G.A. Minutes 10-2-18

G.A. Minutes 10-2-18

The weather people were correct this time; it has rained every day except one since our meeting last Tuesday. The precipitation was not of flood-like proportions, however everything in Duluth is very wet. The weather folks promised us a full day of no rain just for today and evening; then it goes back to raining forever. The sky is gray, the temperature is in the mid-50s and there’s not much of a breeze. So far, they’ve kept their promise.

Anyway, as usually happens, the Food Bringing Occupier and the Fire Magician are the very first people to arrive for our Tuesday fire circle at Peoples Plaza. The space looks completely empty so they walk up the stairs and onto the Plaza in order to check things out. Yup, it is completely empty; there are not even any street people sitting on the benches or lying under the trees. The Food Bringing Occupier looks confused and says, “WTF? Oh wait, I almost forgot, it’s the first week of the month. Many of the street folks receive monthly, small, government checks; they can afford to treat themselves to whatever floats their boat for a few days at least. I’m used to a reduction in street peeps every first of the month but this makes it look like EVERYBODY got paid”.

An empty Plaza means the first Occupiers are gonna have to set up the fire circle themselves. The Fire Magician starts hauling out the fire pit, firewood and related items; the Food Bringing Occupier slowly pulls out a couple of chairs, drags them up the stairs and begins setting up a circle. She’ll continue doing this until someone else shows up and relieves her of the job. After about fifteen minutes or so, another Occupier, some regular peeps from the Anonymous crew and some occasional Anon peeps arrive. They finish the job while the Fire Magician gets a big fire going and the Occupier with the mild case of OCD sets up the food table.

Oh, and Fireproof Man is here too; he’s wearing a neon-lime green hijab. We think it might be his own personal version of rain gear or something but it certainly does look like a hijab. Whatever…. we’re grateful that he doesn’t offer to help with the set up.

The city official rolls in; he passes out fliers for his event Soles to the Poles. It will be sort of a primer for people who have never voted before or haven’t voted in a long while. Soles to the Poles will take place on Saturday, October 13th 1p-5p at the Duluth NAACP Branch in the Washington Center (310 W 1st Ave W).

We all take fliers and put some out on the table with our other literature. Unfortunately, we don’t expect many of our street visitors to take one; most homeless and/or street folks don’t see any value in voting. After many years of abuse, neglect or what have you, a sizable amount of them have internalized deep feelings of low self-esteem and/or little sense that what they think or desire is of any value. We think if every single street and/or homeless person (including felons) in the Central Hillside and West End were to vote we’d have a different sort of City government with a very different set of priorities. That would be nice.

A Water Protector/Anon has made a delicious hamburger, noodle and cheese casserole; she sets it on the table just as the OCD Occupier finishes getting all the usual things put out. The Occupier takes a seat in the circle and seemingly out of nowhere, three or four small groups of young people appear. They are ravenously hungry, each filling several bowls of everything that is offered. We don’t believe the young ones can possibly eat all the food they are taking; perhaps they’re going to bring some of it to other hungry folks? As the neighborhood street youngsters load up their dishes they keep repeating, “Oh, thank you, thank you! This is so wonderful etc.” Once these teenagers have taken as much as they can feasibly carry they vanish back to wherever they came from. We notice the casserole has pretty much vanished too. Hopefully there will be lots of young ones able to sleep well tonight because their bellies are happy and full.

The Occupier who is a single parent remarks to the city official, “I’m told that my son, who is a freshman at UWS, will be interning at the campus radio station where your weekly show is broadcast”. The official man responds, “That’s good to know, I’ll be sure to pay extra attention to him”.

A big pot of homemade tomato-rice soup with other vegetables has been heating up on the small charcoal grill. There’s also a big loaf of homemade whole grain bread to go with it. Those of us who missed the casserole will just have to fill up on soup and bread. That’ll work.

The Occupier who lives in Superior tells us, “I see that OSHA fined Husky Oil $83,000 for the safety violations that led to those fires and the explosion last April. $83,000?!? That’s almost nothing to Husky; it’s about the same as one dollar would be to one of us. Just think of all the citizens in Superior who could have been killed! If the wind hadn’t switched, tens of thousands of people across the bay would have been evacuated. As usual, the fossil fuel industry gets a pass. The mayors of both Duluth and Superior demanded that Husky remove that super deadly tank of hydrogen fluoride from the refinery in Superior and replace it with something safer; Husky said, ‘Nope, not gonna do it. It would cost us too much money to replace it’. So far, they’ve gotten away with it. Apparently, not spending extra money is more important than the lives of the 100,000+ people who live in the path of the refinery. What a crock of shit!”

Another Occupier changes the subject, “It sounds like there’s gonna be some action around the Duluth Police Department’s request (read demand) for riot gear next week. I don’t know all the particulars but I’ve heard there will be a Riot Gear rally next Wednesday, October 10th at Denfeld H.S. That’s all I know right now but I’ll investigate and let everyone know asap. I think this is something we need to be involved in”. We all think so too.

An Occupier comments to the city man, “I’ll be coming and bringing a few others with me to your Duluth Transit Authority board of directors meeting on the last Wednesday of this month in order to talk about the possibility of you all helping out with warming stations for all the homeless folks who can’t go to CHUM when the winter weather gets too dangerous for them to be outdoors”. The official man replies, “Wait a minute…. I think the date has been changed”. He looks at his phone then continues, “The BOD meeting has been rescheduled for the fourth Wednesday, October 24th 5:30 pm at 2402 W Michigan St in the boardroom. I’ll be happy to see you all there”.

An Occupier asks an FDL Water Protector, “So how are you all coming along with signatures for the referendum?” She responds, “Not bad, we’re over halfway there”. Another Occupier quires, “Referendum?” The Water Protector explains, “If we can get three hundred signatures from Fond du Lac band members who actually live on the rez then we can put a referendum on the ballot to override the Tribal Council’s decision to allow Enbridge to build their Line 3 Pipeline on our land”. The Occupier exclaims, “Really?!? That is so wonderful! I would love to help you but I’m just an old Chimookikwe (white woman) who lives in Duluth”. The Water Protector tells her, “No worries, there will be plenty of things that you can do”.

The Anons gather up their signs and music and get ready to go out to the protest corner. It’s warm here next to the fire but out on the corner…..not so much. As they leave, someone comments, “There are more female Anons than usual tonight”. We all think that is a good thing.

Fireproof Man has been bopping in and out of the circle all evening; he’s still talking his “word salad” but we’re beginning to notice that if we listen closely, we can make out entire sentences that he says. Now it seems like he’s trying to make some kind of bed out of the chairs in the circle. It doesn’t work very well and he falls on his ass. He seems a little embarrassed and tries to cover this up by arranging all the chairs in kind of a square with three chairs pushed very close together, a big space then three more chairs etc. etc. When he goes to lie on a back bench, an Occupier puts all the chairs back into a circle; she sighs, “That guy is so weird!” A middle-aged street woman who has become a regular at our fire circle this year reports, “Oh, he’s always like that. Every once in a while he gets sent to Miller Dwan; when he gets out he talks and acts normal for a few weeks then he goes back to being like he is now”.

A guitar player who lived in our homeless camp over the summer about six years ago and who has remained a friend ever since drops in. He states, “I’m on my way to somewhere but I thought I’d stop by to see how you guys are doing”. We all exchange info about what’s been going on in our lives since we last saw each other (probably about a year ago). The guitar player opines, “You know that all this crap with He Who Shall Not Be Named is just meant to distract citizens from what is going on behind the scenes like trying to steal our social security, taking over the Supreme Court, militarizing the police forces, more wars and stuff like that. Now there’s all these questions about how HWSNBN got elected; I think that’s because the “shadow government”, or whatever it’s called, was bound and determined to get him placed in the president position. Citizens who are easily entertained will spend their time watching and listening to HWSNBN’s antics while the 1%ers steal the few rights and freedoms that we still have.

“Also, I think I know the real reason why the cops get bent out of shape when people protest while wearing masks or bandannas. It has nothing to do with identity, they don’t want you all to wear masks because the masks make it difficult for them to effectively gas you. Your eyes, mouth and nose are covered so you won’t absorb the gas adequately. Anyway, I’d better be on my way; I just wanted to stop in and see how you were doing. It looks to me like you’re doing really well. Keep it up, my friends”. The guitar player used to live in Duluth but he doesn’t live here anymore, that’s why we so seldomly see him.

A guy with dark hair and eyes, who we haven’t met in the past, appears in our circle. He tells us that he is a college student in some type of science related field. Some science-minded Occupiers get into a conversation about time and energy or something like that. The rest of us sit and listen. It sounds like the dark haired guy is trying to impress the science Occupiers with his massive knowledge and brilliance; when he realizes that that’s not working very well, he gets up to leave. As he walks away, he calls over his shoulder, “By the way, I do stand up comedy every Friday night, 8pm at the Dublin Inn”. Go figure.

Suddenly, a strong, cold wind launches an attack on the Plaza. Brrrr!….. Everyone zips up their jackets etc. We push all the chairs up close to the fire. The Anons return from the corner; the wind is just too cold.

