At NARH, protesters line road, occupy cafeteria


NORTH ADAMS -- After a full day of protests, hospital staff and community members are planning to continue their efforts at 9 a.m. Friday.

The staff and union leaders weren't completely certain what the news -- that the hospital's emergency room would remain open -- meant for their operations, and they planned to continue the protest.

Throughout the day on Thursday, union leaders from the 1199 Service Employees International Union and Massachusetts Nurses Association "occupied" the North Adams Regional Hospital cafeteria. They worked to organize a vigil at 5 p.m., and then again at 9 a.m. Friday.

In conjunction with the increased protester presence, at least four North Adams Police officers stood in the lobby, attempting to keep it clear for incoming patients. As the crowd in the cafeteria grew early on Thursday, Mayor Richard Alcombright asked the protesters to remain peaceful and orderly.

Outside, dozens of protesters lined the road in front of the hospital holding signs opposing the shutdown and supporting union workers.

Against a cold breeze, the somber crowd was mostly quiet, occasionally checking their phones and chatting among themselves. They tuned in to local and regional media, waiting for any news from state efforts to avert the impending shutdown.

Every so often, a new rumor would create a buzz in the crowd.

Hospital administration allowed protesters to remain in the cafeteria, but TV cameras were banned from the grounds. Police and the mayor said that the hospital had the right to remove protesters if it chose to.

"At the end of the day, it's private property," Alcombright said.

As of press time, no arrests had been made.

"We feel as bad for these people as anyone," according to North Adams Police Lt. David Sacco. But, he added, it was ultimately the hospital administration's decision whether to allow protests on the campus.

"We all have to have heightened patience," he said.

To reach Adam Shanks:

or (413) 663-3741, ext. 225.

On Twitter: @EagleAdamShanks


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