G.A. Minutes 8-29-17

G.A. Minutes 8-29-17
It looks like we’re going to get at least one more pleasant, late summer evening at Peoples Plaza this year. The sky is clear, the temperature is in the mid – 70s and there is no breeze at all.
The Occupier who transports all the food is the first to arrive; she drives her vehicle up to the usual spot in the Plaza and spots a middle-aged, chronic alcoholic, Native guy who used to frequently pass out under the tree in the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial when the Occupy fires were held there. We used to check occasionally to make sure he was still breathing and if he was still passed out when it was time for us to leave we’d call the para-medics. The dude lived at the Wet House so the para-medics wouldn’t take him to Detox; they’d just drop him off at his residence.
Anyway, the Wet House guy is sitting up, talking with a middle-aged white guy who has recently begun attending our fire circle. The white guy is from the Deep South and likes to dress and act he’s from the deep ghetto of an inner city. He sags his pants, wears his cap backwards and sprouts off hip-hop lyrics whenever he gets a chance. He appears to be friends with all the black street guys who are into that same type of thing. They seem to genuinely like him; he seems to be a nice enough guy but we find him to be somewhat amusing. He has red hair, a ruddy complexion and a noticeable southern twang. Occupiers are easily amused at times.
As the first Occupier turns her car to face the street, the white guy comes running and says, “Whoa! Do you notice that the stairs are in front of your car? You’d better stop”. The Occupier laughs and assures him she’s just parking and won’t be driving down the stars. He asks her if she has any spare change; she answers, “I think I have a little in the big food bucket. When some more of our folks arrive to unload everything, I’ll see what I can find”.
More Occupiers and a few young bloods from Anonymous roll up. The circle gets set up and the fire is lit. The Anons crank up their music and take seats in the circle. The food Occupier gets out the jar where we keep all the donations of money that we receive from street folks. She recycles a handful of nickels and dimes into the palm of the southern hip-hop dude. He and the man from the Wet House leave immediately; you get one guess as to where they’re going.
The Stylish Native Woman and her partner stop in. The partner is rather quiet this evening; he doesn’t appear to be agitated or sad, just quiet. They get coffee and juice and sit and watch the fire for a while. Then they head off to their sleeping place for an early bedtime.
A couple of middle-aged guys who we haven’t met in the past sit down. They are either unbelievably drunk or something or they’ve burned out their brain cells to the point where they barely function anymore. One of the guys tries to talk but just can’t get any words to come out. Whatever… They’re welcome in the circle but we’ll have to keep an eye on them in case they’re about to fall into the fire.
The Anons go out to the street corner as our friend (we affectionately call him The Anarchist) rides up on his bike. He gets some coffee, leaves a generous donation and takes a seat. We start a conversation about the proposed Enbridge Line 3 that will run through or near the manoomin (wild rice) beds of all the northern MN and WI. reservations. When someone mentions the several water protector camps that are being set up along the proposed pipeline route, the Anarchist asks, “I wonder if we’re going to be in for another Standing Rock?” An Occupier responds, “Well, Standing Rock is actually not over, you know. I noticed that the white folks in North and South Dakota seemed to be really blatantly racist. It looked like the majority of them supported the tactics used by the police and mercenary security force.
“Of course, there’s plenty of racism here in the Twin Ports but I can’t imagine the majority of the people in Duluth/Superior putting up with the severe and illegal abuse that was dished out to the water protectors at Standing Rock. However, I’ve been told that TigerSwan, the security force hired by Energy Transfer at Standing Rock, is now here in our area. They drive black pickup trucks with Texas license plates. They’re mostly seen around the Fond du Lac Reservation area and they’ve been following the people closest to the water protector camp whenever those people go anywhere”.
Menagerie Woman rides up on her bike. She got out late from her plasma donation so missed her movie; she’s going to sit to eat her sandwich then catch a bus to her home. She tells us, “Bush Man stayed home tonight; he doesn’t have any money so he’s not drinking. As soon as he gets money he starts drinking then he becomes abusive and I can’t stand him”.
An Anon groupie they call Lil’ Bear staggers in. He smudges himself and comments, “My girl got locked up today”. All the wise Native people tell us that one should never smudge when one is drunk. Doing so will take the blessing from the smoke and turn it into a curse. Very occasionally, we witness an obviously drunk Native person smudging themselves. We don’t say anything; we just put the dish and the sage out for anyone who wishes to use it. We figure that if a person knows how to use it then they also know the proper protocol. If a person stops by, wishes to use the sage but doesn’t know how and asks then someone will advise them.
An Occupier reports, “I’ll be driving the Veterans for Peace float in the Labor Day Parade. If anyone wants to ride the float or march with it, just tell me. One would need to be at the beginning of the parade route by 11am.
He then says to another Occupier, “I’ll be at tomorrow’s meeting as soon as I get off work”. Someone inquires, “So what’s going on tomorrow?” The Occupier explains, “There’s going to be a big nationwide march and rally against white supremacy and all that in mid-October. We’re just helping the Superior Organizer with the initial planning for the event in Duluth. Everything will become public in a matter of days”.
The veteran homeless young man appears; he sets down his pack and goes to a back bush to relieve himself. When he returns he says, “Yuck, there’s at least five dirty needles lying back there. An Occupier remarks, “If they would just save them they could take them to the Needle Exchange and get new ones for free. Dumb… then again I guess they’re not thinking too clearly after they take their hit”.
A homeless young man, with kind of orange hair, who has been attending our fires this year runs into the circle. He’s very agitated and he’s wearing clothes that aren’t usual for him. The shirt and pants are mismatched and too big for his body. He exclaims, “Did you see what happened to me?!? I was bit by a dog and attacked by the police. It has something to do with the President. It’s all on YouTube!” He runs off. We are all totally clueless.
A well-dressed, Caucasian appearing, male and female hippie couple and their dog join the circle. The dog quickly eats up all the organic potato chips that have fallen on the floor; we give the dog some water. The man tells us he is from Minneapolis; a couple of years ago he lost his job and decided to go traveling instead of looking for another capitalist job.
He traveled to Costa Rica and then to Guatemala. In Guatemala he hooked up with some spiritual people who taught him how to meditate and to understand how everything in the universe is connected. The experience changed his life. He met his dog in Guatemala; she was a homeless street puppy. He says, “We rescued each other”.
The guy with the orange hair returns. He’s wearing his regular clothes and just talking normal and being friendly. He goes out to hang with the Anons. Trust me, it’s the same guy. Go figure.
Next, Coma Man comes up the stairs. We don’t recognize him at first. His face looks different; maybe he’s put on weight. His manner of dress is different too and most of all…..HE’S TALKING IN COMPLETE SENTENCES, PARAGRAPHS EVEN!!! He states, “I just came to say hello. I’m so glad you guys are still doing this”. We guess he’s probably stopped drinking. It’s a miracle.
The Anons are beginning to wind down and come back to the circle. One of the Anons is of Mexican heritage. He begins talking with the hippie man about various spiritual practices; the Native man who became a Christian while serving a prison sentence joins in. Soon they’re talking about the Chinese Zodiac and looking up New Age type stuff on a cell phone. Something about a yellow star and dispersing oneself into the universe.
It’s well past time for us to leave. An Occupier says to another, “Shall we let the fire burn out and pack up?” The other Occupier replies, “Naw, the vibe is good and more people are coming; throw on a few more logs”.
As soon as the words exit her mouth, Spiritual Man appears. We’ve been wondering what he was up to; we haven’t seen him in about a month. He’s tells us he went back home to Spirit Lake to visit family and then found work on a dairy farm. He’s looking for a place of his own now because his girlfriend’s dog is driving him nuts. It’s a grownup dog but it ate one of his shoes recently. Forced to make a choice, his girlfriend will take her dog over him.
The male from the multiracial couple drops in; he’s closely followed by Mississippi Woman. Multiracial Man is wearing a Superman shirt; Mississippi is rather quite tonight but she can still eat. Unfortunately, most of the food was eaten hours ago.
Southern Hip-Hop Man returns; Native Wet House Man is not with him. Southern Man begins spouting off a bunch of hip-hop lyrics. The lyrics make use of the N-word. An Occupier says to him, “Dude, we’re trying to keep a good vibe going here”. He responds, “Sorry, I didn’t mean nothin’”.
Actually we do understand. A certain genre’ of hip-hop makes frequent use of the N-word but there are several non-hip-hop African Americans in the circle. Even if there weren’t, lots of people are offended by the N-word and a white dude throwing ethnic slurs around without his close black friends around to back him up is just asking for trouble.
A young man of indetermanent ethnicity comes across the Plaza pushing a big garbage can on wheels. There is a guitar in the garbage can and the dude says, “Is it o.k. if I play a song for you?” We say, “Sure”. He sings an original song while playing the 12 bar blues on his guitar. He’s pretty good; we all clap when he finishes. It turns out that he works for the cleaning company that cleans the big MN Power office next to the Plaza. He’s been watching our fires from the office window for many weeks. He’s on break right now and decided to check us out. Hence, the guitar in the rolling garbage can.
Someone notices that it’s now 11pm. It appears that the cops have been too busy to bother us tonight but we don’t need to push our luck. Besides, most of the Occupiers have things they have to do tomorrow.
Just as we’re all packed up, an Occupier spots an older looking man who is passed out or something behind one of the big planters just off the street.
Southern Man is hanging out in the front corner with some of his friends who have just arrived. The Occupier calls out to him, “Hey, do you know this guy? I wonder if he’s breathing”. Southern Man goes over and gives the passed out guy a hard kick in the leg. The dude sits up immediately; they talk for a minute then the guy lies back down. As she gets in her car she calls out to Southern Man, “Thanks, that’s all I needed to know”. Southern Man answers, “Thanks for asking”.
We plan to return to Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 8-22-17

G.A. Minutes 8-22-17
It’s 6pm at Peoples Plaza and the sun has already gone down behind the buildings. This is the first sign that summer is not gonna last forever. Of course we already knew that but were trying to forget. Crap. The trees and other plants are still green and gardens are not ready for harvest yet so we’ll still have some warm days before it will be over. All is not lost.
