G.A. Minutes 6-18-19
It’s no big surprise that we’re back at Peoples Plaza again this evening. We’ve been holding fire circle meetings here every Tuesday evening for the past month but because of all the trouble we’ve been getting from City government, MN Power and all their minions (read street cops) and all the work required to defend ourselves, the Occupier who records stuff has had no time to publish any reports.
The weather is a little iffy but an Occupier checked the weather map before he came down and assured everyone that if it did rain it would be very minor. The sky is lightly overcast, the temperature is in the low 60s with occasional slight and variable gusts. It will be comfortable for our little fire circle tonight, unless it rains.
Of course, the vehicle entryway is blocked by gigantic planted trees again, just like it’s been for the last year and a half (except for winter time which is when we don’t use the Plaza). The Occupiers who bring most of the supplies are delighted to find a young man from the Loaves N Fishes community waiting and ready to help them unload; he carries all the heavy stuff which makes things much easier for the somewhat elderly, supply bringing Occupiers.
We are just beginning to set things up when two bicycle cops from the Duluth Police Department come up the stairs; they’re trying to look cool by riding their bikes right up the stairs. It doesn’t work too well though; the more junior of the cops tips over and lands flat on his face. The Occupier, who generally plays the role of police liaison, pretends she didn’t see the one cop disgrace himself (that’s how cops look at it anyway) smiles and says, “Good evening”. The slightly senior cop responds, “Good evening; you know it’s illegal to have a fire in a city park.” The Occupier has to bite her tongue to keep from saying, “Do you have any idea how many times I’ve heard that stupid ass remark from all you DPD clones?” She doesn’t say that though, instead she answers, “Well actually it’s NOT illegal to have a fire in a city park; no worries though, tonight we are using charcoal”.
The bike cop replies, “Just a minute, I gotta call my supervisor”. He walks off and blabs on his phone for a few minutes, returns and informs the Occupier, “Well, as long as you’re using charcoal your fire is o.k. but you have to get your vehicles off the sidewalk right now”. The Occupier tells him, “Oh yeah, for sure. We’re almost done unloading; the MN Power security guards have blocked us from using the vehicle entryway so we’re forced to park and unload in that little space that is next to the sidewalk”. The cops growls, “Get your vehicles off the sidewalk right now or I’m gonna write you a citation!” The Occupier who brings most of the food and the Fire Magician look at each other and roll their eyes; the Fire Magician gets into one of the vehicles and drives it out on the street and into the nearest parking spot. When he returns for the second vehicle the cops are happy and ride off on their bikes; presumably to right all the other wrongs going on in the neighborhood.
So now we’re stuck having to haul all the stuff that is still in our vehicles from across the street and halfway down the block, this is ridiculous. The LnF guy is unperplexed, he starts hauling all the stuff onto the Plaza. The Occupiers stand and watch him in amazement. One says to the other, “Do you think we could get him to come and live with us? Then we could bring him with us every Tuesday and he could haul all the stuff”. The super hauling guy’s girlfriend shows up just then and the other Occupier opines, “Probably not”.
We know that legally there is no difference between burning charcoal or burning firewood in our fire pit but a couple of weeks ago some cop who showed up with the fire department to put out our fire said to us, “If you were burning charcoal then everything would be o.k.; we wouldn’t have to put your fire out”. We decided to test it out so the next week we made a fire consisting of charcoal and mesquite and were amazed and amused when the cops showed up, called their supervisor and reported that as long as our fire was made with charcoal, we were good to go. That is so f”ing dumb. We’re guessing that some sargent or lieutenant decided that a charcoal fire was permissible and then all the other bosses just fell in line; they probably don’t really want to put out our fire anyway. There is absolutely nothing in any of the ordinances, statutes or fire codes that establishes a wood fire as legally different from a charcoal fire. We don’t know for certain why the MN Power security guards hate us so much; we’re betting healthy doses of classism and racism combined with the currently popular, “He Who Shall Not Be Named is President so we can do what we want” mantra has a lot to do with it. We don’t know if the upper echelons of MN Power actually support what their security guards are doing or if they are just unaware of the true situation. It would not surprise us if the so-called bigwigs are in support; the only thing we do know is that the real reason police forces exist is to protect the rich folks from the rest of us. When the wealthy call on the police forces, the police forces promptly fall in line. In spite of this, we hope to get to the bottom of this mess sooner or later.
We do have one big problem right now though; charcoal fires just don’t cut it. They don’t give off enough heat to keep the folks in the circle warm and they don’t have that wonderful wood fire smell or the snap and crackling sound. Wood fires also serve as an effective focal point capable of allowing homeless and/or street peeps a few hours of feeling safe and relaxed; something they rarely experience anywhere else. So we think we won’t be having charcoal fires indefinitely. To be continued…….
A couple more Occupiers, a Water Protector and her friend, 2 street guys who have visited our fire in the past and a young woman who does not appear to be a homeless or street person join the circle. They’re just in time too; the homemade soup that sits on a small charcoal grill between 2 Occupiers is hot and ready to eat. This evening we are having a cream of potato soup with carrots, celery, onions and spices; almost everyone takes a bowl, some ask for seconds or thirds. It’s also deluxe PB+J sandwiches night, along with our usual killer coffee, apple juice, chips, pickles and cookies.
As we are eating, an Occupier comments, “Hey, do you guys know that the city official is running for a seat on the City Council representing District 3 (this is the district where many of us live)? He just announced his candidacy today”. Most had not heard and comments like, “Whoo Hoo!” and “Alright!” come from all who know the city man. We think he would be the most honest, incorruptible and effective City Councilor our small city has ever had.