A veteran, tall, slender street woman, who we have known for many years, steps out of the shadows. She asks if we still have coffee and we say, “Yah, for sure, just help yourself”. The tall woman reaches for the coffee carafe; Fireproof Man leaps out from the Nether World (or wherever it is that he goes) jumps in front of her, grabs the carafe and ceremoniously pours himself a full cup of coffee. The woman exclaims, “Hey, weird dude! Whatdaya think you’re tryin’ to do?” Fireproof Man then attempts to pour hot coffee down the woman’s arm. She jumps back and Fireproof Man runs away. The slender woman yells, “Do you want to get your head bashed in?!?” Fortunately, there is still a little coffee left so she is able to get some at least.

On that note, we figure it’s time to pack up. The Anons scurry around and get things packed up quickly; they’re getting to be experts at this. We don’t know if the veteran street woman will beat up Fireproof Man or not but if she does, we’re not gonna stick around to defend him. Come to think of it though, we’ve not known her to be particularly crazy. She just hangs out with a couple of her brothers; her brothers are also very tall. They’re generally a pretty peaceful family; as long as you don’t mess with them, that is. The veteran woman is known to pack a really hard punch but all she really wants is for people to give her the respect that she and all women deserve.

If it doesn’t rain, we’ll be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 9-25-18

G.A. Minutes 9-25-18

It’s raining; it’s been raining most of the day. The weather people report that it will rain off and on (mostly on) for the rest of the week. That’s probably good for our Mother Earth so we’ll have to accept it but still……couldn’t it just rain for a week starting tomorrow?

You’ve probably figured out that rain means we meet at Coney Island on W 1st St. If you did, you’d be right. As usual, the staff is pleased to see us even though they already have a lot of customers. We have enough peeps to fill up two booths and two tables; we’re a combination of Occupiers, Anonymous members, and Water Protectors. Very few street folks have ever attended our indoor meetings, probably because they don’t have any money and think the staff will throw them out. That wouldn’t happen but many of the homeless ones have PTSD related to the abominable way they have been treated by regular people over the years. Homeless ones are just like the rest of us; they have their own prejudices and misguided beliefs.

At around 6:30 pm, a few more Anons arrive; they tell us that it’s no longer raining. The smokers go outside to check it out and find that it’s true, it’s not raining. The sky is overcast but non-threatening. The Anons want to go down to the protest corner outside Peoples Plaza in order to bring the No Line 3 concept to the masses. An Occupier comments, “We are not equipped to create a fire circle for you all right now. It takes several hours of preparation before we can get everything together for a circle. An Anon assures her, “Oh yeah, we get that. We just wanta go down there anyway and attempt to create a ruckus”.

When everyone goes back inside, someone begins a conversation about yesterday’s City Council meeting. On the Council’s agenda last night was a vote to approve the Duluth Police Department’s request for $85,000 to purchase what we call Riot Gear. The DPD swears up and down that these face shields, clubs, body armor and whatever else is not Riot Gear but Personal Protective Equipment. They promise they will never use it against protesters who are exercising their constitutional right to free speech; they say it may never be used but just sit and rot on the shelf. They vow the gear will only be used if there is “violent, criminal, social unrest”. We don’t believe them. Fortunately, there a lot of other citizens in Duluth who don’t believe them either. A few activists discovered that last night the City Council was gonna vote on whether to approve the purchase of Riot Gear or not. Word quickly spread through the community; the turn out for the meeting was huge. It was standing room only with people sitting on the floor in the Chambers, the overflow went down both outside hallways.

A few of the most memorable moments were when a citizen commented, “So where is this violent, criminal, social unrest gonna happen? Has it ever happened before in Duluth? Oh wait, yes it has! Back in 1920, here in our very city, three innocent African American young men were hung (read lynched) from a light post. The Duluth Police Department did absolutely nothing to prevent the murder of these men”.

Another citizen opined, “So if we’re gonna spend $85,000 on a bunch of stuff that’s going to rot on the shelf wouldn’t the money be better spent elsewhere? $85,000 could help to fix our streets or other infrastructure; it could provide genuine assistance to disadvantaged youth or a couple of nurses in our schools. $85,000 sounds like a lot of money just to purchase more toys for the boys in blue”.

The crowd at the Council meeting consisted primarily of various groups of marginalized people. There were also folks from various non-marginalized groups and a good few reporters too. An Anon asks, “So the next Council meeting about Riot Gear will be on Monday, October 22nd. Who’s going?” Everyone raises their hand.

An Occupier says, “Tomorrow’s gonna be a busy day. The Citizens Review Board meeting is in City Hall at 5 pm; from what I hear, it will be another discussion about Riot Gear. Then, Honor the Earth’s Water Protector Update event will be at AICHO at 6 pm. We may have to split forces with some of staying until the end of the CRB and others leaving early in order to make it to the HTE happening on time. We all think that is doable.

On Sunday, September 30th, 4pm-7pm at Peace Church, some activists and others will attempt to hold a fundraiser for the two Water Protector/Occupiers and another Water Protector who volunteered themselves to be locked to the metal gates at Wells Fargo several months ago. An attempt will be made to raise enough money to purchase an airline ticket for the third Water Protector who is currently living in another state and possibly a little more to give to our saintly and angelic pro-bono attorneys to help cover their expenses.

Seeing as most of those involved in helping with the event are currently present, we think it might be a good idea to plan an agenda, assign roles and such. The only person not with us is the lead organizer; an Occupier calls her and she tells him, “Yeah, if someone can come and get me, I’ll come down”. Another Occupier makes the short drive to get her, then the lead organizer, one of the Water Protector/Occupiers and the Fond du Lac band member who has volunteered to MC the event put their heads together and come up with a plan. The rest of us offer suggestions if we have them and agree to take on our assigned tasks. We hope that many people will attend and support the Water Protectors who risk their safety and their freedom so the rest of us and the generations to come can have safe clean water.

Once we have agreed upon a plan, we notice our surroundings again. There are a lot of customers in the cafe’. Some have many tables pushed together like we do, some are sitting at the counter, others are up at the front placing their orders and another group are just walking around laughing and joking. This is good because many customers in the evening will encourage the owner to keep the place staffed and open during the cold time of the year. We understand how capitalism works; we just don’t like it very much.

It’s getting late; the Anons decide to postpone their ruckus making until next Tuesday because the majority of the cars will have reached their final destinations by now. Most of us will stop by one of the Occupiers homes for a little R&R before going to our warm, safe and dry sleeping places. Everyone is entitled to one of these; housing is a human right.

We hope to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 9-18-18

G.A. Minutes 9-18-18

It feels like a typical evening in autumn here at Peoples Plaza; except that all the tree leaves and other growing things are still green. Hopefully, they’ll stay that way for a while longer. Tonight the temperature is only in the low 60s but a strong northeast wind and an earlier sunset make it feel much colder. Warm clothes and a seat close to the fire, while not required, are a very good idea.

The Plaza is completely empty when the Fire Magician and the Food Bringing Occupier roll up on the sidewalk outside of the Plaza. The Occupiers both groan and slowly start the process of hauling the fire circle supplies up the stairs and onto the site. A veteran street woman, who we have known since the days of our first fires at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial, walks up and asks if we’d like help. This woman goes by the street name of Fox and is more than likely a senior citizen however, she is quite physically fit and limber. The Occupiers say, “Sure, that would be great”. So Ms Fox then calls out to a couple of guys on the street, “Hey, get off your asses and come over and help us”. The guys comply and soon all the basics are in place. When they have finished helping, the street folks all walk off. Another Occupier arrives; he finds very little left to do.

As the fire roars up, the partner of the Stylish Native Woman drops in. He’s cheerful and reasonably coherent this evening. He wants to know the difference between birth records and genetics. Years ago he explained to us that he had been adopted at a very young age; although he is now close to forty years of age he still knows nothing concerning the origins of his birth, birth parents, conditions for adoption or related information. It’s possible that The Partner’s severe and unmedicated mental illness has been a barrier to his discovery of these facts.

An Occupier explains to The Partner that finding out his birth circumstances would require much time, effort and searching through old court records in order to gain the knowledge he desires; or he could hire someone to do it for him. However, there is no guarantee that the records he needs could ever be found. If The Partner just wants to know what his ethnic origins are then he would need to give a saliva sample to a reputable genetic laboratory and wait to receive the results. Unfortunately, a genetic test for one’s ethnic origins is unable to supply any information about who the actual people who gave him his genetic makeup where. She tells him that going both routes at the same time would probably produce the best results but would cost a lot of money. The Partner replies, “Yeah, money is usually the problem; the little bit that I get in disability each month seems to disappear really fast”.

