G.A. Minutes 7-16-16
We’ve hit on another perfect evening at People’s Plaza. We’ve been hoping to get a few more of these before summer is over. We remember these types of days all year long; they help us through the cruelest times in winter.
The temperature is in the low 80s, the sky is partly cloudy with a gentle breeze whispering calmly throughout the space.
When the first Occupiers arrive, the Plaza is completely empty. Someone has been here recently and they didn’t clean up their mess. Old food wrappers, used paper cups and cigarette butts are scattered all around.
The first couple of Occupiers decide to sit and wait for others to arrive before setting things up. As they wait, they notice the street and sidewalks are strangely quiet, especially for a Saturday night. Superior St. has been blocked off after 1st Ave. W. There is no activity going on inside the blockade.
After sitting, enjoying the weather for about a half an hour, the streets are still quiet and absolutely no one has even shown their face in the Plaza. The Occupiers decide to do the set up and cleanup themselves and see how things develop.
As they are putting the chairs in a circle, a woman who appears to be a tourist comes up and asks them if they know where the dance on the Lake Walk is going to be. The Occupiers are clueless but they point her in the direction of the Lake Walk.
They get a small fire going. Their first visitor is the brain damaged man who lives at San Marcos. He looks like absolute hell. His hands are shaking, his face is quite swollen and his right arm has an open wound surrounded by green tinged skin. He assures us that he’s just fine and says he can’t remember how he got so banged up.
An Occupier asks how things are going at the San Marcos and the man replies, “Oh, everybody’s always fighting but the next morning they can’t remember what they were fighting about so they’re friends again”. He also comments, “I hear there’s gonna be a street dance here”.
The other Occupier notices that the Port-a-Pottys that were in the back of the Plaza when they had their last fire are now gone. She exclaims, “Damn! I was so hoping they would still be there”.
A middle aged man we haven’t met in the past asks to sit down; we welcome him. He tells us he was on his way to southern MN when his RV broke down about a block from People’s Plaza. He says he’s dedicated his life to Jesus Christ so he figures there is a reason why he broke down in Duluth. He’s gonna go with the flow.
The middle aged guy, who has a country hippie look about him, reports that he was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and since then has spent most of his life working as a counselor at juvenile correction facilities. He states, “Everybody thinks I work with bad kids. They’re not bad; they’ve just had bad upbringing and bad luck. I try real hard not to judge people”.
Another man, perhaps somewhat older, asks to sit and we welcome him also. He looks kinda like a hippie too but his clothes are new and his gear is top of the line. He tells us he’s from Wasila, Alaska and he’s in the process of hitchhiking to Maine. The man says, “I had a really nice boat but it was destroyed in the hurricane in the Gulf. I’d sunk everything I had into. I have friends in Maine who own a farm and I’m going there to help. I hope I’ll be able to find some type of job that I can work until I’m too old to work anymore”.
The older man and an Occupier talk about the best routes for hitchhiking. The man confides, “I really don’t want to go near Chicago. I hear it’s seriously dangerous there right now. Black Lives Matter is closing down the freeways and there’s lots of violence”.
The other Occupier responds, “We just attended a Black Lives Matter vigil last night. It wasn’t violent at all, in fact, it was beautiful. I think you might be getting your information from the major media. They’re doing to Black Lives Matter the same thing they did to Occupy. They produced very selected footage and accused Occupy of being violent when nothing was further from the truth. They’re doing the same thing to BLM. Folks from Black Lives Matter are no different from us. They’re just people trying to survive”.
We hear sounds of people doing mic checks and tuning up. Maybe they are having a street dance up the street.
Our friend, the city official, comes up the stairs and joins the circle. An Occupier says to him, “I thought last night was really nice”. The official answers, “So did I. Some of the speakers spoke some very heavy words; I especially liked it when we all lit candles, made that big circle and held them up”.
The Occupier informs the other men, “We’re talking about last night’s Black Lives Matter vigil. The official was the lead organizer and MC for the one here in Duluth. There was a vigil in Superior too and in lots of places across the country”.
The middle aged man asks, “So what is Black Lives Matter about anyway?” An Occupier nods to the official and answers, “He can explain it best”. The official responds, “Yes I can but I’m tired of doing it. You explain it”. So the Occupier explains, “Well, the bottom line is that cops are killing black people’s innocent children. The cops don’t even get in trouble when they murder the kids. Cops have historically done this.
“African Americans have been complaining about having their children killed for over 100 years. That’s why BLM is blocking the streets and freeways now. They’re trying to get the rest of the people to listen. So far, no one is listening. There were 3 young, innocent black men murdered already, this month.
“You will probably be seeing a lot more white folks in Black Lives Matter. White folks have white privilege so are gonna try to get the attention of the rest of people”.
The middle aged man comments, “Yeah, that slavery shit was terribly gruesome. Getting kidnapped and put on those ships and all”.
An Occupier says to the city man, “So I hear there’s another BLM meeting Friday, 2pm at the Dom. I sure hope I can make it. I’ll be helping out at the All Nations Indian Taco Sale and I’m not sure when I’ll be done”. The city man replies, “I think I won’t be able to get to the City Forum, Q+A on next Tuesday 6p-7:30p at Denfield H.S.”
A young, probably homeless man has been hanging around the edge of the circle. An Occupier smiles at him and signals a welcome to the fire. The young man helps himself to the snacks on the table. He looks hungry so the Occupier asks, “If I throw these hot dogs, from a few fires ago, on the grill, will you eat some?” The young man answers, “Definitely”.
A well respected local musician stops in. He’s hungry too. Another middle aged, dressed in sports fan attire, would like to eat but will only take the food if he can pay for it. We put his donation in the treasury fund. We have at least $10 now.
A squad car pulls up across the street and an officer gets out. Several more officers arrive on foot. Then a big fire truck with flashing lights pulls up at an angle, blocking the street.
For a moment we wonder if we’re about to have a replay of the drama we experienced during our final months at the Memorial. But no, the middle aged man comes from across the street and reports, “There is a woman lying in the middle of the sidewalk. I tried to help her but the man who appeared to be with her told me she was alright. I moved away and called the cops. I’m surprised they got here so fast”.
We sit and observe the scene unfolding. It turns out like many things on the street. A lotta drama over nothin’. Apparently the cops have received the same answer as the middle aged man. They all leave and the middle aged man comments, “I’m surprised they just leave her like that”. An Occupier tells him, “They probably know her and can see she’s o.k. If she was really bad off they would take her to Detox”.
The big clock strikes 10pm. The fire is dying and all the hot dogs are gone. The official offers to help us pack up but an Occupier replies, “We’ve kinda got this thing down to a science”.
As the Occupiers finish packing up, one of them observes, “Well considering it was just the two of us tonight, I’d say things went pretty well”.
We’ll be at an anti-racism forum next Tuesday but if all goes well, we expect to be back at People’s Plaza next Saturday.