G.A. Minutes 7-24-18

G.A. Minutes 7-24-18

The air is pleasantly warm this evening when the first arriving Occupiers drive up on the sidewalk outside of Peoples Plaza. The temperature is in the high 70s and will probably noticeably decrease once the sun goes behind the buildings. A strong, variable and gusty wind should give us very fine weather tonight.

Of course, the big tree planter is still blocking the vehicle entryway onto the Plaza so the Occupiers bringing the majority of the supplies are forced to unload and drag everything up and across to the center of the space again. Fortunately, within a few minutes of the supply bringing Occupiers’ arrival, a bunch of our regular people come walking up; they are all prepared to help with the fire circle set up.

Among the regular folks are the big Native member of the Anonymous crew and the youngest Anon, another Occupier and the city official. Another Occupier and a former Anon and his fiance’ follow close on their heels. The big Anon asks, “So what’s up with the rest of my crew?” An Occupier tells him, “Some of them are out in the country helping to get the Healing Souls Camp up and running. The big guy then asks, “Well, is the Noise Parade still gonna happen this Friday?” The Occupier states, “Nope, that’s been moved to Friday, August 3rd. The big Anon has recently started a new job working the night shift, his circadian rhythms are still a bit off.

Everything is ready except there’s no metal bucket to catch the fire’s burnt embers once it gets to really going. The Fire Magician hops in his truck and runs up the hill to get it. The rest of us gather around the food table to retrieve our preferred snacks and drinks then choose a seat in the circle. The city official reports, “Tomorrow is Bag Day at St. Micheal’s”. An Occupier exclaims, “I just love Bag Days! My entire wardrobe has been purchased during Bag Days at St. Micheal’s” St. Micheal’s is a somewhat high end thrift shop in the Central Hillside. It’s donors are from a more well-to-do area of the city so the quality of the shop’s merchandise is par excellence. The prices are good on any day but on Bag Days one can donate a grocery sized bag of items that one no longer needs; in return, the donating person can take that grocery bag and fill it with any items throughout the entire shop that they find desirable. The cost of the newly filled bag…. five dollars. Cool aye?

The Fire Magician returns in a flash with the fire bucket; he gets a small to medium fire going right away. We don’t really need the fire for warmth right now but it’s nice to watch, smell and listen to it. A couple of young street guys, who we don’t recall meeting in the past, come over. One of them is brown and the other is not. The brown dude takes a seat in the circle while the not brown dude stands, chowing down, at the table. The young man in the circle, who is probably not African American, says, “I remember when you guys used to do this at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. Actually, I don’t think that creating CJMM was a good idea; I think it makes the black people in Duluth feel bad. We don’t need to make them feel embarrassed or ashamed”. We all wait for the city official, who is African American and also one of the founding members of CJMM, to respond. He doesn’t say anything; maybe he’s not in the mood to deal with such a lame-brained analysis? We all figure that if the city official not going to say anything then we’re not going to say anything either.

An Occupier reports, “Socialist Pizza is this upcoming Friday, 6:30pm at the Women’s Building”. The brown young man responds, “What is socialism?” We all try to think of a 25 words or less response; an Occupier begins, “There are many kinds of socialism”….. Chicago Man rolls in. Everyone greets him and he flits around the circle, giving hugs and such.

Seeming to have forgotten his previous question, the brown young man announces, “I’ve been to college; I studied Minority Relations and I think God is a woman”. He then begins to give us a lecture to prove how smart he is or something. He uses lots of big words but doesn’t appear to know the actual meanings of the these words or how to properly use them in a sentence. The question of who or what is God has come up many times over the years in our fire circle; the Occupiers, Anons and others in tonight’s circle give each other a look that says, “Let’s just leave this dude’s conversation alone”. However, Chicago Man bites and begins discussing the question in earnest. When the man from the Windy City starts explaining his personal pagan practices and beliefs, the little brown man and his companion quietly disappear.

The food bringing Occupier has made another summer salad; this one consists of organic whole grain noodles, fresh peas, onions and mayonnaise. When she describes what she has brought, many of the people say, “No thanks, I’ll pass on that”. When she hands bowls of the salad to the few who have asked for some, the others look at the filled bowls and say, “Hmm… I guess I’ll try some after all”. Pretty soon people exclaim, “Wow, this is really good!”. Most ask for seconds, some even have thirds.

A local community activist, retired public school teacher and good friend of the Occupiers joins the circle. She brings grapes, crackers, butter and cheese and sets them on the table. We are all pleasantly surprised to see her as she’s been spending a lot of time living in the Cities over the last several years. The activist takes a seat next to the Fire Magician; they become immersed in conversation about an event she is helping to organize. The event will take place in August and will be centered around the issues of a guaranteed annual income and a $15 minimum wage. A member of the German parliament will be explaining how Germany is handling these issues. We hope to be able to attend.

The middle-aged, brain injured, alcoholic guy who lives at the Wet House bumbles in. He’s attended many of our fire circles over the years; the Wet House guy is a good hearted person but he has a habit of talking very loud and repeating himself a lot. We don’t dislike him but we’ve heard all his stories many times already; his loud voice pretty much takes over any other discussion that may be trying to happen. We find him to be a little annoying however, the Anons and others haven’t met Wet House Man or heard his stories yet. They are speechless with laughter; some are laughing so hard that they fall off their chairs. So majority rules; the Occupiers just sit back and let Wet House Man roll.