A couple of young guys who occasionally roll with the peeps from the Anonymous crew arrive; they’re laughing and talking about video games or something. As we listen and try to figure out what they’re talking about, a street officer from the Duluth Police Department comes up the stairs. We exchange polite greetings then the officer says, “It looks like you’ve got a pretty good thing going on here, the only problem is that fire. You’re gonna have to put that out; it’s illegal to have a fire in a city park”. An Occupier politely explains, “Actually, this fire is completely legal. It conforms to the requirements of the particular City ordinance related to fires in city parks, to the MN Statute related to fires in city parks and to the International Fire Codes related to recreational fires. I have copies of all the paperwork if you’d like to look at them”

Another Occupier opines, “Officer, it would be wise to listen to her; she’s been studying this stuff for years”. The Occupier who keeps the records reaches into the bin and takes out the file folder that she always brings along to the fire circles and hands a copy of the City ordinance to the cop. The Occupier explains that the particular section that addresses our particular fire situation is outlined in yellow but of course the cop doesn’t listen to her and reads the first line of the ordinance, he says, “Hey, wait a minute, it says right here,’fires are not allowed in city parks’!” The record keeping Occupier replies, “Yes, that’s true but look at the next line that has been yellowed over, it says, “exemptions” (one of the exemptions describes our type of fire to a t). The officer does so then exclaims, “Well, I think this ordinance is open to interpretation!” The Occupier doesn’t think it is open but decides not to waste her time arguing; she answers, “Well here’s a copy of the MN Statute” and hands it to him. “ a MN Statue always trumps a City Ordinance The cop does the same thing with this legal paper too; he grumbles, “… it is unlawful to have an open fire without obtaining written permission from the commissioner…” Trying really hard not to roll her eyes, the Occupier suggests, “Try scrolling down a few lines to where the sentences are covered in yellow, where it says ‘exemptions’.

Another Occupier comments, “We’ve been holding these fire circles in downtown Duluth for six years now; we kinda know what we’re talking about”. The officer retorts, “Six years!?! I have never seen you here before!” The record keeping Occupier thinks to herself, “Then you must be the most unobservant policeperson who ever lived” but she offers to show the cop a copy of the International Fire Codes and keeps her thoughts to herself. It appears the police dude has had enough paperwork; he responds, “I guess I’ll have to research these laws myself; I normally work the Lincoln Park beat so don’t get around here much. Have a good evening”. He walks to his squad car and drives off. An Occupier scoffs, “Oh yeah, I’m sure he’s gonna go straight home after work and start researching legislative codes. Cops just love doing that type of shit”. We all laugh.

Once the cop leaves, more people join the circle. They include an Occupier, the chronically homeless man who watched us from afar for many months before joining us a few weeks ago and his girlfriend, an Anon, the very tattooed occasional Anon and the Stylish Native Woman.

The lentil and vegetable soup heating up on the small grill is ready to eat; almost everyone takes a bowl. The Occupier who is a college student inquires, “Did anyone see that people protested at the Enbridge office in Superior today and then blocked traffic on a bridge?” We all say, “No kidding!?! We did not know that, tell us more”. The student Occupier states, “It was just a tiny little blurb at the end of the 6pm newscast on one of the commercial TV stations. I saw it as I was going out the door to come here. I’ll do some research and try to have more information next week”.

The city official pops his head into the circle and reports, “I was just riding by on the bus on my way down to Carmody’s for another one of my fundraisers when I saw a cop over here. I immediately got off the bus and came over to see if everything was o.k. An Occupier tells him, “It was just the usual ying-yang that cops who don’t know us try to lay on us. Once he figured out that we weren’t intimidated by him, he left. The official man looks relieved, “Oh, that’s good. I’ll just be on my way then”. The city official is always watching our backs.

The veteran young homeless guy minus dreadlocks and Chicago Man stop in. Chicago Man announces he will be moving into an apartment of his own in just a few more days. He enthuses, “I’ve been on the waiting list for over a year, I complied with all their guidelines, saved my own money for a deposit and now I’m finally getting an apartment. I’m kinda tired because I’ve been packing for days but I’M SO EXCITED!!!” We are all happy for him.

The short haired young homeless guy reports, “It looks like I’ll be going off to rehab again. I pissed off my p.o. and she wants to send me off to a treatment program that lasts for a year. I guess that’s what I’ll do then; I sure don’t want to go back to prison”.
He’s about to tell us more but…KABOOM!!! We hear a very loud explosion and all the sparks, flames and burning wood come flying out of the fire pit. We Are Stunned. One of the younger Anons sheepishly says, “Oh, I’m sorry”. One of the homeless ones sighs, “I tried to tell him that you can’t throw a used up lighter into the fire but everything just happened too fast”. An Occupier adds, “I’m just glad that no one was hurt”. Everyone picks up the hot wood and embers and puts them back in the fire pit; the Fire Magician sweeps up the ashes. “Same as it ever was”. We all sit watching the fire start up again and waiting for our heart rates to go down…..then we’re back in business.

Apparently, we are the hottest action going on the street now. Many, many street folks join us; the food supplies are running low but we still have organic pb+j sandwiches and lentil soup. That’ll work. Among the new arrivals to the circle are the DD and/or TBI guy who lives at the Wet House and the big, brown, yelling guy who made so much noise last week. There are so many people tonight that Wet House Man is unable to dominate the conversation; he just sits and laughs. The big brown guy is not currently yelling but he sure is hungry; he chows down on everything he can find.

We had noticed a few weeks ago that the Stylish Woman was using a small walking stick; we know that she is up in age and walking is sometimes difficult for her. When she goes to the table to refill her coffee cup someone compliments her on the beauty of her stick. She replies, “It was gifted to me by the brother of a very dear, old friend of mine. My dear friend crafted this stick himself and when he died recently, his brother told me that my friend had wanted me to have it”.

An Occupier asks, “Does anyone remember that book by Rachael Carson called Silent Spring?” All of the Occupiers and most of the Anons are familiar with the book. The Occupier remarks, “I believe Silent Spring came out in 1971. Among other things, Ms Carson asked us to notice that most of the environment in the US was then devoid of song birds. She hypothesized that this was because of the extensive use of pesticides, especially DDT. Also, the water in many rivers and bays was spontaneously bursting into flames, because there were oil spills all over the place and nobody, including the government thought oil spills were any big deal. That was before we had the EPA or OSHA or any of that stuff. I believe that Silent Spring made a major contribution towards the preservation of our Mother Earth”. An Anon observes, “Yabut, all that environmental regulation has been pretty much kicked to the curb over the years by the stinking servants of the 1%”. The Occupier responds, “Yeah, I know”.

An Occupier asks the Occupier who lives in Superior, “Say, I hear that there was another explosion at the Husky Oil Refinery last Saturday?” The Superior Occupier explains, “As you know, I live pretty close to the refinery. I was kinda distracted with doing something at the time but I do remember that I thought I heard one loud “Boom!” After a while I went outside to look and the sky was covered with smoke. Of course, the Husky Company is saying it was just a small propane tank that fell over; small tank my ass! I’ve been inside that refinery; that tank was huge”.

The reporting Occupier reports, “Before I forget, I want to remind everybody that the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition is holding a free dinner and brainstorming session at AICHO on Thursday of this week, 5p-8p. We’re starting Phase ll of the HPB of R which will attempt to tackle the issues of p;aces where homeless folks will be able to legally camp, the right to eat and share food freely in public spaces, the right to use and move freely in public spaces, the right to twenty four hour access to hygiene facilities, the right to equal treatment by City staff and the right to speak with an advocate or street outreach worker when questioned by police. I hope you all will attend and invite as many homeless and street folks as you can. We need all the ideas and advice that we can get”.

A very large middle-aged white woman and her much younger and smaller white boyfriend have been sitting in our circle and next to the table for a while. They haven’t spoken much but have been listening to the conversation. The big, brown, previously yelling guy comes over from the east ledge and goes to the table to get more food. The large woman looks at him and then down at the floor; she takes her purse and a bag and moves them in front of herself and close to her feet. She states, “I always like to keep track of my bags”. The big brown dude tells her, “You moved your bags because you thought I was gonna steal them! I don’t steal! Not all black people steal!” The white woman sputters something unintelligible; the black guy responds, “You know what you were really thinking, you stupid, fat, ugly white BITCH!!!” He takes his food and walks back to the east ledge.

The large woman is speechless; an Occupier opines, “He does have a point you know. Black people experience suspicion and racism on a daily basis. It could very well have been a coincidence that you moved your stuff when you did but he’s been given so much crap all his life; it’s understandable that he went ballistic”.

A young man with a very impressive, large and well organized backpack sits down. He tells us his name and also the fact that he is a Water Protector from a Native American band living on their ancestral lands near the Canadian border. The young man has spent the last several years visiting and helping out at various resistance camps all over the United States. He’s finally on his way back home and ended up stuck on the streets of Duluth until morning. The traveling man and one of the Water Protector/Anons have many friends and acquaintances in common; they settle down for a chat.

The Occupiers have only one dilemma, the fire is dying but we could throw a couple more logs on it and sit and watch it burn for another hour or so OR we could just watch it burn out now. It’s a little after 9pm; the consensus is to let it burn out now. So that’s what we do.

Once the fire is seriously waning, we begin to pack up. The Water Protector from the Canadian border will spend the night in the apartment of some of the Anons. While all this is going on, the big, brown dude comes over and takes a seat next to the Food Bringing Occupier, he sighs, “You know, I’m really sorry; I shouldn’t have used the words that I did. I mean, just look at me. I know I got white in me”. He removes the hood of his hoodie and shakes out his beautiful, long, thick and wavy black hair. He reports, “This all looks red in the sun. I gotta go back to the ledge; that’s my girlfriend lying over there on the bench, she’s so drunk she can’t even stand up. I havta go take care of her”. Off he goes.