This evening the temperature is in the mid-60s; the sky is partly cloudy with occasional gusts from a moderate southern wind. We’ll need a big fire again. It feels fine right now but once it’s dark it will feel a lot colder. Homeless folk won’t be able to comfortably sleep under a bush unless they have some blankets or a sleeping bag.
A young woman is sitting on a bench charging her cell phone when the first Occupiers arrive; she looks vaguely familiar to us. An Occupier comments that he thinks it’s very nice that the City leaves one of the outlets on for the use of the people. Actually, we’re not sure if it’s been left open on purpose of if the access has just been overlooked. The outlets’ existence is a closely guarded secret among street folks.
An elderly, homeless man who we haven’t met in the past walks over. He’s carrying a big piece of cardboard and asks if anyone has a marker. The Occupier who’s in charge of remembering things gives him a good black marker that she always carries in her pocket. The elderly man needs to make a sign that asks for help in meeting his survival needs.
The man tells a story that we hear frequently. He used to have a good job, nice house and family etc. He lost his job and then his wife and family; he started drinking and eventually ended up on the street. He has many health problems related to his former job. He says he just has to wait 3 more years and he’ll be able to start collecting his veteran’s benefits. When that finally happens, he expects to be able to afford a place to live.
He’s one of those people who, once he gets going, just can’t seem to stop talking. When an Occupier lights the smudge bundle and starts to smudge herself, the man begins coughing. He says, “I can’t be around any kind of smoke; they tell me I need a lung transplant”. When the Occupier informs him that they are going to be making a recreational fire, the man finishes his sign, hands back the marker and leaves.
People are starting to arrive one after the other. The city official appears followed closely by the Stylish Native Woman and her partner. It looks like the partner is fairly stable again tonight. He tells us that with the help of his ARMHs worker he has been able to get his SSI benefits paid directly to himself again. Apparently the social workers took control of his only income by mistake. We think most social workers don’t realize the immense problems they cause for poor people when they make these “mistakes”. We want to ask The Partner if he’s been given any leads related to finding an apartment before winter arrives but we don’t want to get him started. We’ll ask the Stylish Woman as soon as we get a chance.
We hear some really good music blasting out over the roar of the traffic. Some of the Anonymous crew is standing at the intersection across the street waiting for the light to change. They probably just couldn’t wait to get started; they wave at us and go straight to the protest corner.
The Native neighborhood couple who roll with the Anons come walking up the stairs; they bring many boxes of pizza for the table. It will all be consumed in no time.
A small squirrel has been running around outside the circle, possibly looking for dropped food. It doesn’t seem to be too afraid of humans. When the Fire Magician gets ready to drive his truck off the Plaza an Occupier warns him “I just saw that squirrel crawl under the hood of your truck; you might want to wait a bit before starting up the engine”. When the Fire Magician starts banging on the hood of his truck another Occupier calls out, “Hey, that’s squirrel abuse!” The Magician responds, “Actually, I don’t think squirrels are a protected class”. The squirrel climbs out from the engine and takes off running. End of problem and end of discussion.
An Occupier asks, “Did anyone read that some water protectors from one of the Line 3 camps chained themselves to some Enbridge digging equipment yesterday and shut down the pipeline project over in Wisconsin for an entire day?” Another Occupier replies, “I was at the Indigenous Commission meeting yesterday. A few water protectors from the Line 3 camp around here gave us a report. They also said that TigerSwan, the security company from Texas that was hired by Energy Transfer to direct the police action at Standing Rock, is now operating here in the Duluth and Cloquet. The water protectors told us that they have been followed by men in black pickup trucks with Texas license plates just about everywhere they go. I’m going to go check out the nearest Line 3 camp as soon as I can but first I have to find a big bandana”.
The Occupier who reports stuff reports, “The Citizens Review Board meeting will be tomorrow at 5pm in City Hall. I’m hoping they know about those 2 innocent African American children who were roughed up by a Duluth cop a couple of weeks ago. Also, the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition has resumed meeting every week again, Thursdays, 6:30pm at Dorothy Day House. They’re hoping to have the Bill put before the City Council for a vote on October 30th. We’ll need to really pack the house on that evening”.
The city official states, “Oh, I really want to attend the CRB meeting this month. Will you remind me tomorrow?” The reporting Occupier answers, “Sure, and then, if you like, we can go over to the Superior Organizer’s first March Against White Supremacy meeting at 6pm or so”
Our conversation is interrupted by the sound of a female yelling very loudly out on the street. We can’t see anything from our circle but whatever is going on does not sound good. The city man and the magician go out to the sidewalk to see what they can see.
The middle-aged African American man who lives at the Skinner Apartments sits down. He tell us, “I’m sorry, I’m a little drunk and know I shouldn’t come into the fire circle when I’m drunk but I’m having a problem right now”. The zipper on the Skinner Man’s pants has busted and he has to walk while holding his pants up with both hands. That, combined with the fact that he’s somewhat drunk, is making a pretty big problem for him. The Occupiers scrounge around trying to find a rope or something but they don’t find anything.
Menagerie Woman and Bush Man ride up on their bikes. They’re coming from the usual Tuesday night plasma donation, dinner and a movie. Today is Menagerie Woman’s birthday. We all wish her a happy one. Bush Man appears to be sober but not particularly anxious. This is good.
The city man and the Occupier return from the sidewalk. The city man opines, “A man and a woman who appear to be a couple are having a loud argument about something. It’s escalating; there’s a crowd of onlookers forming and it looks like they’re about to start physically fighting. I think we need to call 911. Hopefully, the cops will just separate them and not make any arrests”.
The city man and the Occupier both call 911 on their cell phones. After about 5 minutes, several squad cars arrive. The yelling stops; the crowd disperses. One of the street people tells us, “They just separated the couple; they didn’t arrest anyone”.
Taco Helping Man and his partner drop in. They’re trying to find someone who’s going to the Pow Wow in Bad River this weekend. No one in the circle is planning to attend. We advise them to go over to the Red Lake Urban Office tomorrow; maybe someone there is planning to go.
Now the boyfriend of the African American former street man rolls up. He’s talking a lot and moving quickly; he spots the squad cars still out in the street and comments on how much he hates cops. He tells a few stories about some of the times cops treated him really rotten. Then he gets some coffee, takes off his belt, gives it to Skinner Man and goes out to the corner with the Anons.
After the boyfriend leaves, an Occupier remarks, “Man, he seems very wired tonight”. Taco Man replies, “Oh, he’s doing meth right now. Even so, he’s a really nice guy”.
A Duluth police officer comes over to the circle. He’s looking for the people who called 911. The official man and the Occupier identify themselves. The cop just wants to know what they witnessed; they tell him. The cop is polite and friendly but still does that barely concealed look around the area. After receiving the information that he asked for, he wishes everyone a good evening and leaves.
An Occupier returns from out on the corner. He reports, “Wow, I just inadvertently walked into another couple having a big argument out on the street. An Anon who is taking a break informs him, “Oh, those two do that just about every night”.
The developmentally disabled man who lives at the Wet House stumbles in. As usual, he’s pretty shit faced. He’s limping and tells us he fell down somewhere recently. He can’t remember where it was or what happened but his knee is rather messed up now.
It’s getting late when Mississippi Woman appears. She wishes everyone a good evening and commences to eating. Because of all the pizza provided by the neighborhood couple, there’s still plenty of food left. Mississippi will be able to eat her fill. She’s seems calm tonight, so as long as no one gets her started, she might not begin to rant.
It’s already dark when 2 more cops come to the circle. They want to know if anyone knows anything about the other couple who were arguing on the street. We figure someone must have called 911 but it wasn’t any of us. Apparently, that couple is gone now. We think a few folks in the circle may know who they were but fortunately, no one says anything.
These cops are polite and friendly but they’re doing the look around thing too. We’re not sure what it is that they are looking for but they’re surely not gonna find it in our circle. If they were looking for a little peace and good vibes they could find that here. However, they’re on duty so probably don’t have time for stuff like that. After a little meaningless chit chat they wish us a good evening and leave.
It’s late and the fire is dying so everyone helps us pack up. As we are finishing, we see the original yelling woman coming down the street yelling like crazy. She’s having a conversation with someone who isn’t there. Maybe she doesn’t realize that her partner is not with her.
An Occupier comments, “Gee, she’s really in a bad way. I’d like to try and help her but I’m afraid she’ll punch me if I do. Another Occupier remarks, “Yeah, it’s obvious she’s under a lot of stress but sometimes there’s nothing you can do. You just have to let them be”.
It’s time to go. An Occupier is going to give an Anon and all his equipment a ride home. Another Occupier will give Wet House Man a ride home too. Wet House Man is incapable of walking.
We plan to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 8-15-17

G.A. Minutes 8-15-17
We’ll probably need to put on our long sleeved shirts or light jackets this evening at People’s Plaza. The weather is cooler than it’s been in a while. The temperature is in the low 70s and the sky is partly cloudy; a strong, cold east wind is responsible for the chill.
Many folks from the Anonymous group are waiting when the first Occupiers roll up. They set up the circle for us and then go out to the street to preach to the cars again. We can hear many beeps of support.
An Occupier apologizes to the others, “Sorry I didn’t get any minutes written from last week’s meeting. My life got in the way; I just could not find the time. Of course, it didn’t have anything to do with the fact that I threw all my responsibilities to the wind and spent 3 days at the Bayfront Blues Festival”. We all say, “Oh, of course not”. The Occupier continues, “It’s too bad though because there were a couple of good stories that came out of last week’s meeting”.
Another Occupier adds, “For real, like when the 2 Park Rangers came up to our fire and said, ‘You know it’s illegal for you to be having a fire here’. We politely quoted a few City ordinances and Fire Codes to them and then they said, ‘Oh sorry, we didn’t know that. Have a good evening”. Those cop types are so like that; they make high sounding pronouncements even when they don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground”.
