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‘Let’s burn her house down’: Beverly board’s COVID meeting descends into chaos

"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."

Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe
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A shouting match erupted in lieu of the Beverly Board of Health’s Tuesday afternoon virtual meeting to discuss indoor mask and vaccine mandates as attendees gave full-throated opposition to the potential COVID-19 protocols.

The city’s health officials were unable to ever call the would-be meeting to order over the grievances of vocal members of the public, The Salem News reports. There were over 350 people on the call when the meeting was scheduled to take place at 3 p.m.

What happened instead was a nearly hour-long session led by an opponent to mask mandates who handed off the mic to whomever had a virtual hand raised, according to the outlet.

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The newspaper wrote the dynamic provided “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 regarding mask mandates. “Next thing you know, it’s the supermarkets. It’s the CVS.”

At one point, a speaker even tossed out a violent suggestion — a threat to set Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s house ablaze, apparently as an act of defiance.

Wu, last week, announced a vaccine requirement for certain indoor venues in Boston — a decision that has earned her heaps of criticism from around the country, much of it tinged and covered with racism, she has said.

One person, identified only by a censored phone number on the call, said Beverly Mayor Michael Cahill “is going to get about 500 protesters in front of his house,” according to the News.

“We should be in front of Michelle Wu’s house,” said another person.

“Let’s burn her house down, too,” added another attendee who was using the screen name Andrew Jackson, a nod to the country’s populist seventh president.

City officials tried to take control of the meeting at several moments, beginning at 3:07 p.m., the News reports.

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“Are we going to try to get this meeting going? Or are we just going to have this banter all night?” Beverly Health Director William Burke 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 Frank Carbone was not at the meeting. Member William Alpine Jr. tried to call the meeting to order and announced to attendees the vaccine mandate would no longer be discussed that day.

“Amen,” an attendee named Nicole Coles said in an outburst. “It’s against our HIPAA rights, and civil liberties. Our civil liberties and HIPAA rights.”

Alpine tried to speak again, but Burke interrupted as he spoke on a separate phone call, his comments picked up through an unmuted microphone, according to the newspaper.

Dustin Luca, a Salem News staff writer, penned: “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.”

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