Occupy: A Suburban View

By Cristina Quinn

Dec. 12, 2011

weymouth signs

Voters in Weymouth, Mass. were split almost evenly in the last presidential election, and they're split now over the Occupy movement. (Cristina Quinn/WGBH)

In WGBH News’ Occupy “report card," one particular comment caught our attention: Alex Ingram, a spokesman for Occupy Boston, said the movement had to get the message out to the suburbs. We sent WGBH News’ Cristina Quinn to Weymouth, Mass., a suburb that walks a political tightrope, to see where the movement might be headed next.

WEYMOUTH, Mass. — The second=oldest town in Massachusetts, Weymouth has a rich history that’s steeped in working-class values. It was home to many shoe factories, and housed a naval airfield until the late ‘90s. Home to 54,000 residents, it’s a 20-minute ride on the commuter rail to downtown Boston, but far away enough to forget about the city once you’re home.

The 2008 presidential election divided Weymouth just about down the middle: Obama defeated McCain by just 2,000 votes.

Another thing they’re split on? The Occupy movement.

In the parking lot of Walmart on Middle Street, bargain hunters wheeled their carts out to their cars. A shopper named Sarah said she was fed up with the movement.

“I see where some of them are coming from but that’s not the way to do it, is my opinion,” she said. “I think they’re making a mess of the city. More and more people I talk to think that it’s just not the right way to do it. And I don’t agree with them. If people want to work bad enough, I think they can find a job.”
Down the street at the Next Page Café, longtime resident Chuck put down his paper to discuss Occupy Boston. He sympathized with the Occupiers but thought they needed to organize better before making their next move.

“I think they need to think about their message and boil it down a bit. Because it got a little cloudy and it got a little confusing, and got a little too general,” he said.

At Jimmy’s Diner, customers regularly pledge their loyalty to the Yankee pot roast. Waiting for his mac ‘n’ cheese, Ralph agreed with Chuck: The Occupiers should get their act together.

“I don’t think they have any idea what they really want. It’s not like the ‘60s where everybody had one idea about ending the war. It’s just confused,” he said. “Everybody has their own little idea of what they want to get out of this…. There’s no cohesiveness.”
In the afternoon, Robert munched on a blueberry muffin at Mary Lou’s on Main Street as pop music crackled through the speakers mounted on the pink walls. He thought that everyone in the younger generation had a long battle ahead, and that the Occupy Movement might be the answer.

“My heart does go out to you kids,” he said. “I failed at some of my opportunities but I still had the opportunity, and you guys don’t.”
In all, the Weymouth residents WGBH News spoke with were split pretty evenly on Occupy Boston. But almost all of them agreed that the Occupiers needed to work on their approach if they want to be taken seriously.

Back at the Next Page, Chuck said, “just being angry, just being upset and frustrated and feeling helpless, that’s fine. But you have to offer solutions. And if you’re just going to offer anger and loud voices, you’re not getting your message across.”

Halfway through his blueberry muffin, Robert suggested that maybe Occupiers should stop paying their student loans.

“The people with mortgages — that was a lie, and the banks got away with murder, and I think the student loan thing was a lie,” he said. If people quit paying their student loans, “That would get people’s attention. Because the whole world runs on money.”
Over at Jimmy’s Diner, Ralph had his own idea. “They really should just be occupying Washington. That’s where it all happened,” he said. “Let them all sit down on the Mall and let the politicians see what the real problem is, and what the people want. Doing it in Boston and all these little cities doesn’t do any good.”

Sarah, the Walmart shopper, thought today’s young people just wanted something for nothing. “They think they feel that they’re entitled,” she said. “You want a college education? Pay for it. Don’t expect the government to give you breaks on the loans.”
That attitude affected everyone, she said: “The people who live by the rules in this world are the ones in the long run getting penalized, because everyone else wants everything for nothing.”

As the Occupy Movement considers its next steps, it’s clear the message needs help in the suburbs — a place without encampments, but with lots of foreclosures.

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