A sign signalling support for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union hangs in the window of Kelly Wallin's downtown Longview hair salon. She says she'll keep it up — for now.
Wallin married into a family of longshoremen. Many of her clients are the wives of dockworkers. So, she said Thursday, it's natural that she would stand publicly with the union, which is locked in a battle with the EGT grain terminal at the Port of Longview.
But, she said, allegations that hundreds of union members raided the grain terminal early Thursday morning have shaded that support.
Police say protesters yanked a security guard from his car and angrily stormed past a security shack, leaving six security guards fearing they would be injured or killed if they tried to escape. Police have also said some longshoremen carried baseball bats to protests this week, threw rocks at police officers and sprayed some officers with mace.
As tensions rise this week at the port, some businesses continued to stand behind the ILWU, while cautioning that if the violence escalates they will have to withdraw their support.
"I support the goal, but not the violence," said Wallin, 27, who owns Esteem hair salon on Broadway.
Chuck Wardle, a downtown Longview optometrist, said he too will keep his pro-ILWU sign in his office's window. But he said Thursday's events put the community in a difficult position as the public tries to sort fact from fiction.
"Peaceful protest is one thing," he said. "Violence is another."
Wallin said she fears that if EGT is successful in breaking the union, longshoremen could lose their hold on grain terminals up and down the West Coast. Such high stakes easily attract support in a town that historically has had a big union presence, and that support was visible Thursday on a rooftop sign of the Shamrock Tavern on 15th Avenue in Longview. "We support ILWU," it said.
On Thursday afternoon, Margaret Reigel, a 34-year-old bartender at the Shamrock, said the longshoremen "went a little overboard on some of the things they did."
Still, she said she'd like her boss to leave the sign up because, "You've got to have good people doing a good job down there (at the port.)"
Other businesses were leery of wading into the controversy. A bartender at one Longview bar with messages of support for the union in its windows declined to comment, saying longshoremen regularly drink there.
Another downtown Longview salon owner who had a pro-ILWU sign in her window also declined to comment.
"I think that we are going to stay out of it," she said.