A tall, very tattooed Occasional Anon and his small female partner arrive. The Occasional Anon has one of those cylinder shaped music playing things hanging from his belt. He has it playing some kind of pop classical music, after a while it switches to some good hip-hop. The sound is very clear and can be heard throughout the Plaza and the street. It even silences Wet House Man; everyone stops whatever they are doing in order to get their groove on.

Once the Anon and his partner have eaten, they bid us good night and go off to their sleeping place. The music goes with them. A 30 something man, who we have not previously met, stands just outside the circle then goes to sit next to the Fire Magician. Once the man is seated, the big Native Anon tells him, “Hey, I don’t appreciate the way you were rubbing my back. I don’t like anyone touching me without my permission”. The unknown man stands up and screams, “You better shut the fuck up! YOU FUCKING FAGGOT!!!” Then he storms off. We say, “WTF?” The big Anon answers, “Hey, no kidding guys, that dude, who I’ve never seen before in my life, comes, stands behind me and starts rubbing my back the way my girlfriend or other loved one would. I was really shocked and it took me a minute to find my words. The Fire Magician reports, “When the guy came and sat next to me, I casually asked, ‘So how’s it going?’ He started swearing at me and trying to pick a fight”. Another Occupier comments, “Over the course of my life I have occasionally run across a person who really wants some strangers to beat up and humiliate them. I have no idea what that’s about but it is….. soooo weird”. We all say, “For real.”

Several Occupiers volunteered to work at Honor the Earth’s “Water Is Life” Festival last Sunday at Bayfront Park. They recount for everyone the very nice time they had. Someone opines, “There were a lot of people there; I was told that over one thousand tickets were sold. I was working the medical tent but nobody needed any medical attention though I did give out one bandaid. Mostly I was just hanging out, talking to lots of friendly people and rocking with the music. I’m guessing that HTE was able to make a few bucks to aid in the fight against Line 3 and fossil fuels in general”.

Suddenly, we hear and see the young chronically homeless man, who recently had to cut off his dreadlocks, yelling and walking quickly away from the east side of the Plaza. He throws his hands in the air and hollers, “Why can’t you just stop talking?!?!” He stomps around outside the circle for awhile then returns to one of the trees that grow on the ground next to the Plaza’s eastern ledge. We figure that’s the end of that but no…….. flying stuff comes crashing down on the floor outside the circle. We turn to see the formerly dread locked dude pulling everything he owns out of his big pack and throwing it as hard as he can across the Plaza.

We find this to be surprising because every time, over the past several years, that we have interacted with this veteran homeless young man, he’s been friendly, cheerful and content. An Occupier remarks, “So what the hell is up with that?” A 20 something, white appearing, shirtless man with two different hair styles tells us, “Oh, don’t worry, he’s just coming down from a run on meth or something like that. Have you ever been so tired and unable to sleep that even the slightest thing will piss you off?” We say, “Oh, that makes sense”. We know that the angry guy’s street name is a slang term having to do with some of the body language commonly seen in meth head behavior. We never use that name though because the guy’s mother asked us not to.

Eventually the angry guy calms down, picks up his stuff and walks over to Lake Place Park hoping to find a place under a tree over there where he can get some sleep. We empathize with the dude because we are acquainted with the other chronically homeless guy who was sitting on the eastern Plaza ledge yakking away with no consideration for others. The yakking guy has no shut off valve on his mouth; he’s been kicked out of just about everywhere because of this. Unfortunately, Yakking Guy doesn’t have any problem but he thinks the entire rest of the world does.

The young man with the two different hairstyles has been sitting in the circle for a while; this is the first time he has spoken. Now that the ice has been broken, he becomes talkative and tells an interesting story. He tells us that he was abandoned by his birth parents but adopted by a couple who treated him well. He says, “I know who my birth parents are; they live here in Duluth. If I died tomorrow neither one of them would attend my funeral or acknowledge my death in any way. My adoptive father died about a year ago; he was the best man that ever lived. He was always there for me, no matter what. I really miss him”.

The man goes on to describe how he was raised in a small town in MN. Both his parents were very good to him but they were extremely active in a church that, over the years, just scared the shit out of him. He confides, “I have always had some pretty severe anxiety issues and all those commandments and demands from God created extreme stress in me. I mean, Christianity requires that a person be absolutely perfect; if one makes a mistake they must be punished. I just could not take it. Then one day I came across Buddhist philosophy; it really rang true for me. Since I began practicing Buddhism I feel so much more at peace.

The Buddhist man goes on to explain the real meaning of karma and a few other things. He changes the subject by saying, “Being homeless, like I am right now, really sucks. If you guys get that Homeless Persons Bill of Rights thing, I hope you get us a place to shower. I haven’t taken a shower in three days and I feel really grungy. When I try to go into the bathroom any place around here just to wash up a bit, they tell me, ‘If you don’t buy anything you can’t use our bathroom”. I tried to use the shower at CHUM but that was pretty much impossible. Have you ever tried to keep an eye on your stuff so it doesn’t get stolen and take a shower at the same time?”

