G.A. Minutes 10-8-16

G.A. Minutes 10-8-16
At this time of year the weather gets cooler each day.  There are more yellow leaves this evening than there were at our last meeting four days ago.  Tonight temperatures are in the mid-40s, the sky is partly cloudy and we can see the bright pink traces of the sunset over the tops of the buildings.  A strong east wind has been blowing all day; it looks like it might be settling down a bit now.
We are at People’s Plaza again.  We notice that all the big potted trees and all the benches have been moved to the back of the large space.  It must have been done by hand because there are deep scratch marks across the brickwork. 
We’re wearing our layered clothing upon arrival.  We need to keep moving in order to be comfortable so we set everything up real quick.
An Occupier has brought a warm blanket with him in case anyone stuck outside for the night might need one.  Another Occupier spots someone sleeping on one of the back benches.  The person has no covers so she thinks they may be a good candidate for the blanket.   
An Occupier couple rides up on their bikes.  They’re wearing layers too.  The multi-racial couple calls out to us as they come up the stairs; they’ve brought their same two friends along. 
They’re all staying at the CHUM center while trying to refrain from drinking or doing drugs.  That’s a hard thing to do seeing as many folks who stay at CHUM are regular users.   They plan to make our fires a regular respite from the craziness of the street.
The couple has good news to report.  They’ve finally been accepted for an apartment.  It’s in a big public housing building; they don’t exactly know when they’ll be allowed to move in but the male has signed all the paperwork and passed all the tests.  It won’t be long before they have a home again so of course, they’re very excited.
The Fire Magician gets the fire blazing and we pull our chairs up close.  Sitting next to the roaring fire takes the chill off; everyone feels comfortable now.
The 40 something veteran homeless man who camps out year around sits down. He’s in a talkative mood tonight.
The city official cruises up.  He tells us that today he attended the funeral of the young man who was found dead last week shortly after being refused hospital admission during a mental health crisis.  Apparently the poor guy crawled up under a metal canapé over the train yard to get out of the wind.  He fell off, hit his head and died.  Bummer.  We lose a lot of homeless folks every year to accidents related to not having a home.
The person sleeping on the back bench gets up and walks over.  We see that it’s one of the chronically homeless men who have attended our fires over the years.  He looks like he’s still pretty groggy; he quietly gets some coffee and sits down.
A group of middle class looking people come walking down the sidewalk along the freeway.  They stop to look over the railing at us.  As they leave, one of them comments, “Well it’s better than being at the CHUM center”.
The homeless folks help us carry some of the heavy benches back to the fire area where they belong.  We have many people at our fire and everyone needs a seat.
Someone starts a conversation about the huge blizzard in Duluth on Halloween of 1992.  Most everyone was living in the area then.  We tell stories about our personal experiences during that time. 
An Occupier who worked in healthcare talks about crawling on her stomach to the main road where she was picked up by the National Guard and driven to her workplace.  When her shift was over, the police took her home on a snowmobile. She says, “That situation went on for 3 days.  The Director of Nurses lived less than 3 blocks away from the facility but she didn’t show up during that whole time.  My staff and I just ran the whole place without a problem.  When the crisis was over and the Director came back, she bought us all a couple of Domino’s pizzas.  Wow.  A couple hundred bucks on our paychecks would have been more appropriate”.
A thin, familiar looking, middle aged woman appears.  She asks us if we have seen her children.  She says they are both in their early 30s.  As we talk more we realize she is talking about the young veteran homeless man who attended our fires last spring.  We really like him but haven’t seen him since then.  We’ve heard that he’s addicted to some type of seriously dangerous drug.
The multi-racial couple believes they know where she might find her children at this time of night.  The female of the couple offers to accompany the mother to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial area and help her find her kids.  The male of the couple states, “If you’re going to CJMM, I’m going with you”.  The female rolls her eyes and off they all go.
The male of the couple returns shortly.  He takes his seat and tells us, “Me and my partner have been together for 3 years now.  She used to be a heavy drinker and really wild but I’m helping her and she’s slowly getting herself together. We’ve been through a lot but we’ve managed to stay a couple.
“This apartment that we’re getting is actually in my name.  She would never be able to rent an apartment on her own; she has a really bad rental history record. My record is clean.  I really want to keep this apartment so I’ve told her there can be no drinking or partying in it.  If she does that then she won’t be able to live with me.  Right now, we’re living off my income only and I don’t want to mess that up”.
There is at least a 15 year age difference between the 2 partners.  An Occupier attempts to reassure the male, “She will probably improve as she ages”.  The male agrees.
The female of the couple returns.  She remarks, “See, I told you that I’d come back.  You don’t give me enough credit.  I managed to connect the mother with her daughter.  The daughter looked really messed up.  Her mom seems really nice.  I hope the daughter listens to her mother”.
A young rather bedraggled looking guy stands outside the circle.  He needs to borrow someone’s phone so he can ask for a ride home.  An Occupier loans him a phone.  He calls his mom with a story that he got kicked off the bus.  His mom starts yelling so he calls someone else.  Eventually he finds someone who’s willing to come and pick him up.
After the bedraggled guy leaves, an Occupier informs us, “That’s the junkie guy who came to the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NDN Taco Sale yesterday.  He was asking for a free taco.  I gave him a friendly lecture and then bought him one.  I don’t think he even recognized me tonight”.
Homeless folks generally need to find a place to sleep fairly early.  They need to wake up around 5 or 6pm in order to be out of sight before the job slaves arrive.
All the visitors have gone; it’s only Occupiers around the fire now.  One of them talks about a meeting he will attend soon.  He has several children who are still in school.  The meeting will address the question of how to teach Native American studies within the school system.
The Occupier opines, “I hope they’re prepared to teach the real history.  Like how they stole our land and murdered as many of us as they could”.  Another Occupier adds, “I hope they teach about the boarding schools and about the physical and psychological torture that was inflicted on Native Americans and about the historical trauma and dysfunction that continues today”.  The first Occupier states, “Well, I’m going to be at that meeting to let them hear what I have to say”.
An Occupier changes the subject, he says, “So what’s going on this week?” Another answers, “The official City celebration of Indigenous People’s Day is going to happen Monday, October 10th at 11am on the steps of City Hall.  We need to have as many regular people as possible present.  We don’t want the mayor and the rest of those City types to start thinking IPD is something that they thought up”.  Also, the Sobriety Feast will be on Wednesday, October 12th6:30pm at the Central Hillside Community Center.  Everyone is welcome to attend”.
The big clock strikes 9pm.  That means it’s time to go.  If it doesn’t rain, we’ll be back at People’s Plaza on Tuesday.  

