G.A. Minutes 5-30-15

G.A. Minutes 5-30-15
It will be a big fire night again at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. We’ve got chilly weather with daytime highs in the low 50s and an east wind.
Some of the “usual suspects” are sitting on the back ledge. The mood appears to be calm and friendly all around.
We set everything up but the street folks don’t join in right away. It’s only Occupiers at the fire as we start off this evening.
An Occupier is looking at his newly purchased tablet computer. He says, “I bet that police camera up there is connected to Wi-Fi”. Another Occupier teases, “Why don’t you play around until you find the password and use the DPD Wi-Fi to get on the internet?” The Occupier answers, “Oh sure, I’ll do that right now. In about a half an hour the NSA will show up and I’ll be arrested for spying, but you guys will have my back, won’t you?” We all laugh.
One other Occupier comments, “Did you hear about that former Speaker of the House that just got arrested? The charge is lying to the FBI. Hello??? Lying to the FBI? The FBI lies to everyone else all the time”. We laugh again
Another Occupier arrives. He says, “I’m just returning from the Saturday jazz session at the Saratoga Club. The music was really good.
“I’ve tried inviting some of my female friends to join me there but when I do it seems like they’re offended. I don’t understand. I know it’s a strip club most of the week but on Saturdays it’s a completely different atmosphere.
“Someone told me that strip dancing is somehow connected to trafficking”.
A female Occupier responds, “Oh yeah, stripping is a precursor to sex trafficking. When one is a dancer, the customers always want to see someone new, so after one has stripped in all the clubs for a while the customers won’t give them money anymore. Then the dancers have to move on to something worse if they want to stay in that type of business.
The arriving Occupier replies, “I didn’t realize that. Maybe some of my woman friends are under the impression that I support people being trafficked. Nothing could be further from the truth. I just wasn’t aware of the whole story”.
The folks on the ledge begin to join the fire circle. They get their coffee and snacks and move up close to the heat.
Our friend, the African American gay young man arrives. He is “hammered”. He kneels beside the fire and begins singing a popular song from the 90s about a woman who finds true confidence and freedom after her lover leaves her.
He’s giving an all-out performance. If he wasn’t so drunk, he’d be pretty good. He sings almost on key while striking pose after pose. Some of these poses appear to be very difficult. We hope he doesn’t knock over the fire pit. His balance is perfect.
The Occupiers are kind of impressed. The street folks have seen his performances many times already.
When he finishes his performance he stands up and begins acting like his normal self. That’s when he almost knocks over the fire.
The performing man brings a large group of very drunk people of the street with him. Most are known to us and all appear happy and in good spirits.
An overweight Native young man who we’ve seen in passing sits down. He asks if anyone can spare him some tobacco. He says, “I don’t know why people around here are so cheap with their tobacco. Tobacco is meant to be freely shared. It’s a big part of our culture.
“I’m from the country and have only been in this city for about 3 months. I’m very into our Native ways.”
The Occupiers have a pouch of tobacco and rolling papers which they always bring when they are at CJM. It’s meant for the use of anyone who needs it. We offer it to the large Native man.
A DPD squad has been occasionally driving slowly past the space. Every time the squad passes by, the man who recently lost his baby’s momma to a heroin overdose, waves at it.
We are only about halfway through the usual meeting time but the food and drinks are completely finished. We still have a warm fire and good conversation going.
One of the Occupiers reminds everyone that we won’t be at the Memorial next Tuesday because we’ll be attending the Clean Water event at our friend’s club up the street.
On next Saturday some of us will be taking the Northwoods 350 bus down to St. Paul for the big Tarsands Resistance March. Northwoods 350 is asking for $20 for a seat on the bus. However, for those who are unable to contribute $20, funds are being raised to allow everyone to come along.
Someone says, “Remember it will be Juneteenth on Saturday June 21st. We’ll need to attend and see what we can do to help out. There’s also going to be a Juneteenth celebration in Superior, WI on Friday June 20th”.
An Occupier reports, “I won’t be able to attend Juneteenth this year. I’ll be up at the Midsummer Festival at Mesabe in Hibbing”.
An African American woman and 3 young female children enter CJM. It appears they have not previously visited the Memorial. The children are in awe of the sculptures and writings on the wall. The woman takes pictures.
She and her children are friendly towards us. An Occupier goes over to converse and discuss the writings with her.
The infamous street woman has been sitting with us for most of the evening. She has managed to keep from drinking for many months now.
