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.