Another Occupier comments, “I got a kick out of the story that the Anon who carries the American flag with all the corporate logos in place of the stars told us. He said he was out on the corner and had his flag flying upside down, some dude walks by and says, ‘Hey, I fought for that flag!’ The Anon answered, ‘You might want to look a little closer at the stars’. The dude looks, doesn’t say nothin’, just walks away”.
Someone else remarks, “Yeah, and how about those cops down in Canal Park who threw that innocent 12 year old African American boy down on the pavement, cuffed him and put him in the squad car. When his sister protested his innocence, they cuffed her and put her in the squad too. If someone hadn’t called the kids’ mother to come and rescue them they would have been taken to lockup. They were completely innocent of any wrongdoing but the cops just took the word of the white supremacist tourist lady who was yelling the N-word. I’m so glad that some of the other kids recorded what the cops did; it looks like Duluth’s African Heritage community is not going to take this lying down either”.

Anyway, now we’re at this week’s fire circle. The Stylish Native Woman and her partner sit down; her partner is quite mentally stable tonight. We can understand everything he talks about; he tells stories about his younger life when he was married and working full time. When he was at his job he discovered that his boss was doing a lot of unethical things. That bothered him very much; when the dust settled, he found himself committed to a mental institution. That was the first time; he’s been in and out of mental health facilities (always against his wishes) for over the last 20 years. He has a grown daughter.
The city official appears; he brings a large box of fried chicken for the table. He’s on his way to the Charlottesville Solidarity Vigil up at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. In fact, everyone is going to the Vigil. An Occupier couple has volunteered to hold down the fort while the rest of the entire crew goes up to CJMM. So off they go.
A very “buttoned down” looking guy rides up on his bike. He looks at us like he thinks we are crazy and says, “What IS this?” The Occupiers give him an explanation of 25 words or less; the dude says, “Where’s my friend?…….Hey, they’re smudging over here!” His friend rides over; the friend looks rather “buttoned down” too but in a more streetwise sort of way. The friend looks at us like he thinks we MIGHT be crazy; he doesn’t say anything. They both smudge themselves and ride off.
The next person to visit is the young, veteran homeless man. He’s actually homeless by choice, has been homeless for many years and is pretty self-sufficient. He doesn’t need food or drinks; he’s just stopping by to say hello.
The gay African American former street man arrives. He’s been visiting our fires for many years; he used to always be singing, dancing and carrying on. He returned from a somewhat lengthy stay in jail almost a year ago; since then, he stopped drinking and is rather quiet. He always seems to be a little sad but still a very nice guy. He munches on a few chips and waits for his new boyfriend to show up. After about an hour the boyfriend still hasn’t arrived so he goes off to catch a bus to his home.
A man and a woman who we don’t know arrive individually; it doesn’t appear that they are acquainted but they are both very hungry. They stand next to the table and just eat and eat. When they are finally full they thank the Occupier couple and go off on their separate ways.
Now it’s just the Fire Magician and the Food Occupier in the circle. They pile wood into the fire pit; the flames get really big. Everyone will be able to warm up well upon their return.
The Anons return; some of them are very excited; they were impressed by the Vigil. An Occupier and the city official are right behind them; they tell us there were over 400 people in attendance.
A non-homeless woman who spends most of her time on the street comes to get coffee; she loves our coffee and drops by frequently. She tells us, “There were so many people at the Vigil that the cops had to blockade the street to vehicle traffic. The people are now in the process of marching down here. See that cop car around the corner with its lights flashing? The cops are getting ready to block the street so the marchers can march to Peoples Plaza”.
We notice a couple more squads, with their lights flashing, drive up and sit on the street. An Occupier opines, “Well this could be interesting. There’s no way we can feed 100s of people but some of them can get warm by the fire at least”. We then see a DFD fire truck drive up, followed by an ambulance. An Occupier states, “Wait a minute, marchers don’t need an ambulance; I hope someone didn’t have a heart attack or something”.
As we continue to watch it becomes apparent that someone is having an emergency in front of the Electric Fetus. All the squad cars and stuff have nothing to do with marchers or the Plaza. We look for the coffee loving street woman but she has conveniently disappeared.
All the chairs in the fire circle are full again; more people are standing on the outside and all around the Plaza. Our friend from Vets for Peace rides up; he asks, “Is there any coffee left?” Amazingly, there is. Menagerie Woman rides up, she’s finished donating plasma and watching her Tuesday night movie. She’s on her way to catch a bus home but stops in to say hi.
The new boyfriend of the gay African American dude comes up the stairs. Of course, he was hoping his boyfriend would be here. We tell him that his boyfriend was here waiting for him but left in order to catch a bus. We think the two of them need to find a better communication system.
The new boyfriend appears to be Caucasian and in his early 40s; he’s a veteran homeless person, with an extensive prison record. No matter, we know that many people with prison records are very decent people. He has a camp of his own somewhere but tonight he’s just going to crash under the back bushes in the Plaza. He fills a cup with apple juice then empties his pockets of all their change and makes a donation.
Most of the street folks have gone off to their sleeping places; the Anons and Occupiers just sit, watching the fire die out. As it finishes, we pack up.
Everything is packed up; the Food Occupier and an Anon are just about to drive off when a young African American man taps on her window. “Do you have any food left?” he asks. She tells him she believes everything has been eaten. When she checks the bins, just to be sure, she finds a bag of organic potato chips that she neglected to put on the table. As she gives the chips to the young man she notices he doesn’t have a coat or a backpack or anything. She hopes he has somewhere warm to sleep because it will be rather chilly tonight.
We hope for warmer weather when we return to Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 8-1-17

G.A. Minutes 8-1-17
The last couple of days the weather has been very warm; some would call it hot. Today was no exception; the temperature is in the high 80s, the sky is almost cloudless; an occasional relatively cooler, lifesaving breeze prevents people on the street from dropping dead.
The food and fire bringing Occupiers are the first to arrive at People’s Plaza this evening. They’re both moving pretty slow as they begin setting up the fire circle.
The food Occupier notices a young couple sitting on a back bench in the direct sun. They appear to be having an argument. The Occupier realizes that feeling uncomfortably warm can make a person really crabby. She offers the couple a glass of cold water; they gratefully accept. A bit later she notices the couple is no longer arguing but sitting talking softly and holding hands.
We spy the little veteran homeless dude standing out on the freeway exit holding up a sign. When we wave at him he packs up his stuff and comes over. He carries a big restaurant takeout box which he puts on the table and then tells us, “A guy stuck his head out of his car window saying he didn’t have any money but would I please accept a bunch of birthday cake. So here it is”. No problem, we’re happy to help a nameless Leo person celebrate their birthday.
Next to arrive are a few of the Anonymous folks; they finish the fire circle setup, get a bit of drink and food and head out to the protest corner.
Taco Helping Man and his partner drop in. The last time we saw them they were in need of someone with tools who would help them change a tire on their recently purchased van. Once the fire was out, an Occupier went to help them. It turned out the tire they had would not fit on their van; the lug nut holes did not align. Now Taco Helping Man explains they found a working tire the next day and headed out to St. Paul. Just as they were passing the Black Bear Casino, thick black smoke began pouring out of the rear end. They pulled over, got out and noticed flames underneath the smoke. They dialed 911 and went close to the woods to wait for help. Before the highway patrol arrived the entire van blew up and was consumed by flames. A highway patrol officer felt sorry for them so after the mess was cleaned up the officer gave the couple a ride back to Duluth.
An Occupier quietly comments to another, “I was pretty sure one could not expect much out of a vehicle that cost $240. I thought it probably wouldn’t take them very far but at least, as long as the weather was good, they could have lived in it”. Taco Helping Man says, “I just got my check for $700; I’m going to take the whole thing and buy another vehicle”. We don’t know what to say; it doesn’t matter because Taco Man never listens much anyway”.
A big group of street folks appear. They’re holding on to their bellies and talking about how full they are. They still have room for coffee and apple juice though. Tonight is National Night Out and CHUM had their annual big picnic. The street folks tell us the event was sparsely attended this year.
We had thought we wouldn’t be seeing many street folks tonight as today was payday for all the people who receive small monthly government checks. Usually, on payday everyone purchases their substance of choice and disappears to get wasted for a few days. One person will rent a room for a couple of days in a low rent motel and many others will hang out in that room getting high until their money runs out. This evening appears to be different; People’s Plaza is filling up with street people; none of whom appear to be particularly wasted.
Our friend from Veterans for Peace rides up on his bike. This is his first time at our fire this year. He pours a cup of coffee and makes a sizable donation for supplies. He reports that he and John LaForge are attempting to organize the startup of local anti-nuclear direct actions again. We say, “Just tell us where and when and we’ll be there”.
The city official and an Occupier roll up. The city official takes a seat in the circle and the Occupier goes out to join the Anons. The city man states, “I’ve got the Mayor, Police Chief Tuscan and the City Human Rights Officer on the Dairy Queen incident now. I think we’ll see good results soon”.
Two evenings ago, the official man stopped in at the Dairy Queen in Canal Park to use the facilities. Apparently, the Canal Park Dairy Queen is now the place where area young teenagers of all ethnicities hang out. The kids were all playfully goofing off as young teenagers are prone to do. Two thirteen or fourteen year old African American young men were throwing ketchup packets at each other. Instead of just speaking to the young men, the manager called the police.
When the cops arrived, the city man thought he’d better hang around to see what was going to happen. There were two polite, friendly officers who told the city man they’d been having a long, rough night. Then there was Officer #464.
The Occupiers have interacted with Officer #464 in the past. Officer #464 is different than most of the other cops. He is an unusually tall, big man. He’s also a big bully. We hypothesize that he is insecure about his masculinity. Anyway, #464 tells the two boys that they are officially trespassed from Dairy Queen for an entire year. He growls, “If you don’t leave immediately I’m going to take you to Juvenile Hall!”