Tonight she has a cold and is coughing frequently. An Occupier says to her, “You probably need to drink lots of liquid and crawl into bed”. She answers, “Yeah, I know. I need to go home but my joints are aching so bad that it’s gonna be painful to walk and I’m 50 cents short for bus fare. I’m hoping someone will lend me their bus pass”.
The Occupier looks to see what is left of the money that has been donated over the last few meetings. There is exactly 50 cents. She gives it to the woman; the woman leaves for home immediately.
The large Native man asks why people are going on a march. We start a conversation about pipelines, Enbridge and such.
The man comments, “Pipelines are a confusing thing. The oil companies hire a lot of Natives to work on their pipelines. Natives are really in need of jobs”.
An Occupier responds, “But wouldn’t it be better if we got our energy from the sun? People could have jobs working on sustainable energy systems. The technology is already there; it just will take the will power to make the switch. If we did that, we wouldn’t have to destroy the planet”.
The big man smiles and answers, “Oh yeah, for sure. The sun is for everybody and it’s free. The companies don’t like that very much”.
He asks for details regarding the Tarsands march. Maybe he will attend.
It’s after 9pm and the streetlights have just come on. The fire was big tonight so we have many coals to watch. We begin packing up.
Seeing as many of us will be in the Twin Cities next Saturday, we probably won’t be back until Tuesday 6/9 or Saturday 6/13.

G.A. Minutes 5-23-15

G.A. Minutes 5-23-15
Weather wise, today has been a perfect day. Mostly sunny, temperatures in the high 70s with a slight breeze. This evening promises more of the same.
Except for the always slow to awaken oak trees, all the leaves are out and everything is green. This is what we wait for every year.
A lone Occupier arrives a little early at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. She brings a lawn chair and sits in the shade.
A few people whom she is vaguely acquainted with are sitting on the back ledge. She nods pleasantly to them and they respond in kind.
The Occupiers are always careful not to force themselves upon anyone. If the neighborhood folks what to interact they will come over.
The gray haired woman who has been a visitor at the fire circle for many years is walking down the street. When she spies the Occupier she comes right over and says, “Oh good! I keep forgetting that you guys meet here every week. I’m just returning from having dinner at the Mission. I’m really glad I came this way”.
The Occupier opens another chair and invites the gray haired woman to sit. She says, “So what’s new?”
The gray haired woman answers, “Well I’ve just discovered the Mission. It’s a whole new dining experience. I generally walk up to the Domiano for my meals but they only serve a couple times a week. The food is good there but the clientele are mostly other senior citizens. They’re very quiet and everything is closely supervised.
The food’s not as good at the Mission but they serve every day and the place is filled with younger people laughing and joking. Things are sort of disorganized. It’s more my style. I really like it”.
More Occupiers arrive. The gray haired woman helps with setting up.
Many of the regular street people appear. Most are hoping for hard boiled eggs. We have a large container of them and they disappear almost instantaneously.
The gray haired woman comments, “I don’t think I’ve eaten a hardboiled egg in years”.
One of the regular street women is visibly intoxicated from something or other. She is stuffing eggs into her mouth and bumping into things. Her sister, who appears only mildly intoxicated, chastises her and then gets her settled on the ledge.
Folks are making small talk, an Occupier is lighting a small fire when the mildly intoxicated sister begins yelling, “The whole family is just sick of you! You’re shooting heroin again! You’re ruining your life!”
The yelling is so loud it echoes up and down the street. A squad car pulls up.
An Occupier calls back to the ledge, “Hey girls, you’d better chill. We have company”.
Another squad pulls up. Both officers jump out of their cars and come running to the sidewalk. Many of the street folks, their mouths full of eggs, quickly wander off.
The yelling sister runs up to the cops and starts loudly telling them about her sister’s heroin problem. The heroin using sister yells, “If you’re gonna tell on me, I’m gonna tell on you!” She then lets loose with just about every cuss word known to mankind.
The cop calls heroin sister by name and says, “You need to knock it off right now!” He tells the other sister to walk away.
Then the cop comes over to the fire circle and says pleasantly to the Occupiers, “Are these people bothering you? Do you have any complaints?” We answer, “Oh no, they’re not bothering us. Everything is fine”. The cop says, “Well if you need anything, just call us”. Then the cops leave.
We look at each other and say “WTF?” We figure the DPD has finally realized that street folks tend to act a little calmer when we’re around, but this is ridiculous. Treating us like we were high class 1%’ers? We don’t much care for that.
