190, from the Wells Fargo ATM. Either way is fine; we try to take things as they come.

A group of fire circle people come walking down the street; they’re just in time to participate in the unloading and setting up. Of course, everything gets set up like clockwork right away. The helper peeps include another Occupier, the city official, an Anon and a couple of occasional ones, an Anon’s mom, the tall, very tattooed street/occasional Anon guy, two street guys and Lil’ Bear.

After we all get our snacks and take seats, an Occupier says to the city official, “So I hear that Dave Montgomery is gonna retire?” The city official reports, “You heard correctly. Personally, I’m miffed at Mayor Emily Larson because she didn’t fire him shortly after she took office. His type of pro-business, pro-developer philosophy of city administration is incompatible with the mayor’s stated goal of making her administration accessible to regular Duluth citizens and making their needs her priority. The Occupier agrees, “I know you’re right but I think that, given the choice, Emily is pretty non-confrontational. Mr. Montgomery may have been given the choice to retire. Maybe he will get a job working for our former mayor, Don Ness”.

We hear some talking coming from deep under one of the trees in the back of the Plaza. We turn to see that the schizophrenic man who lives in the Skinner Apartments and another man who has his back to us are under a tree smoking a joint or something. As usual, Skinner Man is talking loud enough to be heard all over the space and out into the street. His attempt at hiding is not successful.

Another group of our usual suspects roll up, among them are another Occupier, three Anons, two Water Protectors from Fond du Lac, The Gardener and the homeless guy with two hairstyles. Mr Hairstyle informs us that no one got paid today and that he will be joining everyone who will be staying up until midnight. We notice that there are more people than usual hanging out under the trees and bushes this evening.

The Occupier who works part time on the pm shift at the Mission tells us, “The Mission is going to be closed for two weeks starting tomorrow; they have to remodel the bathrooms”. Another Occupier exclaims, “Oh no! That’s gonna be real hard on our homeless ones. The Mission is the only place that provides three meals a day, seven days a week. The Dom serves a few meals everyday, I can’t remember their schedule right off the top of my head. Whatever it is, there’s going to be a lot of hungry people on the street. It would be nice if some of the churches would get together and provide a few meals over the next two weeks; the problem with that idea is that privileged folks take some time to get moving, they don’t have a lot of experience with desperation and urgency. By the time they would be able to get something together the Mission would be open again. Hmm…. I guess I’ll have to figure out what I can cook that’s cheap and will feed a lot of people on the next few Tuesdays at least”.

This evening an Occupier has made a main dish using the traditional ingredients for Three Bean Salad. About fifty percent of those present inside and outside of the circle take a bowl; the others do not. The food making Occupier whispers to another Occupier, “I forgot that this type of dish is one that people either love or hate. I think we’re gonna have leftovers tonight”. The listening Occupier remarks, “That’s true; personally I love Three Bean”. The Food Occupier concurs, “Me too”.

Several of the Anons have been living and working out at the Healing Souls Camp. An Occupier asks them, “So how are things going out at the camp?”. An Anon sighs, “Oh, I guess you haven’t heard, Healing Souls got closed down today”. We all say, “WTF?” The Anon tells us, “ Even though I was there, I’m not totally sure of what happened. I believe that Enbridge got the ears of some of the Fond du Lac DNR guys. They came out today and ordered the closing of the camp. They said something about there being too many non-Natives living there. That doesn’t really make sense to me”. An Occupier cries out, “Since when does the DNR have jurisdiction over Tribal Government sovereign land? I mean, if the Tribal Council, or whoever they are, ok’d the eviction that would be one thing but I don’t see how that could be. The Mille Lacs Band issued a very strong statement that said they were completely opposed to the Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline going anywhere on Mille Lacs land”. The Anon sighs again, “I don’t know the answer to your question”.

A woman who is a resident of the FDL rez arrives; she brings her boyfriend and her two young daughters along. We are all well acquainted with this woman. She states, “Well, we finally made it here in one piece but we have a problem. We have a flat tire; I’d sure appreciate it if somebody would come and help me change it”. A couple of peeps from the circle go across the street to help, the rest of us keep an eye on the daughters; soon we hear a lot of loud banging of metal. It appears that getting the old tire rim off the vehicle is not easy; the banging goes on for about a half an hour then everyone comes back. They’re all smiling; the family has their ride back and the helpers feel like heroes. Problem solved.

Once everyone has returned to the circle, the FDL resident asks, “So who is down with attending the No Line 3 Noise Parade on Friday?” Absolutely everyone raises their hand. She continues, “Well then, I think we need to have a little planning meeting right here”. So that’s what we do; we discuss logistics and who will be responsible for what and who, out of the myriad of other peeps who are not here but are down with the parade, will also be responsible.

The male of the interracial couple checks in; he has two 40 something white appearing men in tow. These men look like they’ve been around the block at least a few times. They all take seats in the circle; within a short time the interracial couple man starts talking on his phone and wanders off. His two friends remain with us, one of them comes over to the table and smudges himself. He tells us, “I’ve always been really drawn to smudging, I think I’m probably Native. Actually, knowing who my father is and where he’s from, I’m pretty sure that I am”. An Occupier suggests, “Why don’t you just ask him?” The man explains, “Oh no, can’t do that. We haven’t spoken since I was ten years old. I saw him hitting my mother and I ran up and smacked him real hard in the face. I haven’t seen or spoken to him since that day” The man also tells us that he is homeless; he says he’s been homeless in the past but hasn’t been so in a long time. When he says he lives in a board and lodge, we think to ourselves, “Well, technically that qualifies as being homeless but he’s not really HOMELESS – homeless, like a lot of the people we know”. Both guys get real excited when we give them a copy of the proposed Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Ordinance. One of the guys exclaims, “This is exactly how things should be. One doesn’t become a bad or evil person once they become homeless. I could tell you some stories about how I’ve been treated since I became temporarily homeless”. We say, “We know, we know”.

A Native appearing woman and her three children arrive; the woman smudges. When she tries to smudge her youngest child, he pushes her away crying, “Ick, smoke! Smoke!” The mom confides, “I wish I would have known that you were here, we would have stopped by earlier”. They hang around for a bit, the kids get a few cookies but then it’s time for them to go. Children who are well cared for have early bedtimes after all.

Another Anon rolls up; “Where is everybody?” he asks. We report that most of the other Anons have gone back to the rez with some of the Water Protectors. An Occupier mentions, “The Water Protector driving the vehicle was missing a headlight so wanted to get back before headlights were necessary”.

It’s pretty late and all the visitors have gone so we start thinking about packing up. Wrong. Wet House Man and a middle-aged Native man who has visited in the past stop by; a young, flamboyantly dressed street woman sits down too. Wet House Man is babbling on about something; the other two folks are very hungry. We feed them and then we start packing up for real.

When we’re almost finished, an occasional Anon and Mr Two Hairstyles come running up. We have no idea what they have been up to but they are famished. We show them where we put out all the leftover food and they dive in.

Now we are really gonna leave. As we survey the entire Plaza like we always do before leaving, we notice quite a few full backpacks and plastic bags laying around the edges of the space. We wonder if they’ve been forgotten or if the people who sleep under the trees and in the bushes have left them there on purpose. We know that if the stuff is left there for very long, someone will come by, go through the stuff and help themselves to whatever they want. We’re just too tired to make a decision so hope the homeless ones are smarter than we are. We actually depart to our homes this time.

We plan to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.