G.A. Minutes 8-29-17

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

G.A. Minutes 8-22-17

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

G.A. Minutes 8-15-17

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

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

G.A. Minutes 8-1-17

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