The heroin sister is left sobbing alone on the ledge. “I don’t want to go back to prison”, she cries.
We are all used to this kind of drama and there’s nothing we can do to make things better for her so we just leave her crying. Eventually, a street man comes and sits down beside her.
Anyway, so a couple of Occupiers start putting the grill on the fire for the first batch of hot dogs. As they do so, another Occupier remarks, “The grill is on upside down. All the dogs are gonna roll to the edges”.
The dog cooking Occupiers keep doing what they were doing and the dogs start rolling to the edges. They try to adjust the grill, it falls down and dogs start falling into the fire.
The Occupiers are quick though. They rescue the dogs in a flash; only 3 are sacrificed to the fire gods.
An Occupier whispers to the gray haired woman, “Well, I tried to tell them”.
The dogs are doing fine and another bunch of people arrive. A few we know but most we don’t.
All are friendly and polite. All love hot dogs.
Apparently, seagulls love hot dogs too. They start swirling above, then land en masse on the building roofs, waiting for their turn. Eventually they figure out they’re not going to get a turn.
Seagulls are supposed to eat fish.
A man on a bicycle rides up and asks for a dog. The gray haired woman says teasingly, “If you want one you have to sing us a song”.
The man sings a way cool song from the 60s. Another man arrives; he sings too. He has a nice voice.
Some of the regular street folks return but the food has all been eaten. Everyone sits around, conversing agreeably.
The gray haired woman observes, “This is so multicultural. This is what America is supposed to be about”.
Suddenly a short blonde woman we have seen before arrives. She is looking for trouble and hurls insults at several of the street people.
The men take it in stride; at first, they look bored. She then starts in on some of the women, trying to physically push them.
One of the women says, “Look, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve never seen you before in my life”.
As far as we can gather, there had been a fist fight earlier in the day. Someone was attempting to sell oregano as some type of drug and the rest of the folks on the street called him on it.
Somehow the berserk woman’s son was involved. The street folks are trying to explain to the woman what the problem had been. The woman refuses to listen.
Soon the woman is trying to face down about 20 street people. We think she must be a meth head or something.
An Occupier advises, “Maybe if you just stopped responding to her, she’d take her attitude down the street”.
Eventually that’s what happens. Most people just turn their backs on her and she goes off yelling down the street.
A DPD SUV pulls up and an Occupier goes to talk with the officer. The officer asks what just happened. The Occupier responds, “Oh, some people were fighting but they’re gone now”. End of story.
A couple of Occupiers who live just up the hill arrive. They look really tired. They tell us they took a mentally ill, homeless woman from out of town into their home last night.
She kept them up all night with her nonstop talking and by morning she began to criticize them and make unreasonable demands. They had to ask her to leave but are now feeling worried and wondering what will become of her.
An Occupier reminds everyone, “We won’t be here next Tuesday. We need to go to the City Council meeting at 7pm. We need to back up the homeless advocates when they make their request for City funding for the Housing Access Center”.
It’s dark now. We are all pleasantly exhausted.
The remaining street folks help us pack up. The gray haired woman says, “Now that I’ve found you again I hope I can remember that you’ll be back here again next Saturday at 6pm”.
We hope she remembers too.

G.A. Minutes 5-19-15

G.A. Minutes 5-19-15
Many people are sitting on the back ledge and there are at least 100 seagulls flying overhead or running around inside of the Clayton Jackson Memorial as the first Occupiers arrive this evening.
We had expected to see a lot of folks out tonight. We’ve had a week’s worth of much needed rain. Everyone is happy to see the sun.
The Damiano and the CHUM center usually give away large amounts of day old white bread. Street folks bring the bread out in the street and feed the seagulls for their own and maybe the seagull’s amusement. The gulls mostly fight though; they don’t look too amused.
When they notice the Occupier’s arrival, most begin throwing the bread across the street so the space will clear for us.
We take our time setting up. As we do this we casually check out the scene, noting who is here, who we know, who we don’t know and what is basically going on.
Most folks appear to be “under the influence” of any number of substances. This is unusual for this time of month. The majority of homeless people are pretty short on cash the first week or so after getting their small checks.
Somebody sets off a firecracker. This sudden loud noise makes everyone jump. An older African American man says to a younger man, “What’s wrong with you boy? You gonna make the police come. If they do, you gonna be the one we send to talk to them”.
Once the chairs and things are setup, people start smudging and getting snacks. A middle aged street woman we have known for years and another middle aged and physically very beautiful street woman who we have met off and on over the years, come to sit with us.
