By Kyle Clauss firstname.lastname@example.org
TEWKSBURY - The Market Basket standoff continued Friday morning as workers rallied against the company management at the corporate headquarters.
"This is good versus evil," said Joe Garon, a Market Basket employee of 49 years. "The regular worker versus the CEO."
Holding up signs and heckling the company CEOs leaving the premise, the workers remained defiant despite the threat from the corporate management that they must return to work today or lose their jobs.
Later Friday afternoon, a replacement truck driver for Market Basket was arrested for allegedly approaching protesters with a hammer outside of headquarters, according to Tewksbury police.
Ira Forbes, 27, of Brooklyn, N.Y. was charged with assault by means of a dangerous weapon and disorderly conduct. After a verbal altercation with protesters at the company's headquarters at 875 East St., police said Forbes armed himself with a hammer, exited his truck and approached the crowd gathered around the entrance to the building.
Forbes ignored commands to re-enter his truck and walked toward the crowd in a threatening manner, police said.
He is scheduled to be arraigned at Lowell District Court on Monday.
Market Basket released the following statement about the incident late Friday afternoon: "We are thankful that local police intervened and that no one was injured. Market Basket of course condemns the driver's actions.
Employees and customers have caused a standoff with the company over the firing of CEO Arthur T. Demoulas by the board of directors, a move led by cousin Arthur S. Demoulas. Workers say they will return only if Arthur T. Demoulas is returned as CEO. Gov. Deval Patrick has urged employees to return to work while an agreement between the warring parties is negotiated, yet workers have ignored the governor's request.
"Artie's always been there for us. He's always taken care of us. Now it's our turn to take care of him," said employee Rosie Hagopian.
Numerous protesters took issue with the barren flagpole outside Market Basket headquarters, which they say has lacked an American flag for the entire standoff.
"Every day we come in, first thing: That flag goes up. We've asked them to put the flag up. They've ignored us," said Hagopian. "Four weeks, no flag. They should be ashamed of themselves."
Hagopian, who worked in the meat department for 25 years before moving to the front office for 16, had not seen any employees return to work.
"That's where people are supposed to go back to work, between those two cones." said Hagopian. "Do you see anybody? There's nobody. There hasn't been anybody. There isn't going to be anybody. Guaranteed."
"Nobody's going to separate us. Nobody," said Hagopian.
The company management countered the rally by placing security guards at both entrances. Guards filmed the protesters with handheld camcorders. All media was banned from the property. A Sun reporter was escorted to his car by security and filmed as he exited.
The large crowds appeared to be in for a long rally, putting up tents and roasting a lamb in a fire pit. The protesters received donations of sushi on Thursday, while Sal's Pizza has steadily donated pizzas.
"We're not going back until Arthur T. Demoulas owns and runs the company," said Richard Fichera, who had been picketing since 6:30 Friday morning. "We're a family. We're going to stick together."
"The Demoulas family created a wonderful career opportunity for the average person. It's a partnership," said Fichera.
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