The rebellion of Market Basket employees received a boost Saturday evening from hundreds of the company’s customers, who rallied outside a store in Tewksbury to declare their support for ousted company president Arthur T. Demoulas.
The rally, which convened in a parking lot at twilight, featured speeches in English and Spanish from several customers who had organized the event on Facebook earlier in the week.
Customers and their families were joined by some employees, who said they were also customers.
Jeffrey Betterini of Epping, N.H., was one participant at the rally. He said he has visited every Market Basket store in recent weeks, meeting people and boosting morale by filing regular video dispatches to Facebook groups used by protesters.
“I’ve been shopping with these people since 1988,” he said. “Every time I’ve needed anything, they’ve provided it.”
After Arthur T. Demoulas was fired in June by a board controlled by his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas, employees launched a protest that has kept customers away and left store shelves largely empty.
The chain’s ownership is said to be negotiating a sale that could resolve the impasse.
Some people said they were angry at being depicted as “hostages” by the company’s management and by some journalists.
“We’re not mindless people following Arthur T. Demoulas for no reason at all,” said Danielle Androy of Merrimack, N.H.
While the crowd was in the hundreds, customers said they represented more than a million others who were boycotting the store.
Paula Sargent of Merrimac, Mass., said that some customers who could not make the rally held a “rolling rally” in which they gathered at several stores over the course of the day, even grilling food.
“It needs to stop,” she said of the family dispute that has brought the company to a standstill. “Enough is enough.”
Four rallies have been held at the same site, but the previous ones drew mostly employees because they were held during the work day, said Noel Gordon, who organized Saturday’s protest.
Gordon, whose husband is fired Market Basket employee Tom Gordon, said the rally was meant to show that thousands of customers are boycotting the store out of support for protesting employees, not because the shelves of its stores are running bare.
The rally was scheduled to start at 6 p.m. at the Market Basket store at 10 Main St.
A page for the rally on Facebook had fewer than 200 people list themselves as “going,” although Gordon said she had received messages and calls from hundreds more who expected to attend.