The beautiful woman is very drunk and crying profusely. The other woman is attempting to comfort her.
We give the crying woman some chocolate cookies. Her mood brightens immediately.
She tells us there is going to be a major cleanup of the neighborhood on Thursday. CHUM will be gathering all the willing homeless folks together for a street cleanup day.
The beautiful woman wants to be sober by then so she can participate. She wants to stay sober as she is planning on going back to the reservation to see her mother on Saturday.
She has just finished talking on the phone to her boyfriend. He has been sober for years and he wants her to just come home and sleep it off. Maybe that’s why she’s crying?
The street man who makes flutes shows up, gets coffee and sits. His hair is normally shoulder length but tonight his head is shaved. An Occupier comments, “Getting ready for summer?”
The same Occupier then informs the others, “On Saturday some people from Food Not Bombs are supposed to be joining us here. They’re interested in feeding people at CJM when we have our meetings”.
Another Occupier says, “There are a few things we will need to be doing in the next couple of weeks.
“The Transform Now Plowshares anti-nuclear protestors were released from prison over the weekend. There will be a welcome home event for Greg Boertje Obed this Friday at 7pm at the Community Church on 38th and E. Superior St.
“On Tuesday May 26th at 7pm the Human Rights Commission and others need everyone to be at the City Council meeting to help request funding for a new Housing Access Center.
“On the following Tuesday, June 2nd, the Red Herring will host a MN 4 Clean Water event. Several of our friends will be speaking. I think we should attend and give them support”.
Someone reports we are very close to being completely out of fire wood and the Occupy treasury only has $3 in it. We purchased the last load of wood about a year ago.
An Occupier volunteers to pay for the next load and says if we get any donations over the next months we can give them to her.
As our discussion has been going on, the two middle aged women have been sitting quietly. Suddenly the beautiful woman starts yelling.
“You need to shut the fuck up!” she screams at an Occupier. “Do you think all we want to do is to listen to you talk? You need to let someone else talk!”
The screaming woman’s friend looks at her in horror. The Occupiers roll their eyes and sigh. Arguing or defending one’s self is pointless. Things are not always as they seem.
Just as suddenly, the screaming woman covers her mouth with her hands. “I can’t believe I just said that! I’m so sorry”.
The well-known and flagrantly gay male street man drops in. He’s also drunk and very sad. He’s returning from the funeral of a good friend who committed suicide.
He’s shows us the dead man’s picture. We realize, although we didn’t know the man, we’d seen him around. We offer our condolences.
The beautiful woman continues yakking. She’s laughs and says, “How come no people are coming to sit by the fire?”
Her friend answers, “Maybe it’s because of you and the way you’re acting”. The pretty woman stops talking.
It’s too much for the Occupiers. They can’t help but crack up.
As the two women wander off, many other folks come to join the circle. No one talks much; we just sit together watching the flames.
Soon the two women return. The beautiful woman has a cut on her chin, it’s bleeding and she’s crying again. Apparently, another street woman punched the crying woman in the face a couple of times.
It’s unclear what actually happened. We really don’t care to know. The bleeding woman thinks it’s finally time to go home. We agree and give her money to take the bus. Her friend accompanies her.
One of the Occupiers walks to the corner and looks down the hill. She sees the women getting on the bus.
The regular street man whose baby’s mother has died of a heroin overdose recently arrives and asks to be smudged.
Normally, when people have been drinking, they won’t touch the sage bundle themselves. They will ask someone else to smudge them.
He states, “The police said I could come and get my phone tomorrow. I guess they realize I didn’t have nothing to do with her death. You know I got that phone so she could call me. Now that she’s gone, I don’t know why I even need a phone”.
An older African American asks, “So what exactly are you guys doing here?”
An Occupier answers, “We’re taking over the government”.
The older man’s eyes get really big, he holds up his hands and says,”O.K., guess I’ll just let you alone then”. We all laugh.
Another woman we have known for years appears. This is the first time we’ve seen her this year. She is commonly drunk; tonight she is sober.
She tells us, “My boyfriend is trying to fight with me so I just left the house. I was gonna go sit by the lake and pray or something but I saw your fire. I’m glad you’re here”.
She tells us about her boyfriend’s gambling addiction and about the fact she had attended her father’s funeral three weeks ago. She says her father had cut her out of his will because she was a “N-word” lover.
The fire is dying; it gets dark later now days.
As we say goodbye to everyone and pack up, an Occupier comments, “What a weird night. I think it was a really sad one. Sometimes when people laugh, it sounds like they’re crying”.
