A Cowlitz County District Court judge has rejected motions from 45 union longshoremen and supporters to dismiss criminal trespassing charges stemming from two September protests at the EGT grain terminal at the Port of Longview.
In a written ruling issued Monday, Judge Ron Marshall said that prosecutors have enough evidence to move forward with trials for incidents that occurred Sept. 7 and Sept. 21, when protesters stood on port-owned railroad tracks in front an incoming grain train.
In two separate hearings over the past month, attorneys for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union argued that the port did not adequately identify the areas that were off-limits to protesters. Marshall said that is a question for a jury to decide.
Prosecutors are charging all defendants with second-degree criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor.
Leal Sundet, the ILWU's coast committeeman, said Marshall's decision wasn't surprising, but union attorneys think the two hearings exposed weaknesses in the prosectuors' case.
"It's unfortunate that the prosecutor is willing to waste taxpayer dollars prosecuting workers for exercising their free speech rights on land that was open to the public. We're in this for the long haul and look forward to the trials, where we believe the workers will be cleared," Sundet said in a written statement.
On Sept. 7, more than 300 protesters blocked an incoming grain train on the tracks beneath the Fibre Way overpass for four hours. About 20 people were arrested that day, and several more were arrested in the following weeks while coming back from work or at their homes.
On Sept. 21, nine women and three longshore union leaders were arrested when they stood on the tracks at the end of International Way to block a train.
The ILWU asserts that EGT is legally required to employ longshore workers inside the $200 million terminal, a contention that the company disputes. The issue will be decided in federal court next year.