So, everyone is ready to head off to their various abodes. We expect to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 9-11-18

G.A. Minutes 9-11-18 Apparently it’s summer again, at least for tonight. When the first Occupiers arrive at Peoples Plaza the temperature is in the high 70s; the variable breeze that keeps us comfortable all summer has also returned. Sweet.

After consulting with the Occupier who brings most of the food, the Fire Magician decides to make a fairly good sized fire. That way we’ll still get the pleasure of smelling the smoke and watching the flames; if we make a big circle no one will become overheated.

The only person who is waiting to help the Occupiers upon their arrival is the Native old school skater and occasional Anon dude. He’s not drunk either; we’ve never seen him sober before. He’s a little older than most of the people who ride skateboards but he’s still young enough to easily haul out all the chairs and stuff and to begin setting everything up. Soon another Occupier and several peeps from the Anonymous crew roll up; the whole scene is together in a few minutes.

When we entered the Plaza we noticed a big brown guy with a full head of long, black curly hair yelling loudly at two young women. He screams over and over, “I want my money back!” The two young women just sit there on the east ledge, they don’t appear to be saying anything. The yelling guy doesn’t appear to be fixin’ to hit them; he’s just pacing back and forth hollering about his money. After a while the larger of the two women comes over to our circle and plunks down in one of the chairs; she exclaims, “I don’t havta listen to that shit!” This very blonde and voluptuous young woman has attended many of our fire circles this year. She works the overnight shift at a group home and drops in at Peoples Plaza most evenings before catching the bus to her job. The big brown dude is still yelling at the small young woman who remained listening to him; we’re told that she is his girlfriend. Marvelous. We figure we’ll keep an eye on the guy and if it looks like he’s gonna get violent, we’ll intervene. The chairs in the circle fill up quickly, those filling these chairs include four of the usual Occupiers, an equal amount of Anons, the city official, the tattooed occasional Anon and the Stylish Native Woman and her partner.

The Anons all go out to the protest corner to see if they can get a lot of support from the cars and passersby. The reactions they receive seem to vary from week to week.

An Occupier comments to the city man, “Oh good, I’m glad you stopped by before going down to Carmody’s for your fundraiser”. She gives him a donation from the group.

Street folks begin appearing as soon as the Food Occupier starts putting a few things on the table; she has to ask them to wait until she gets everything put out. There’s a big pot of bean with vegetable soup heating up on the little grill, the table has stay-awake-forever coffee, apple juice, cold water, pickles, chips, cookies, two pans of delicious goulash cooked by an Anon/Water Protector and….. “Oh crap!” says the food bringing Occupier, “I forgot to bring the hard-boiled eggs!”

Another Occupier hops in a vehicle and drives a few blocks up the hill to retrieve them. The very hungry street folks crowd close to the table; as soon as the Food Occupier gives the signal, they absolutely descend on the food. The hotdish is gone in minutes, the rest of the banquet in a few minutes more. In their haste, one of the starving ones knocks the sage and smudge dish to the brick pavement; it shatters into little pieces. The Occupier thinks to herself, “Oh no, I hope it’s not going to be ONE OF THOSE NIGHTS”. One of the Native people in the circle advises, “That broken dish will need to be buried somewhere”. The food Occupier packs up all the pieces and will bury them later in her garden. As for right now, she will have to use the dog water dish for a sage holder. Fortunately, so far this evening, there have been no visitors from the canine world.

Once the famished peeps get their provisions, most go off to the various ledges surrounding the Plaza. Things settle down and the Occupier keeping an eye on the table replenishes most of the food so all the just normally hungry folks can eat something too.

The Occupier who is a single parent has been working out of town for most of the summer. He’s back in town for the school year and attending his first meeting in several months. He asks, “I sent out a post about a proposed 28th Amendment to the Constitution a few days ago, did any of you see it and if so, what did you think?” Many of us saw his post; someone responds, “Hell yeah, that’s a very good idea. Congresspeople should be required to obey every single law that all regular citizens are required to obey, no exceptions. We already pay them a lot of money and all most of them do for it is to follow the commands of the 1%”. An Occupier adds, “Yeah, it is a very good idea but I believe the problem is that in order for a constitutional amendment to become law, it has to be ratified by most of the states. I think that means that most of the congresspeople in each state have to vote for it. I don’t imagine the corporate whores are going to vote in favor of anything that takes away any of their perks”. We all shake our heads at the absurdity of it all.

An Occupier postulates, “I think all of ‘He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named’s minions are in serious competition to come up with the most idiotic, ridiculous idea or policy imaginable. I hear that DeVos (secretary of education) wants to use taxpayer education money to purchase guns for public school teachers. That way, the teachers will be able to defend the students when a crazed shooter shows up at their school. Great idea, aye?” Another Occupier chuckles, “I wonder what kind of disability benefits teachers will get when they accidentally shoot themselves while practicing stopping an imaginary crazed shooter. Hell, the teachers could partner up and shoot each other then they could both get a vacation.” An Anon remarks, “Well if the teachers are gonna be carrying guns, I wonder what will happen to the kid who never does his/her homework?” Sometimes you gotta laugh just to keep from crying.

The Occupier who has been out town for the summer asks a Water Protector/Occupier, “So what’s the latest news about your charges from doing that Wells Fargo lockdown?” The questioned Occupier tells him, “Well, the judge has accepted our “necessity defense”. He said that he definitely knows that climate change is real but he wants us to show him why disrupting Wells Fargo business will aid in saving the planet. We were denied a jury trial but will be having our actual trial in front of the judge on Wednesday, October 10th at 9 am. The returning Occupier opines, “Showing all the bazillions of dollars that Wells Fargo has invested in the fossil fuel industry shouldn’t be very hard to prove, I think”. The Water Protector/Occupier responds, “I know, that’s what everyone says”.

Changing the subject, the Reporting Occupier reports, “The annual vigil and press conference for The Woman Who Tells Good Stories will be held next Monday, noon, at the Central Hillside Community Center. We all hope to be there; we need to keep the story-telling woman’s memory alive as someday the truth will be found.

Chicago Man drops in. An Occupier exclaims, “Dude, we haven’t seen you in several weeks; I was beginning to get worried about you”. Chicago Man pantomimes “I can’t talk” and points to his throat. Apparently, he has a sore throat. He starts whispering to folks but gives up and starts talking anyway. We know him to be a very talkative person.

Of course, Fireproof Man shows up again; he may be planning on becoming a regular guest. He starts talking in his “word salad” language and the Yelling Man from the east ledge, who has been yelling off and on throughout the evening, starts yelling at Fireproof Man saying if he doesn’t stop talking his “word salad” language, Yelling Man will beat him up. Wonderful. As Fireproof Man stands at the table getting coffee and stuff, the partner of the Stylish Woman walks up to him, calls him by his given name and they start having some type of conversation. We are all amazed. An Occupier thinks to himself, “Oh, this is great; The Partner understands Fireproof Man. The Partner could be our clue to unraveling the mystery”.

A young street man, who we’ve not met in the past, is trying to pour himself a glass of apple juice. He’s a little shaky but he succeeds; he comments, “This is me without drugs. I haven’t taken any drugs in three days”. We congratulate him and he goes off into the shadows. An Occupier asks some of the street folks sitting beside her, “Was he talking about prescribed drugs or recreational drugs?” One of the folks replies, “It could be recreational drugs; there’s been several big local drug busts recently”. The other street person adds, “It could be prescribed drugs too. Doctors just give people new drugs and send them on their way; there’s very little in the way of monitoring going on. Both prescribed and recreational drugs can really fuck you up if not monitored correctly”.

An Occupier confesses, “I’m really confused about all this social media monitoring going on these days. Where does one draw the line between freedom of speech and hate speech? I want to be able to easily express my opinions but I don’t want to hear rantings from fascists and Nazis and such. However, I’m guessing that my freedom of speech is dependent on a Nazi’s freedom of speech too?”

Chicago Man chimes in, “I saw a Nazi once. It was back when I was working the night shift at the big box store. A big guy wearing shorts came walking through the door. He had a big swastika tattooed on his leg. I said, ‘Oh no honey, there is no way I’m going to interact with this guy’. I told my co-worker that I had to go to the bathroom and I hid until I knew that the Nazi was gone. I am seriously afraid of that shit”.

Another Occupier reports, “Remember when the porta-potty across the street got removed and I said I would be talking to a person from the City about it? Well, I did and it turns out she’s a personal assistant to the mayor. Anyway, she said the mayor is willing to put up another potty in the area but she wants the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition to choose the next spot. I went to the HPB of R meeting a few days ago and we came up with a list of eight possibilities”. The HPB of R Coalition Occupier reads off all the possibilities on the list; we think that one of the spots behind Pizza Luce’ or the one at the entrance to Lake Place Plaza, directly across from the Norshor Theater are the best choices. The Occupier continues, “I emailed our choices to the City woman yesterday, now she’s gonna see what spots are actually owned by the City and get back to me on that. I hope the whole process doesn’t take too long because a potty that’s easily accessible in the Peoples Plaza area is very much needed”.