G.A. Minutes 10-4-16

G.A. Minutes 10-4-16
Mother Earth has decided to be lenient with us.  She’s allowing us to experience one last late summer evening even though it’s the beginning of October.  We’re not going to complain.
We’re at People’s Plaza again.  Temperatures are in the high 60s; it’s getting dark already but we can still see the partly cloudy skies.  An occasional soft breeze tickles our skin.
As we set up, we notice someone has taken some of the benches that belong in the Plaza and made a skateboard ramp that goes down the stairway.  Judging from the way it’s lined up, a competent skater could pick up speed going down the ramp then fly between the two big planters and end up a far ways into the main street.  Cool.
A not so competent skater would smack into one of the big cement planters.  If he/she were lucky, they would only break their board.
An Occupier asks, “Do you think we should put the benches back where they belong?” Another answers, “Nah, just leave it where it is.  Someone may be coming back to use it”.
Coma Man stops by; he brings a friend.  His friend is living at a treatment center and Coma Man is walking him back to the facility.  Coma Man appears to be almost completely sober.  They get some coffee, chat for a moment and go on their way.
Next on deck is Menagerie Woman.  She rides up on her bike and reports, “I have some time to share with you all before I go to my regular Tuesday night movie”.
The Fire Magician starts up a medium sized fire.  That’s probably as much as we’ll need tonight.
The not so new anymore Occupier says, “I’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to get any concessions from the 1% is through economic boycott.  Others agree. Another Occupier adds, “The top criminals in our economic system are the banks”. Everyone agrees with this also.
Someone comments, “There’s already been talk among many of our allies about shining the spotlight on the banks again”.  A discussion about what types of actions would be effective in accomplishing this mission ensues.
An Occupier has to leave early.  She asks, “Seeing as I have to leave, will you refresh my mind as to what’s coming up during the rest of the week?”  Another Occupier obliges, “Well, the SURG meeting is going on right now.  I think it’s at Peace Church.  Tomorrow is Take Back The Night.  It’s up at UMD this year and starts at 5:30pm.  On Thursday, Socialist Action and other women’s rights activists will be chalking the area in front of the Woman’s Center.  Friday is the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NDN Taco Sale. It will run from 11am-2pm at the Washington Center.  Everyone should go to the NYS entrance to the building.  Saturday we’ll probably be back here.
The first Occupier exclaims, “Wow, that’s a lotta stuff.  I won’t be able to do them all but I’ll be sure to order tacos for myself and all my co-workers on Friday.  I’ll see you guys here on Saturday”.
The Superior Occupier arrives.  He tells us, “There was shooting of a young man by the police yesterday in Hayward, WI.  The only reason I know about is because I was in Hayward today.  I haven’t seen anything in the news”.  He goes on to talk about the many ways the media misrepresents reality.
Someone remarks, “Do you know that the reason we have fluoride in so many things is because some rich dude in the 20s or 30s had a shit load of fluoride left over from mining?  He got some pretend scientists to say fluoride was healthy for teeth.  He then got a bunch of government entities to put fluoride in the water supplies.  He solved his problem but we still have the problem of way too much fluoride in our bodies”.
Another reminds us, “Our friend, the Fond du Lac wigwam maker says, “Our elders used to tell us that someday we would be buying water.  We laughed; we thought they were crazy.  So what are we doing now…buying water”.
A skater dude has been sitting in the dark over on the corner bench for some time. When he gets up to leave an Occupier calls out, “We have coffee, juice, hardboiled eggs and cookies.  You’re welcome to take some if you like”. 
The dude answers, “A cup of coffee sounds real good”.  When he comes to the table we notice that although he has a skateboard, he’s not at all a young man.  It appears he’s closer to the age of some of us.
He asks if he can sit with us by the fire and of course, we invite him into the circle.  He tells us that he is 44 years old and has been homeless for 14 years.  He says, “I camp out even in winter.  I’m addicted to the freedom.  I don’t have a mortgage or any bills.  I still go to work every day because I’ve always worked.  I’m a single parent and I raised my daughter until she became an adolescent, then I sent her to live with her grandmother so she could learn all those woman things.  I’ve been sober now for 2 years and 10 months.  My friends and my daughter say they like me much better this way”.
An Occupier informs the group, “I have a chance to go to Standing Rock.  If I decide to go, I’ll be leaving on Friday morning”.  We all think this is wonderful and we encourage him to go.
A chronically homeless man who has visited our fires for many years drops in.  He’s a mellow, laid back guy; we’re pleased to see him again.  He’s also very streetwise and regularly entertains us with survival on the street stories.  This evening he explains how one can stay at a board and lodge, check out after a week and still receive one’s small government benefits for the month.  We can see that knowing the things he knows are a matter of life or death in the homeless world.
A big, fancy black truck pulls up to the curb on Superior St.  Someone yells, “Hey, you better put out that fire!”  It’s 2 of our allies from INM/NWA.  They’ve come to pick up leftover ingredients for fry bread.  We’ve been storing these ingredients for them since the last taco sale.
The fire is beginning to die when a former editor of the Northland Reader appears.  He is acquainted with several of the Occupiers.  He wants to know what we are doing.  We give him a brief summary and explain that we have been holding fire circles for at least 4 years.  We’re surprised that he is unaware.
The man is now the editor of another local newspaper.  He gets all excited and asks if he can interview us and write an article about us for his paper.  He asks some standard questions and takes a picture of us sitting around the fire.  He then has to leave because he has a jar of live bull head fish in his car.  He’s going to set them free in the St. Louis River.
After the editor leaves, an Occupier comments, “With all his years of experience, you’d think he’d know how to take a picture”.  She nods toward another Occupier who is a talented photographer and continues, “We should have had you take the picture”. Everyone laughs.
The big clock strikes 9pm.  We decide to pack up.  We need to leave on time once in a while.  So the plan is….. No rain, we’ll be at People’s Plaza on Saturday, rain, we’ll be at Coney Island.   