An Occupier replies, “Oh, we are definitely going to get places to shower, it’s just going to take a long time. But you know what?….. You can take a shower at Dorothy Day House, just knock on the door during the weekday and ask to use their shower”. The man with opposing hairstyles exclaims, “OH, RIGHT! Dorothy Day, I forgot about that. I stayed there for a while a few years ago. I had to leave though because my anxiety was keeping me up all night. They all thought I was taking drugs”. The Occupier laughs, “That won’t matter; when I go there I see all kinds of people coming to take showers. As long as you don’t appear to be planning to kill them, they will let you take a shower. They serve dinner for everyone who shows up at 6pm too”.

The big clock up the hill lets us know that it’s after 10pm. Most of the homeless or street folks have gone off to sleep. The only ones left around the fire are some of the Occupiers, one Anon, Wet House Man, the Buddhist, the local activist and Chicago Man. The Activist and Chicago Man have been chatting for a while; they discover that they both live in the same East Duluth neighborhood. She offers him a ride home and he accepts; off they go. The others do too, so the Occupiers begin the task of cleaning up and putting everything away. Wet House Man offers to help. The Occupiers think to themselves, “Oh no, he will make a mess and everything will take longer”. It didn’t happen that way; Wet House Man is very purposeful and efficient. He makes our job quicker and easier. Once we are finished, the Fire Magician offers to drive Wet House Man back to the Wet House. Everyone else drives off to their homes in order to get some sleep and live to Resist The Man another day.

We expect to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 7-17-18

G.A. Minutes 7-17-18

The temperatures this past week have been elevated beyond what most folks living in the Great White North are able to handle. Everyday they’ve been in the high 80s or greater with night time lows in the 60s. Today we’ve been given a reprieve; the temperature remained in the 70s all day and overnight lows are predicted to be in the 50s. This is good; we need a break.

When the first Occupiers arrive at Peoples Plaza and drive their cars up on the sidewalk (because the big trees in planters are STILL blocking the entrance) one of the Occupiers laughs and comments, “I’m guessing we will get a lot of people visiting tonight seeing as this cooler air makes life tolerable for actual human beings”.

The big Native guy from the Anonymous crew is waiting; another Occupier rolls up just as the first Occupiers and the big Anon start to unload. We choose the same space in the middle of the Plaza that we used last week. Setting up the fire circle is quick and smooth. Just as we are finishing, a large group of Anons, Occupiers and street folks arrive. An Anon who is also a bad ass Water Protector from the Fond du Lac Reservation contributes all the fixin’s for s’mores. They will work perfectly for a dessert after finishing the PB+J sandwiches, pickles, chips, cookies, homemade potato salad, apple juice and whole bean coffee that the Occupiers have donated.

Just as everyone has their food and is taking a seat in the circle a Duluth Police Officer, who we have not met in the past, rides up on his bike. He surveys the area then says in a friendly tone, “Are you gonna light that fire?” We say, “Yes, just as soon as the sun goes behind the buildings across the street”. The cop answers, “Have a good night” and rides off. The sun goes behind the buildings and the Fire Magician lights the fire.

An Occupier says to one of the Occupier/Water Protectors, “So when is your actual trial?” An Occupier/Water Protector replies, “October 10th at 9am” The questioning Occupier exclaims, “I was so amazed and pleasantly surprised to hear that the court accepted your ‘necessity defense’. That is a miracle!” The real Ogichidaa (warrior) responds, “Yeah, we were all pretty surprised too. It’s still rare the courts will accept that completely legitimate defense. The judge said he was well aware that climate change is real and life threatening but he needs us to show how doing a lockdown on the front gates of Wells Fargo is connected”. Another Occupier opines, “Hell, that shouldn’t be at all hard to prove. Wells Fargo and all the other big banks are up to their necks in earth destroying investments. The reason for choosing Wells Fargo for our action was because it’s easily accessible at its downtown location and it’s entrance way is easily accessible too. Kind of a no-brainer, huh?” We all say, “For real” and pledge to attend the early morning trial in October.

The Anons get their signs and supplies ready to go out to the protest corner; tonight they are demonstrating to Abolish Ice. ICE stands for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE attempts to kill or beat up and imprison brown skinned people who come from the south of the so called American continent. The south of the border people come to the USA in search of safety and/or a very low paying job. A few of them come seeking liberty and justice for all (good luck with that).

The Gardener arrives; he has a bunch of little fliers announcing the Anon’s event, “Bring The Noise Peoples Parade and Banner Drop”. The event is scheduled to take place on Friday, July 27th,4pm at Peoples Plaza. We all hope to attend.

A street friend informs, “Hey, did you guys hear that someone has purchased the 4th Street Market?” An Occupier exclaims, “No kidding? That is so wonderful! Living in a food desert really sucks; the only place to buy real food is at the Whole Foods Co-op next to the Ghetto Spur. Most folks in the hood can’t afford to go there”. Another Occupier adds, “I read that it was AICHO (American Indian Community Housing) that bought the 4th St Market building. Since they opened that high quality art gallery in their housing building they’ve been receiving a lot of attention, better funding too, I guess”. The street friend comments, “I sure hope they use the building for a grocery store. That would be really serving the community”. We all agree.