The city official wonders why it was only the two African American youngsters who were singled out for punishment. There were very many other young people present. He also wonders about the length of the punishment and remarks, “An entire year? That’s a lifetime for a kid to be forcibly separated from his friends. I could see a week or even a month but an entire year? It’s not right”.
As Mississippi Woman comes up the stairs, the sky becomes covered with dark menacing clouds; a strong, cool breeze blows over the Plaza. It feels great! Mississippi loves hard boiled eggs and begins eating her fill.
Menagerie Woman rides up on her bike; Bush Man is back at her house again. She comments, “As long as he acts right he can stay. If he starts bossing me around and being violent I’ll put him out again”.
A locally well-known professional photographer and singer rides up on his bike. He says, “I’ve always wondered what you guys had going on here”. The big Native Anon and several other Anons arrive. They greet us and go out to the protest corner. A middle aged Native Woman and a white street guy appear. We know the woman well; she attended our fires all the time at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. When she’s sober she’s just as sweet as can be; when she’s drunk she becomes dangerously violent. She doesn’t appear to be inebriated tonight.
We notice that two young Duluth cops are standing out on the Superior Street sidewalk looking at us. Eventually they come up to the circle. They act friendly, polite and they make small talk with us. We can tell they are looking carefully all over our area, probably to see if they can find anything that might be construed illegal. No such luck; they bid us good evening and walk back to their squad car.
Everyone feels a few drops of rain on their skin. Hmmm…… we hadn’t calculated for this. There was no mention of rain in any of the weather forecasts. A big DPD SUV pulls up in front of the regular squad car, Officer #464 gets out. He talks with the two cops and then they all head out towards the Anons. One cop is yelling, “Take off your masks! Take off your masks!” Oh great…..
An Occupier opines, “I’d better go and check this out”. She goes down the stairs and around the corner. She quietly stands where she probably won’t be noticed but can still see and hear what’s going on. #464 is sternly telling the Anons that it is illegal for them to be wearing their masks. The Anons don’t say much; they push their masks up on their heads. As the cops are leaving, the Occupier thinks the two young cops are probably still in training and #464 is trying to teach them how to be mean.
The Occupier and an Anon go back to the circle and tell everyone what happened. The Occupier says she knows that during the beginning Occupy protests, many cities passed laws forbidding people from wearing masks at protests. Another Occupier pulls out his phone, the first Occupier postulates, “I’m pretty sure Duluth does not have an anti-mask ordinance so it would probably be under state ordinances”. The phone Occupier does a quick search and the state ordinance pops up right away. It says something like “no one can wear a mask that conceals their identity during a protest”. Someone says, “Oh really? But the cops can come to protests all dressed up like Darth Vader and carrying deadly weapons too?” Someone else adds, “Yeah, I don’t recall ever hearing about the cops telling the KKK to take off their masks”.
The ordinance has a few exceptions like when using masks for religious or theatrical purposes. The Occupiers think the Anons could get by with calling themselves a Street Theater Troupe. However, the Anons will respond as they see fit.
The drama is over for now and Mississippi Woman has eaten enough eggs. She begins her usual rant. It’s not really awful but we’ve heard it so many times that we could save her the trouble and recite it ourselves. Her rant contains all the usual things spoken by Southern Baptist or Pentecostal preachers.
Most of the people in the circle break off into small groups and chat among themselves. The Occupiers, the city official and a young street man with long brown hair and a full beard are all who remain in the circle. The street man is really digging Mississippi Woman; he keeps saying, “Oh yeah, that’s right” and stuff like that. Eventually she winds down and bids us goodnight until next time.
It’s only 9:30pm but the fire is dying out and everyone is pretty exhausted from trying to cope with the heat of the last few days. As we pack up, an Occupier calls out to Taco Helping Man, “Hey, don’t forget that the Sobriety Pow Wow out at Mash-Ka-Wisen is this weekend”. Taco Man answers, “Oh right, are you going? Can I catch a ride?” The Occupier responds, “Sorry, I don’t think we’re going. We went to the Veterans Pow Wow a couple of weeks ago so probably won’t be able to make the one this weekend.
We’ll be able to make it to the fire circle at People’s Plaza next Tuesday though. Expect us.

G.A. Minutes 7-25-17

G.A. Minutes 7-25-17
So the weather people say it’s supposed to rain this evening. It’s not raining as the first Occupiers roll up to People’s Plaza; we’re gonna try to get as much time in the fire circle as the rain gods will allow. The sky is overcast but not particularly dark, the temperature is in the low 70s and there is no breeze at all. The air is very muggy; uggg….. maybe the fire will take up some of the moisture.
Several of the Anonymous crew are waiting when we arrive. As they help set up the circle one of the crew tells us, “I’m not sure who’s gonna show up tonight. I’ve been without internet for an entire week so haven’t been able to communicate. We’re very dependent on Facebook for sharing information and for organizing”. An Occupier responds, “Yup, the internet is very convenient; we use it too. We’re going to have to look for other means of communication though. Once the revolution becomes stronger, the government will just close the whole thing down. The Anon adds, “When the government shut down the internet in Egypt everyone came out of their houses and congregated in front of the main government centers”.
The Stylish Native Woman and her partner arrive. Her partner tells us that he was recently arrested and hauled off to jail again. The arresting cop smacked him around too. The Partner is an unmedicated schizophrenic who has an uncontrollable need to just yell into the air sometimes. He doesn’t yell at other living beings and as far as we know has never physically harmed anyone; he just yells sometimes. When he’s finished he always apologizes to anyone within earshot.
Anyway, he’s been plagued with bouts of yelling for the last month or so. Somebody must have called the cops a week or so ago because one showed up to insult and harass him. Cops have been harassing him for well over 20 years. When he tried to verbally defend himself, the cop smacked him around and took him to jail. Now he’ll have to try to explain himself to a judge. He never has much luck with that.
All the so called professional people tell The Partner that the solution to all his problems is to just take his prescribed medicine. The Partner says, “I just really cannot take that stuff. When I take that stuff I become a complete zombie; I can’t even think”. The so called professional people seem to think that The Partner taking his medicine is a very simple and easy thing. They think that if he doesn’t take it then he doesn’t deserve any kind of help.
The Partner opines, “I wish there was somewhere I could go where there were no people and I could just yell and yell until I exhausted myself. I could then come back and associate with people until I had to go and yell again”.
We’d like to offer to help him file a complaint about being beaten up but we know he would never do that. He’d be too afraid that some of the cops would take him into a dark alley and break every bone in his body. There are some cops on the police force that would do that too.
More Anons are arriving; they hang around the fire circle and turn on their good music. Many Anon groupies also appear. We call them groupies because they are younger than the Anons and don’t have much knowledge or interest in what Anonymous is really about. They just think the masks are cool.
When an Occupier returns from parking his truck he reports, “There’s a guy without a shirt running around on the roof of the steam plant. A couple of squad cars are parked down at the bottom”. A few people go to take a peak over the back bushes; then an ambulance comes roaring across the overpass and off in the direction of the hospitals. The guy on the roof can no longer be seen. Someone says, “Gee, I hope he didn’t jump off the roof”. Someone else responds, “Naw, if he’d have jumped off there would have been a lot more squads and such around”. We all hope things work out o.k. for the dude.
When the Fire Magician finally gets a chance to light up the fire, the Anons go out to the street corner and start thumping. The groupies stay behind, hanging around just outside of the circle between forays for food from the table. We notice they’re acting extra “squirrely” tonight.
A street man who sometimes visits our fire and a street woman who we haven’t met in the past are discussing their previous and many stays in prison. The man states, “One time I spent a year in solitary. It wasn’t too bad; I read a lot of books and I appreciated the reprieve from having to interact with lots of people”. The woman replies, “I have grandbabies now and they need me. I have to stay out of the system”.
One of the street folks points to the water sculpture across the street and calls out, “Hey look, some tourists just brought Mr. Green a big pizza! Several of the street folks go running over to see if Mr. Green will share. An Occupier says quietly to another, “Oh, Mr. Green will definitely share. I know him; I was his nurse when he was in a chemical dependency unit about 15 years ago. He’s developmentally disabled; I know he looks real mean and scary but he’s actually a very sweet and innocent dude.
“He just doesn’t understand the connection between hanging out with the real hardcore street drug users and being kind of stuck in the life he leads. Every month when he gets his SSI check all bad guys hang out with him and he buys them drugs and alcohol. Once his money runs out, they beat him up and leave. As far as I know, no one has tried or been able to get him to understand about addiction or that another life is possible”.
After the pizza is gone, Mr. Green comes over to our circle to drink coffee and smoke cigarettes. He doesn’t recognize his former nurse.
The city official and another Occupier come up the stairs. Once they are settled an Occupier reports to the city man, “I have 3 people who are willing to go on your radio show. Two of them could be available any Wednesday, Thursday or Friday afternoon”. The city man answers, “Those times would work for me too”. The Occupier continues, “I still have to contact the third person and then we’ll be good to go”.
The newly arrived Occupier asks, “So what did you think of the Democratic Socialists of America’s Open House last week?” Another Occupier replies, “I arrived very late so most of the food was gone but I think the sponsors have a very nice house, garden and back yard. The band playing was good too. Our old friend, the band’s guitar player has certainly advanced his chops since the last time I heard him play a couple of years ago. I was able to sit and chat with a few people I hadn’t seen in a long time. Also, Rich Upthegrove is definitely the best person for City Councilperson at Large. I’ll have no problem voting for him. We all agree, Rich Upthegrove is the best candidate.
An Occupier announces, “I went to Detox last week because I think I need another round of treatment for my alcoholism. They interviewed me and put me on a waiting list. I don’t know how long I’ll have to wait to get in. A street person adds, “Yeah, I’m having some pretty serious mental health issues but I can’t get in anywhere. Everything is full and there are long waiting lists. Another street person chimes in, “Even St. Louis County Jail is full. They’re contracting out to other smaller jails in the state. There sure are a lot of people hurting out here”.