G.A. Minutes 10-1-16

G.A. Minutes 10-1-16
The air is actually slightly chilly when we arrive at People’s Plaza this evening. Skies are overcast, temperatures are in the high 50s and there is a slight, variable wind.  We quickly set up the fire circle; the Fire Magician gets a big roaring fire going.  We move up close and are immediately comforted by the heat.
An Occupier apologizes to the group, “I suppose you all noticed that I didn’t post any minutes from last Tuesday’s meeting.  Sorry about that.  Remember that I was gonna give that young pregnant girl a ride up to the Neighborhood Socialite’s house after we packed up?  Well the socialite was already sleeping.  The young girl didn’t have anywhere else to go except to a family member’s house way the heck out past Gary, New Duluth.
“I just couldn’t leave her out in the street so I gave her a ride there.  I have a daughter of my own and she got herself into a few jams when she was away at college.  She was saved by complete strangers and for that I am eternally grateful.  
“We had to go through tons of road construction and it took forever.  It was at least midnight by the time I got home.  I was tired so I just went to bed.  Too bad because it was kinda fun sitting around the fire in the light rain at our last meeting”.
Our first visitors are the multiracial couple who are staying at the CHUM.  Although they have more than enough money to pay all the expenses required to rent an apartment and they have clean backgrounds, they are still having trouble finding a landlord who will rent to them.
The couple has brought a few friends from the CHUM along.  The men are engaged in an animated conversation about video games.  We have no idea what it’s all about; they are talking about the characters in the game as though the characters were actually real people.  Whatever.
A pair of Native young men come up.  They ask permission to get snacks, smudging before they take food.  It appears they are in a romantic relationship. They take seats.
We had noticed the partner of the Stylish Native Woman sitting toward the back of the Plaza when we arrived.  We waved to him knowing to just leave him alone. We know he sometimes needs space and will stop over when he’s ready. 
The partner now comes over and gets some juice and a sandwich.  As he takes his seat we see he looks absolutely exhausted.  He falls asleep sitting up.  After a while he gets up and leaves.  He’s unable to talk tonight.  We think he knows that we understand.
Someone mentions Standing Rock.  It turns out that the multiracial couple is well aware of what’s going on there.  They take turns telling us about the evils of fossil fuels, the various types of sustainable energy available and the necessity of protecting and caring for our Mother Earth.  We already know this stuff but it’s way cool to hear street folks expressing this knowledge.
Menagerie Woman and Bush Man arrive.  Bush Man is not drunk this time.  His personality is the same but he’s way laid back and mellow.  This is good.
The city official joins us.  An Occupier comments to him, “We had a pleasantly weird meeting with Officer Lepak last Thursday.  He told us he finds the whole situation just as ridiculous as we do.  He said, ‘Everyone knows that your fires at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial were beneficial to the neighborhood.  All the City departments are in support of your fires there.  All except the CJMM BOD.  I know the BOD has no legal authority over CJMM but somehow they are able to make the police department, fire department and the City Attorney dance to their tune.  I just don’t get it’.
“We told him we’d be happy to go back to CJMM but that we’re more interested in having a community fire than we are in fighting with the cops.
“I wonder if the former CJMM BOD president knows some type of dirt about the City Attorney or the inner workings of the City and is using it to get his misguided way.”
The official man responds, “That’s entirely possible.  It’s a very common thing within government”.  Another Occupier adds, “I wonder if we could file a civil lawsuit”.  The official answers, “I wish you would”.
The Occupier who does basic research says, “Well, I was starting to look for a pro bono attorney before we found out that the City Attorney was going to make new rules for CJMM.  Maybe I’ll have more time once winter happens and I’ll be able to resume my search”.
The city man comments about the young man who was found dead a few blocks from the Plaza.  He states, “The poor young man was a star college athlete and musician from an upstanding African family living here in Duluth.  He had a brilliant future ahead of him.  It’s so sad”.
An Occupier tells him, “The main homeless outreach worker said she had been trying to get him admitted to the hospital the day before.  She said the young man was having an obvious mental health crisis but the hospital would not let him in because he wasn’t suicidal.  She said the man’s death was not a suicide or homicide”.  Another Occupier remarks, “Sometimes athletes have undiagnosed heart problems and things like that.  Then all of a sudden they die”.
