G.A. Minutes 10-16-18

G.A. Minutes 10-16-18

It’s really cold tonight at Peoples Plaza; we were not expecting this. The weather people said the temperature would be in the high 30s and it is…. but this wind is definitely a killer! It’s coming from the west/northwest and it’s super strong, taking the air temps down by 20 degrees or so.

To make matters worse, when the first Occupiers drive up on the sidewalk at the Plaza’s edge there are no helpers obviously available. There are a couple of homeless appearing guys hanging out on the east ledge but they’re not making any moves that look like they’re gonna help us. The Food Bringing Occupier comments, “Well, we’re here now and it is what it is; let’s just start slogging away and see what happens”. So she and the Fire Magician begin slogging; at the rate they’re able to slog, setting up will take a long time.

After a while an African American homeless couple stop to help them. The female of the couple apologizes for being slow, she tells us that she’s recently been diagnosed with pneumonia. The male of the couple is seriously busting his butt though; he doesn’t stop until everything is up on the site. Once that’s done they begin to take their leave, saying they’re going off to find a sleeping place. The Occupiers notice that they have only one blanket between them; they’ve recently scored a couple of very good army blankets by way of the city official. The Occupiers give one of them to the homeless couple.

Just as the Food Bringing Occupier puts the final touches on the food table, a large group of Anon/Water Protectors and other Water Protectors arrive. They bring a shit ton of food too; it’s the kind of food that many street folks crave, like pre-packaged cheese burgers, chicken sandwiches and stuff like that. The Water Protectors also bring several big boxes of bananas. As soon as the favorite food goes on the table, the first wave of homeless ones appear and go to town on the preferred eats. They don’t stop until it’s all gone; almost everyone takes a banana too.

The Fire Magician has started the small charcoal grill to be used for keeping the homemade soup warm. Many Water Protectors stand around it, trying to get a bit of a heat source at least. Did I mention that it was cold this evening? The Fire Magician gets to work on getting a fire going in the fire pit; first birch bark is strategically placed, then kindling and finally the logs in a placement that seems to vary from fire to fire then WHOSH!… flames rise up. The Water Protectors quickly move to the real fire and say, “Yes! This is just what we need!” Once they are sufficiently warmed up they move away in order to let the other people get warm.

Another group of fire circle enthusiasts roll up; among them are Chicago Man, the partner of the gay, former street man, a couple of peeps from the Anonymous crew, several Occupiers and The Anarchist. Chicago Man has cut his hair short and naturally curly then dyed it blue. He opines, “I was feeling a little depressed so I thought I’d do something to make myself feel happy”. We think it looks really good. The former street man’s partner declares to one of the Occupiers, “You people inspired me to stop drinking and drugging”. We think, “Not to say that people can’t change and he does appear to be sober tonight but given the problems we had with him and his meth addiction last year, we’re gonna adopt a wait and see attitude with this one”.

An Occupier asks the Occupiers who are responsible for managing our firewood supplies, “So when are we going to go out to the country to get our yearly load of firewood?” The questioned Occupier replies, “Well, we called out there to make an appointment a few days ago. They told us they had received at least three times the amount of orders than they had received in the past. They said that as of right now they were completely out of firewood. They said they are currently working on procuring more and put us on their waiting list. No worries though, we have enough firewood left to see us through next spring”.

The Occupier who likes to report things reports, “Please remember that the trial for our Occupier/Water Protectors and the Water Protector from the southwest will happen this upcoming Friday, October 19th, 9am at the St Louis County Court House. I know I told everyone it was gonna happen on the 10th but I was obviously wrong. I’m not sure where I got the wrong date from; maybe I’m getting that Old-Timers Disease”. We all laugh.

“Also, when we canceled our fire circle last Tuesday so we could attend the Riot Gear Open House Comment Session I was hearing a rumor that the City Council was gonna table the vote on approving or not approving the Duluth Police Department’s request for Riot Gear. I heard that same rumor last Thursday at the last Comment Session. So anyway, I emailed Em Westerlund, the Councilor for my district and she told me that to table the vote or not will be decided by a vote from the whole City Council at the beginning of the next Council meeting on Monday, October 22nd, 7pm in the Council Chambers in City Hall.

“So I guess we’ll just have to show up prepared to speak or whatever and if they table the vote we’ll probably just leave”. An Anon remarks, “I hope they table the vote. The DPD has been really pushy and manipulative throughout this whole process. They want riot gear and they want it NOW!” A Water Protector adds, “Yeah, and why now? It wouldn’t have anything to do with No Line 3 protesters and such would it? Chief Tusken says they would never use the gear for anything like that. He says he hopes they never have an occasion to use it and that it will just sit on shelves until it rots. Yeah right! I think that many cops are victims of arrested development; did you ever give a kid a new toy and then tell him not to play with it? I rest my case”. We all sigh and nod our heads in agreement”.