The conversation turns to the subject of the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights. The official man reminds us about his idea to purchase cheaply priced used buses from the DTA and turn them into portable shower facilities. An Occupier comments, “I like that idea. Myself and 2 other people from the HPB of R Coalition are tasked with exploring solutions to the 24/7 access to bathroom facilities human right. Mayor Larson has asked for a meeting with us. She says she has some ideas too. When we meet I will bring up the DTA bus solution”
The gay African American former street guy who was a regular at our Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial fires appears. He’s been at several of our fires this year too. He and the street man with the prison record see each other, break out in big smiles and hug for a long time. We were aware the African American man had fallen in love with someone but we didn’t know who it was. We don’t know the former prisoner well but, on the surface at least, he appears to be intelligent and kind hearted. We hope he really is because the African Heritage Man deserves to have a real relationship with someone who cares about him.
The Anon groupies have been running around the Plaza and acting silly all night long. It appears that some of them are drunk. Now they are sitting in the circle and trying to burn each other’s hair with their lighters. We tell them to stop. They do stop but begin wrestling with someone’s bandanna. They come within inches of the fire; everyone is yelling at them to stop. They have become deaf.
It’s about 9:30pm and we were planning on watching the fire die out. The Fire Magician sighs, “That’s it! We gotta go. If these kids won’t respect the fire circle then we’ll have to take it away”. All the non-groupies help pack up; the Anons come off the corner. The groupies just stand there looking confused.
An Occupier walks out of the Plaza to get her vehicle and load on the food stuff. She spots 2 cops that she doesn’t recognize, sitting on bicycles in the shadows; she hears the 1st cop say, “Hey, they have a fire going up there!” The 2nd cop says something that she can’t make out. The 1st cop says, “You mean they can do that ?!?” The 2nd cop says, “Yeah”.
The stupid acting groupies come walking down the stairs, appearing to be ready to harass the cops. At first the Occupier thinks she should go back to the circle but then she remembers the city official is still there. No worries, cops NEVER mess with the official man.
The light changes and the Occupier continues her mission. When she returns, the cops are gone and so are the groupies. Everything is ready to go; an Anon puts his sound system into her trunk and we are off….. Until next Tuesday of course.

G.A. Minutes 7-18-17

G.A. Minutes 7-18-17
It rained all day today and into mid-afternoon. The weather people say that’s all we’re gonna get for now. When we arrive at People’s Plaza this evening, the sky is clear, the temperature is in the low 70s with no breeze to speak of.
Spiritual Man is already waiting for us; he jumps right in and starts setting up the chairs. The young Native guy who used to help at the Anishinaabe taco sales comes up the stairs. He tells us that he recently got a very good deal on a used van; it now has a flat tire but he doesn’t have the tools needed to fix it. He says, “Winona LaDuke gave me $40 yesterday and I need to get to St. Paul tonight”.
He asks the Occupier who has the truck to come with him about 6 blocks away where his van is sitting. The Occupier replies, “I have tools and I’ll help you but not until after the fire circle is done. Come back here once the sky is completely dark and we’ll go take a look at your vehicle”.
One of the young white guys who hang around with Anonymous sits down; he comments, “It sure is quiet”. An Occupier answers, “That’s because the Anons aren’t here yet. They generally make a lot of noise”. The young guy tells her, “I don’t think they’ll be showing up this time. The Anon who takes care of the sound equipment and signs is feeling a little sick”.
The Fire Magician lights a small fire to begin with; the air is still quite warm and very few people are in the circle. The group currently consists of some Occupiers, the city official, Spiritual Man, the friend of the Anons and a young street man who has been coming to our fire for the last couple of weeks.
An Occupier states, “The next Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition meeting is this Thursday at Dorothy Day House”. The city official adds, “I attended a big meeting today about the HPB of R up at the Central Hillside Community Center. There were a lot of people there; folks from the Coalition and many City departments, City Councilors and such.
“The bulk of the discussion was about funding sources. I’m afraid they weren’t too happy with me; I kept providing information about rent control, CDBG funds and other things that City Councilors and City department employees didn’t seem to be aware of. I was surprised by their lack of knowledge and their defensiveness”.
The Occupier remarks, “Oh that’s right; I knew about that meeting but forgot to go. It’s probably for the best because I’m like you; I bring up topics that the so called upper echelons of folks so called running the City would rather ignore.
“I sure wonder what’s going on with mayor, Emily Larson. She talks like she’s in support of homeless people and their equal rights but her behavior shows something different. I definitely know she doesn’t want the HPB of R to become a City ordinance. I suppose she’s a better deal than the previous mayor, Don Ness who showed himself to be racist and classist but still, I wish she’d back up her words with actions”.
The city man agrees, “As far as Duluth’s communities of color are concerned, Mayor Larsen receives the grade of an F”.
Another Occupier tells the city man, “I received the email you sent out about grants for people willing to tell their stories about living during the Viet Nam War era. I think that would be a good thing for Veterans for Peace to get involved in”.
The official man concurs, “I sent it to them too. Do you all know that SURJ is sponsoring a tour of the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial area tomorrow at 5:30pm?”
The Occupier who reports stuff says, “If now is the time for reporting, I’d like to report that Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance will not be having an Anishinaabe Frybread Taco Sale in August. Their frybread maker is having knee surgery and they don’t have another experienced maker.
“I have a good recipe for frybread but it’s not the Anishinaabe kind. I know how to fry but I don’t know how to make the dough. It seems like people around here keep their recipes a closely guarded secret and just pass them down to their next generation”.
Spiritual Man remarks, “I know how to make frybread. I learned from my mother when I was a kid”. Another Occupier advises, “Why don’t you just go on the internet? I imagine that somebody sold their recipe during a moment of need”. The reporting Occupier opines, “Yeah, I guess I could do that but it seems unethical somehow”.
An older, white, Christian man who we have known since the very first days of Occupy at the Civic Center walks up. He is accompanied by a young woman. We’ve always found this man to be a little odd but very likeable. He hangs around with right wing evangelical Christians but is disappointed with how unchristian these folks are.
He’s a very talented photographer/videographer who used to be employed by a major local TV channel. We don’t know what happened but he hasn’t been employed by any local media company in many years. He moved to Orange County, California last year where he became homeless. Homelessness was a new experience for him; he learned a lot and then decided to move back to Duluth where people are more charitable.
We chat for a while but he has to go to purchase a top of the line camera from some guy. He’s planning on making a video about homelessness. We tell him we think that’s a good idea and wish him luck.
An Occupier informs us, “I have a young friend who recently told me about non-binary gender identity. I’m not sure I completely understood. Does one just decide to not be a specific gender or what? I mean, I have no problem with the idea but I’m not sure I fully understand the concept”.
The city man adds, “So what does cis gender mean?” Someone tells him, “Cis means heterosexual or straight, trans means changed gender or something like that”. The scientific Occupier explains, “In organic chemistry when carbon chains branch out in opposite directions originating from the same spot it’s called “cis”; when they branch out in opposite directions but originating from different spots it’s called “trans”.
An Occupier takes out his phone and states, “I know, I’ll just see what Siri (a computer program that tries to talk like an actual person) says”. Another Occupier jokes, “Siri?!? Don’t ask her; she doesn’t know anything”. The phoning Occupier asks Siri anyway and she gives him an answer that makes no sense at all. The joking Occupier exclaims, “See I knew she didn’t know anything. And besides, Siri, stop flirting with my husband, you B…… wait, is Bitch a non-binary word?” Siri replies in a patient, pleasant voice, “Now, now”. We all just crack up. Our questions remain unanswered.
An Occupier couple rides up on a motorcycle. The male remarks, “It’s summer and I finally got my bike up and running. Maybe I’ll take it when I go out to the Retreat at Mesabe Co-op Park this Friday and Saturday”.
The multi-racial couple, who were staying at CHUM and attending all our fires last year, appears. They have an apartment now; the female has been in counseling and drug treatment for an entire year. She tells us, “I feel like a completely different person. I’m so much happier and healthier”. She talks about things she’s learned and says she has been taking a drug called suboxone. She reports, “When one is trying to get off of heroin there’s methadone and suboxone. Suboxone works much better”.
The young street man adds, “Yeah, I don’t know why they even give methadone. A person is addicted to heroin so they give the person another drug that they become addicted to instead? That doesn’t even make sense”.
Coma Man seems to arrive out of nowhere. He just stands, smiling at us. He doesn’t seem to be particularly wasted. He says, “I have to leave but I’ll come back later”. Off he goes.
The woman who is in long term drug treatment asks the city man if he know anything about the City Diversion Program. She has several tickets from the police that were received many years ago. She’d like to clear them up. The city man knows about the program and tells her where to go to find out if she is eligible.
A group of 5 or 6 young guys, who are of varying ethnicities and sort of Anonymous groupies, climb up the ledge, go through the trees and come running across the Plaza and into the circle. Because there have been fewer people in the circle this evening, about half of the food is still on the table. The youngbloods devour everything in a matter of minutes. They take the tobacco pouch, begin rolling cigarettes and talking about girls. They’re nice kids; we like them and just sit and listen to them talk.
A group of young girls are walking down the sidewalk. The young guys know the girls and call out to them. To the delight of the boys, the girls come over. They chat a while and then the entire group goes off to wherever (climbing through the trees and jumping off the ledge of course).
It’s quite late; the stars are out and we’ve run out of wood. Taco Helping Man appears; he seems only slightly drunk. He has his girlfriend and a couple of other guys with him; they are really drunk. All the sober people quickly pack up and are ready to go.
The Occupiers will go home and rest up for tomorrow; except for the Occupier with the truck. He’s going a couple blocks up from the Mission feeding center to help Taco Helping Man change a tire. We hope the experience won’t take too long or end in some type of disaster.