Changing the subject, an Occupier says to the city man, “Remember that Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance will be having their next NDN Taco Sale on this upcoming Friday 11am-2pm at the Washington Center.  People will need to enter by the NYS door which is the one closest to 3rd Street.  I think there will be some confusion the first time about how to get there but it’s really not hard to figure out”.
Ms. Community Cleanup comes up the stairs.  She is accompanied by two of the biggest drunks on the street.  We know them well; they’re pretty mellow guys but they sure do drink.  Ms. Cleanup is not drunk.  She tells us, “I’m using marijuana now.  It works better for me”.  The two guys appear to be only half drunk…… for now.
Two other young men appear.  They were attracted by the smell of the burning sage.  They tell us they are from Cass Lake and are in Duluth because they are both in treatment.  They smudge themselves and one guy says, “This is so unbelievably wonderful that you do this for the people.  Thank you very much”. 
The other guy adds, “You wouldn’t happen to have a little bit of sage that we could take with us, would you?  In treatment they don’t let us smudge whenever we need to.  Smudging is the best thing for a person whenever they’re feeling down”.  We give them a couple of handfuls of loose sage leaves.
The city official comments to the group, “The movie Dirt and Deeds in Mississippi is going to be shown on Sunday, October 23rd at Trepanier Hall”.
An Occupier tells about some millennial transgender people who gave a presentation at the U.U. Church.  He tells us that when addressing a person who is gender non-specific one should use the pronoun zee.
Bush Man says, “WTF?  What are you talking about?  A person who is both male and female?”  We say that’s not exactly it but we decline to explain more.  The city official states, “I’m not going to do that.  I will simply address the person as a human being”.  An Occupier groans and another Occupier says to her, “You don’t support gender non-specific people?”  She responds, “No, that’s not it.  I already speak two languages and am trying to learn a third.  I just don’t want to have to learn a gender non-specific one too”.
Someone looks up at the sky and comments, “Tonight there is a Black Moon”. Another adds, “The moon is actually there but we can’t see it because its backside is facing us.  Its backside is the one that doesn’t face the sun.  Also, it’s called a Black Moon because it’s the second new moon of the month”.  Cool.
A man from the Skinner who has been a regular attendee at our fires for years sits down.  He never talks much.  Tonight he says, “So how’s everybody doing?”
Suddenly we hear yelling from out on the intersection behind the bushes.  We hear a male voice shout, “No officer!  Don’t do that!”  Some Occupiers run quickly and peer over the bushes.  They shrug their shoulders and return.  Apparently someone is making a video.
Most of the fire worshippers have gone; only Occupiers remain.  We watch the flames and think about packing up.  A thirty something man who we don’t know sits down.  He asks if he may join us.  When we welcome him and give him some coffee he tells us a sad and very long story.
A condensed version of his story is as follows:  He says he’s from Mankato and is visiting Duluth for the first time.  He was sober for eight years and then he fell off the wagon.  A neighbor convinced him to sell a small amount of meth for her.  It turned out that the neighbor was in trouble for welfare fraud.  She agreed to help the narcs in order to be absolved of her legal woes.  When the dude sold the meth to an undercover cop, he was busted and ended up in drug court.
He was sent to several treatment places and until today had been sober for six months.  He was allowed to take his parents brand new fancy car and bring his girlfriend and his three kids up to Duluth for the weekend.  They went to Grandma’s Restaurant earlier and he had a drink.  On their way back to the hotel, with him driving, some woman crashed into his car.  He realized that he’d had a drink, had his three kids in the car, and then had an accident.  He sort of freaked out.  His girlfriend told him to just leave them all alone and to go for a walk. 
So that’s how he found us.  He says he feels very guilty.  We listen to him for a while then tell him we need to pack up.  An Occupier advises, “If you’re going to keep walking, be sure to stay on this street.  It’s called Superior Street.  Do notgo up the hill onto First Street”.
As we’re leaving an Occupier calls out, “The weather people say it’s going to rain on Tuesday”.  If it doesn’t rain we’ll be back at People’s Plaza next Tuesday.  If it rains, we’ll go to Coney Island.

