BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — Decked out in a red Santa Claus jacket, Charles Chouinard stood along Highland Avenue yesterday morning with 30 other protesters holding signs and waving at passing motorists.
The 55-year-old Salem resident carried a placard that read: "Dignity for Walmart Workers."
The Black Friday protest outside the Salem Walmart was mirrored across the country in dozens of demonstrations against the retail giant. Some were led by OUR Walmart, a coalition of past and present employees protesting wages, benefits and working conditions. At some stores, there were attempts to get employees to walk off the job.
Others, like the one here, appeared to involve mainly union organizers and local protest groups, like Occupy Salem.
Before the 10 a.m. demonstration across from the store entrance on Highland Avenue, several protesters went inside the Walmart store to pass out leaflets in Spanish and English to employees.
"I got kicked out," said Ben Winthrop, 34, of Salem, who said he is an organizer for SAG-AFTRA, which represents actors and broadcasters. He said he was not here in an official capacity, but came down on his own time.
Winthrop said they handed out leaflets until approached by a store manager.
"She was very nice, but she asked me to leave," he said.
Before he exited, Winthrop said he spoke to several workers. "I was just saying we stand behind them if anything ever happens here."
In Danvers, about 15 to 20 protesters had gathered outside the Walmart at 55 Brooksby Village Way by 11:15 a.m., but they agreed to stay on the sidewalk between Guitar Center and PetSmart and the group was orderly, Danvers police Lt. Carole Germano said.
Nevertheless, one officer remained on scene "to keep the peace for a while," Germano said.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Neil H. Dempsey contributed to this report.