One of the neighborhood schizophrenic dudes is hanging around the outer edges of our circle as he does from time to time; he’s pretty much a fixture on the streets of the lower Central Hillside. Most people are kind of afraid of him because he has a really strong case of the illness; the fact that he looks like one of the old Furry Freak Brothers from the 60s doesn’t help either. We’d offer him a cup of coffee or something but even something as simple as that appears to be beyond his human interaction skill set. He’s not operating on all cylinders tonight; he stands perfectly still, staring straight ahead. He then yells some unintelligible things, throws his arms and fists into the air, flailing them about, throws himself on the ground, rolls around for awhile, jumps back up, stands still and starts all over again. No one has ever heard of him actually being violent toward anyone so we just let him be.

The schizophrenic dude who lives in the Skinner Apts takes a seat. He’s been attending our fires for many years and he’s always pleasant and kind. He doesn’t follow conversation very well but when he does speak up his words are coherent. We figure he must have a mild case of the illness or he’s compliant with his medication regime…. whatever. The Skinner dude has been around so long that we feel like we kinda know him. This evening his behavior is a little different; he’s drunk but that’s nothing new, he’s displaying an attitude that seems a little aggressive and angry…..Weird…..Anyway, he’s brought a big bag of Chinese restaurant food and puts it out for everyone to help themselves; a lot of people do so.

It looks like Skinner Man is rolling with the old school skateboarder guy. The skateboarder guy is so seriously drunk that he has even lost his skateboard. The two of them sit very close together, talking softly. The bare chested Skater Man pulls out a bottle of alcohol from somewhere and prepares to take a swig; an Occupier says firmly, “No man you can’t do that here, we don’t take drugs or use alcohol in the circle; that causes trouble and brings on the cops”. Another Occupier adds, “Dude, you Native, you know the score. You gotta take that shit outa the circle”. The two drunk friends stumble off together towards the east benches. As they are leaving, we hear Skinner Man tell Skater Man, “Hey, what’s wrong with you? Don’t go diggin’ in my bag and helping yourself”.

Chicago Man appears; he tells us that one of his uncles just died. Mr Windy City takes some food then sits and tells us about his family. One of the occasional Anons is stringing a long, industrial type extension cord from the back of the Plaza all the way to the chair he is sitting on in the circle. Some of us casually watch him do this; when he finally finishes, he plugs the cord into something that connects to his cell phone and then he starts playing video games. Oh well…..Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

As the sky darkens, the bike cop rides in again, he asks, “Everybody alright here?” We say, “We sure are” and he rides away. An Occupier comments, “Why is he here?” Another Occupier answers, “They always do that. This one is a new guy so he’s probably a little scared or worried or something about us. They want us to believe that even though they may not be physically here, their power is ever present”.

After the cop leaves us, he rides over to the Plaza’s east side and finds Skater Man lying flat out on the cement ledge. Skater Man, with an assist from the cop, attempts to stand and walk but ends up face down on the Plaza floor. Somebody from our fire goes over to see what’s happening; he returns saying, “Skater Man is asking to be taken to the hospital”. More squads and an ambulance drive up. We turn our attention back to the fire because we’re pretty sure that incapacitated guy will just be taken to the hospital. There are a lot of people in the Plaza and on the street who are watching and besides, the cops can’t do anything worse to Skater Man than he hasn’t already done to himself. Once the dust has settled, we observe someone assisting Skinner Man in walking down the stairs and up the hill to Skinner Man’s apartment.

An Occupier reports to the others, “I went to the Human Rights Commission last week and told them about our dilemma with the entrance to the Plaza being blocked so we can’t get our vehicles in, so we can unload. The Commissioners were thinking of ideas as to how they could help us when the Human Rights Officer suggested, ‘I’m guessing that what has happened is the the person who was the building maintenance manager has retired and there’s another person in that position. Let me make a few calls and see what I can find out.’ So that’s where things stand now; I’ll give him a week or so then ask if he’s been able to find out what’s up”.

The FDL Water Protector comes off the corner and joins the circle. She and the big Anon tease each other and tell jokes. The Water Protector tells us about her work out on the rez with Natives Against Heroin. She speaks a bit about her life too; she’s a very good storyteller.

The rest of the Anons come down off the corner and into the circle; all the chairs are taken so some are sitting on the ground. The beloved mother of a couple of the Anons turns up. She’s come to give them, their music speakers, and their signs a ride home.

We figure that’s as good a cue as any; some of the occasional Anons offer to stay and help us pack up. When the food bringing Occupier goes to clean up the food stuff, she laughs, “OMG, there is not even a crumb or a drop of food left. Everything has been eaten. Cool”.

After everything has been packed up, an Occupier and an occasional Anon stand talking. When the Anon turns to leave he says, “Gi-ga wabamin! She calls back, “Gi-ga wabamin!” There’s a spiritual aspect to the phrase but basically it means “See you later”. Actually, we’ll see each other at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.