occupy minutes 9-20-16

occupy minutes 9-20-16

G.A. Minutes 9-17-16

G.A. Minutes 9-17-16
The Occupiers still have not been able to get the brakes on the truck fixed.  The main problem is lack of funds.  They are relying on mechanically gifted friends to get the job done.  The friends are only able to help during the spare time their slave jobs allot.  So fixing the brakes may take a while. 
The Fire Magician is riding with the Food Occupier again tonight.  They arrive at People’s Power Plaza in a little car stuffed to the gills with supplies for the circle. More Occupiers quickly follow; they are bringing things too.
The Occupier who usually does a quick general cleanup of the space is amazed at how clean everything is this evening.  He says, “Wow, they must have had a whole cleanup crew here this afternoon.  Another Occupier laughs and adds, “Maybe that head maintenance dude was embarrassed about what poor condition he and his crew were keeping the Plaza in, especially now that they have regular guests”.
We think it will be a slightly chilly evening.  The sun is down; skies have been covered with dark, threatening clouds all day but no rain.  Temperatures are in the low 60s; a chilly, light and variable wind has caused us to bring our jackets. 
The Magician starts up a big fire right away.  It produces a lot of smoke at first then settles down, soothing us with tall glowing flames.
Immediately a big young man walks up.  We remember him from one of our earlier fires.  He was living and sleeping on one of the benches.  An unassuming middle-aged man who appears to be chronically homeless comes up too.  The two men know each other well.
The city official arrives.  As is not unusual, his dance card is full tonight.  He’s just coming from a dinner event and on his way to hear a speaker from the St. Paul Black Lives Matter group.  He’ll stop and visit for a while.
He comments to an Occupier, “So I heard the Human Rights Commission has been disbanded”.  The Occupier responds, “Well, that’s not exactly what happened.  Apparently, the mayor or whoever is responsible for such things, neglected to inform the current commissioners that their terms were up and that they needed to reapply.  The mayor still has not appointed any new members to any of the commissions so technically, there are no commissioners so therefore, no Human Rights Commission”.
The city man states, “Oh, so that’s what happened.  I knew there was more to the story than what I was told.  Well, considering how government works, this will all be worked out”.
An Occupier changes the subject, “I don’t know how the Water Protectors are gonna make it through winter in tents.  I mean, a winter in North Dakota?”  Another Occupier answers, “Well, they’re not gonna have white man camping tents. They’re gonna have teepees and wigwams.  Those things must be warm.  Native people have been using those structures and living in winter for thousands of years.  I think they must know something”.
The Newest Occupier tells a few stories.  She reports, “I placed a call to the Energy Transfer’s vandalism hotline the other day.  A lady answered and asked me who was doing the vandalism.  I said, ‘Actually, I want to report your company for vandalism.  They sicced dogs on peaceful women and children and ripped up sacred artifacts and graves’.  As I started to explain more, she hung up on me. When I thought about it later I thought maybe I should have asked everybody to call the hotline”.
Another Occupier exclaims, “What a brilliant idea!  Tuck it in the back of your mind for the next time the oil company commits a faux pax”.
The New Occupier continues, “Did you hear what the women of Indiana did when the legislature was trying to pass a bill that said anytime a woman suffered a miscarriage she would be mandated to report it to a government agency and then come in for ‘tests’?  The women called the Governor to report every time they were having their periods.  They’d say stuff like ‘Well, I had unprotected sex and now I’m having my period so do you think I might be doing something wrong?  Just wanted to check in, you know’.  The Governor received thousands of calls. Unfortunately the bill passed so now they’ll have to call all the legislators who voted for the bill too”.
Bench Man pulls out a paper bag.  We look at him quizzically.  He says, “I remember, no drinking in the circle.”  All the homeless men in the circle, except one, take their food and go over to another part of the Plaza to share a drink or two.
Bench Man soon returns.  He tells us he’s from Red Lake and that many of his relatives are out in Standing Rock.  He tells us, “Yeah, the oil company sicced attack dogs on our women and children.  The local warriors went home and got their own dogs.  I don’t think their dogs would be much of a match for our dogs”.
