G.A. Minutes 5-21-19
After being rained out last week, we’re back at Peoples Plaza this evening. It’s been raining a lot over the last few weeks and the weather people predict more rain for the next few days but tonight we’re being given a break. The sky is overcast, temperatures are in the mid-40s and the wind is unbelievable. The weather people said there was gonna be an east wind with gusts up to 40 miles per hour. They were not kidding; the gusts are blowing everything off the tables and knocking over some of the chairs too. We can handle this; we put rocks to hold the table things down and we sit in the chairs. It works; we realize the strong breeze is gonna burn up a lot of wood and sage but…… whatever.
When the first Occupiers arrive on the scene, they find the big guy from the Anonymous crew waiting to help unload the main supplies. Perfect; while the Fire Magician and the big Anon unload supplies, the Occupier, who brings most of the food, scours the flower beds for decent sized rocks. Soon a few others arrive, our small group now consists of a couple of Occupiers, the big Anon, an Anon/Water Protector and her elementary school-aged daughter, the no longer dreadlocked, persistently homeless young man who has attended our fire circles for several years, the African American guy from the neighborhood who drops by from time to time and a street woman we are meeting for the first time.
The Fire Magician lights the fire and the wind joins in, it shoots the flames way high up. The Anon/W.P. and her daughter have brought all the ingredients for the making of s’mores. They will fit nicely with all our usual food offerings; the young girl is having a great time toasting marshmallows, putting the s’mores together and passing them out to all the so-called grownups. This is her first time attending our fire circle; we’re betting she’ll ask her Mom to bring her again.
The big Anon asks one of the Occupiers, “I heard the cops gave you a citation on May Day; so what’s going on with that now?” The Occupier tells him, “Well I’m gonna plead not guilty of course. I have my first court date on Wednesday, May 29th. I don’t think I’ll need anyone to come with me for moral support as I think this will be just a meeting with the prosecutor. I’ll just bring copies of all the ordinances, statutes, fire codes and that type of stuff, show them to the prosecutor and take it from there. Then the prosecutor will say something to try and intimidate me and when I don’t flinch they’ll either dismiss the case or move it on down the line to wherever it goes next. You never can tell with The Suits, some are actually conscientious, professional people who try to be compassionate while following the law and some are mean, nasty, power-hungry sickos who will go to great lengths to get a person to do as they’ve been ordered to do.
“I know I have white privilege so I probably won’t have to do any jail time”. We all laugh and she continues, “I spoke with one of the court clerks the other day and she told me that my the fine for my violation, that in reality was not a violation, is $278. Give me a break! If a financially stable person gets a citation, they generally just pay the fine as it’s more convenient for them but, this is a major way that cops destroy the lives of poor people. They issue citations over really petty things just because they can. Even if the charges are eventually dropped, a poor person still has to show up, on time, to court which is not that easy if one needs to hustle up bus fare or try to get time off from their very low waged slave job. I mean, shit, slave jobs don’t acknowledge an employee’s right to anything. If the employee needs time off for any reason, the boss will just fire them. If the cited person happens to be homeless, they may not even receive the paper in the mail that tells them when they’re supposed to be in court.
“If the person who has been given a citation is unable to make it to court at the assigned date and time, a warrant for their arrest will be issued. Sooner or later a cop will run across the cited person, find they have an outstanding warrant and then take them to jail. That really fucks poor people up; they may miss very important appointments, be unable to pay their rent or have their children taken away by Child Protection Services. All this because, in many instances, some cop wanted to throw his/her weight around”.
A W.P. comments, “I’ve heard that cops have monthly quotas that specify the number of tickets they have to issue”. The Occupier replies, “I’ve heard that too but I don’t know if it’s true. The cops say they don’t have quotas but who really knows? Cops have been known to lie, you know”. An Anon incredulously exclaims, “No!?!?” Everyone chuckles.
The currently cited Occupier sighs, “I’m sorry to have to inform you all that things are getting even more precarious for our friendly little fire circle. I went to the monthly Planning Commission meeting last week because I’d been told that MN Power was going to inform the Commission about a new plan they had related to Peoples Plaza. An MP+L dude was there; he made a presentation, part of which, contained a plan to discontinue the public easement (vehicle entryway to Peoples Plaza) that goes in front of the MN Power building and then turns onto the Plaza. The dude made a point to say they’d be happy to open the entryway for the Christmas tree people and for the Farmers Market. After he was done, I went up to the mic and asked, ‘Well, if the easement is gone, how will all the other people who need to get their vehicles onto the Plaza be able to do that?’ One of the City people put a picture of the three big planters currently covering the entryway up on the big TV screen so I could easily show everyone in the room what’s been going on for over a year now.