G.A. Minutes 7-10-18

G.A. Minutes 7-10-18

Peoples Plaza is completely empty when the first Occupiers drive their vehicles onto the sidewalk this evening. There isn’t even a young person in business type attire sitting on the east ledge and using the one open outlet to charge their phone. The trees in their big concrete planters still block our way onto the Plaza but the super hostile security guys are invisible too. They have big shades pulled down over all the walls of their possibly bulletproof enclosure; no one comes out to give us a dirty look and snarl, “Get those cars off the sidewalk!” Very weird…..

The only thing we can think of is that all this emptiness could be because of the weather. The last couple of days have been real scorchers with temperatures in the low 90s, clear skies and zero wind. Today was no exception and the sun is still shining brightly across the entire space. Maybe everyone is hiding from the heat? Oh well, we’ll just wait until some of the Anonymous crew show up; they always do a good job of quickly getting the circle set up.

As the Occupier who brings most of the food and the Occupier who brings most of the stuff for the fire and the fire circle lean against their vehicles and commence to waiting, they spot a brand new and very fancy looking porta-potty sitting on the sidewalk right in front of the Plaza. The Food Occupier goes over to check it out; she calls out, “You’ve got to be kidding me! There’s a padlock on the door! I guess they’re saying to all the regular people who walk by here, ‘This looks real nice doesn’t it? Well guess what, YOU can’t use it’. Nice, huh? That is so mean and stupid”.

After waiting about 15 minutes, the food bringing Occupier remarks, “Maybe the Anons have something else to do tonight. That happens every once in a while”. The Fire Magician groans, “I guess that means we’ll have to unload and set up all by ourselves”. The bringer of the food agrees, “Yeah, it looks like we will. We’ll just have to do everything real slow and take breaks when we need to. It may take a long time to get everything in place but as long as there’s nobody here yet, it won’t matter”.

They choose a space for the circle that is halfway between the east side (where the menacing security bozos last week apparently demanded that we congregate) and the spot 20 or so feet from the MN Power Building (where the goons, through a third party, demanded that we do not congregate). They don’t know where the bozos are but they do know that wherever the rent-a-cops have hidden, the wannabes will be spying on the circle. The point the first arriving Occupiers are trying to make is, yes, we will compromise on relatively petty things but we will not fall in line and take orders from The Man.

Just as the first Occupiers begin dragging chairs out of the big truck, another Occupier and The Gardener arrive. With four people to do the setup, things will be a lot easier; the task is accomplished within a reasonable amount of time. The Magician makes a small, symbolic fire to start with; the air is still quite warm. The longtime friends sit down, expecting to have a serious but pleasant discussion on any number of topics. The Gardener starts out, “The Occupier who is also a member of Veterans for Peace, needs a PA system for the rally when our Occupier/Water Protectors and the Native Water Protector have their next trial on Friday”. He nods to an Occupier, “Our friend from Honor the Earth told me that she is storing a PA at your house”. The Occupier replies, “Yeah, we still have it. It’s very old school but it works; it has to be plugged in but will be loud enough for people giving speeches in front of the courthouse to be heard. I’ll call the VP Occupier tomorrow and give it to him”.

A 30 something white appearing man, who may have visited our circle in the past, rides up on his bike. Most people who visit our fire circle for the first time or after not having visited for a long time are kinda shy; they act like they’re not sure if they are welcome. Not this guy; he is relaxed and comfortable from the start. He sits next to the Gardener and the two of them start up a conversation; an Occupier sits listening beside them, she makes an occasional comment. The Gardener praises the Occupy Movement both at its beginning and now. He opines, “You know, most people think that Occupy is long gone but it’s not. There are still Occupy groups all over the world; in the beginning, Occupy and the camps became sort of a fad. As is usual with any fad, it only lasted for a while. As is also usual for a fad, once it’s over many who participated laugh, make fun of it and pretend they never were real believers anyway.

“However, there were groups of Occupiers and/or anti-capitalists who were and still are very committed to making a change for the good in the world. They are still working; I mean, just look, the slogan of the 99% and the 1%, it’s pretty much ingrained in our and others cultures now.” The Occupier adds, “Ever since I was in my 20s (that was a long time ago) I knew something was seriously wrong in the world. The best way I knew to articulate it was to say, ‘Rich people have too much money’. When I heard the slogan of the 99% vs the 1% I was thrilled. I became a part of Occupy within a matter of weeks of the first Occupy camp being created in Duluth and am still ‘kickin’ it’ to this very day”.

The Food Occupier calls out, “The soup is hot now; I think this will be the last time we have soup for a while though. I’ll start thinking about making cold salads or something like that”. Almost everyone has at least one bowl of organic soup with pintos beans, lots of different vegetables and a very small amount of salt pork.

More people roll up including Chicago Man, the blond chronically homeless young man whose mother sometimes comes looking for him at our fire, the small quiet Native woman who has begun visiting the fire this year, the college student Occupier and the city official. Someone says to the chronically homeless man, “Hey, you cut off all your dreads!” He answers, “Yeah, they were getting just too out of hand”. An Occupier states, “Well, now you can start growing them back again” to which he responds, “Yep, that’s the plan”.

