West Barnstable resident Don Cox called for the kickoff Occupy Cape Cod assembly to be held on the Hyannis Green, on the first Wednesday in October — about two weeks after Occupy Wall Street commenced. With his thick chest and bold blue eyes, Cox resembles an Irish version of Paul Sorvino — not the typical folksy Occupy retiree look. Cox is a Cape Cod lifer, an entrepreneur who was last in the restaurant and catering business. His first love, though, is doing advocacy work with elders and retired veterans.
"A lot of people out here don't know what to make of us," says Cox, who set up the Occupy Cape Cod Facebook and Twitter accounts. "When people find out that I'm involved with Occupy, they ask my wife if I'm sleeping in a tent. I'm also friends with a lot of police officers around here, which made it interesting when Bank of America locked their doors and called police on us."
While Cox was organizing in Hyannis, drawing between 50 and 100 people a week, other Occupy outposts were also growing on the Cape — in Wellfleet, Eastham, Orleans, Provincetown. Of them all, Hyannis and Falmouth attracted the most supporters, with about 50 bodies from the latter group first rallying against Bank of America on October 15. According to Waasdorp, the Green-Rainbow carpenter, about half of those who came were familiar faces from past protests, while the rest were newly energized by Occupy.
"I've been an activist for a long time — I've been to jail [for demonstrating] and everything," says Hyannis Occupier Diane Turco. Along with Waasdorp, Turco works closely with Cox and Occupy Cape Cod. Together, they have helped facilitate a unique general- assembly process — Waasdorp jokes that the only hand signal they use is when they cup their ears to hear better. "Occupy was a breath of fresh air," she says, "like everybody was connected and ready to turn the page.."
NO MORE WAITING Cape Cod Occupiers like Paul Rifkin have brought a maturity that's often been lacking from the movement.
TAKING ON FORECLOSURES
By February, Occupy Cape Cod was ready for a clash. Members had spent months shaming bank branches and studying the home mortgage crisis in foreclosure working groups. Grace Ross, an expert on foreclosure prevention and one-time Green-Rainbow candidate for governor of Massachusetts, gave workshops to Occupy Cape Cod, arming them with her trademark approach to saving homes. So on February 21, about 30 of them took their fury and their signage to Alijo Drive in West Yarmouth, where a foreclosed home was up for auction.
"We got into a confrontation with the realtors who have been down here, buying houses up at auction with no competition," says Cox. "We showed up all of a sudden unannounced, and we rained all over their parade." Cox and his comrades got into a minor tiff with the auctioneer, who tried to pry a camera out of one activist's hand. Adds Waasdorp: "It was really empowering. If I had to guess an average age of the people who showed up that day, it would be 60-plus — there were two walkers out there! But people that age can do things like this, and they want to do it again."