Of course, we plan to be back at People’s Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 7-11-17

G.A. Minutes 7-11-17
The weather people say it’s going to rain tonight; they don’t say exactly when though. It could happen in an hour or not until the middle of the night. We’ll just have to keep an eye on the sky. Right now it’s overcast, the temperature is in the mid-50s and a steady wind of moderate force is acting like it’s not really mid-July.
Some of the Anonymous folks are already out on the street corner as the first Occupiers arrive at People’s Plaza. The man from New Jersey, a few Anons, Socialist Action members and several other peeps begin their Cop Watch (another name to be decided upon) meeting as we set up the fire circle and food table. The Fire Magician gets the fire going right away. It will definitely be needed this evening.
The Cop Watch folks are talking about doing an action in coalition with Superior Save the Kids and Lake Superior Ex-Prisoners Organizing. It is to be titled Millions for Prisoners Human Rights and will take place on the protest corner directly outside of the Plaza on Saturday, August 19th from 5p-6p. The Occupiers plan to participate in this rally.
There are many street folks here too. They generally show up later; tonight they’re making the scene early. It seems like everyone is hungry. The Occupiers have brought their usual pile of sandwiches, cookies, coffee and apple juice. The Native couple from the neighborhood donate a big pot of manoomin (wild rice) and New Jersey Man contributes a really good watermelon. Fortunately, he also contributes a cutting board and a big sharp knife.
An Occupier puts the cutting board on the floor and cuts it up to the best of her ability. Some of the pieces look pretty strange but at least she didn’t cut herself or anyone else. When she’s finished she wraps the knife in a towel and puts it under her chair. She learned her lesson last year after Coma Man got a hold of the wood chopping axe and started playing Ninja Warrior with it.
The Cop Watch meeting is finished and most of those in attendance need to leave. New Jersey Man joins the circle; all the chairs are full. Among those in the circle are the Occupiers, the city official, Spiritual Man, the Stylish Native Woman and her partner, Mississippi Woman, the veteran young homeless man whose mother comes to the fire from time to time in search of him, a few young Native guys who have been attending regularly this year and a Duluth police officer.
The DPD officer wants to speak with the veteran young homeless man but he doesn’t want to speak with her. So the officer says, “O.K., you all have a good evening” and leaves. The veteran man tells us, “She arrested a friend of mine last week and now she wants me to give her some information. It ain’t gonna happen”.
A Native man who says he attended one of our fires last year comes up; he was attracted by the smell of the burning sage. He tells us he is a member of the Fond du Lac band and spent several years in prison where he found Jesus. We notice that he wears a small Christian fish symbol on a chain around his neck. He requests to be allowed to pray for our gathering in the Anishinaabe language. We accept his offer and give him a pinch of tobacco.
The Native Christian man steps toward the fire; Spiritual Man stands beside him. As he prays, an Occupier who has a vague familiarity with Anishinaabemowin notices that he asks the Creator for a blessing upon us but does not begin by calling in “the spirits” as is usually done. When he finishes he and Mississippi Woman go off away to have a conversation about their Christian beliefs.
An Occupier informs the city official, “The Homeless Persons Bill of Rights Coalition folks have asked me to take on the responsibility for getting everything together so some of them can come on your radio show. Are there any particular days or times when you would like them to do this?” The city man responds, “Most any day could work. We can record the interview and then I can play the recording on a Thursday at 6pm”. The Occupier answers, “O.K. good. It will probably take me about a month to get the people in order but I’m on it as of right now”.
The neighborhood couple has been out on the corner with the Anons. As they are leaving, they stop to pick up their now empty manoomin pot. They ask, “So when is the next Sobriety Feast?” An Occupier tells them, “Tomorrow night, 6pm at the Central Hillside Community Center. I’ve made a big pot of homemade macaroni and cheese with turkey hot dogs in it. Everyone says, “Yum!”
The food has all disappeared; the Anons are still thumping on the corner and most of the street folks have gone off to their sleeping places. With full stomachs, they will hopefully sleep well.
The circle is considerably smaller; everyone pulls their chairs closer to the roaring fire. The Occupiers, Spiritual Man, New Jersey Man, one Anon and the 2 young Native regular dudes are the only folks remaining; then Chicago Man appears.
An Occupier exclaims to Chicago Man, “I’m so glad you showed up tonight! I have something for you”. She hands him a small sage bundle. Chicago Man is pleased and remarks, “Oh thank you! This is exactly what I need. It really helps me to keep my head together when I can smudge when I need to”. He tells us he’s just been hired as a clerk at one of the neighborhood big box stores. He also has a job interview at the casino tomorrow. Chicago Man confides, “I’m not too thrilled about these jobs because I do much better when I have a job where I don’t have to deal much with other people. I’m kind of an introvert so have to force myself to make nice with strangers. However, seeing as I’m still grieving the loss of my deceased partner, I find it helps to keep myself busy. Besides, I seriously want to get a place of my own. I’ll have to do whatever it takes to make that a reality”.
The wind is blowing strong now, it’s been dark for a while; the stars are not visible. Someone looks at their phone and reports, “It says here that it’s not going to rain until 2am”. No one is ready to leave yet; an Occupier goes to his truck to get more wood.
A discussion about spirituality, philosophy or something like that begins. At first the 2 young dudes are sitting next to each other and talking about girls but they soon join the main discussion. Among the topics analyzed are atheism, various spiritual practices not associated with any specific “god”, Christianity and Anishinaabe spirituality.
The Anon wants to know about Marxism. New Jersey Man opines, “I believe Marxism is considered to be a science”. He goes on to explain basic Marxist ideas. The conversation goes on until the wood runs out. It’s quite late but we’re sorry we have to leave. It would be great if we could continue with this good vibe next time.
We expect to be back at People’s Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 7-4-17

G.A. Minutes 7-4-17
Peoples Plaza is completely empty as the first Occupiers arrive for their weekly fire circle this evening. We realize that many of the street people received their small monthly government checks a few days ago. That means many of them will be off somewhere indulging in their substance of choice. However, there are no people of any sort on the street; there are lots of cars though. Whatever…. we take our time setting up the food, chairs and such and wait to see what happens.
It’s slightly chilly for an early July evening; the sky is partly cloudy; the temperature is in the mid-60s. A slight eastern breeze is responsible for the chill. The Fire Magician prepares the fire pit for a big fire but says he’ll wait to light it until the sun goes behind the buildings.
A 30 something, probably white, street man who is vaguely familiar to us takes a seat on a bench just outside of the circle. We say hello but he doesn’t acknowledge us. It appears he is having a quiet conversation with someone who we can’t see.
Our next visitor is the African American gay guy from Chicago who we met last week. He says, “Oh good, you’re here. I thought you said every Tuesday”. He seems kinda sad; when an Occupier asks if he’s o.k, he answers, “These last few days have been really stressful for me. My living situation is chaotic and all the fireworks going off all over the place are really getting on my nerves. I’ll be glad when I get my own place so I can have things the way I like them”.
The city official arrives; he’s still carrying his cane but he doesn’t need to use it. His knee has healed considerably so he takes the cane “just in case”. An Occupier says to him, “Say, I heard the Damiano will be needing a new executive director”. The city man verifies that particular rumor as true. The Occupier continues, “If they put the position out to the public you should apply. You have the experience needed and would be good at that job. The city man agrees, “Yes, I think I will apply; it probably wouldn’t interfere with my radio show”.
The sun is behind the buildings now so the Fire Magician starts up the fire. It roars up right away, protecting us against the cold wind.
A Native young woman who we don’t know sits down. Her behavior is boisterous and she appears to be drunk. She’s somewhat over weight and is wearing a thin ankle length skirt that has a side split going all the way up to the waist band. All her “stuff” is hanging out and it looks like she’s not wearing any underwear. She bounces from chair to chair, attempting to rub up against whoever is sitting there. Trust me; it is not a pretty sight.
When she gets to the chair that holds the Chicago Man she stops. Apparently, he’s the one who strikes her fancy. Chicago Man is polite; he listens to her conversation for a little while. It’s obvious she is making him feel uncomfortable; he gets up and gets some food from the table. She follows him; he moves away from the circle. She turns to the Occupiers and asks, “Is it o.k. if I bring my boyfriend here”. We say, “No problem” and she leaves.
Unfortunately, she quickly returns with a tall, slender young Native man in tow. We think we have met this young man in the past. He says hello then bends over, puts his head in his hands and just sits there. She resumes stalking Chicago Man. He briefly plays her game but we can see he’s getting annoyed.
At one point her boyfriend gets up and bends over the side bushes. An Occupier opines, “It looks like your boyfriend is throwing up over there in the bushes”. She checks on him briefly then returns to resume her stalking. However, (surprise, surprise) Chicago Man has disappeared.
The Anonymous group rolls up. They decide to just hang out around the fire. Seeing as Chicago Man is gone, the half-naked woman starts rubbing herself on all the male Anons. They are not pleased but refrain from insulting or yelling at her. They crank up their music.
An older Native man who looks very familiar to us stumbles in. He tells us he has been drinking continuously for 2 days. He asks the city official to call his sister who lives on the top of the hill and tell her that he (the drunken man) needs a ride home. The official man complies and relays the sister’s message that the drunken man is not allowed to come home when he’s drunk. That’s when we remember the dude. He was always coming to our fires up at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial and asking folks to call his sister.
The drunken old guy thanks him, then tells him, “You know, I really don’t like the way you’ve been treating your woman. It’s not right”. The city man is not married; he doesn’t even have a girlfriend. He responds, “Sorry, it’s not me. You have me confused with someone else”. The mistaken man replies, “But how can that be? I was just talking to your old lady today and she told me how bad you treat her”. The city man stands his ground.
The confused old guy turns to one of the Occupiers and growls, “I know who you are…..Cop Caller! All I have to say to you is FUCK OFF!!!” The Occupiers have become used to this alcoholic mistaken identity thing so she tells him, “Nope, it’s not me. You’re thinking of someone else”. He looks real closely at her and sighs, “I guess you’re right. I was wondering what happened to all your curls”.