The Occupiers, Anons and Water Protectors begin a conversation about climate change. They take turns listing all the climate disasters that have taken place in the last ten or so years. Someone exclaims, “I don’t understand why the capitalists can’t see what is right in front of their noses”. Another opines, “I think they are blinded by greed. They just want more and more and more. More money, more stocks, more mansions, more sexual conquests, more whatever. Greed is a very powerful and dangerous force”.

The retired neighborhood man drops by. As usual he’s talking about voting, the upcoming elections and such. We converse with him as best we can but the two parties = one party ying yang is not our strong suit. For those of us who do vote, we know we’ll be voting for Skip Sandman for 8th CD and then for the other most progressive candidates on the ballot. An Occupier confesses, “I don’t even know why I vote anymore but I do”. The retired man finds her statement to be amusing. As usual, when the man takes his leave, he leaves us a generous donation. An Occupier says to another, “I guess we could say he is our Patron?” The other Occupier answers, “Yeah, I think we could; over the years, the majority of the money we’ve had in our treasury has come from him”.

For the most part, the homeless and street people in the circle have been just listening to our conversations while eating and keeping warm by the fire. Yelling Man and his girlfriend are here too; Yelling Man has been nodding off and on. He’s probably tired. We hear some guy across the street loudly cussing up a storm; he’s using every swear word known to mankind. Yelling Man goes to the top of the Plaza stairs and starts yelling at the swearing guy. He hollers, “Why don’t you come over here and say that?!?” The swearing guy screams even louder. An Occupier exclaims, “No, don’t get him to come over here; you go over there!” Yelling Man laughs, “Don’t worry, he has Tourettes Syndrome, I’m just messing with him. He’s not gonna come over here”. Yelling Man is the only one who finds this situation funny.

The chronically homeless man with the deep voice and the girlfriend with PTSD comes up asking for a bowl of our homemade tomato, rice and vegetable soup. An Occupier looks in the pot and sees that it’s almost empty. She tells the man, “There’s not much left and it’s probably cold but I will heat it up for you”. The deep voiced man replies, “That’s o.k., I’ll gladly take it just the way it is”. The Occupier scrapes the bottom of the pot and comes up with enough to fill his bowl; then that’s the end of the soup.

It’s a little before 9pm and most of the homeless ones have gone off to their sleeping places. The rest of us are huddled up close to the glorious warmth of the fire. We figure we’ll sit around and let the fire die down somewhat before packing up and calling it a night but then suddenly, KABLAM!!….. a huge gust of wind blows everything off the food table, sends burning embers flying around the circle and even knocks over a few chairs.

Yikes! Everyone runs around picking up all the stuff that is blowing around the Plaza. An Occupier opines, “I think Mother Earth and Father Sky are hinting that it’s time for us to leave”. We still have enough fire worshipers around to allow us to quickly pack up and then jump into our vehicles.

This time of year we never know if we’ll be able to hold a Tuesday fire circle or not. Everything is up in the air (yeah I know, bad joke). If you don’t find us at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday, we’ll be up at Coney Island on 1st St.


G.A. Minutes 10-2-18

G.A. Minutes 10-2-18

The weather people were correct this time; it has rained every day except one since our meeting last Tuesday. The precipitation was not of flood-like proportions, however everything in Duluth is very wet. The weather folks promised us a full day of no rain just for today and evening; then it goes back to raining forever. The sky is gray, the temperature is in the mid-50s and there’s not much of a breeze. So far, they’ve kept their promise.

Anyway, as usually happens, the Food Bringing Occupier and the Fire Magician are the very first people to arrive for our Tuesday fire circle at Peoples Plaza. The space looks completely empty so they walk up the stairs and onto the Plaza in order to check things out. Yup, it is completely empty; there are not even any street people sitting on the benches or lying under the trees. The Food Bringing Occupier looks confused and says, “WTF? Oh wait, I almost forgot, it’s the first week of the month. Many of the street folks receive monthly, small, government checks; they can afford to treat themselves to whatever floats their boat for a few days at least. I’m used to a reduction in street peeps every first of the month but this makes it look like EVERYBODY got paid”.

