Thursday, January 12, 2012

Charges Against 9 Longview ILWU Protestors Dropped

Prosecutors in Cowlitz County, Washington have dropped trespassing charges against nine dockworkers and supporters who were arrested during protests at the Port of Longview’s EGT terminal last summer.

Second-degree criminal trespass accusations were dismissed against six people who were arrested during a Sept. 7 protest where hundreds of International Longshore and Warehouse Union members and supporters blocked an incoming grain train.

Criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct charges were also dropped against three people who were arrested at an EGT protest on July 25.

Prosecutors first made the motion to dismiss the charges in a Dec. 30 filing. The charges against eight of the nine individuals were dismissed without prejudice, meaning they can be filed again at a later time. Prosecutors have not indicated, however, whether any refiling of charges is a possibility.

For those keeping score, the tally so far is Defendants: 11, Prosecutors 0. The first two protestors to be brought to trial were both declared not guilty during jury trials in December.

The protests were part of a prolonged labor action against EGT, which is a joint venture between Bunge Ltd, ITOCHU International and STX Pan Ocean.

Members and supporters of ILWU Local 21 picketed the facility throughout last summer over labor issues, with the local saying its contract with the Port of Longview requires that the 25 to 35 jobs inside the terminal go to unionized labor.

The company, however, says its lease agreement with the port does not specify ILWU labor. It employs members of a different union, which represents operating engineers. A federal trial on the dispute is expected to begin in March.

During last summer’s pickets, protesters stormed the facility, cut brake lines on rail cars and dumped grain from the cars, among other things, which led to dozens of people being arrested on trespassing and disorderly conduct charges.

In September, the union was ordered by a US district judge in Tacoma to pay $250,000 in compensation to EGT and local authorities for the damage caused.
The union is appealing the ruling.

The six Sept. 7 protestors who’ve had the charges against them dismissed are Cary Justin Brister, Matthew Paul Hellem and Lowell W. Lovgren of Kelso, and Jeffrey Bryant Lenora Michelle Bryant and Gregory D. Carse of Vancouver.

The three July 25 picketers who had charges against them dropped were Shelly Ann Porter of Longview, George R. Johnson of Kelso and William Roberts of Clatskanie. Roberts is the sole protestor whose charges were dismissed with prejudice, meaning the charges against him cannot be refiled.