G.A. Minutes 7-16-19
After being rained out last week, this evening we are back at Peoples Plaza. There is no rain in tonight’s weather forecast; the sky is clear, the temperature is in the high 80s with a very occasional light breeze. In other words, it’s really flippin’ hot! Fortunately, once the sun goes behind the surrounding buildings, the temperature will be noticeably cooler.
Whatever…… as usual, the fire and food bringing Occupiers are the first to arrive; they’ve lucked out too, having managed to find two empty parking spaces right next to the Plaza. No one else has arrived yet so the old-ass Occupiers begin to slowly unload their stuff. The Fire Magician (a very clever and resourceful fellow) has strapped a cart onto the back of his truck; this enables folks who are hauling supplies to carry more things at a time up to the Plaza stairs at least. After they’ve deposited the first load, the guy from Loaves N Fishes arrives; this is great because along with being good company, he is capable of cutting the load-on time in half.
About halfway through the unloading job the Fire Magician comments, “Did you notice that the vehicle entryway is open tonight?” The food bringing Occupier responds, “What?!?!” and runs to see if this is true. She exclaims, “OMG, it IS open!” Seeing as the unloading is at least halfway finished they decide that it would be more trouble than it’s worth to drive the vehicles onto the Plaza, however, they do push the supply laden cart through the entryway and then onto the chosen fire circle space. It is soooo much easier.
As they work they hypothesize as to why, after over a year and a half of having a third big tree planter blocking the entryway, it was suddenly moved thereby allowing vehicles to pass through between the other two tree planters. The maker of most of the food opines, “Was it something that I said? I’ve been very busy over the last month running to lots of Duluth Commission meetings to report the hateful and probably illegal actions of the MN Power security guards. I was even on TV a week or so ago reporting the security assholes to the City Council. I wonder if that made them change their ways?” The Fire Magician answers, “Well, that could be it but I noticed the tree that was pulled away appears to be dying. It could be something as simple as that”. An acquaintance who works for the cleaning company contracted to clean the MN Power building comes out to empty all the Plaza garbage cans; those doing the unloading quiz her as to what she knows. She thinks for a bit and then guesses, “Well, MN Power just hired a different security company so maybe that has something to do with it”. The information we get from this cleaning acquaintance is not always accurate but sometimes it is. We say, “A DIFFERENT SECURITY COMPANY!!!???!” Can a person actually die from experiencing feelings of extreme joy and euphoria? We hope not.
More people arrive; among them are a Water Protector/ member of the Anonymous crew, his partner Anon/W. P. and her 3 little girls, 2 more Occupiers, the girlfriend of the LnF guy, the Stylish Native Woman and her partner, Chicago Man and 3 more street folks who are regulars at our fire circles. We try to relay the information that our cleaning company acquaintance gave us; we attempt to provide this info in a nonchalant manner so as to not cause any deaths from extreme joy etc.
Some of the Occupiers, Anons and Water Protectors attended the annual Veterans Pow Wow out at the Mash-Ka-Wisen Center in Sawyer, MN (read Fond du Lac Indigenous Reservation). They invited Chicago Man to join them; he tells us, “I haven’t had such a good time in many years; the entire event just reeked of spirituality and I was so happy. You know that I’m very attuned to that sort of thing and have really missed sharing those things with others. The public housing apartment building that I live in is a complete zoo making it difficult to maintain any peace of mind. It felt wonderful to be able to relax and feel safe while I was on the Pow Wow grounds”.
An Occupier agrees, “I felt the same way; my living situation is not stressful but I’ve been having all kinds of conversations, meetings, emails and whatnot with many people who work in our City government. I’m trying to get as many of them clued in as to what the fire ordinances, statutes and codes actually say. I’ve been working with the only City Councilor who offered to help us; actually he’s not very much help but he does open a few doors in order to connect me with City government people who I probably would not be able to hook up with on my own. He’s tasked me with setting up a meeting with Marnie Grondahl, the Interim Deputy Chief of the Duluth Fire Department and another high ranking DFD official of her choice, two high ranking Duluth Police Department officers, myself, the City Councilor and another Occupier (she nods toward the Occupier who works at the Mission). I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to do this because, I’m happy to say, I have absolutely no clout with City government types”.
An Anon/W.P. sighs, “I don’t know how you can stand hanging out with those types of people; they’re so creepy”. The Occupier replies, “I know. I don’t know how I can stand it either; some of them are reasonable but most seem to live on an entirely different planet and have absolutely no idea how the rest of us live. I think talking to them is worth a try though; I mean, how cool would it be to get the DPD, the DFD and some of the City Councilors to all look at the same fire laws at the same time and place? If good notes are taken, they won’t be able to claim miscommunication or lack of knowledge anymore. Shit, they just might decide to leave us alone for a few years”.
Another Occupier is not convinced, “I don’t know girlfriend, politicians and government types are a pretty sleazy bunch. Even if they know for sure what all the laws mandate, they’re still gonna try to do whatever they want.” The Occupier tasked with organizing a meeting tells him, “You’re probably right, I know I’m not going to dedicate all my energy into making this happen but I’ll give it a try so the next time a government type says to me, ‘But you need to contact your City Councilor and the DPD and DFD about this’. I’ll be able to show that I already did to no avail.
“My court date has been pushed back to July 26th, 10 am at the St Louis County Court House so I’m preparing for that too. I suppose you’ve noticed that I haven’t put out any meeting minutes for a month, AGAIN”. We have noticed but know the Occupier can’t do more than is humanly possible. “So anyway, instead of sitting home writing up minutes, I went out to the Pow Wow for the day. I found it to be very relaxing and peaceful too”.