A Native street guy who visits our fire, from time to time, rolls up. He greets us by saying, “Aaniin”. Some people in the circle respond, “Boozhoo” or Aaniin”. The guy chats for a bit and then goes on his way. An Occupier asks, “What’s the difference between aaniin and boozhoo?” Another Occupier opines, “I believe they’re interchangeable”. The Water Protector who is Native from Mille Lacs explains, “Actually, it’s deeper than that; aaniin means hello but boozhoo is something different. In our history there are many teachings about a spiritual man named Nanaboozhoo (sometimes Wanaboozhoo) who was sent by The Creator to help the Anishinaabe (human beings). He was a very humble, kind, gentle and loving being; he lived with his grandmother.
“He helped the people in every way for a long time but eventually the people got so used to him that they began to disrespect him and take him for granted (i.e. “Hey Nana! This thing is broken; you need to get your ass over here and fix it!). Nanaboozhoo, being a humble being, tried to just continue helping but eventually it proved to be too much. He packed up his grandmother and left; as he was leaving, he promised the people he would come back some day. Once he was gone, the people missed him greatly and looked everywhere for him but no one knew what Nanaboozhoo was gonna look like when he returned. Therefore, whenever they would meet someone they would first ask, “Are you Nanaboozhoo?” Over time it became shortened to, “Boozhoo?” Now days, when we greet someone with “Boozhoo” we are saying hello but we are also recognizing the spiritual aspect of that person”.
Some of us are familiar with Nanaboozhoo and a few of the many stories; we always love to hear them again though. Suddenly everyone stops talking; somebody gasps, “I think I just felt some rain drops; a few others add, “Yeah, so did I”. The probably not homeless or street woman concurs, “It feels kinda misty on my cheeks”. An Occupier explains, “The weather people said it wasn’t gonna rain tonight; if you look carefully at that little cloud above us, you will see that it’s just a little bit darker than all the rest of the clouds. The other clouds all look perfectly harmless. Once the cloud currently over our heads passes by everything will be fine”. All activity ceases; in silence, everyone watches the small, slightly gray cloud hovering over us and then…….it just moves along and eating and conversation return.
Menagerie Woman rides in on her bike; she tells us that she’s scored big today. She got fired from her job in the morning, walked a couple blocks down the road to another establishment and was hired on the spot. The woman with a houseful of animals reports, “ They’ll be paying me $6 more than I was making at the other place and all I have to do is wash dishes. I think the bosses are gonna be nicer too”.
While we are listening to her story, Chicago Man arrives, he’s followed by a small group of young street guys. Chicago Man appears restless, he’s walking around, talking on his phone and conversing with folks in the circle all at the same time. As usual, he croons to the Occupier who brings most of the food, “Hey Grandma, do you have an extra cigarette?” She gives him one and he kisses her on the cheek. The young street guys are getting coffee and standing in the shadows talking about stuff that young street guys talk about.
The neighborhood retired man stops by; this is the first time we’ve seen him this year so we have to fill him in on all the latest developments. An Occupier begins, “Well, as you can see, the vehicle entryway is still blocked and we’ve been having to fight with the cops again too. Every Tuesday evening since we returned to Peoples Plaza on May 1st, the entryway’s been blocked so we have to park our vehicles up on the little place just off the sidewalk and unload and haul everything up the stairs. As soon as we start unloading, the MN Power security dudes call the police to complain about our impending legal recreational fire and the fact that our vehicles are parked up past the sidewalk. The cops tell us the same, tired, old stuff they were telling us 5 or 6 years ago. You know, like ‘it’s illegal to have a fire in a public park’. Another Occupier picks up the story, “They have a new one this year when we explain to them about all the actual laws that support recreational fires, they say, ‘The laws have changed’”. The neighborhood man exclaims, “What?!?” The storyteller laughs, “I know. We had to try really hard not to laugh when they sprung that one on us.
“We’re hoping to bring this thing to a head this time though; I’m going to court next week to present evidence to a judge showing that our fire is legal and that the Duluth Police Department and the Duluth Fire Department should not be messing with it. I’ve been going to meetings of government people, emailing back and forth with City Councilors and trying to get some attention as to what has been going on here with MN Power employees and us. Tomorrow I’ll be going to have coffee with one particular Councilor who has actually shown some interest in our situation. I’ve been pretty much working my butt off with this since May Day. I’m just trying to prove that our fire is legal; I’m thinking the storm troopers leaving us alone should follow”. Another Occupier sighs, “There you go again, using logical thinking. You know that the City rulers don’t operate according to logic”. We all laugh and the storytelling Occupier continues, “For real; this court thing will be pretty much a thing of good luck or not. The justice system in our country is seriously broken; I think it will mostly depend on which judge I get. I don’t know one from the other but I do know that some judges are more supportive of regular people’s civil rights than others.”
The neighborhood man comments, “Well I’m happy to see that you guys are still doing this thing, you all are performing a service that’s very necessary to this community”. As he is speaking, we notice the 2 bike cops trying to surreptitiously look up the stairs and over the flower beds to see what they can see. Fortunately, neither one of them smacks into a pedestrian or light post while performing their spy duties. The neighborhood man continues to chat with us for a bit and then he is on his way home. As he is leaving, he gives us a generous donation. The LnF guy observes, “It appears that man is your patron”. We say, “Truth”.
An Anon/Water Protector couple, 3 little girls and another W.P. appear. The little girls are always thrilled to be at the fire circle in the Plaza; they have a box of differently colored chalk so they immediately begin decorating the floor. They’re having a great time. Their parents are a little hesitant about letting the kids go on a decorating spree but an Occupier reassures them, “No worries, it will all be gone by tomorrow and besides, who’s gonna complain about little kids chalk drawings?” We know the security guards will complain; they complain about everything.
It’s a little after 9pm, the sun has set and the temperature takes a nose dive. Time to pack up; we expect to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.