Another responds, “Yeah, I know. There’s a lot of sorrow and pain out here. I think that’s probably the main reason most people drink and take drugs like they do”.
Life goes on. We’ll be back on Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 5-9-15

G.A. Minutes 5-9-15
We’re going to need a big fire tonight at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. The temperature is in the 40s but the strong east wind makes it feel more like the 20s.
Of course there are very few folks on the street or in the Memorial. Those that are around come over quickly as we set up the food and the fire pit.
A Native woman who we have been seeing around frequently this year asks if we have any hard boiled eggs tonight. We do and we also have a bag of fry bread left over from the NdN Taco Sale yesterday.
We offer her a piece and she says, “This is great! I’ll share it with my little sister”. We suggest she go ahead and take 2 pieces as we know that once word gets around that we have fry bread, it will be promptly gobbled up. She replies, “We’re both pretty hung over right now so we have to be careful what we eat. I’d better just take 1”.
Our friend who owns the music club up the street walks by and waves. On his way back to the club he comes to sit with us for a bit. We hold a “mutual admiration society” conference.
He tells us how much he appreciates our holding our fire meetings in the hood and we tell him how much we appreciate all that he does for amateur music scene and the community. Our conversation is genuine and sincere.
Our friend must return to his business as he always hosts live music on Saturday nights.
An Occupier reminds us that our friend will be sponsoring a tribute to his father and his uncle on Saturday May 16th 4pm-6pm at the Red Herring.
The Occupiers who helped out at the Idle No More/Northwoods NdN Taco Sale yesterday report it was a huge success. They sold at least 120 tacos and a bunch of pieces of fry bread too. After paying back expenses and donating $100 to the All Nations/Anishinaabe Ode Duluth Indian Center, they still had over $400 left. Most of the money that INM/NWA makes at these tacos sales is donated to various people in the community who are in need of financial help.
The Occupiers also report they really busted their butts making tacos and doing deliveries. Even though it was great fun, it took them until today to fully recover.
Another Occupier tells us she attended the Positive Force 30 Years of Punk Politics documentary at the Jefferson People’s House last Wednesday and found it to be very informative.
She states, “I was raising a child and managing Latin bands in San Francisco during the punk era so I wasn’t really aware of what punk was all about. I just unconsciously picked up the idea from the major media that punk was just about being loud, annoying and hating everyone and everything.
“I found out that the punk folks had communes focused on creating positive change in the world. They were into sustainable living, anti-racism, anti- sexism, anti- homophobia and all that. I guess the idea was to try to force these changes on to the world. I’m guessing they found out that being blatantly ‘in your face’ about stuff all the time isn’t too effective.
Although the movement now days is pretty much in your face sometimes, I think we have more diversity of tactics.
“Also, as long as I was at JPH, I asked about the possibility of us showing our movies there. I was told they had decided to open on evenings only twice a month and that they were already booked thru August.
I’m guessing we could ask for 1 Wednesday in September, October and November and that we might want to co-ordinate the dates with whenever the colleges start up again. What do you think?”
Everyone agrees that her idea is doable and the Occupier agrees to try and set things up.
Another Occupier states that the annual Housing Summit will be held at the Coppertop church on Wednesday, May 27th 10am-3:30pm and the next class, White Privilege 301 will be held also on May 27th at the Jefferson People’s House at 5:30pm.
Somehow, we get into a discussion about cultural food choices. Some cultures are averse to the eating of pigs, some to the eating of cows, others to eating dogs and so on.
We agree that it’s important to be tolerant of different cultural ways but we admit the thought of eating dogs really grosses us out.
As we are talking, people come by to get snacks and some ask for a piece of fry bread. The coffee is popular too. While most get their refreshments, say thank you and hurry to find somewhere indoors, a few sit with us by the fire. If one sits up close it’s very comfortable.
Among those stopping to sit is the infamous street woman. She’s looking good and healthy. She’s still managing to keep from drinking almost completely.
When we tell her the fry bread is from yesterday’s NdN Taco Sale she says, “Crap, I wanted to go to that but I forgot”.
A DPD squad car pulls up to the corner of CJM and parks. He sits there for a while but doesn’t appear to even be looking at us. Someone is sitting in the passenger seat. The squad car drives off.
An Occupier comments, “He must be looking for someone”.
Ms Obnoxious comes walking up with a few other folks. She’s not acting particularly obnoxious. She gets some coffee and tells us her boyfriend tried to commit suicide by overdosing on his high blood pressure pills, then she wanders off.