An empty Plaza means the first Occupiers are gonna have to set up the fire circle themselves. The Fire Magician starts hauling out the fire pit, firewood and related items; the Food Bringing Occupier slowly pulls out a couple of chairs, drags them up the stairs and begins setting up a circle. She’ll continue doing this until someone else shows up and relieves her of the job. After about fifteen minutes or so, another Occupier, some regular peeps from the Anonymous crew and some occasional Anon peeps arrive. They finish the job while the Fire Magician gets a big fire going and the Occupier with the mild case of OCD sets up the food table.

Oh, and Fireproof Man is here too; he’s wearing a neon-lime green hijab. We think it might be his own personal version of rain gear or something but it certainly does look like a hijab. Whatever…. we’re grateful that he doesn’t offer to help with the set up.

The city official rolls in; he passes out fliers for his event Soles to the Poles. It will be sort of a primer for people who have never voted before or haven’t voted in a long while. Soles to the Poles will take place on Saturday, October 13th 1p-5p at the Duluth NAACP Branch in the Washington Center (310 W 1st Ave W).

We all take fliers and put some out on the table with our other literature. Unfortunately, we don’t expect many of our street visitors to take one; most homeless and/or street folks don’t see any value in voting. After many years of abuse, neglect or what have you, a sizable amount of them have internalized deep feelings of low self-esteem and/or little sense that what they think or desire is of any value. We think if every single street and/or homeless person (including felons) in the Central Hillside and West End were to vote we’d have a different sort of City government with a very different set of priorities. That would be nice.

A Water Protector/Anon has made a delicious hamburger, noodle and cheese casserole; she sets it on the table just as the OCD Occupier finishes getting all the usual things put out. The Occupier takes a seat in the circle and seemingly out of nowhere, three or four small groups of young people appear. They are ravenously hungry, each filling several bowls of everything that is offered. We don’t believe the young ones can possibly eat all the food they are taking; perhaps they’re going to bring some of it to other hungry folks? As the neighborhood street youngsters load up their dishes they keep repeating, “Oh, thank you, thank you! This is so wonderful etc.” Once these teenagers have taken as much as they can feasibly carry they vanish back to wherever they came from. We notice the casserole has pretty much vanished too. Hopefully there will be lots of young ones able to sleep well tonight because their bellies are happy and full.

The Occupier who is a single parent remarks to the city official, “I’m told that my son, who is a freshman at UWS, will be interning at the campus radio station where your weekly show is broadcast”. The official man responds, “That’s good to know, I’ll be sure to pay extra attention to him”.

A big pot of homemade tomato-rice soup with other vegetables has been heating up on the small charcoal grill. There’s also a big loaf of homemade whole grain bread to go with it. Those of us who missed the casserole will just have to fill up on soup and bread. That’ll work.

The Occupier who lives in Superior tells us, “I see that OSHA fined Husky Oil $83,000 for the safety violations that led to those fires and the explosion last April. $83,000?!? That’s almost nothing to Husky; it’s about the same as one dollar would be to one of us. Just think of all the citizens in Superior who could have been killed! If the wind hadn’t switched, tens of thousands of people across the bay would have been evacuated. As usual, the fossil fuel industry gets a pass. The mayors of both Duluth and Superior demanded that Husky remove that super deadly tank of hydrogen fluoride from the refinery in Superior and replace it with something safer; Husky said, ‘Nope, not gonna do it. It would cost us too much money to replace it’. So far, they’ve gotten away with it. Apparently, not spending extra money is more important than the lives of the 100,000+ people who live in the path of the refinery. What a crock of shit!”

Another Occupier changes the subject, “It sounds like there’s gonna be some action around the Duluth Police Department’s request (read demand) for riot gear next week. I don’t know all the particulars but I’ve heard there will be a Riot Gear rally next Wednesday, October 10th at Denfeld H.S. That’s all I know right now but I’ll investigate and let everyone know asap. I think this is something we need to be involved in”. We all think so too.

An Occupier comments to the city man, “I’ll be coming and bringing a few others with me to your Duluth Transit Authority board of directors meeting on the last Wednesday of this month in order to talk about the possibility of you all helping out with warming stations for all the homeless folks who can’t go to CHUM when the winter weather gets too dangerous for them to be outdoors”. The official man replies, “Wait a minute…. I think the date has been changed”. He looks at his phone then continues, “The BOD meeting has been rescheduled for the fourth Wednesday, October 24th 5:30 pm at 2402 W Michigan St in the boardroom. I’ll be happy to see you all there”.

An Occupier asks an FDL Water Protector, “So how are you all coming along with signatures for the referendum?” She responds, “Not bad, we’re over halfway there”. Another Occupier quires, “Referendum?” The Water Protector explains, “If we can get three hundred signatures from Fond du Lac band members who actually live on the rez then we can put a referendum on the ballot to override the Tribal Council’s decision to allow Enbridge to build their Line 3 Pipeline on our land”. The Occupier exclaims, “Really?!? That is so wonderful! I would love to help you but I’m just an old Chimookikwe (white woman) who lives in Duluth”. The Water Protector tells her, “No worries, there will be plenty of things that you can do”.