Suddenly everybody freezes, all senses are on alert. The college Occupier says, “I think I just felt a cool breeze”. Everyone else agrees, “Yeah, me too”. The occasional, easterly breeze is very subtle but it cools the air considerably. There’s no need to put on sweaters or long sleeved shirts; we just put a few more logs on the fire, creating mid-sized flames. Far out.

When everyone settles down, two separate conversations develop. One side of the fire circle is sort of talking about politics. Not voting and candidates and stuff like that but about all the serious wrongs that are being done to groups of people all over the world and about the ways in which the 1% go about taking charge of all this. The confident man with the bike confides, “I think about this sorta stuff all the time; then I get depressed and can’t do anything at all. People tell me that I should take anti-depressants but I’m really scared about Big Pharma and all that. I don’t want to turn into a zombie for The Man.” An Occupier tells him, “I take an anti-depressant and it’s really helped me live my life. I was really anxious all the time and worried what people thought about me. My medicine helps me to relax, be myself and articulate my ideas. I think it would be great if I could find natural remedies that work as well but until then, I find the anti-depressant to be a lot better than always being gloomy and angry”.

The other conversation is about nature and how everything is connected and all that. One of the Occupiers, who is a scientist, explains about a lot of cool stuff that the living things on our planet do. Of course, that includes sex so the discussion turns to the difference about sex with love and sex without love, then about different sexual relationships like same sex, opposite sex, group sex and what have you. When it moves on to foot fetishes, an Occupier calls out to everyone, “So what been happening or will be happening this next week?”

The reporting Occupier kicks into gear, “Well, the first two ordinances for the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights passed at City Council last night. That’s just the beginning and there’s a lot more work to be done but after almost five years of working we have our second victory”. Another Occupier adds, “I sure hope our current City administration is a lot more amicable towards our homeless folks than the last administration was”. We all say, “For real”.

The reporting Occupier continues, “There’s another pre-trial hearing for our Water Protector/Occupiers and the Native Water Protector this upcoming Friday 10am at the St. Louis County Court House; there will be a rally for them in front of the courthouse at noon. Also, we need to decide if we’re gonna meet here again next Tuesday or if we’re gonna go over to Superior in support of their Stand Against Husky rally in front of the courthouse and then to their City Council meeting. I think we need to support our comrades when we can”. Another Occupier postulates, “I’m all for fighting against Husky and totally support our comrades but we have to wait a really long time each year to be able to have these fires. I think we should take advantage of this precious time and just do other stuff on non-fire days. The reporting Occupier agrees, “When you put it that way, I think you’re right; we should make fires while we can”.

Chicago Man reports that he lives in Men’s Transitional Housing; an Occupier responds, “Do tell, I didn’t know there was such a thing as Men’s Transitional.” Chicago Man explains, “Well, I have my own room but I have to share a kitchen and a bathroom with one other man. I have to pay rent of about $250 a month so I always have to have a job but it’s clean and warm and it will do nicely for now.”

Chicago Man also inquires, “Can anyone think of anything good or beneficial that He Who Shall Not Be Named has done?” Everyone thinks for a few minutes; somebody says, “Nope”. Everyone else agrees; that’s the end of that conversation.

A young, very slender, dark-haired couple join the circle. They’re not hungry but take coffee and juice. After just listening for a while, the male of the couple tells us that he is a recovering heroin addict. He says he takes Suboxone and feels healthy; he’s been able to refrain from doing heroin for a year now. We all congratulate him and offer words of encouragement. Everyone has stories about loved ones and the scourge of heroin.

Menagerie Woman rides in on her bike; she’s just finished working for twelve and a half hours and her feet are killing her. She gets juice, sits down and makes a phone call. Within minutes, Bush Man rides in on his bike. They exchange a few shy kisses; Menagerie Woman states, “Actually it’s my bike but I’m letting him use it”. They sit for a while but then have to leave in order to catch the bus; they’re going to her house until morning.

An Occupier remembers, “Hey, did anybody hear that Bernie Sanders is coming to Duluth on Friday the 13th?” Most people reply, “Oh, come on.” One Occupier says, “Oh no, I heard that too, he’s coming with Keith Ellison and they’re going to speak at Denfeld Auditorium. Doors will open at 3:45pm”. Everyone says, “Whoa!” An Occupier quires, “I wonder if the fact that we made such a big presence against HWSNBN made them realize that Duluth is not HWSNBN country”.

All the visitors have gone; there are only Occupiers and the Gardener in the circle. The street is very quiet; it’s devoid of cars and pedestrians. We’ve seen only a few squad cars; they were all just going on with their business. An Occupier comments, “Did you notice that we haven’t heard any sirens at all this evening?”. He’s right.

As we are all packing up, the Gardener tells the Occupier who makes much of the food, “I thought it odd that Chicago Man called you Grandma.” The Occupier explains, “Oh, he’s been doing that for a while now. I think because I feed people and try to be nice, I remind him of his grandma. He means it in a good way”.

It’s been decided, we’ll be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday. All are welcome you know.

G.A. Minutes 7-3-18

G.A. Minutes 7-3-18

We’ve returned to Peoples Plaza this evening; the big trees are still blocking the entrance where we normally drive our vehicles onto the east side of the Plaza in order to unload. We’re forced to set up our fire circle very close to the MN Power building again. We’d prefer to set up in our regular spot but as for now, it can’t be helped.