The fire pit has been quietly burning for a while, we’re keeping it small tonight because the surrounding air is warm enough already. We’re still doing a charcoal base but we’ve discovered that putting hickory chips on top makes a good flame and we’ve been getting away with it so far. The problem is that hickory chips are expensive and we already have a whole cord of good firewood just waiting to be put to use.
People are happily getting what they need from the food table; we have the usual fixin’s plus a tub of hard-boiled eggs, some fried chicken from a local deli and a bowl of cold rice, fruit, marshmallow and whipped cream salad. Not too bad for a bunch of old hippies and their friends. We notice 2 bicycle cops riding out on the sidewalk, they glance over at us but just keep on riding.
The Anon/W.P. who has 3 children and is 6 months pregnant with another also has a flooded basement. Her partner and some of the Occupiers are arranging to meet early tomorrow morning, go out to her house and spend the day cleaning and fixing things. We all watch each others backs as best we can.
Then we get a big surprise; from the shadows we hear a familiar voice calling out, “Hello, good people”. It’s Spiritual Man! We have not seen him for over a year; we knew that he had left town a while ago but we hoped that we would see him again. He introduces us to a middle-aged woman saying she is his girlfriend. She’s very pleasant and friendly and coincidentally happens to be the grandmother of the youngest of the little girls. All 3 girls run to Grandma for hugs and kisses then she pulls out her makeup bag and begins putting lipstick and what have you on them. They are delighted and look funny and cute with lavender or shocking red lips. Spiritual Man confides, “The first time I met my girlfriend, I was smitten by her gorgeous eyes”. Grandma does have naturally gorgeous eyes.
The Occupier, who reports things, reports, “So we know that MN Power and the City are going to remodel Peoples Plaza. I’m guessing they’ll do that at the same time that they repair the last stretch of Superior St from 2nd Ave W to the intersection right in front of the Plaza. I’m guessing they won’t start until next year but that still means at some point we’ll have to move our fire circle again. I was chatting with Chief Tusken a few weeks ago; he said we should go up the hill to Central Hillside Park and use the fire pit that was built for Duluth’s Indigenous population. Well, I didn’t say anything at the time but I knew the fact that the Chief of Police gave us permission to use the Indigenous people’s fire pit would mean next to nothing to the Indigenous population. However, I thought CHP might be a good idea in the long run so I went to yesterday’s Indigenous Commission meeting and asked what I should do and who I should bring tobacco to. The Commissioners didn’t actually answer my question but instead took a long time praising all the work we do; then they moved on to other agenda items. So I guess the next thing I’ll try is to bring tobacco to one of the main, local Anishinaabe spiritual healers and hear what he has to say. Someone says, “That sounds like a good plan; thanks for taking it on.”
The African American guy who attended a lot of our fire circles back in the days of our fires at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial rolls in; he’s brought a friend, who we have not met in the past, with him. The friend is very hungry and takes seconds on everything we have; this is good because we love being able to feed peeps who would otherwise go hungry, until 7:30 am at least, when the Mission opens for 45 minutes to serve breakfast to those able to get there during that short window of time.
We notice there is a DPD squad car parked outside the Plaza; the officer inside of it appears to be watching us. When he gets out of his vehicle an Occupier exclaims, “Great, now what? I’m so sick of these motherfuckers and their stupid bullshit!” Instead of coming to bother us, the cop walks over to the public easement for vehicles at the western edge of the Plaza. Then the 2 bike cops ride up to the same place. We can’t see them because they are behind some high flower beds; after a while an Anon/W.P. walks over to see what the cops are up to. When he returns he tells us, “Damn! Those cops were surrounding the dude we know from our CJMM fires and were yelling at him and harassing him. When they saw that I was watching them they changed their tune real quick; they started patting the dude on the back and saying how proud they were of him for getting off heavy drugs. I stayed there watching until they took off, allowing the CJMM guy to go on about his business.
An Occupier adds, “Yeah, I’ve noticed police officers change their behavior whenever they notice people filming with their cell phones; they don’t seem to have any shame about doing stuff like that when a bunch of people are
watching. I’m guessing that honor is not a characteristic valued by police departments anymore. Another Occupier agrees, “Yup, you’ve got that right. As for the CJMM dude, if you remember, when he would join our fire circle he would just nod out in his chair. If someone would try to talk with him, he didn’t seem to even know where he was. He never fell out of his chair, or cracked his head on the floor or caused any problems so we just let him be. I notice that since he’s been coming around this year, he still doesn’t have anything to say but he appears alert and aware of his surroundings. More power to him, I hope he’s able to maintain his sobriety”.
A W.P. inquires, “Is anyone going to the Honor the Earth Water Is Life Festival this Sunday?” An Occupier responds, “Oh right, I almost forgot; HTE has asked to be able to use our animal puppets for their Species Parade during the festival. We’ll be loading them up from the front of our building at about 10am; anyone who wants to help with the loading should be at our house before then. People are also needed to march and carry the puppets in the parade”. Several folks in the circle volunteer to take on the tasks.
It’s dark now and more hungry people are arriving but we’ve completely run out of food. Someone suggests, “I suppose we should just pack up now; I feel kinda sorry about not having anything more to feed the hungry folks. So that’s what we do; there are plenty of helpers still around so packing up is easy this evening. We expect to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.