Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Longview Dockworker Acquitted of Disorderly Conduct

A longshoreman who’d been charged with disorderly conduct for obstructing traffic during a protest at the Port of Longview has been acquitted during a jury trial.

It took a Cowlitz County District Court jury just 12 minutes of deliberations on Dec. 30 before finding longshore worker Kelly Powell not guilty.

Powell, 44, of Toutle, stood accused of intentionally blocking a car driven by a security company employee from entering the Port of Longview’s EGT grain terminal during a July 25 protest.

Surveillance video played during the trial showed that the car in question, which was driven by the head of a security firm hired by the terminal operator, never actually tried to enter the terminal gates as Powell and other protestors milled outside.

The video showed that the vehicle sat idle for about 10 minutes with its hazard lights on before the picketers were shuffled off by sheriff’s deputies.

The prosecution alleged that Powell then intentionally blocked the car, but the defense said he had merely walked past the vehicle while trying to find a quiet spot to talk on his cellular phone.

Powell and other International Longshore and Warehouse Union members and supporters had been picketing the terminal as part of an ongoing dispute over labor issues.

The ILWU 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 specify ILWU labor. It employs members of a different union.

During protests in July and September, over 200 longshore workers and supporters were arrested or received summonses to appear on misdemeanor charges related to the protests, including malicious mischief and disorderly conduct.

The first of what’s expected to be a long series of trials related to the case ended Dec. 19 when a jury found that Shelly Ann Porter, 39, of Longview, was lawful in her use of force in slapping the hand of EGT grain terminal manager Gerry Gibson.

During the trial, Porter defended her action by saying she committed it to prevent Gibson from taking her picture against her will.

Most cases in the July protests are set for trial in Cowlitz County District Court in the early part of this year.