A young woman who we have seen around the neighborhood for many years has been sitting quietly with us for some time. She sat quietly with us last Tuesday also.
Tonight she decides to tell us a bit of her life story. She has recently moved with her teenaged daughter and her boyfriend to a house near the edge of town. She has several dogs and cats, a hamster, many birds, a rat and a lizard.
She says she has a terrible time being around people and never talks to anyone she doesn’t know. This evening she’s talkative but doesn’t appear to be “under the influence”. She tells her story without any mention of horribly traumatic events.
We enjoy listening to her and then….. Ms. Obnoxious returns. She has her boyfriend with her, she’s obviously been drinking and she’s definitely obnoxious now.
She and her boyfriend sit down side by side and she taunts him by singing songs about hopelessness, being unable to feel emotions and wanting to die. He takes it all in stride. He behaves toward her as if all her antics were totally normal.
So then she comments on the size of the shy young woman’s butt. The shy woman leaves immediately. An Occupier follows her to make sure she’s o.k. and to offer support.
We get a visit from the man from Senegal. We haven’t seen him yet this year and are very pleased he has joined us.
Ms. Obnoxious begins to rub up against him and asks for a cigarette. He politely but firmly tells her leave him alone and she actually complies. She and the boyfriend wander off.
The man from Senegal is still working his full time job and sending money back to his family. He’s also attending school again.
He’s just coming from the casino where he lost a little money. We have a conversation about the amount of time one can waste on gambling.
Then he has to catch a bus. We hope to see him again soon.
The Occupiers are now alone at the fire. The Memorial is devoid of other people. We should be gone by now but the fire has been burning strong all night and now we have a large amount of hot coals. They give off really good heat and are beautiful to watch.
So that’s what we do. Sit without talking, just watching the coals.
Eventually someone stands up. This shakes us from our revere and we start packing.
It’s supposed to be cold and rainy for most of next week so we decide to hold our next Tuesday meeting at the Amazing Grace.

G.A. Minutes 5-5-15

G.A. Minutes 5-5-15
The Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial is surrounded by squad cars when we arrive tonight. The main homeless outreach worker is talking with them.
We drive around the block a few times to access the situation. They begin leaving; we park and go to chat with the outreach worker.
An Occupier asks, “So what’s going on now?” The worker replies, “Not much. Some street folks were fighting, same as always”. She continues, “I don’t know what it is I’m supposed to do anymore. Just talk to people I guess. I work with street folks and help them get into treatment, get counseling and health care, get their paperwork together and begin to have a little self-esteem. After they accomplish all that, there’s still no housing available for them. They end up dumped out into the street again, right where they came from. It sucks”.
We shake our heads and sigh in agreement. We know the government continues to cut back on all services to the homeless and working poor.
With all the protestors taking to the streets over the last 4 or so years and regular people appearing more aware, something’s gotta give pretty soon.
We need to keep our spirits up, do what we can and be ready for the big change that is sure to come.
All the cops are gone now and folks are congregating and looking expectantly at us. We excuse ourselves and hurry to get everything set up.
One of the regular visitors to our fires, a street man we have known for years, approaches one of the female Occupiers and tells her, “My babies’ momma died over the weekend. She overdosed on heroin. The DPD is trying to blame it on me.
“I was with her when she died but I went to sleep. I thought she was sleeping too. I don’t take any of that stuff so I didn’t know. When I woke up, I tried to wake her up and saw that her face and her lips were all blue. I saw she was dead.
“The cops came, they took my phone and said they thought she got heroin from me. When they finish looking through my phone they’ll see it wasn’t me. I don’t do that stuff, I don’t sell it, I don’t hook people up…… nothing. I just drink and panhandle, that’s all.
“I need me some smudge”.
The Occupier says, “Gee man, that’s rough”. She hurries to get all the stuff out of the big carrying box and to fire up the sage bundle. She smudges the man down.
She thinks to herself, Just because he’s innocent doesn’t mean the DPD won’t try to charge him with accessory to murder or something. He’s a young black male after all. He should try to find some legal counsel before they come for him.
The CHUM employment counselor arrives. We invite him to take refreshments but he takes a rain check. He needs to get home to his family.
The counselor has come looking for Ms. Community Cleanup. Ms. Cleanup has an out of town court date in 3 weeks and the CHUM employee wants to talk about plans for transportation and housing for this date.