We don’t expect many of the homeless ones to visit tonight as it’s the beginning of the month; this means that many will receive their small government checks and be able to afford a few days of relative comfort before returning to the streets

There are quite a few peeps from the Anonymous crew waiting for us when we arrive; even the Anonymous dog, who used to regularly visit our fires back in the Clayton Jackson McGhee Memorial days is waiting. She’s older of course but also chubby and no longer barking at anyone or anything that moves. We always carry a dog dish in order to provide water to any dogs who visit our circle; we fill the dish and give her some liquid refreshment.

A 30 something woman friend of the Anons is present; we met her a few weeks ago. She’s lived in Duluth for a few years and has worked with a retired union organizer friend of ours. She creates websites and decided recently she would like to make a site that features and supports all the truly progressive people in the Twin Ports area. This website creator has been filming a lot of the progressive actions that have been and/or are currently happening in our somewhat unusual small city. She hooked up with the Anons a while ago and through them was introduced to the Occupiers. The Anons think she is legit; we like her and believe the Anons are correct. Time will tell.

Because we have so many people present right from the start we are able to get everything set up quickly. The Fire Magician gets a roaring fire going; we’ll need it again tonight. The weather people said that temperatures would be in the 80s today and lows in the 60s this evening with a variable gusty wind. Well, that’s not what happened here, temperatures may have been in the 80s up over the hill but down next to the lake where most of us live it rained with thunder and lightening early in the day then never got out of the 60s. A an Occupier comments, “Who woulda thought we’d need a big fire on the 3rd of July?”

An Anon asks, “Did anyone see that video of a Duluth cop dragging a drunk dude across the skywalk?” Some have seen it, others have not. The Anon passes his phone around so everyone who hasn’t seen it can do so. A guy who appears to be a street person has been cuffed and a DPD officer has the guy by the back of the neck of his shirt and is dragging him through the skywalk hallway. When the cop gets to a stairway he just keeps on dragging the guy; the dude’s head goes bang, bang, bang all the way down the staircase. An Occupier asks, “Do you know who filmed this?” The Anon replies, “We think it came from a cop’s body camera. Did you notice the part where a hand goes over the camera? We think that’s when the cop who was doing the dragging kicked the drunk dude in the head”. The Occupiers have a few more questions but people are coming and going, getting food and drinks, smudging and such. We think we need to pay attention to our guests.

A somewhat bedraggled looking, elderly man stands outside the circle then walks around it, handing each person a small brochure. Once he’s done with that he leaves. Everyone politely takes the brochure but upon examination we see they are Christian tracts probably written to be given to children. Many of the young ones in the circle are highly insulted; they ceremoniously throw the tracts in the fire. The older and wiser people just put them in their pockets; they surreptitiously throw them in the fire later when no one is looking.

The soup is ready! Almost everyone has a bowl; it’s the same as it was last week. Seeing as it was such a hit, the Food Occupier decided to do an encore. As we are eating, a thirty something, dark haired guy, wearing sunglasses comes out of the MN Power building. He checks out everyone in the circle then walks over to the Fire Magician and says, “I’m the head of the security department here and I need to talk with the leader. I need you to come inside with me”. The Fire Magician answers, “We don’t have leaders here and you are welcome to sit down right here and say whatever you have to say. By the way, we know that having this fire here is legal”. A few of the Anons start talking about ordinances and fire codes; the security guy’s body tenses visibly, he begins to turn and walk away. Curiosity gets the better of the Food Occupier, she calls out, “Hey wait a minute! I’ll talk to you! I’ll go with you!” The paranoid dude picks up his step, gets to the outside glass (bullet proof?) door, goes through it shutting it in the Occupier’s face. She calls out, “Hey, wait a minute! I said I would talk with you”. As the fleeing guy goes through the second door he calls over his shoulder, “You can talk to me during business hours!”

The Occupier who takes care of most of the foodstuffs walks back to the circle. She looks at the group and quires, “Didn’t he just say he wanted someone to go inside the building and talk with him?” We all say, “WTF?” She adds, “They think we’re going to slit their throats, don’t they?” The Anons answer, “Yeah”. Shortly thereafter, 2 bike cops come cruising down Superior St. They’re pretending that they’re not checking us out. An Anon yells an insulting remark at them; some of the Anons are very young with not much life experience under their belts. One could say , ‘They mean well’ and in an odd sort of way, they do.

An Occupier opines to the website designer, “Non-violence is really difficult. Many times it’s so tempting to just punch the oppressor right in the nose. One has to keep an overreaching goal in mind when dealing with bullies”. The designer replies, “Kinda like ‘keep your eyes on the prize’?”

An older man who we met last year comes walking across the street towards us. We remember him and say, “Yay!” He’s the guy who makes musical instruments out of weird shit. Tonight he has something that looks like a guitar except it’s made out of an antique, outboard motor gas tank cover. He plays it for us; it sounds like a banjo. He tells us, “I’m not really much of a musician, I just like to make things”. He then bids us goodbye and goes on his way.