The unassuming middle-aged man who did not go off for a drink smudges himself. He talks about the many places in the Central Hillside where sage grows wildly. He talks about building sweat lodges and wigwams.  He says, “I’m not genetically Anishinaabe but I know their ways.  He tells us he has lived on the streets for 11 years.  The rest of his story is fairly typical of the stories we hear from older homeless men.  He had a wife, family and very good job.  Something bad happened, he lost his job and things fell apart.  He ended up homeless.
An Occupier who is facing the lake exclaims, “Look at the moon!”  We turn and look.  It’s very large and sort of melon colored.  Someone says, “It’s a Harvest Moon”.  We sit in silence for a while, looking at the moon.
An Occupier asks of another, “Did you get that meeting set up with Officer Lepak?”  The questioned Occupier answers, “I did.  We’re supposed to meet him on Thursday, September 29th, 1:30pm at his office in the Transit Center”.  To those who look confused she says, “We’re going to talk about the possibility of bringing our fires back to the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial.  I don’t really expect anything to come of the meeting but we can’t turn down a chance of going back”.
Another Occupier reminds us, “Remember to give one of those Homeless Folks Pizza Nights flyers to everyone who comes by.  The event will be Thursday, September 22nd 5pm at Trepanier Hall.
“Also, we’re needed to help Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance with some kind of Pancakes Not Pipelines event on Saturday, September 24th at the Hillside Community Center.  I’m not sure what they want us to do yet but I think the event will run from 11am-2pm.  I’ll try to have more info for our next meeting”.
The male from the couple who have been forced to live at CHUM shows up.  He’s on his way to make curfew at CHUM but stops to express his solidarity with the circle.  He remarks, “My partner has decided to spend the night somewhere else. She’s entitled to her choice but I hope she’s o.k.”
A couple of Native hipster kids who we may or may not know come to the table. They are happy that there is good food left.  When they spot the double use salt and pepper shaker that sits by the hard boiled eggs, one of them exclaims, “You guys have really been around the block a few times!”
Ms. Community Cleanup’s partner is on the stairs.  He is with a group of fashionably dressed adolescent boys.  They all have skateboards.  The partner is attempting to do some tricks.  It appears that he was once a real skateboarder but he’s much older now.  He seems to have lost his touch.
The middle-aged man quietly comments, “You know those kids are just watching him and waiting for him to take a bad fall so they can laugh”.
The man then tells us a story about watching ducks.  He points over across the street to a tree in front of the Lake Place entrance.  He and his former wife watched a mother duck build a nest in that tree and lay her eggs.  They watched her sit on the eggs and they talked to her a lot.  Eventually she got to know them and the sound of their voices.  The mother duck hatched eleven ducklings.  The man talked about how cute it was when he and his wife would arrive and call to the mama.  Eleven baby ducks would come popping out from under her.  They watched the first time mama took all the ducklings to the lake.  Only four of the babies actually made it to the lake.  The others died of various mishaps during the trek over the property of the humans.
The city official returns.  He says the BLM speaker was fantastic.  An Occupier remarks, “We were all wishing to attend his speech but we found out about it too late.  We’d already promised everyone a fire, so couldn’t change horses in the middle of the stream”
Another Occupier says to the official, “So what’s up with our local BLM Chapter?” The city man smiles knowingly and replies, “I think we’re about to hit the streets”.
We should be thinking about packing up but instead, we get a visit from the grey haired woman.  We haven’t seen her since springtime.  She laughs, “I finally found you!  I’ve been looking for you forever!”  We know we told her dates and times to look for us the last time we saw her.  We also know that the grey haired woman’s short term memory is basically toast   It doesn’t matter though.  Given the small area of town that she covers and the fact that everyone knows her, she gets along just fine.
We sit around chat, laugh and tell jokes with the woman of the grey hair.  When the big clock strikes 9:30pm, she and the city official help us pack up.  We give her times and dates again but we know we’ll just see her when we see her.
We hope to be back at People’s Plaza on Saturday.     