The young woman is still rather beat up from her encounter a few days ago with the casino security guards. Her wrist and her ankle are quite swollen and she has a constant sharp pain in her side. She has attempted to go to the ER but has been turned away.
Ms. Cleanup listens politely but doesn’t have any answers. She appears to be the sort of person who prefers to live in the moment and tries to forget her problems and responsibilities.
She promises to meet the CHUM man at his office in the morning. Somehow, her promise doesn’t sound convincing.
The editor of a well-known community newspaper stops by. She brings hot dogs and all the fixins. We thank her and throw the dogs on the fire.
Everyone is hungry and everyone is fed. After all have eaten, some decide to sit for a while.
Ms. Cleanup and her friend, a well-known veteran homeless woman, get to giggling and telling vulgar jokes. When they start in on bodily functions, an Occupier says. “Oh come on now. You’re grossing me out”.
They giggle some more and then Ms. Cleanup leaves. She returns shortly saying, “Well I did what I had to do”.
The two women begin making vulgar comments again and the same Occupiers responds, “Please don’t talk like that. Can’t you think of something good or happy to talk about?”
Another Occupier, who has been observing the women carefully, states, “Well you know, she does have a point. It’s absolutely ridiculous that some people aren’t allowed a place to go to the bathroom when they need to. They’re forced to use the bushes and the alleys. When they do that, people call the cops to have them arrested”.
The women stop joking and Ms. Cleanup comments, “Yeah, that’s right. It sucks to have to poop in the alley”.
Someone mentions, “I was looking over my calendar for the next week or so and except for tomorrow night’s 30 Years of Punk Politics, there doesn’t seem to be much going on”.
Someone else responds, “Don’t forget the NdN Taco Sale on Friday, the Loaves N Fishes fundraiser on Thursday, the NAACP meeting on Sunday the Idle No More meeting on Friday, May 15th and our friend who owns the club down the street’s tribute to his father on Saturday May 16th”.
The first Occupier laughs and says, “I stand corrected”.
A student activist friend of ours joins the fire circle. He asks, “So what have you guys been up to?” This student is active in MPIRG activities at his college.
We tell a little about our recent adventures and say, “Man, we are so down with going after Enbridge and alerting people to what’s really going on with the Alberta Clipper, Sandpiper and their various other schemes. We’re just waiting for you guys to say the word and we are on it”.
A group of young boys on bicycles drive up. One of them says, “Can I have a cup of coffee please?”
An Occupier replies, “No, we can’t give you coffee but you can have some apple juice”. The boy answers, “But I’m 13 years old. I can have coffee”.
One of the street men cheerfully calls out, “Hey, didn’t you just tell me the other day that you were 12?” and the boy responds, “Well I’m going on 13”.
We laugh. Another Occupier says, “Well it’s too late for you to have coffee”.
As the boys leave, an Occupier jokes, “I can see it all now. We give him a big cup or our coffee. He gets all buzzed up, goes home and his mother says, “Boy, what’s wrong with you?”
He tells her, she calls the DPD. The DPD says, “Oh great! Something we can get them for!”
“We all to off to jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. I can hardly wait”.
A couple of regular street African American young men who we know are sitting with us. They have a white male friend around their age with them. The white guy is from a more affluent area of the city.
He asks his friends for a little money to buy something that someone is selling around the corner. His friends tell him, “No man, don’t do it. It’s not good for you. Nothing good will come of it. Here’s enough money for you to take the bus home. Don’t be messing with the shit around here”.
All the food is gone, sage has burned down and so has the fire. We pack up and expect to be back on Saturday.

G.A. Minutes 5-2-15
We’re back at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial again tonight. The pleasant weather is still holding up. Temperatures were in the high 60s today and will probably remain in the 50s throughout the evening.
The Memorial is empty when the first Occupiers arrive. An Occupier comments, “I don’t expect we’ll have too many people around tonight. Many street folks got their small checks over the last day or two so they’ll have purchased the recreational substance of their choice and will be off getting high somewhere until their money runs out”.
We don’t expect many Occupiers tonight either. It’s the biggest night of Duluth’s annual Homegrown Music Festival. Most Occupiers are music fans and will be out listening to their favorite bands.
We take our time setting up. As we do, Ms. Community Cleanup stops by. She says, “I just got out of jail an hour or so ago. Last night at about 4am I went into the casino to use the bathroom. All the security guards came running, jumped on me and threw me to the floor. Then the police came and took me to jail. The guards were really rough with me and now my hand and my knee really hurt”.