Someone remarks, “I wonder why all these flags are flying at half mast; it can’t be John McCain because he’s already been buried”. An Anon tells him, “It’s 9/11. Today is the anniversary of 9/11, you know, the Twin Towers and all that”. We all say, “Oh right! We can’t believe that we’d forgotten”.

Most of the street folks have gone off now, the rest of us are just chillin’ around the fire. The young, schizophrenic dude with the blonde, spiked haircut rolls in, only he doesn’t have blonde spiked hair anymore. It looks like he’s letting his hair just grow out natural; it’s still kinda short but it lays down on his head and is kinda red-brown. Anyway, he doesn’t say much, just gets whatever is left on the table and sits quietly listening to the conversation. He has the same big goofy grin on his face as per usual.

We hear an ambulance come roaring down the street; an Occupier states, “I believe that’s the first siren we’ve heard all night”. Another Occupier answers, “Come to think of it, I think you’re right”. Hmm… Many evenings we have sirens blaring back to back all night long.

As we are packing up to leave we hear yelling coming from the east ledge again. This time it’s the small girlfriend of Yelling Man; she’s screaming something and chasing the formerly spiky blond guy around the ledge. The young dude is yelling at the top of his voice, “BUT I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING!” We know that the no longer blond schizophrenic dude has become quite streetwise since he got kicked out of CHUM at the beginning of spring. We’re gonna let him handle this one himself.

Some of the Occupiers and Anons will go over to the Occupier couple’s home for a bit of R&R before calling it a night. We plan to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 9-4-18

G.A. Minutes 9-4-18
We’re having some pretty strange luck these days or else the weather people enjoy making fun of us. Last Tuesday they told us it wasn’t gonna rain and we ended up getting soaked while attempting to have a fire circle outside in the rain. This Tuesday they told us it would most definitely be raining all day and night so we came to Coney Island. The rain stopped around 3pm and although it’s been looking like it’s gonna start up again any minute; there is not and has not been even one drop of water from the sky. We imagine there are street folks at Peoples Plaza who are waiting for us but we are not at all prepared to start a fire now. Bummer.

The staff guys actually remember us and seem pleased to see us; they even remember what our usual food orders are. We have almost two booths worth of people consisting of three Occupiers, four people from the Anonymous crew and one city official. The city official is organizing a fundraising event for the trip to the Legacy Museum. It will be held at Carmody’s Irish Pub in downtown Duluth from 6 pm ’til around 8:30 pm on Tuesday, September 18th. We’ll probably be holding a fire circle at that time; an Occupier comments, “We’ll have to send someone down there with a donation”. This time of year we have to take everything one week at a time. Last year, winter closed our fire down in mid-October; some years it doesn’t arrive until late November. We just don’t know; apparently, the weather people don’t know either.

The city official comments to an Anon, “Did you see the new entryway at our neighborhood Wells Fargo building?”

The Anon laughs, “Yeah, I did. It’s all encased in glass now. I guess they want to have only one public entryway to their bank; when the ‘terrorists’ show up they want to be able to see them right away so they can close the entryway before the ‘terrorists’ get inside”.

An Occupier adds, “ I went to the Citizens Review Board last week; one of the cops said that the higher-ups in the Duluth Police Department had a meeting with the local Wells Fargo officials concerning ideas for protecting themselves against ‘terrorists’.

Another Occupier suggests, “What a bunch of stupid shit! I don’t suppose Wells Fargo will ever realize that if they’d stop investing in earth destroying activities and ripping off their members, ‘terrorists’ wouldn’t bother them anymore”.

Changing the subject, an Occupier tells everyone, “I’m thinking that it might be a good idea for me to file an official complaint with the Human Rights Department concerning our problem with the Mn Power Company, their contracted security department and the blocking of the public entryway when we need to briefly get our vehicles up in Peoples Plaza so we can unload. I brought a copy of the HR form. As you can see, it’s supposed to be filled out by one singular person and then the person is supposed to present all their witnesses. I could fill out the form if you guys are willing to sign on as witnesses”. Everyone is down with her idea.

The smokers go out for a smoke break; as they are smoking, the retired neighborhood man strolls by. He stops to chat and tells us, “I was down at the Plaza looking for you all and now here you are”. We explain about the confusion with the weather forecasters and make other small-talk. The retired man is still interested in the inner workings of the establishment Democratic party so we can’t go very deep with him. Still, if one doesn’t speak about religion or spirituality, he’s a pretty nice man. If one mentions anything having to with the ethereal world, the retired man goes ballistic. He doesn’t believe in any of that crap and he doesn’t think anyone else should either. So like I said, we can’t go very deep with him.

When the smokers return, they find the rest of the group just kinda slouched in their seats, some with heads resting on their arms. Everyone is tired and meetings at Coney Island are usually less exciting than the ones at Peoples Plaza. The dark, almost rainy day doesn’t help either. Actually, we do need to rest and relax; we’ll be gearing up for the International Climate March on Saturday. It’s being led by the Sierra Club so it’s possible they will be able to turn out a large crowd.

An Anon remarks, “Some of us will be getting together on Friday to make a banner and some new signs for the march”.

The march will form at 10 am from AICHO and leave for the Civic Center at 10:30 am. A rally will happen there and then the march will head out for the Harvest Festival at Bayfront Park; ETA 12:30 pm. We hope to all meet up at Bayfront once the march is finished.

The reporting Occupier reports, “There’s a sort of emergency meeting of the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition at 6:30 pm on this upcoming Thursday. They’re planning an event for later on in the month”.

Another Occupier, who can’t stop yawning, sighs, “Guys I’m gonna have to head out; I can barely keep my eyes open”. Everyone else feels the same way. We don’t have much packing up to do; we just gather our belongings and say goodnight to the staff guys.

As we are about to head out the door, an Occupier asks one of the staff guys, “I hear there was a murder last Thursday right in this general neighborhood?” The staff guy answers, “There sure was. A guy shot another guy and the man who got shot fell down right in front of our door. We called 911 and they arrived immediately but by the time they got him the few blocks to the hospital, the injured man had died”. We all shake our heads in sadness. Stuff like this doesn’t happen very often in our Central Hillside but it does happen. So we’re off to rest and do good things; we sure hope we will be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 8-28-18

G.A. Minutes 8-28-18

Of course, the big tree planters are blocking the vehicle entryway again when the first Occupiers arrive at Peoples Plaza this evening. This is despite the fact that they were moved earlier in the day to accommodate the Farmers Market folks. Fortunately, a group of young ones from the Anonymous crew are already present and waiting for us. They all pitch in and the fire circle set up is quickly finished.

When the Food Bringing Occupier and the Fire Magician were leaving their apartment building up the street they noticed a heavy mist in the air; at the Plaza the mist has become a very light rain. When the Occupiers and Anons hold an impromptu conference about the evening’s plan, as most of us have not brought rain gear, an Occupier opines, “Oh, don’t worry about it. It’s just a little bit of moisture; the weather people say it won’t rain anymore tonight. This stuff will soon pass”. So the Fire Magician makes a big, roaring fire and then a smaller charcoal fire in a little grill. We have a big pot of pinto bean soup that needs to be heated up. One of the Anon/Water Protectors, who is a very good cook, has brought a tasty noodle hamburger casserole too. Along with all the other usual fixins, we’re gonna be well fed tonight.

The Plaza appears to be almost empty of street and/or homeless peeps but as soon as the fire roars up, many appear from wherever they were and take seats in the circle. The Anons gather up their signs and music speaker and head out to preach to the cars; because of the rain, there are few people walking on the sidewalks.

The Native man who used to help with the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance Anishinaabe Taco Sales arrives. He rolls some cigarettes from the tobacco pouch and tells us that his partner has the flu so has decided to stay inside tonight. It sounds like his partner may have gotten into Women’s Transitional Housing in a big building a bit east of Central Hillside. This will be good for both of them; he won’t be able to live there with her but will be able to visit, rest,eat, take a shower and stuff like that. Another good thing is that Taco Man doesn’t appear to be drunk or unhappy tonight. That’s a good sign.

Fireproof Man is here again too; he’s wearing some really strange looking goggles that have yellow lenses. He’s still talking in “word salad” but doesn’t appear to be interested in “becoming One” with the fire. He gets food and coffee and takes off to somewhere else; we have no problem with that.

The city official and one of the Occupiers roll up; they’re dressed head to toe in rain gear. They’re people who know how to plan ahead. The city official is deep into a fundraising drive in order to raise money for travel costs for the group of high school students he’d like to take to Montgomery, Alabama. He and many others would like the students to see the Legacy Museum. The museum is newly opened and is the only museum in the world to show the history of lynching in the USA.

The young man who has recently lost his dreadlocks drops in too. He tells us he has to call his P.O. (parole officer) everyday now. When he calls, he’s put into a type of lottery system. If he wins, he doesn’t have to go into her office and is free for the rest of the day; if he loses, he has to go in and provide a urine sample that is then tested for drugs or alcohol. If the test comes back positive for any of these substances he will be sent back to prison for almost two years. He never knows if he’s gonna win or lose and is smart enough to stay straight just in case. He reports, “I kinda like my P.O.’s system because if I still want to use, I can do that on the weekends. The rest of the time I stay straight; things look really different from this perspective”.

