Thursday, December 15, 2011

Judge Denies Motions to Dismiss Longview Trespassing Charges

A district court judge in Washington has rejected legal motions to dismiss criminal trespassing charges resulting from two protests in September at the Port of Longview’s EGT grain terminal.

On Dec. 12, Judge Ron Marshall issued a written ruling declaring that there’s enough evidence to move forward with trials the trials of 45 longshore workers and supporters for incidents that occurred when protesters blocked incoming trains during demonstrations on September 7th and September 21st.

Attorneys for union members had argued in Cowlitz County District Court during a November 30th hearing that the dockworkers’ actions were protected under the US constitutional amendment protecting the right to assemble and that the port didn’t clearly identify which areas were off-limits during the protests.

Judge Marshall was not convinced that the charges didn’t have merit, however, and decided a jury would best decide the matter. The defendants have all been charged with trespassing.

Almost two-dozen people were arrested on the misdemeanor charges during the Sept. 7 demonstration alone, which included a four-hour standoff where about 300 dockworkers and supporters stood on the railroad tracks below an overpass and blocked a mile-long train bound for the port’s EGT terminal.

In addition to the arrests, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union was fined more than $300,000 by the federal government for blocking of trains and alleged property damage caused during the protests. The union is appealing the fines.

The protests were part of a long struggle between the terminal operator and union over labor issues. The union says its contract with the port requires that the 25 to 35 jobs inside the terminal must go to unionized labor.

The company, however, says its lease agreement with the port does not require ILWU labor.