We ask her if she had been trespassed from the casino in the past. She responds, “No, but I guess I am now. Damn, I was just using the bathroom. What was I supposed to do? I have bodily needs and there was nowhere else to go”.
We shake our heads in bewilderment. It never ends. Where are homeless people supposed to go to the bathroom? The CHUM Center is open from 8am til 4pm. Other than CHUM, there is no place in the city that will allow the homeless to use their facilities. Some homeless people are even 86’d from CHUM. So what are they supposed to do?
If they attempt to relieve themselves in the bushes, alleys or doorways the police will ticket them and eventually take them to jail.
Homeless people have bodily functions just like everyone else. So what are they supposed to do?
Another Occupier arrives carrying a bag with hot dogs and all the fixings.
The occasional Occupier who lives out of town appears, then a woman who is probably not homeless and a well-known homeless man and his dog. We invite a quiet man who we haven’t met in the past to join us. He agrees but insists on giving us a dollar before he will sit.
An Occupier says, “It seems like almost no one is around but just throw those hot dogs on the fire and I bet we’ll see people appearing from all directions”.
He is correct. As soon as the smell of the meat cooking on the grill hits the air, another 10 or so people arrive. All are folks we already know. They stand around talking and waiting for the food to be ready. We feed them all; they thank us and wander off.
Except for the man who is always laughing. He’s still laughing but not as much as usual. Tonight he has a lot on his mind. Apparently his pregnant girlfriend is angry with him again.
He explains, “When I came home last night she was waiting for me. She was yelling and throwing things. I don’t know why. I never know why when she gets this way. I don’t think I can take it anymore. Anyway, so I tried to leave but she came after me. I ran through the building, out of it and into another building and she was still chasing me.
“Nine months pregnant and she can still run like that! She must be doing meth again. I finally got away but had to sleep in my car last night. I have nowhere to sleep now but I’m not going back. I’m 47 years old. I just can’t keep living like this.
“I notice that for the last couple of weeks she’s been hitting on some other guy. Just about to give birth to my child and she’s hitting on some other guy!
“She won’t be able to keep the baby, she takes too many hard drugs and she’s already lost her two other kids. Those kids live with their Daddy.
“I guess I’ll end up a single parent. I got to figure out how I’m gonna do this. This is a serious situation”.
We all agree that this is very serious and verbally offer him support. We only know him through our contact at CJM over the years but we’ve met his girlfriend and think his story must be at least partially accurate.
An Occupier reminds us that the Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NdN Taco Sale is this upcoming Friday.
She also reports that on Tuesday, May 26th we will need to attend the City Council meeting at 7pm. Funding for the proposed Housing Access Center is on the council’s agenda and we need to show our support.
Someone else mentions the documentary “30 Years of Punk Politics” will be shown on Wednesday, May 6th 7pm at the Jefferson People’s House.
Over the last hour or so we’ve noticed several squad cars cruising the neighborhood. They don’t even glance over at us as they drive by. A young man who is sitting with us says, “Yeah, they’ve stopped me twice tonight. They’re looking for someone”.
So far, this evening has been very calm. As if to break this spell we are visited by the most obnoxious street woman we know. There are very few street people we find intolerable but this particular woman is one of those few.
We’ve just put more hot dogs on the grill. She plunks herself down and demands that we give her one. An Occupier offers her the first one done but she refuses it. She growls, “Nah, I don’t want that one, it’s too burned. Give me a different one!”
We give her a different one and look up to see seagulls flying overhead. Seagulls always know when people are eating.
An Occupier remarks, “They want our hot dog buns but bread isn’t good for seagulls so we shouldn’t give it to them”.
As if on cue, the obnoxious woman begins tearing hot dog buns apart and throwing them to the birds. Immediately, all the seagulls in the entire city descend on the Memorial. We roll our eyes and sigh.
The woman has a boyfriend with her tonight. This is very unusual. The boyfriend is older than her, polite and soft spoken. She is a little less obnoxious than usual. Not much, just a little.
As the sky darkens, the parade of Homegrown attendees begins. A band rocks out at our friend’s club down the street.
The folks in the parade look over at us. We wave and some wave back. We invite them over but they’re not interested. Many appear afraid of the company we keep.
We think that what they are doing is not that much different than what the street folks are doing. The Homegrown folks just drink more expensive alcohol.
We think it’s time to leave but many are mesmerized by the fire. Ms. Obnoxious is dancing with her boyfriend to the music of the band.
We’ll let the fire burn down all the way and then we’ll be back again next Tuesday.