The rain has become slightly stronger; we say, “Oh well……..whatever”. We can afford to do that; we all have homes to go to later where we can take off our wet clothes, take a shower, put on dry clothes and whatever else we see fit to do. The homeless ones can’t do that, they’ll be wearing their wet clothes until the clothes dry on their bodies. That’s a perfect prescription for catching a cold or worse.

Anyway, most of the homeless folks quickly disappear. A few of them run to the Mn Power building where they take shelter under a small overhang at the base of the building. They’re not doing anything, just standing there being protected from the rain. About five minutes later, one of the tall African American Duluth Police Department officers arrive; he doesn’t look too happy. He talks to one of the homeless folks for a bit then leaves. The people attempting to take shelter come over to the fire; we give them hot soup. They inform us that the cop said he was real sorry to have to do it but the Mn Power security assholes had called the police and demanded that the sheltering people be removed from standing next to the building.

Someone exclaims, “You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me!” Shortly thereafter another cop comes walking up to the circle. She seems kinda nervous and softly states, “I’d like to contribute to the next meal you guys put on” and hands an Occupier some money. We tell her thank you and then she leaves. We suppose it just goes to show you, some cops have limits on how mean they are willing to be.

As the homeless people who were not allowed to keep out of the rain eat their soup and pb+j sandwiches, the male of the group sits next to an Occupier and begins to explain himself a bit. He states, “I’ve been watching you guys and your fire for at least a month now”. The Occupier informs him that she has noticed him hanging around the edges of the Plaza. He continues, “I wanted to see what you all were up to, if you were for real. I’ve concluded that you probably are for real. I’m always paranoid about people who come around us out here because they usually have some kind of ulterior motive. I’ve been living on these streets for a long time; people who have houses to live in always tell me that I should go stay at CHUM. Not everybody can stay at CHUM. The Occupier opines, “Yeah, I’ve noticed that sometimes CHUM closely resembles a psych ward”.

The new homeless friend replies, “The best thing we ever had was Graffiti Graveyard. Some people didn’t like to go there because they said it was dangerous. Well, it was dangerous but so what? Veteran homeless people know how to handle that shit. Regular people complain about the fact that there are so many homeless people on the streets. That’s true but Graffiti Graveyard kept a lot of unhoused folks off the streets. The City made a big mistake when they closed it down about five years ago.

The man’s girlfriend is sitting a bit away from the man and chowing down like she hasn’t eaten in a week. The man confides, “I’m trying to take good care of her but she makes it very difficult. She says that I’m going to abandon her but that’s not true; when she says or does stuff that makes me angry I always walk away so I can calm down and not yell at her. I never walk more than a block away and I’m watching her the whole time. If she were to be in danger, I’d be right there. I’m always watching her back. I suppose that you’ve noticed that I have a very deep voice?” The Occupier nods in agreement. “I can’t help that, it’s the way I was born. Whenever I have any emotion in my voice she accuses me of yelling at her. I’m not yelling at her; I’m actually a naturally kind person”.

The Occupier suggests, “It sounds like your girlfriend might have PTSD”. The frustrated man replies, “She’s from a very small town outside of Duluth. I know that her father kept her locked in her room most of the time and that he was very abusive. She’s not with her father now though; she’s with me. She should just put all that stuff behind her”. The Occupier answers, “It doesn’t work that way; people with PTSD can’t just put their past abuse out of their minds. They need to face their past; they need to get therapy or counseling and talk about what happened to them. If they don’t do that, their PTSD just gets worse and worse”.

The Anons return from the corner, they are cold and wet and stand up close to the fire. One of them reports, “Hey, the porta potty across the street is now gone. WTF?” The man who was refused shelter from the rain expounds, “A few nights ago someone stole all our clothes and stuffed them down the hole of the potty”. An Occupier remarks, “How awful! I received a message a few hours ago from my contact in the City Planning Department. It said that she wanted to talk with me about the porta potty on Lake Ave and Superior St. I’ll take a guess that the potty was removed because the porta potty company said they weren’t gonna keep putting potties there only to have them destroyed. I’ll call the City woman back tomorrow and see what’s up”.

An Anon cries out, “That is so sick! Why would anyone want to deny the homeless ones a place where they can go to the bathroom? These damn HWSNBN supporters are seriously fucked up; just because The Moron pulled a lot of dirty tricks that made it appear like he was actually elected to be the president, they think they rule the country now and can do anything they want to”.

An Occupier inquires of an Anon, “I think I’m gonna file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission about the Mn Power Company’s security guards denying us the passage of our vehicles onto the Plaza. If I do that, would you be willing to sign on as a co-complainant?”. The Anon responds, “Yeah, I could do that”.

The Occupier who reports things reports, “Remember that the Anons are having an event, this Friday from 1p-7p here at the Plaza. They’ll be silk screening t-shirts and doing other art stuff. Then, I told you wrong last week; Socialist Pizza is this upcoming Friday, 6:30pm at the Women’s Building”.

We are all thoroughly soaked. All the street people are gone; they’re smarter than us, they’ve gone somewhere to keep as dry as possible. It’s only 8pm but we decide to pack up. We don’t want word to get around that we don’t have enough sense to come outa the rain.

We expect to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 8-21-18

G.A. Minutes 8-21-18

Earlier today when an Occupier drove by Peoples Plaza; he noticed that the yearly Farmer’s Market that always happens in the Plaza during harvest season was in full swing. There were lots of people, booths and fresh produce throughout the space. The big tree planters that have been blocking the vehicle entryway for several months had been moved and there were lots of cars parked up in the Plaza too.

When the Occupier reported this news back to a few others, another Occupier commented, “Oh good, we’ll be able to drive our vehicles up for the fire circle tonight. That will make everything so much easier”. However, no such luck; when the first Occupiers arrive at 6 pm they find the planters have been put back in place in order to block the entryway. Just great…. no one else is there yet so they start hauling and dragging all the supplies up the stairs again. Within a few minutes, the mother of some of the Anonymous crew joins in, one of her sons arrives shortly thereafter. An Occupier asks, “Where is everybody?” The work is difficult with only four people to do it but it gets done; the older folks need to sit and rest for a bit once all the basics are complete.

After the last few weeks of really intense heat, the weather tonight is normal. The sky is clear although a good rain that probably made all the trees and gardens happy came through around mid-afternoon. The temperature is in the low 70s, a soft variable breeze skips through from time to time. As the evening progresses, we’ll possibly need long shirts or light jackets. Maybe summer is fixin’ to move on?

A mid-sized group of Anons roll up; they have signs and their sound system Tonight they plan to put the issue of Abolish Ice and No Human Being Is Illegal out to the cars and people on the street. The American immigration system and everything related to it is seriously out of whack. The 1% types, who caused the problems that the immigrants are now fleeing from, are pissed off because the people who are forced to leave their own ruined countries are now at our borders asking for protection and a job. Go figure. If we didn’t have to feed the people and watch the fire, we’d be out on the corner with the Anons in a minute. One of the Anons contributes a burrito casserole to the table….. Yum! We get some right away; we know it will all be eaten within the next half an hour.

The youngbloods go out to the protest corner; a few street folks, the Anarchist, and the city official take seats in the circle. One of the women who is new to our fire this year but a regular on the street tells us, “Well, I went and moved into a Board and Lodge this week. It’s not the greatest but I just couldn’t take sleeping in the alley or under a bush anymore. I told my boyfriend, that I love him and all that but my nerves just can’t take the stress of being homeless. I think I’ll call him now and invite him down here to join us”.

We haven’t seen the Anarchist in at least a month, he’s been having a few health issues and tells us he’s trying to lose a little weight. We tell him we don’t know where he’s gonna lose it from; he’s pretty much solid muscle. The Anarchist is older than any of the Occupiers or anyone else in the circle; he’s also more physically fit. It probably has something to do with his vegetarian diet and the fact that he rides his bike everywhere that he goes.

The city official asks if anybody has been paying attention to today’s news related to the big investigation into the presidential campaign of He Who Shall Not Be Named. An Occupier responds, “Well, I noticed that something that was supposedly important happened today but I don’t remember what it was”. The city man explains, “Oh, this is really big, it looks like HWSNBN is going to be taken down. His former presidential campaign manager was found guilty on eight counts; he’ll definitely be doing some prison time. Then his former personal lawyer agreed to fully cooperate with the lead investigator so he’ll be ‘spilling all the beans’. It’s very possible that HWSNBN will be impeached”

An Occupier opines, “Impeachment would be nice but then we’ll just end up with the vice president. He’s an insanely evil scumbag too only more subdued and sneaky”. The official man replies, “I think the vice president will be taken down right along with HWSNBN”. Another Occupier adds, “It goes down the chain of command from there. I think the speaker of the house comes next; he’s already announced his retirement. I wonder if he could just refuse to accept the presidency? He’s just as evil as the rest of them but I don’t think he was ever part of HWSNBN’s circus After that, I think it goes to the secretary of state. Oh man, just think of the amount of damage that SOB would do”.

