Longview, Washington, a small town along the Columbia river, suddenly found its local police force dressed in riot gear, carrying shotguns and pepper spray while protecting the interests of EGT, a multinational corporation that is trying to drive the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) out of a grain terminal in the Port of Longview. Unlike the writer of this article, many inhabitants of Longview still expect the police to serve and protect them. However, seeing the police clearly on the side of global capitalism has awoken many people to the true function of the police: to pacify the population and render it harmless. Like the residents of Capitol Hill who were attacked by the police during the anti-WTO protests of 1999, this wake up call was sudden and quick.
Since we last wrote about the struggle at the port, many notable events have taken place in quick succession. Sometime in the early morning of Monday, September 25th, the train lines between Vancouver and Chehalis were sabotaged. The BNSF railway police have not disclosed how the train lines were damaged, leading this writer to believe that it was a simple, easily reproducible method that they do not wish to spread. The BNSF disclosed that the train lines were disabled in a dozen locations and that trains could not run long into the afternoon.
That same day, the president of the ILWU voluntarily walked into the Cowlitz County Sheriffs Office and turned himself in. He was accused of blocking a train entering the EGT terminal on September 7th and had a warrant out for his arrest. Nine days earlier, 200 ILWU members had come to Sheriffs Office and told the authorities that if they wanted to arrest anyone, everyone was there. The sheriffs didn’t arrest anyone and the crowd left. The purpose of these two actions by the ILWU was to the show the authorities that they were not afraid of their courts or their jails.
Despite this gesture and show of force by the union, the sheriffs continued to arrest individual ILWU members in an attempt to spread fear and uncertainty. On Tuesday, September 27th, the sheriffs arrested another lone unionist who had earlier attempted to turn themselves in. By doing this, the authorities have revealed themselves to be scared of the collective power of the union, only able to arrest people who are alone and vulnerable.
On Thursday, September 29th, a rally was planned simply to show community support for the demonized union. The turnout was larger than expected and various representatives from other unions spoke over a PA, pledging their future support during the conflict. Before the rally, the City of Longview sent a message to local business, warning them that anarchists were attending the rally and would cause a disturbance. The ILWU publicly dismissed this as attempted fear tactics. With over 50 anarchists from the Puget Sound and Portland in attendance, there were still no disturbance and the rally served as a warning to all antagonists that support is growing for the unionists.
In an interview with KOMO News, a representative of the ILWU told a reporter that the conflict was only going to get worse, indicating that when EGT attempts to use boats to export the grain out of Longview, no one will be there to load the cargo. The only way EGT could get around a strike is to attempt to break it. If they attempt to break the strike, the conflict will explode. We anticipate more conflict in the future. Stay tuned.