“The Commissioners asked the MP+L guy for an answer; I could see that this really pissed him off. He runs up to the podium and growls, “They can ask us and we’ll let them in!” We all say, “Yeah, right”. The cited one continues, “So… now we have more shit that we’ve gotta do! All I can think of is that we need to ask ourselves and our supporters to email ALL of their City Councilors requesting that they NOT ALLOW MN Power to vacate the easement. I think that the official legal name of Peoples Plaza is Lake Superior Park West. MN Power is scheduled to present their marvelous new plan to the City Council on Monday, June 10th, 7pm at City Hall in the Council Chambers. I think we should start the emailing around June 1st. Also, we need to get a few people who are willing to speak to the Councilors in support of keeping the entryway open. I hate public speaking but in this case, I will do it. So, that’s all I can think of; if you guys have better ideas please step up, I can’t do this by myself”. We will all step up but first we need a little time to digest this new information.
Just as we begin our digestion, a group of Duluth police officers accompanied by two Duluth firefighters with big water tanks strapped to their backs come walking up the stairs. An Occupier mumbles to himself, “Oh crap! Not this again!” All the cops and firefighters appear to be just fresh outta high school. The cop who appears to be the lead one tells us (with a straight face), “Before you say anything I need to inform you that the laws have changed; you can no longer have a fire here”. An Occupier needs to turn her face away for a moment so that she doesn’t laugh; she responds, “Oh really? Who told you that the laws have changed?” The tells her, “Chief Tuscan and the City Council”. Seeing the skeptical look on the Occupier’s face, the cop continues, “Hey look, I’m just a grunt; I have to do what they tell me”. Someone opines, “I’m guessing the MN Power security guards called to illegally report us again”. The officer nods in agreement.
The Occupier pretends to empathize, “Oh I definitely get that. I’ve spent a large portion of my life having to bite my tongue while working with oppressive supervisors and such. I’m very happy to be retired”. One of the firefighters begins to absolutely drown our fire. Another Occupier laughs, “You must be trying to make up for May Day when your boss yelled at you for not putting it all the way out”. The fire dude smiles and nods his head to say yes.
The first Occupier gets the name and number of the lead cop, the rest of the cops just stand around like they’re watching some kind of training session. She attempts to get the same information from the one fire guy who doesn’t have a water tank on his back but he won’t answer her. None of the fire guys will admit to being the person in charge. Once the heroic deed is done and all government people prepare to leave, the lead police officer says to the first Occupier, “Thank you for being cooperative”. The Occupier nods her head to acknowledge that she heard him.
After they leave, the guy from the neighborhood interjects, “They sure is some dumb muthafuckas”. An Anon/W.P. groans, “So I guess we just sit here now until it gets too cold or until it’s dark”. An Occupier opines, “We need to find a way to stop this shit. If we just do nothing but jump through their hoops we’ll still be fighting this years from now”. The city official arrives; he looks around and asks, “So, they put the fire out again?!” We say. “Yup”. He exclaims, “This is not right!” An Occupier agrees, “I know, this needs to stop”. The city official and the Occupier step out of the circle; they are formulating a plan. To be continued……
The city official needs to leave as he’s not dressed for the kind of weather we’ve been left sitting in. A couple of young men from Natives Against Heroin stop in; a street woman who has attended our fires,off and on for many years follows close behind. They commiserate about our fire; we offer them bowls of soup. Our soup tastes mighty good in the cold weather; the cops and fire people didn’t even notice our little charcoal grill quietly burning away. The young girl and her mom warm their hands over the hot coals.
The Occupier who likes to report stuff reports, “By the way, the Indigenous Commission DOES want us to bring our fire to the Naming Ceremony at Gitchie Ode Akiing Park on Friday, May 31st at 1pm. Then, Socialist Pizza will happen on that same day at 6:30pm in the Women’s Building”. An Occupy elder remarks, “Imma help do the fire then go home and take a nap so I’ll be able to say something intellectual, if needed, at Socialist Pizza” We all crack up.
It’s getting dark now so we begin to pack up. We expect to be back at Peoples Plaza, with our fire pit, next Tuesday.