Someone states, “Whoever they get to be the president out of that bunch is sure to be a serious disaster. In fact, almost all the people in the entire congress are a bunch of whores for the corporations. The real problem is that no matter who’s running the show, it’s the regular people living in our country and other countries too who pay the price. Nothing will work properly until we get rid of the capitalist system”. Enough said.

The schizophrenic guy who lives in the Skinner Apartments, the former partner of the sadly deceased Ms. Community Cleanup, the homeless dude with two different hairstyles, the chronically homeless young guy who recently lost his dreadlocks and a young woman who is crying all take seats in the circle. The generally pleasant and friendly guy who’s trying to grow his dreadlocks back tells us that the main homeless outreach worker is helping him to get an apartment in public housing. He expects to be off the street by winter. We say, “This is wonderful news!” An Occupier asks the crying woman what is the matter; she replies, “Oh, nothing in particular, I just need to have a good cry”.

It’s dark now and those that have long shirts and such put them on. We all move closer to the fire. An occasional Anon and his finance’ stop in for a minute. They are waiting for a bus and will sit by the fire until just before it arrives. Many more street folks join in; the chairs in the circle are full so the peeps in the overflow stand around the almost empty food table or behind the chairs. Among the late arrivals are the Stylish Native Woman and her partner; they sit quietly in the shadows. An Occupier sees them and remembers how much the Stylish Woman loves our coffee. The Occupier quickly grabs a cup and pours what is almost the last of the good brew into it.

She brings it to the Stylish Woman who smiles and says, “Thanks, what time are you guys starting the fire this year?” The Occupier tells her they start around 6 pm and the couple make a mental note to get to the Plaza early next week. We know their lives are very stressful and it’s difficult to remember what day it is and stuff like that.

The Skinner Man has been chatting with this one and that one all evening. He tells everyone the same thing, “I have a 40 oz waiting for me in my apartment. I’m not allowed to have visitors through”. As time goes on he begins to describe the type of beer that is waiting; we think his beer is calling to him but he’s enjoying the good vibe and relaxed atmosphere of the circle.

The Anons return from the corner; a Water Protector/Anon reports, “There were a lot more haters than usual out on the street tonight”. They bring their good music with them. Mr Two Hairstyles is out in the middle of the Plaza dancing with a girl who is on roller skates. The food is long gone; everyone is quiet, nodding their heads to the music.

An Anon quires the Occupier who reports things, “So what is going on for the rest of the week?” The reporter responds, “Hmm… that’s a good question. I forgot to look at my calendar before I left home. Off the top of my head, I know that the Citizens Review Board meets tomorrow, 5 pm at City Hall. That’s always kinda interesting in an odd sort of way. Socialist Pizza will be this upcoming Friday, 6:30 pm at the Women’s Building”.

A middle-aged, alcoholic man, who has been on the street and at our fires for many years, appears; we haven’t seen him since our first fires of spring. It appears he has lost quite a bit of weight. The middle-aged man isn’t looking for food or anything; he just wants to speak with one of the Occupiers for a while. He seats himself very close to the Fire Magician and imparts, “I think I’ve made a big mistake, I’m addicted to a drug now. If I don’t have it I get real sick. I don’t like this but I don’t have the courage to change. I want to be like you guys, I want to be a good person and help others”. He begins to silently cry. The Fire Magician offers the man words of encouragement; he says, “I think you’re stronger than you think. You will be able to conquer your addictions”. The tear-stained fellow dries his eyes, replying, “Thank you for listening to me”. He gets up and wanders off.

The Anons are getting ready to leave; we all exchange long goodbyes. There are only a few people around the fire now. A tall, skinny guy, who we have not seen before, walks quickly up to the roaring fire. He looks around as if he wants to see who is watching him; then he sticks his entire head directly into the fire and turns it from side to side. An Occupier yells, “Hey! Don’t do that!” Another Occupier mumbles, “It’s a good thing he has a shaved head”. The fire-breathing dude stands up then plunks himself down next to an Occupier and begins babbling. The Occupier tries very hard to understand what Fireproof Man is talking about but she just can’t get it. He’s talking in what mental health workers call a “word salad”. The most the Occupier can gather is that the guy is or was a firefighter in WI.

A young Native man, who has been spending small amounts of time in our circle this year, arrives. He remarks, “Sorry I’m showing up so late but I was in Canal Park celebrating my 27th birthday”. The birthday guy takes the sage dish and begins to smudge himself; Fireproof Man begins babbling again. Birthday Guy tells him, “Please don’t talk to me while I’m smudging, it’s disrespectful”. Fireproof Man jumps up, runs to the fire, takes a big chunk of red hot, burning embers in the palm of his bare hand and holds it up, posing like he’s the Statue of Liberty. The Fire Magician jumps up, grabs the really big water jug and dumps the whole thing on the fire, dousing it completely. He states, “O.K. that’s it. Time to go home”.

The remaining Occupiers begin to pack things up; Birthday Guy and another guy we don’t know who comes out of the shadows help us. Fireproof Guy grabs the burning sage bundle and carries it like a torch over to the eastern ledge of the Plaza. The Food Occupier exclaims, “Damn! There’s still a lot of sage in that bundle; we can use it again next week”. Birthday Guy tells her, “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it. I’ve gotten into fights with dudes a lot stupider than him”. The food bringing Occupier cautions, “Don’t bother with it, man. The guy is obviously very mentally ill; he can’t help what he’s doing. Besides, there’s something not quite right about fighting with somebody because they stole your sage”.

We see the middle-aged, currently drug addicted man coming down the sidewalk. He’s stumbling and has the look of a zombie in his eyes; he clearly does not see us. He squeezes himself into a dark crevice next to the sidewalk and looks unseeingly out on the street. He appears to be very sad.

When everything is packed up and the last Occupiers are heading towards the stairs, a Duluth Police Department bicycle officer comes riding up. He asks, “Is everything alright over here?” An Occupier replies, “Oh yeah, we’re fixin’ to head out now”. The Occupier watches as the cop rides over to the eastern ledge. She notices that all the people who normally sleep under the Plaza trees and bushes are sleeping on the benches under the lights, right out in the open. She remembers the stories she’s been hearing from the street folks about being beaten and robbed while they were trying to hide out and get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.

The bike cop has a brief conversation with Fireproof Man but doesn’t bother any of the sleepers. He rides off; the Occupiers ride off too. They plan to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

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.

G.A. Minutes 7-24-18

G.A. Minutes 7-24-18

The air is pleasantly warm this evening when the first arriving Occupiers drive up on the sidewalk outside of Peoples Plaza. The temperature is in the high 70s and will probably noticeably decrease once the sun goes behind the buildings. A strong, variable and gusty wind should give us very fine weather tonight.

Of course, the big tree planter is still blocking the vehicle entryway onto the Plaza so the Occupiers bringing the majority of the supplies are forced to unload and drag everything up and across to the center of the space again. Fortunately, within a few minutes of the supply bringing Occupiers’ arrival, a bunch of our regular people come walking up; they are all prepared to help with the fire circle set up.

Among the regular folks are the big Native member of the Anonymous crew and the youngest Anon, another Occupier and the city official. Another Occupier and a former Anon and his fiance’ follow close on their heels. The big Anon asks, “So what’s up with the rest of my crew?” An Occupier tells him, “Some of them are out in the country helping to get the Healing Souls Camp up and running. The big guy then asks, “Well, is the Noise Parade still gonna happen this Friday?” The Occupier states, “Nope, that’s been moved to Friday, August 3rd. The big Anon has recently started a new job working the night shift, his circadian rhythms are still a bit off.

Everything is ready except there’s no metal bucket to catch the fire’s burnt embers once it gets to really going. The Fire Magician hops in his truck and runs up the hill to get it. The rest of us gather around the food table to retrieve our preferred snacks and drinks then choose a seat in the circle. The city official reports, “Tomorrow is Bag Day at St. Micheal’s”. An Occupier exclaims, “I just love Bag Days! My entire wardrobe has been purchased during Bag Days at St. Micheal’s” St. Micheal’s is a somewhat high end thrift shop in the Central Hillside. It’s donors are from a more well-to-do area of the city so the quality of the shop’s merchandise is par excellence. The prices are good on any day but on Bag Days one can donate a grocery sized bag of items that one no longer needs; in return, the donating person can take that grocery bag and fill it with any items throughout the entire shop that they find desirable. The cost of the newly filled bag…. five dollars. Cool aye?

The Fire Magician returns in a flash with the fire bucket; he gets a small to medium fire going right away. We don’t really need the fire for warmth right now but it’s nice to watch, smell and listen to it. A couple of young street guys, who we don’t recall meeting in the past, come over. One of them is brown and the other is not. The brown dude takes a seat in the circle while the not brown dude stands, chowing down, at the table. The young man in the circle, who is probably not African American, says, “I remember when you guys used to do this at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. Actually, I don’t think that creating CJMM was a good idea; I think it makes the black people in Duluth feel bad. We don’t need to make them feel embarrassed or ashamed”. We all wait for the city official, who is African American and also one of the founding members of CJMM, to respond. He doesn’t say anything; maybe he’s not in the mood to deal with such a lame-brained analysis? We all figure that if the city official not going to say anything then we’re not going to say anything either.

