The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 36      October 10, 2011

Union women’s auxiliary
protests cop attack at port
WEST KELSO, Wash.—Some 50 members and supporters of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Ladies’ Auxiliary held a protest rally at the courthouse here September 24 against police brutality directed at union members and supporters. Participants included several auxiliary members who were assaulted by cops three days earlier during a peaceful protest to block a train from entering the EGT Grain Terminal at the Port of Longview.

ILWU Local 21 is engaged in a fight against union busting by EGT Development. EGT has refused to hire ILWU workers in violation of an agreement between the union and the Port of Longview. The company has instead hired members of Operating Engineers Local 701 through a subcontractor.

During the September 21 protest, private cops from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad attacked demonstrators without warning, Karin Hogg, vice president of the Ladies’ Auxiliary, told rally participants. They targeted several of the women who were sitting on the railroad tracks. They kneed the women in their backs, yanked their arms behind them, handcuffed them and turned them over to Longview police and Cowlitz County sheriff’s department deputies who stood by.

During the arrests, cops shoved Jennifer Wood face down into the gravel and Kahne Witham was dragged handcuffed across the tracks, the two protesters told the Militant. Phoebe Wiest told the Daily News that she suffered a torn rotator cuff after the railroad cops wrenched her arm behind her.

Two ILWU Local 21 members, Byron Jacobs and Kelly Muller, rushed to Wiest’s aid as she shouted in pain, Wood and Witham explained. Cops wrestled them to the ground, handcuffed and then pepper sprayed them. The two unionists were later charged with assaulting the cops. Local 21 President Dan Coffman was also arrested during the protest.

“My grandfather was an ILWU member and he would be proud to see us protesting here today,” said Wood. “We are teaching our kids a life lesson. No one has the right to do what cops did to us—men or women.” An ILWU community support rally has been called for September 29.

The ILWU had filed a lawsuit against Longview Police Chief Jim Duscha and Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson and their agencies for police brutality and harassment.

A federal judge in Tacoma ruled September 15 that the ILWU is in contempt of court for having violated a September 1 restraining order prohibiting the union from any acts that impede EGT business, including protests to try to block grain trains.

Judge Ronald Leighton also said he would fine the union based on the EGT company’s estimate of damages for alleged vandalism of company property by unionists at a September 8 protest.

Meanwhile, the Maritime Union of Australia offered support to the Longview ILWU local. A solidarity protest of Australian dockworkers took place September 21 at the Townsville Port where a ship owned by EGT’s parent company, STX Pan Ocean, was docked.
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