Red Warrior Camp is reported though social media to have issued a call to action alert, urging everyone to come to Standing Rock.

Update 201609140338 Red Warrior Camp is reported though social media to have issued a call to action alert, urging everyone to come to Standing Rock in a good way.  All kinds of supplies are needed.  If you can go, bring enough for yourself and more to share.



G.A. Minutes 9-13-16

G.A. Minutes 9-13-16

G.A. Minutes 9-3-16

G.A. Minutes 9-3-16
It’s going to be a great night for a fire.  We’re at People’s Plaza again.  The brakes on the truck have not been fixed yet so we can’t bring our chairs this time either.  The benches belonging to the Plaza will have to be used again and will work reasonably well.  It’s nice that they are moveable.
The sun is already behind the buildings, the sky is cloudy, temperatures are in the low 70s and a strong, cool wind is blowing.  We start the fire right away.  The wind makes the flames shoot high; it also makes the air slightly chilly so the heat feels good on our skin.
An Occupier comments, “Seeing as it’s still the first days of the month, I don’t expect we’ll have many street folks visiting tonight.  Most of them just received their small government checks so will be off having their monthly indulgences”.
We’re missing Occupiers tonight too.  They and a large group of our allies left yesterday for Sacred Stone Camp at Standing Rock.  They were bringing a big trailer full of supplies; food and lots of blankets, caps and gloves for when the weather turns cold.  Most of the donations were from people on the Fond du Lac Reservation.
An Occupier tells us, “I received a message from our friend who works at CHUM.  He said they all arrived safely at Sacred Stone.  He also said the oil company had their construction crew start working on the pipeline this afternoon.  So far, one protestor had been arrested.  He sent a few pictures; they were of the confrontation in progress.
Another Occupier exclaims, “What?!?  They’re not supposed to do any work until the court decision comes down on September 9th.  The first Occupier responds, “Yeah, I know.  I guess the oil company thinks it can do anything it wants because it has the whole state of North Dakota in Its pocket”.
A man walking a dog comes up.  He is wearing top of the line walking your dog on the street type clothes.  He asks us what we are doing and we explain.  He knows about Occupy but didn’t realize there are still small groups of Occupiers all over the country.
He’s quite well versed in progressive issues and tells us he is the nephew of our Federal House Representative, Rick Nolan.  We say we think Nolan is good on a lot of progressive issues but his support of the Polymet mine and of pipelines is unforgiveable.
The man states, “Yeah, I feel the same way.  Uncle Rick says his job in the House is very difficult; because the House is so messed up and he pushes hard on many progressive issues, he has very few friends among his colleagues.
“Rick is the reason I’m now living in Duluth.  I was living in Florida until six months ago and really wanted to move; he told me that Duluth was a good place to live.  I recently became the director of The March of Dimes here”.
We ask him what he likes about Duluth so far and he answers, “The abundance of nature is great and I’m also glad there are no poisoness insects or snakes.  I’m overwhelmed with how nice all the people are too”.
An Occupier adds, “Have you heard about ‘MN nice?”  Or as I prefer to call it ‘MN passive aggression’?”  The man laughs and says, “Oh yeah, I’ve come across that too”.
When we ask him what he doesn’t like about Duluth, he responds, “The cold winters are horrible and I’m just appalled at the amount of prejudice against Native Americans here”.
An Occupier agrees, “I know what you mean.  I’m from here but I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years.  When I left this area, people who were Native American tried to hide their heritage.  In the Bay Area I saw racism related to black people, Latinos and Asians.  I ran across very few Native Americans.  When I returned to this area I saw Native people were no longer hiding their heritage but the amount of general hatred toward them was just unbelievable”.
The March of Dimes man says, “Many rich people refuse to donate to us because they know that we give about 90% of our donations to the Native American community.  That’s because they are the ones that need it the most”.
The man wants to know what other things are going on.  We tell him about our friends at Standing Rock, the Homeless Bill of Rights, the meeting at the Red Herring on Wednesday and the vigil for trafficked women on Saturday. He puts this information in his phone, says he’ll see us there and continues his walk.
As he is leaving, an Occupier remarks, “I wonder if I should have mentioned the vigil for the disappeared Storytelling Woman at noon on Wednesday at Central Hillside Park?”
 The city official arrives.  He’s later than usual because he’s just finished a long volunteer shift serving food to hungry people at the Dom.  He tells us, “I wasn’t scheduled to serve tonight but some of the other volunteers didn’t show up so they asked me to help”.
Someone comments, “That’s a problem with volunteers, they don’t have to show up if they don’t want to.  I imagine the holiday weekend caused them to make other plans”.
A couple who we have known since they stayed at our homeless camp comes up the stairs.  We have not seen them for almost a year.  They are not homeless but they look unhealthy and very unhappy.  They don’t seem in the mood to tell us their problems; we don’t ask.  They take food and leave.
The new Occupier asks, “Did anybody attend the Pride Festival today?” Another replies, “No, I would have liked to because I think they were going to have some really good bands.  However, the bands I wanted to see were playing at the same time as our fire circle.  I decided to come here instead”.
One of the quiet men who usually come around for food comes out of the shadows.  He gets what he needs and makes a little small talk.  We notice he is wearing a medallion that leads us to believe he has come from the Pride Festival.  We comment on that fact; he just smiles and leaves.  We’ll probably see him again next time.
A man with a long beard and backpack who appears to be in his early forties is standing a ways away looking at us.  We invite him to take food and/or join us.  He steps forward and responds, “Do you have any clean water?” We show him the water jug and give him a cup.
He sits and tells us he’s been homeless for much of his life.  He’s hoping to move into an apartment in a week or so.  His cat is being fostered by a friend and he’s looking forward to being reunited soon.
The homeless man is a quiet but good conversationalist so we sit and talk about many things.  The place where he pitches his tent, the cops who don’t actually give him much trouble, things that happened in the 60s and 70s, memories of cartoons and children’s shows watched as kids, the stupidity of the current election cycle, climate change and the fate of the world.  An Occupier gives him a copy of the Homeless Bill of Rights.
The big clock chimes 10pm.  We were so lost in conversation with the homeless man; we didn’t notice the time go by.  As he helps us pack up, we tell him that we are generally at the People’s Plaza, if it’s not raining, on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 6pm til 9pm.  Except for next week, we’ll be at the Homeless Bill of Rights meeting on Tuesday and at the Hildegard House Vigil on Saturday.
We expect to return to the Plaza on Tuesday, September 13th.         