An Occupier reports, “Socialist Pizza is this upcoming Friday, 6:30pm at the Women’s Building”. The brown young man responds, “What is socialism?” We all try to think of a 25 words or less response; an Occupier begins, “There are many kinds of socialism”….. Chicago Man rolls in. Everyone greets him and he flits around the circle, giving hugs and such.

Seeming to have forgotten his previous question, the brown young man announces, “I’ve been to college; I studied Minority Relations and I think God is a woman”. He then begins to give us a lecture to prove how smart he is or something. He uses lots of big words but doesn’t appear to know the actual meanings of the these words or how to properly use them in a sentence. The question of who or what is God has come up many times over the years in our fire circle; the Occupiers, Anons and others in tonight’s circle give each other a look that says, “Let’s just leave this dude’s conversation alone”. However, Chicago Man bites and begins discussing the question in earnest. When the man from the Windy City starts explaining his personal pagan practices and beliefs, the little brown man and his companion quietly disappear.

The food bringing Occupier has made another summer salad; this one consists of organic whole grain noodles, fresh peas, onions and mayonnaise. When she describes what she has brought, many of the people say, “No thanks, I’ll pass on that”. When she hands bowls of the salad to the few who have asked for some, the others look at the filled bowls and say, “Hmm… I guess I’ll try some after all”. Pretty soon people exclaim, “Wow, this is really good!”. Most ask for seconds, some even have thirds.

A local community activist, retired public school teacher and good friend of the Occupiers joins the circle. She brings grapes, crackers, butter and cheese and sets them on the table. We are all pleasantly surprised to see her as she’s been spending a lot of time living in the Cities over the last several years. The activist takes a seat next to the Fire Magician; they become immersed in conversation about an event she is helping to organize. The event will take place in August and will be centered around the issues of a guaranteed annual income and a $15 minimum wage. A member of the German parliament will be explaining how Germany is handling these issues. We hope to be able to attend.

The middle-aged, brain injured, alcoholic guy who lives at the Wet House bumbles in. He’s attended many of our fire circles over the years; the Wet House guy is a good hearted person but he has a habit of talking very loud and repeating himself a lot. We don’t dislike him but we’ve heard all his stories many times already; his loud voice pretty much takes over any other discussion that may be trying to happen. We find him to be a little annoying however, the Anons and others haven’t met Wet House Man or heard his stories yet. They are speechless with laughter; some are laughing so hard that they fall off their chairs. So majority rules; the Occupiers just sit back and let Wet House Man roll.

A tall, very tattooed Occasional Anon and his small female partner arrive. The Occasional Anon has one of those cylinder shaped music playing things hanging from his belt. He has it playing some kind of pop classical music, after a while it switches to some good hip-hop. The sound is very clear and can be heard throughout the Plaza and the street. It even silences Wet House Man; everyone stops whatever they are doing in order to get their groove on.

Once the Anon and his partner have eaten, they bid us good night and go off to their sleeping place. The music goes with them. A 30 something man, who we have not previously met, stands just outside the circle then goes to sit next to the Fire Magician. Once the man is seated, the big Native Anon tells him, “Hey, I don’t appreciate the way you were rubbing my back. I don’t like anyone touching me without my permission”. The unknown man stands up and screams, “You better shut the fuck up! YOU FUCKING FAGGOT!!!” Then he storms off. We say, “WTF?” The big Anon answers, “Hey, no kidding guys, that dude, who I’ve never seen before in my life, comes, stands behind me and starts rubbing my back the way my girlfriend or other loved one would. I was really shocked and it took me a minute to find my words. The Fire Magician reports, “When the guy came and sat next to me, I casually asked, ‘So how’s it going?’ He started swearing at me and trying to pick a fight”. Another Occupier comments, “Over the course of my life I have occasionally run across a person who really wants some strangers to beat up and humiliate them. I have no idea what that’s about but it is….. soooo weird”. We all say, “For real.”

Several Occupiers volunteered to work at Honor the Earth’s “Water Is Life” Festival last Sunday at Bayfront Park. They recount for everyone the very nice time they had. Someone opines, “There were a lot of people there; I was told that over one thousand tickets were sold. I was working the medical tent but nobody needed any medical attention though I did give out one bandaid. Mostly I was just hanging out, talking to lots of friendly people and rocking with the music. I’m guessing that HTE was able to make a few bucks to aid in the fight against Line 3 and fossil fuels in general”.

Suddenly, we hear and see the young chronically homeless man, who recently had to cut off his dreadlocks, yelling and walking quickly away from the east side of the Plaza. He throws his hands in the air and hollers, “Why can’t you just stop talking?!?!” He stomps around outside the circle for awhile then returns to one of the trees that grow on the ground next to the Plaza’s eastern ledge. We figure that’s the end of that but no…….. flying stuff comes crashing down on the floor outside the circle. We turn to see the formerly dread locked dude pulling everything he owns out of his big pack and throwing it as hard as he can across the Plaza.

We find this to be surprising because every time, over the past several years, that we have interacted with this veteran homeless young man, he’s been friendly, cheerful and content. An Occupier remarks, “So what the hell is up with that?” A 20 something, white appearing, shirtless man with two different hair styles tells us, “Oh, don’t worry, he’s just coming down from a run on meth or something like that. Have you ever been so tired and unable to sleep that even the slightest thing will piss you off?” We say, “Oh, that makes sense”. We know that the angry guy’s street name is a slang term having to do with some of the body language commonly seen in meth head behavior. We never use that name though because the guy’s mother asked us not to.

Eventually the angry guy calms down, picks up his stuff and walks over to Lake Place Park hoping to find a place under a tree over there where he can get some sleep. We empathize with the dude because we are acquainted with the other chronically homeless guy who was sitting on the eastern Plaza ledge yakking away with no consideration for others. The yakking guy has no shut off valve on his mouth; he’s been kicked out of just about everywhere because of this. Unfortunately, Yakking Guy doesn’t have any problem but he thinks the entire rest of the world does.

The young man with the two different hairstyles has been sitting in the circle for a while; this is the first time he has spoken. Now that the ice has been broken, he becomes talkative and tells an interesting story. He tells us that he was abandoned by his birth parents but adopted by a couple who treated him well. He says, “I know who my birth parents are; they live here in Duluth. If I died tomorrow neither one of them would attend my funeral or acknowledge my death in any way. My adoptive father died about a year ago; he was the best man that ever lived. He was always there for me, no matter what. I really miss him”.

The man goes on to describe how he was raised in a small town in MN. Both his parents were very good to him but they were extremely active in a church that, over the years, just scared the shit out of him. He confides, “I have always had some pretty severe anxiety issues and all those commandments and demands from God created extreme stress in me. I mean, Christianity requires that a person be absolutely perfect; if one makes a mistake they must be punished. I just could not take it. Then one day I came across Buddhist philosophy; it really rang true for me. Since I began practicing Buddhism I feel so much more at peace.

The Buddhist man goes on to explain the real meaning of karma and a few other things. He changes the subject by saying, “Being homeless, like I am right now, really sucks. If you guys get that Homeless Persons Bill of Rights thing, I hope you get us a place to shower. I haven’t taken a shower in three days and I feel really grungy. When I try to go into the bathroom any place around here just to wash up a bit, they tell me, ‘If you don’t buy anything you can’t use our bathroom”. I tried to use the shower at CHUM but that was pretty much impossible. Have you ever tried to keep an eye on your stuff so it doesn’t get stolen and take a shower at the same time?”

An Occupier replies, “Oh, we are definitely going to get places to shower, it’s just going to take a long time. But you know what?….. You can take a shower at Dorothy Day House, just knock on the door during the weekday and ask to use their shower”. The man with opposing hairstyles exclaims, “OH, RIGHT! Dorothy Day, I forgot about that. I stayed there for a while a few years ago. I had to leave though because my anxiety was keeping me up all night. They all thought I was taking drugs”. The Occupier laughs, “That won’t matter; when I go there I see all kinds of people coming to take showers. As long as you don’t appear to be planning to kill them, they will let you take a shower. They serve dinner for everyone who shows up at 6pm too”.

The big clock up the hill lets us know that it’s after 10pm. Most of the homeless or street folks have gone off to sleep. The only ones left around the fire are some of the Occupiers, one Anon, Wet House Man, the Buddhist, the local activist and Chicago Man. The Activist and Chicago Man have been chatting for a while; they discover that they both live in the same East Duluth neighborhood. She offers him a ride home and he accepts; off they go. The others do too, so the Occupiers begin the task of cleaning up and putting everything away. Wet House Man offers to help. The Occupiers think to themselves, “Oh no, he will make a mess and everything will take longer”. It didn’t happen that way; Wet House Man is very purposeful and efficient. He makes our job quicker and easier. Once we are finished, the Fire Magician offers to drive Wet House Man back to the Wet House. Everyone else drives off to their homes in order to get some sleep and live to Resist The Man another day.

We expect to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.