The Anons gather up their signs and music and get ready to go out to the protest corner. It’s warm here next to the fire but out on the corner…..not so much. As they leave, someone comments, “There are more female Anons than usual tonight”. We all think that is a good thing.

Fireproof Man has been bopping in and out of the circle all evening; he’s still talking his “word salad” but we’re beginning to notice that if we listen closely, we can make out entire sentences that he says. Now it seems like he’s trying to make some kind of bed out of the chairs in the circle. It doesn’t work very well and he falls on his ass. He seems a little embarrassed and tries to cover this up by arranging all the chairs in kind of a square with three chairs pushed very close together, a big space then three more chairs etc. etc. When he goes to lie on a back bench, an Occupier puts all the chairs back into a circle; she sighs, “That guy is so weird!” A middle-aged street woman who has become a regular at our fire circle this year reports, “Oh, he’s always like that. Every once in a while he gets sent to Miller Dwan; when he gets out he talks and acts normal for a few weeks then he goes back to being like he is now”.

A guitar player who lived in our homeless camp over the summer about six years ago and who has remained a friend ever since drops in. He states, “I’m on my way to somewhere but I thought I’d stop by to see how you guys are doing”. We all exchange info about what’s been going on in our lives since we last saw each other (probably about a year ago). The guitar player opines, “You know that all this crap with He Who Shall Not Be Named is just meant to distract citizens from what is going on behind the scenes like trying to steal our social security, taking over the Supreme Court, militarizing the police forces, more wars and stuff like that. Now there’s all these questions about how HWSNBN got elected; I think that’s because the “shadow government”, or whatever it’s called, was bound and determined to get him placed in the president position. Citizens who are easily entertained will spend their time watching and listening to HWSNBN’s antics while the 1%ers steal the few rights and freedoms that we still have.

“Also, I think I know the real reason why the cops get bent out of shape when people protest while wearing masks or bandannas. It has nothing to do with identity, they don’t want you all to wear masks because the masks make it difficult for them to effectively gas you. Your eyes, mouth and nose are covered so you won’t absorb the gas adequately. Anyway, I’d better be on my way; I just wanted to stop in and see how you were doing. It looks to me like you’re doing really well. Keep it up, my friends”. The guitar player used to live in Duluth but he doesn’t live here anymore, that’s why we so seldomly see him.

A guy with dark hair and eyes, who we haven’t met in the past, appears in our circle. He tells us that he is a college student in some type of science related field. Some science-minded Occupiers get into a conversation about time and energy or something like that. The rest of us sit and listen. It sounds like the dark haired guy is trying to impress the science Occupiers with his massive knowledge and brilliance; when he realizes that that’s not working very well, he gets up to leave. As he walks away, he calls over his shoulder, “By the way, I do stand up comedy every Friday night, 8pm at the Dublin Inn”. Go figure.

Suddenly, a strong, cold wind launches an attack on the Plaza. Brrrr!….. Everyone zips up their jackets etc. We push all the chairs up close to the fire. The Anons return from the corner; the wind is just too cold.

A veteran, tall, slender street woman, who we have known for many years, steps out of the shadows. She asks if we still have coffee and we say, “Yah, for sure, just help yourself”. The tall woman reaches for the coffee carafe; Fireproof Man leaps out from the Nether World (or wherever it is that he goes) jumps in front of her, grabs the carafe and ceremoniously pours himself a full cup of coffee. The woman exclaims, “Hey, weird dude! Whatdaya think you’re tryin’ to do?” Fireproof Man then attempts to pour hot coffee down the woman’s arm. She jumps back and Fireproof Man runs away. The slender woman yells, “Do you want to get your head bashed in?!?” Fortunately, there is still a little coffee left so she is able to get some at least.

On that note, we figure it’s time to pack up. The Anons scurry around and get things packed up quickly; they’re getting to be experts at this. We don’t know if the veteran street woman will beat up Fireproof Man or not but if she does, we’re not gonna stick around to defend him. Come to think of it though, we’ve not known her to be particularly crazy. She just hangs out with a couple of her brothers; her brothers are also very tall. They’re generally a pretty peaceful family; as long as you don’t mess with them, that is. The veteran woman is known to pack a really hard punch but all she really wants is for people to give her the respect that she and all women deserve.

If it doesn’t rain, we’ll be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.