G.A. Minutes 8-30-16

G.A. Minutes 8-30-16
We’re off to an unusual start this evening.  The Fire Magician went down to People’s Plaza in the afternoon to sweep up a lot of broken glass he had noticed when he was at a rally in the Plaza yesterday.  When he had finished, got into his truck and began to drive off, he noticed that he had absolutely no brakes.  Not good but actually very lucky.  If he hadn’t gone to do the sweeping, his brakes probably would have gone out as he was driving down the hill with all the fire stuff for the meeting.  He could have landed in the middle of the busiest intersection in town.
Tonight all the fire stuff is packed into the car of the Occupier who brings the food. She doesn’t have room for the chairs so we’ll have to make use of the many benches that are scattered about the Plaza.
This evening’s weather will be well suited for a fire.  Temperatures are in the low 70s, the sky is clear, the sun is already behind the buildings and we have a noticeable but non-bothersome breeze.
A veteran hippie homeless couple is sitting with the first arriving Occupiers when the supplies for the circle arrive. They have attended a few of our fires since we’ve been at People’s Plaza.  They appear to have had and/or are having experience taking heavy drugs but they tell good stories and are quite amiable.
The city official arrives; right behind him are a couple of neighborhood youth. The teenagers have come for snacks to fill their growing bellies.  They smudge first then survey the table.  The boys are pleased with the commercial snack foods that have been supplied by the newest Occupier.  They roll cigarettes from our tobacco.
When they leave, an Occupier comments, “I know we should be discouraging the young ones from taking up smoking but as I’m sitting here smoking a cigarette myself, it would be hypocritical of me to tell them not to do it.  Besides, judging by how well they can roll them, I’m betting they’ve already been at it for a while”.
Most of the Occupiers attended yesterday’s Socialist Action Support for Standing Rock rally here at the Plaza.  The turnout was great and many Native activists joined us.  We managed to get reasonable if slanted coverage from two Duluth TV stations.
We start up the fire and the hippie couple tell us a few stories.  A few years ago the male hippie moved into an apartment in a rough neighborhood in Minneapolis. A couple of blocks from his new home, he ran out of gas.  A cop drove up and asked him if he was there to buy drugs.  When he told the cop that he lived in the neighborhood the cop said, “Oh yeah, well I’m gonna search your car”.  The hippie man answered, “You can’t search my car unless I give you my permission and I’m not gonna give it to you”.  The cop says, “We’ll just see how much I need your permission”.  The cop then proceeded to tear the guy’s car apart.  He slashed all the upholstery and broke the doors and dashboard.  The cop added, “From now on, I’m gonna tell all the cops around here to stop you every time you try to go anywhere.  You’re gonna have to move”.  The man continues, “The cop was right too.  They harassed me so much that I finally had to move”.
The hippie woman reports, “About a year ago I was walking down a public beach. I was singing while I was looking for agates.  Somebody called the cops.  Four cops showed up and surrounded me.  They asked what I was doing there and when I held out my cup of agates, one of the cops went for his gun.  I asked him what he was doing that for and he said, ‘I thought you were gonna throw them at me’.  I mean, come on, he was gonna kill me if I threw a small cup of little rocks at him?”
The man tells another story, “A while back, we were over in Superior.  The cops beat the hippie woman so bad that she ended up in the hospital.  While all this was going on the cops took all my belongings from me.  After she was hospitalized, the cops gave my belongings back.  They put a small bottle with meth in it inside the case where I kept all my daily meds then they arrested me for possession of meth”.
We all discuss some of the many problems with police.  Everyone thinks it’s a good thing that many regular people now have cell phones that can film well.  We think it’s also good that cops have to wear body cameras.  The hippie couple informs us the cops in Superior don’t have them.
Menagerie Woman arrives.  So does the multi-racial couple who had recently become homeless and were forced to stay at CHUM.  We ask the couple how things are going for them and the woman replies, “We’ve saved enough money to rent an apartment.  Now we’re trying to find someone who will rent to us.  We have a possibility a little east of here and we should find out in the next few days. I sure hope we get it”.
We get a surprise visit from the Occupier who has moved out of town.  He states that he expects to return to the Twin Ports within the next few weeks.
The woman of the multi-racial couple comments, “I saw a really bad thing today. We were up having lunch at the Dom.  A black woman was serving the food.  An older man in the food line refused to eat food that had been touched by a black person.  He threw his food tray down and stomped out of the building”.  An Occupier responds, “Good enough for him.  If he wants to be a hater, he can go without lunch”.
We get another surprise visit.  It’s from the retired neighborhood man.  He says, “I heard a rumor that you were down here now.  So you’re not exactly ministering to the most destitute anymore?”
An Occupier explains, “A lot of the folks from the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial area are willing to make the two block walk down here to sit with us.  We spent most of last summer and fall having the cops and fire people show up and forcibly put out our fire.  The former CJMM BOD president threw his weight around and somehow forced the police department, the fire department and the City Attorney to attempt to chase us off. The BOD said our fires were the reason so many homeless or poor people hung out at CJMM.  I notice that since we’ve been gone the population there has remained the same.  We stood our ground until winter forced us indoors.
“Over the winter we talked about what we thought was more important, fighting the cops or having a fire circle for neighborhood people.  We decided the fire was most important.  We’ve been having them here since April and have yet to be bothered by five-o types.  They know we’re here but they leave us alone.  Go figure”.
The newest Occupier is leaving.  She says she’ll see us on Saturday.  Another Occupier reminds her, “We expect to be here on Saturday but next week there’s a lot of other stuff we’ll have to do.  The next Homeless Bill of Rights meeting is on Tuesday evening, September 6th, the meeting at the Red Herring about sexual harassment of women on 1st Street is Wednesday evening, September 7th and the Hildegard House Vigil for Trafficked Women is on Saturday evening, September 10th”.  The new Occupier replies, “Sounds like a plan”.
The multi-racial couple needs to leave too.  They must be back to CHUM before 9pm.  They load up on snacks so they will have something to tide them over until tomorrow.
We just start to pack up when Ms. Community Cleanup and her partner come up the stairs.  They have a bedraggled looking guy with a big bandage on one foot and a walking cast on the other in tow.  Ms. Cleanup tells us she has made him a new bandage with one of her shirts.  She says, “His foot looks pretty ugly but it’s not gangrene yet”.  They are all very hungry so begin chowing down.
Ms. Cleanup reports that she and her partner have been having a hard time trying to apply for social security disability.  She explains that her partner is schizophrenic and is not being well taken care of by the mental health care system.  When she tells us this, a light goes on in many of our heads.  We first met her partner over a year ago and were puzzled by much of his behavior.  We had hypothesized he was very burnt out from doing massive amounts of synthetics or something.  Now we understand.
We start to pack up again when a few women we haven’t met in the past arrive. One says, “Do you have anything that me and my very pregnant friend can eat? We are so hungry”.  We offer them all the food we have left and they are thrilled. In fact, all the street folks have been thrilled with the food tonight.  Especially with the small bottles of something called Sunny D.
Once the women take what they need, the food is completely gone.  This time we pack up for real.  We expect to be back at People’s Plaza on Saturday.   

G.A. Minutes 8-23-16