An Anon brought his skateboard along tonight; almost all the Anons are or at sometime were skaters. A few of the regular Anons go into the middle of the Plaza to try out the board. Apparently, the board is the type that is better for traveling long distances but not very good for doing tricks. The particular Anons who are using the skateboard have not done much skating in the last several years; they try doing some tricks and take some hard falls. A bunch of occasional Anons arrive, they get food and drinks and go back to socialize with the regular Anons. They’re all laughing and having a good time.

The web designer remarks to no one in particular, “I’m really depressed about the state of the internet these days. It used to be a good source for exchange of information and such. The 1% are trying to make it just another money making source”. An Occupier agrees, “For real. Take back the web”.

The occasional Anons leave; the regular Anons return and attempt to do tricks for us outside the circle; they’re not having much luck but it’s still fun to watch them. The retired, confirmed atheist, neighborhood man who regularly visited our fires at CJMM rolls up. We haven’t seen him in several years; he tells us that he had cancer surgery. Bummer. The retired man chats with us for a while then needs to go on about his business; as usual, he leaves a generous donation.

So the sun is setting, everything is nice and mellow and….. A BIG FIRE TRUCK PULLS UP. Great. Someone remarks, “I can’t imagine why they’re here”. Two fire guys get out; it looks like there are more still in the truck. One guy has a uniform on and the other is in full firefighting gear. The uniformed one appears to be the boss; he looks vaguely familiar, when he says his name, an Occupier remembers and inquires, “We exchanged emails a few years ago didn’t we?” The fire boss replies, “Yes we did. The first thing I want to say to you all is that I am on your side but when somebody makes a call I have to respond. Unfortunately, the Fire Department has a policy that says one cannot have fires in a public park… the Occupier who keeps track of this sort of stuff politely interrupts him by saying, “A policy does not supersede a City Ordinance. The City Ordinance, the MN Statute and the MN and International Fire Code all state that the fire we have here is perfectly legal”. The fire dude responds, “Well, you’ve got me there. I’ll have to go research all that but if I get called back again I’ll have to bring the police with me. The Occupier gives him a few clues as to where to look for the information. Everyone says, “Have a good evening”.

Once the fire people are gone the keeper of the legal information groans, “Oh no, don’t tell me that we’re gonna have to go through all that again. It’s so time consuming and boring”. Another Occupier consoles her, “When I was complaining about this same type of thing a while back, one of our most respected local organizers told me, ‘It happens about every 3 years. They act like they’ve forgotten everything and you have to teach them again”.

It’s after 9pm and we’re wondering if we should pack up; our query is answered when Menagerie Woman rides in on her bike. She’s wearing a uniform of sorts with a glow in the dark vest. We haven’t seen her in at least a month; the last time she was in the circle she told us she had applied for a few jobs. It turns out that she was hired part time by 2 different companies. She tells us that she really likes one of the jobs; the other job, not so much. The job she really doesn’t care for is at a gas station/food store. On that job she is never allowed to sit down, even when she has nothing to do. The manager states she should always look as though she is busy; other staff constantly look over her shoulder, criticize her and ask questions about her personal life. She confides, “I hate it when people are constantly breathing down my neck, telling me what to do”.

The other job, which she enjoys, is working for the City of Duluth on the Clean and Safe Team. Menagerie Woman reports, “ Working on the Clean and Safe Team really rocks! I work by myself, at my own pace and am encouraged to socialize with people on the street. The people on the street are really interesting and nice; I have my own key to the manager’s office and can go in, change into my uniform and hit the street without being monitored by anyone. I’ve always hated to see cigarette butts scattered all over the place and would sometimes fantasize about getting a big bag and a pickup stick and picking them up myself. She laughs, ‘I’m living my dream!’ The job is only during the tourist season but they do keep some of the seasonal staff on for the whole year. I hope I’m one that they keep. I’ve gotta go now; I need to catch my bus. My animals are waiting for me.” Off she goes.

We don’t know if Menagerie Woman has ever had a job in the past; we do know what it’s like to have to work for a paycheck and how good it feels to be done when your shift is over.

So now it’s really time to pack up. We just get started when…… Oh. Come. On. The big red fire truck is back. The head fire dude jumps out, he calls over to us, “I have to go talk to these guys”. He walks up to the glass door and rings the bell. We can see that the security men are not happy; they and the fire guy go into a room and close the door. When the fire guy comes out he walks over to the circle and tells us, “If you just give the security guys some consideration and respect and move your fire to the east side of the Plaza then I think everything will be o.k”. An Occupier is about to say, “But they have blocked us from getting there”; the head fire guy cuts her off saying, “Gotta go now, there’s a HOUSE FIRE!”, he jumps in the big truck, on go the flashing lights and whistles, the truck makes a u-turn in the middle of the main street and goes zooming off.

We don’t know whether to get angry or to laugh; we choose laughter. An Occupier groans, “Straight people are sooooo weird”. Another Occupier responds, “Yeah, I know. And life is way too hard without somebody throwing in some stupid shit for no reason”.

As we are all heading to our homes an Occupier remembers, “Next Monday, July 9th at 6:45 pm at City Hall, 3rd floor, the City Council is gonna vote on the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights first 2 ordinances. WE NEED BODIES!!! I hope you all remember and show up, you don’t have to speak or anything. Just take a seat”.

We expect to return to Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.