The boyfriend of Half-Naked Woman has revived somewhat. He’s showing off his veins and track marks to the mistaken man. The mistaken man is impressed. The boyfriend calls over to Half-Naked Woman who is still busy rubbing up on folks, “Get over here and sit down!” She comes to sit beside him but she’s still squirming. He says softly but firmly, “What did I just tell you? Sit down and shut up!” She complies.
All evening the cops have been buzzing around with their sirens blaring and their lights flashing. There’s been fire trucks and ambulances too. Sometimes they go up the hill but mostly they’ve been heading for the freeway or Canal Park. We think there are probably some car accidents on the freeway. We doubt anybody is rioting down in Canal Park.
The Plaza is rapidly filling up with lots of people. Most of them are street folks who appear to be really wasted. There’s the little veteran homeless dude whose mom stops by the fire when she’s looking for him, the schizophrenic middle aged man from the Skinner, the handsome, dark haired, furry schizophrenic guy who rants around the neighborhood and many others. We wave to them, they wave back but they know not to sit in the circle when they’re too fucked up.
An Occupier looks around the Plaza at all the incoherent people staggering around and comments, “Well, at least the music from the Anons is good”.
Menagerie Woman and her best friend arrive; they’ve come in the friend’s car tonight and brought 3 dogs with them. We give water to the dogs. Bush Man is down in the Cities staying in some type of mental health care facility. The friend tells us she is in the process of moving. She’s been living in a large public housing building where everything is really nuts. Things are looking up though; she’s managed to find a larger apartment in a smaller building where she will have a patio and the opportunity to garden. She reports that the housing authority is now giving out housing vouchers that have a 90 day time frame as opposed to the previous ones that had a timeframe of 30 days. Apparently, the Duluth housing market for poor people is so tight that the housing people know it will be close to impossible for poor people to find somewhere to live.
The friend notices Half-Naked Woman sitting next to her boyfriend with her stuff hanging out. The friend states, “It looks like your skirt has come apart. Would you like me to help you fix it?” The Woman seems to notice for the first time that her skirt is open and replies, “Yes please”. The friend sees that the skirt has little buttons all down the slit and she begins buttoning them up. She advises, “You probably won’t be able to wear this again. Some of the buttons are missing and the skirt is a little too small for you”.
Another young Native man who visited our CJMM fires frequently appears. We haven’t seen him since we moved to People’s Plaza 2 years ago. This particular man always seemed to have his shit at least half way together. It appears he knows the Woman and her boyfriend well. He speaks to them sternly, “These people work really hard to make this fire and food for us. You need to respect it!”
The couple doesn’t say anything; they just get up and leave. The Anons are leaving too. They’re going to find a place by the lake where they can watch the fireworks. The half way together young man goes with them. It’s almost 10pm so most everyone in the space scurries off to find a watching spot. The Occupiers stay behind; they’re kinda conflicted about fireworks and the whole 4th of July charade.
As we are packing up, Chicago Man returns. He asks, “Has she gone yet?” We assure him that she has. He sits down next to an Occupier and sighs, “She was getting really annoying. July is a really bad month for me. It’s the month that my partner died, the month that his family that didn’t care about him when he was alive came into the picture and also the month of his funeral. I was allowed to attend the funeral but after that they just didn’t have any use for me”. We emphasize but don’t know what to tell him except that his pain will probably lessen with time.
As we are leaving, an Occupier comments, “Man, this was the weirdest meeting we had here. We didn’t even get to discuss anything on our agenda”. Another Occupier adds, “Yeah, I’ve always thought that I wanted to go back to CJMM to have our fires. Things were always much more active and dramatic there. After tonight, I’ve changed my mind. The Plaza is just fine with me”.
On that note, we plan to be back at People’s Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 6-27-17

G.A. Minutes 6-27-17
Weather wise, it’s going to be another perfect summer evening at People’s Plaza. The sky is clear and the temperature is in the upper 70s. It would be almost too warm if it wasn’t for the variable, moderately strong wind blowing and creating the ideal conditions. We decide to wait to start up the fire until the sun goes behind the buildings.
Yesterday a few Occupiers attended the Socialist Action monthly gathering. A man from New Jersey who, over a year ago, had come to one of our Occupy meetings at the old Coney Island was also in attendance. He let everyone know he and some friends were planning to hold a peaceful protest about police accountability. The protest was scheduled to take place on the sidewalk outside of the Plaza, Tuesday evening at 5pm. The Occupiers informed him that we would be starting our fire circle at about 6pm and that he and the other participants would be welcome to join us.
When we roll up tonight we are pleasantly surprised to see so many folks holding signs and chanting. Some are from Socialist Action, a few from Anonymous but most are people we don’t know. Most of the cars driving by are beeping support. When they are finished they come to the fire circle.
They want to hold a short meeting in order to plan future strategy. As they discuss where they should go in order to not co-opt the Occupy meeting, an Occupier tells them, “Our meetings at People’s Plaza are different from what most people think of when they think about a meeting. The fire circle is open to everyone. We just sit around it and talk about whatever comes to mind. We wait to see who joins the circle and whatever happens just happens. You guys are welcome to hold your meeting right here”.
So that’s what they do. They discuss possible next steps and form a few working groups. The Occupiers participate in the Police Accountability meeting too. They plan to meet again at our circle on Tuesday July 11th at 6pm.
As things are winding down, the male from the couple who used to help us at the taco sales says, “Well, I just wanna know who will help the Indian people. The Indian people need help you know”. Some of the cop watching folks say, “We want to help but we’re not sure what we should do”. The Occupiers already know the taco helping man. They realize he is talking about the problems with alcoholism and substance abuse that he and most of his friends struggle with. Again, they encourage him to put down his tobacco and to pray.
The Native couple from the neighborhood arrives. They bring a big pot of very well-made manoomin (wild rice). The Occupiers have brought at least twice as much food as they normally do. We wonder how long everything will last tonight.
Menagerie Woman rides up on her bike. She’s returning from her regular Tuesday night plasma donation and on her way to her regular Tuesday night movie. She’s just stopping in to say hello. Bush Man has stayed at home.
Many street folks arrive and begin getting things to eat. A middle aged street woman who we know from our previous homeless camp appears. We haven’t seen her in years; a short hugging festival ensues.
The cop watching folks have gone; more Anons have landed. As they head out to the street corner and crank up their music, the Fire Magician lights the fire.
The Occupier who lives in Superior spent a couple of days in the hospital recently. He tells a story about his hospital roommate. The roommate is a career military veteran who is in the hospital for a possible leg amputation. He is also the primary care giver for his wife who has Alzheimer’s. Social workers come to his room to discuss what will happen if he can no longer care for his wife. They tell him he will have to come up with $37,000 in order to put his wife in a nursing home. They want him to put himself in a nursing home too. That will cost him another $37,000. The story telling Occupier says, “What is going on with our medical system? Can’t they just help people?”
Someone introduces the subject of the new healthcare plan that the Republicans are trying to push through the legislature. The plan is so draconian that even some of the Republican senators are refusing to back it. An Occupier comments, “Apparently, the most conservative senators are refusing to support the plan because women are not being required to pay more for the healthcare that woman need for their special woman’s necessities. The senators don’t think men should have to pay for anything extra that women need”. An Occupier responds, “If those senators succeed in forcing women to pay more, then those same senators should be allowed to only have sex with each other”.
Spiritual Man comes up the stairs; he’s pushing his girlfriend’s bicycle. He looks tired and more brown than usual. He tells us he’s been out on the beach in the hot sun looking for agates all day and shows us what he found. He has a couple of handfuls of really beautiful rocks and gives a heart shaped one to an Occupier. He gets coffee and plunks down in a chair. He says, “Man, my back hurts. I’m finding this getting old thing to be kinda rough”. Several of the Occupiers agree, “Yeah, us too”.
A middle aged chronically homeless man who frequently visits our fires joins the circle. He and Spiritual Man have been friends for many years. They converse about their lives.
A youngish African American man with a noticeable southern type accent sits down. He tells us he has recently come to Duluth from Chicago. He’s grieving for his partner of 8 years who died recently. He says he needs to be somewhere more peaceful than Chicago.
Another small group of young men we haven’t met before arrive. They consist of an African American, a Native and a Caucasian. They are lifelong friends and were attracted by the smell of the burning sage. All the chairs in the circle are now full; many other folks are standing or sitting nearby.
The man from Chicago begins a conversation about spirituality. The newly arrived group of men, Spiritual Man, the Occupiers and many others join in. After a while an Occupier opines, “In my opinion, it’s all the same God. There are many different names and many different cultures but all are actually worshipping the same God”. Everyone agrees with her analysis.
The food and drinks are all gone now. The only thing left is a big jug of water. The Snoozy Man who used to run the biggest spare changing group outside of the liquor store up on First St shows up. He was a regular at our fires at the Clayton Jackson MGhie Memorial. No one can remember seeing him ever eat anything so we think he won’t mind that the food is all gone.
The liquor store has gone out of business so we assume the Snoozy Man has found a different gig. He tells us he has an apartment of his own now. He announces his new address to all within earshot and says if anyone needs a place to crash for a night they will be welcome.
We notice that a cop with all his lights flashing has pulled over a motorist directly in front of People’s Plaza. He talks with the person in the car but keeps standing up, blatantly staring at us. An Occupier thinks the cop is trying to intimidate the Anons.
One of the men from the group of lifelong friends states, “Oh no, he’s staring at us. Pulling that car over was just a ruse. Trust me, I’m black. I know about these things”. Someone says, “You know, the only people who are harassed by the police more than black people are Native American people”. The Native guy from the group of friends remarks, “Yeah, that’s probably true”. The man from Chicago adds, “Try being black and also a woman living in a man’s body”. We all say, “Whoa!!!” The discussion ends there. Eventually the cop leaves.
