BEVERLY — An attempt at discussing mask and vaccine mandates ended before it even began Tuesday afternoon, with members of the public taking over and preventing an attempt to call a Beverly Board of Public Health meeting to order.
More than 350 people were in attendance when the board tried holding a virtual meeting over Google Meet at 3 p.m. The agenda called for discussions on mask and vaccine mandates, conversations that have also played out in surrounding communities.
Officials attempted to call the meeting to order but failed to gain control of the online session. Then, after all city officials left the meeting, the session continued uninterrupted for close to an hour, led by a mask mandate opponent who ran a list of speakers based on who’s hands were raised, providing a Lord of the Flies-esque moment for the unusual meeting.
“Once it starts in one place then it’s going to be in another. Then it’s going to be in another, then it’s going to be in another,” Mark Cucinelli said of mask mandates “Next thing you know, it’s the supermarkets. It’s the CVS.”
The session ended at 4:01 p.m. as the discussion continued with a speaker outlining how mitigation efforts have been resisted in Pennsylvania.
Officials’ first attempt to take control of the meeting came at 3:07 p.m., when everyone attending the meeting was muted at once and Beverly health director William Burke interrupted.
“Are we going to try to get this meeting going? Or are we just going to have this banter all night?” he said. “I need you to mute, because we can’t have everybody talking at the same time. If we can’t get it done, we’ll have to go to another forum a different day.”
Board chairperson William Alpine Jr. attempted to call the meeting to order. Before he did, he announced the vaccine mandate discussion was removed from the agenda.
“Amen,” interjected an attendee named Nicole Coles. “It’s against our HIPAA rights, and civil liberties. Our civil liberties and HIPAA rights.”
Alpine then continued trying to speak, at which point Burke interrupted while on a phone call with an unmuted microphone.
Beyond that, there wasn’t much city officials were allowed to say, drowned out by attendees against mask and vaccine mandates shouting in defense of their freedoms.
“Cahill is going to get about 500 protesters in front of his house,” said one person with a censored phone number as his name.
“We should be in front of Michelle Wu’s house,” responded another phone number, referencing Boston’s mayor, where a vaccine mandate policy was just put in place and mirrored by Salem officials last week.
“Let’s burn her house down too,” added an attendee with the screen name Andrew Jackson.
Calls to Burke and Williams seeking comment, including when and where another meeting would be scheduled, weren’t returned on deadline.
To read complete coverage from the meeting, visit bit.ly/3pxLbrx.