The city official and another Occupier roll in. They are returning from having dinner on a train. The city man has a knee injury so must walk with a cane for a while. An Occupier asks the city man, “Hey, would you be willing to interview a few people from the Homeless Person’s Bill of Rights Coalition on your radio show?” The city man replies, “Most certainly; I would love for that to happen”.
The city man asks the Occupiers, “So how did the big Neighborhood Youth Services event turn out?” An Occupier responds, “It was very successful. Several hundred people attended. We helped Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance make and give away 108 fry bread tacos. After we finished and cleaned up everything I had to go home and take a nap. Someone comments, “In our Central Hillside, if you want lots of people to show up somewhere, just announce there will be free food”. Everyone laughs.
It’s now well after 10pm. Even the Anons are ready to pack it in. An Occupier says, “Well, next Tuesday is the 4th of July. Do you think we should have a fire?” Everyone answers, “Yes!”
With all the people still in the Plaza helping, we get things packed up and into the vehicles in no time. One of the Occupiers loads all the Anon signs, sound stuff and a few of the Anons into her car for a ride up the hill. We’ll be back next Tuesday to celebrate the 4th in our own way.

G.A. Minutes 6-20-17

G.A. Minutes 6-20-17
One could not ask for a more beautiful evening before the first day of summer than the one we are about to enjoy at People’s Plaza. The sky is partly cloudy, the temperature is in the mid-70s; the gentle breeze from the west creates an atmosphere of perfection.
We find quite a few people waiting for us when we arrive. A few are friends of the Anonymous crew; most are various folks from the street. Apparently the word has gone out that the Occupiers are bringing their fire pit to the Plaza tonight. Everyone begins helping set up the circle and the supplies.
An Occupier jumps in one of the supply vehicles, planning to take it out to the street to park it. He drives just a few feet when……BOOM!!!…… we hear a loud explosion. The driver slams on the brakes; we all stop what we’re doing and look around. No worries, the driving Occupier ran over the bottom end of an unopened bag of veggie chips. Who woulda thought the air being forced from a bag of chips could make such a big noise?
Among the people who have been waiting is a young homeless couple that we haven’t seen in a while. They used to stop by and help out at the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NDN Taco Sales when the sales were held at the former All Nations office.
We think both members of this couple may be developmentally disabled but we don’t really know. They are both pretty deep into alcohol and drug abuse so their general behavior may be a byproduct of their addictions. We think they are in their early 20s; the female has never appeared to be interested in political things or anything at all other than where to find her next meal or her next substance to abuse. However, the male is interested in all kinds of things but he has a tendency to get his information all mixed up.
He begins to give a lecture about recent American history or something like that. As he talks, he keeps referring to Barack Obama as our second black president. We tell him that Obama was our first black president; he responds, “Oh no, there was another black president, I just can’t think of his name”. We start throwing out the names of every famous recent black person that we can think of. When an Occupier says, “Martin Luther King?” the young man responds, “Yes, that’s it! He was our first our first black president”. Someone gently informs the young man that MLK never was actually the president but seeing as the fact is not particularly germane to his lecture we just let it slide. The big Native Anon jokes, “If I was president, the first thing I’d do would be to order all the American flags in the country to be turned upside down cuz’ the USA is definitely in distress”.
At some point the young man stops lecturing, turns to an Occupier who he’s well acquainted with and exclaims, “I know that alcohol and drugs are very bad for me but I just can’t seem to find a way to stop. Many of the elders in my family are spiritual people and healers. My grandmother, who passed away some years ago, was a very skilled healer. She comes to me sometimes; she tries to talk to me but I can’t understand what she is saying. I know she has passed on but she’s here in this life too. One time I was sitting by the lake and some elders appeared and were standing on the water. They wanted to talk with me; they said they had information that would help native people. I became afraid and ran away”.
His Occupier acquaintance invites him to attend the monthly Duluth Sobriety Feast. She also suggests, “Man, if you’re looking for the way just put out your tobacco every day and pray. The answer will come to you”. The man’s girlfriend calls him to come over to a back bench and sit with her. We ask the man to be sure and visit us another time.
A large group of Anons arrive; they have lots of signs and a sound system. They’re planning on going out to the street corner to wake up the drivers but first they want to sit around the fire for a while.
A street woman who lives in a Board and Lodge walks up. We’ve know her for many years; she says, “Oh good, you guys have food. I missed dinner tonight, can I have some?” We answer, “Of course, eat all that you need”. She does, says thank you and goes off down the street.
The Anons begin chalking the Plaza stairs; some of them are really talented artists. Others go out on the corner; they hold up various anti-capitalist signs and crank up the music. Soon car horns are beeping their support.
The Occupier who reports things gives a quick report, “There’s going to be a big block party sponsored by Neighborhood Youth Services up on 4th St between Lake Ave and W 1st St 1pm-5pm on Sunday. INM/NWA has been contracted to make NDN tacos for the event; of course they will need our help. Then across the street at the Central Hillside Community Center the main CHUM staff person is sponsoring a Chili Feed Fundraiser to raise money to increase the reward for information about the disappearance of the Woman Who Tells Good Stories. It will also happen from 1pm-5pm. That area of the Hillside is sure to be thumping on Sunday. I just hope we can finish making tacos in time to get over to the fundraiser. Also, Socialist Pizza will happen on Monday, June 26th, 6:30pm at Luce’.”
Another Occupier comments, “Hey, it sure was great to hear the city official give a shout out to Occupy Duluth when he gave his speech at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial Day of Remembrance last Thursday. I liked how he said we are true to our word and don’t let people down”. An Occupier adds, “For real. Most of the time when anybody talks about Occupy they say we’re real dangerous because we make bombs and stuff. Or else they think we’re real cool because we make bombs and stuff. Occupy is not or ever was about making bombs and stuff. It still amazes me how most people sucked up all the bs that the major media put out about us. Remember how the former CJMM BOD co-chair used to publicly accuse us of doing the work we do to help the community so as to make ourselves look important? Damn….”
A kinda hippie looking white dude who we haven’t met before joins the circle. He has a back pack and tells us he’s homeless. He starts talking about He Who Shall Not Be Named and says, “I’m really excited about all the jobs and stuff that he’s gonna bring to the people”. An Occupier replies, “You’ll be waiting for the rest of your life. HWSNBN is definitely a 1% ‘er who only cares about himself. He is one lying motherfucker”.
The hippie looking dude answers, “Well, I’m a conservative person myself but I bet you guys really liked Obama. An Anon who is still at the fire tells him, “No, we didn’t like Obama but we like HWSNBN even less”. The conservative dude then attempts to explain how climate change is a hoax; it’s something about how before 150 or so years ago people were unable to take accurate measurements of the temperature of the air.
One of the Occupiers is an actual scientist and another is well versed in scientific stuff. They go a few rounds with Conservative Man but it quickly becomes apparent that the guy doesn’t have any actual knowledge of his own. He’s just sprouting stuff he’s heard on Fox News and wherever. BORING……. If Conservative Man doesn’t become too rude or violent, we’ll let him stay in the circle.
A Native couple who live in the neighborhood appear; they bring a case of sodas and lots of hot dogs and buns to share. An Occupier goes to his car to get the roasting sticks and people start roasting the dogs. As we look around we notice there are people everywhere in the Plaza. A guy is teaching a couple of young girls in the back how to ride a skate board. Many people are chalking the stairs; all the benches in the entire People’s Plaza have various street folks on them. Maybe they’re too shy to join us but they feel safe to sit on the benches because as long as we are here, the cops probably won’t bother them?
The food that we brought disappeared during the first hour. Now that there are hot dogs, it looks like everyone is hungry. All shyness evaporates; people politely share the roasting sticks and chow down.
Some people ride up on their bikes; when they stop we see they are Menagerie Woman and Bush Man. We’re rather surprised but attempt to conceal it. We haven’t seen either one of them since last autumn. We know that Bush Man had become violent with Menagerie Woman. The police came and hauled him off to jail and then he was sent to the Twin Cities because of some pending charges there. We thought that was the end of it but obviously we were wrong. They seem to be getting along well enough tonight; we hope things will stay that way.
And then…….will wonders never cease…. Someone steps out of the shadows. It’s Mississippi Woman. She’s a longtime resident of the Skinner Apartments so we see her frequently on the street but she hasn’t been to one of our fires since we moved to People’s Plaza. It looks like she’s hungry too. She’d been out on the corner reading the Anon signs and smelled the fire.
When she finishes eating she gets ready to start her usual rant. We’re all pretty familiar it. Much of her rant sounds like the words of a southern black preacher but some of it has truth to it. She hollers, “They out there sayin’ the system is broken. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with the system, it’s wrong with the people! They don’t put God in their life”.
For some unknown reason, Conservative Man decides to challenge her. He stands next to her and loudly proclaims, “The problem with the black community is the lack of fathers in the home!” Mississippi Woman responds, “My mama and my daddy wasn’t married but they raised all us kids real good”. Conservative Man repeats, “The problem is lack of fathers in the home!” An Occupier taps the Man on the shoulder and says, “Excuse me but how long have you been black?”
Conservative Man tries again but soon realizes he is no match for Mississippi Woman. She is at least 30 years older than him and her game is down. He quietly leaves; if he had a tail it would be between his legs.
We had thought the Native couple from the neighborhood had gone home but no, they return with another load of sodas and hotdogs. The starving masses return and the feeding frenzy begins again.
It’s now 9:45pm and the sky is still light. An Occupier whispers to another, “We’d better pack up; I have things I have to do tomorrow”. The other Occupier responds, “I know, me too but there’s still food to be cooked. We’re gonna have to wait until everything is eaten”.
About a half an hour later all the food is gone and many are moving considerably slower. The Anons are still thumping on the corner and many folks are still in the space. We think the cops don’t know that there’s a 10pm curfew for city parks; or maybe they don’t care. We hope it’s the latter.
Anyway, we bring the vehicles up and apologize to all the remaining folks. An Occupier discovers a mislaid bag of veggie chips in her car and gives them to one of the Anons. We wish everyone a good night and a good time and plan to be back here next Tuesday.