ILWU picket not guilty of harassment

Union member was charged for yelling at replacement worker

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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The International Longshore and Warehouse Union said Friday that one of its Vancouver members who was charged in August with misdemeanor harassment for her picketing activity has been found not guilty by a Clark County District Court jury.

In a news release, Jennifer Sargent, spokeswoman for the ILWU, said Lenora Michelle Bryant's case "personifies the overzealous law enforcement and false charges against" union dockworkers who were locked out 13 months ago by United Grain Corp. at the Port of Vancouver.

Asked to respond to the ILWU news release, Vancouver Police spokeswoman Kim Kapp said she wasn't familiar with the case but would attempt to comment in time for The Columbian's deadline.

On Aug. 22, Vancouver City Prosecutor Kevin McClure charged Bryant with misdemeanor harassment for threatening to "cause bodily injury" to James Forrester, according to court documents. On Thursday, a Clark County District Court jury found Bryant not guilty of the charge, court documents show.

In its news release, the ILWU said Bryant, 45, was arrested in August on felony harassment charges and later charged with misdemeanor harassment. The union says Bryant was volunteering on the picket line with fellow members of ILWU Local 4 in Vancouver when a replacement worker hired by J.R. Gettier and Associates appeared at a port gate about 180 feet away.

"We yelled at the guy who was taking our job, things like 'You're taking food from my kids' mouths; shame on you. Go home,'?" Bryant said in the ILWU news release.

The ILWU says Bryant was later stopped by police on her way home "and faced five squad cars." She learned the replacement worker had accused her of shouting threats that she says she didn't make, according to the Longshore union. Vancouver police arrested her for felony harassment, the ILWU says, and a city attorney later charged her with misdemeanor harassment instead.

"Bryant spent the next 30 hours in jail, shackled to other inmates," according to the ILWU.

"We didn't have a baby sitter available, so my husband had to bring my kids to the jail when he bailed me out," Bryant said in the news release. "This is the kind of mistreatment we face from law enforcement just for standing up for our jobs."

Bryant said law enforcement has given union dockworkers "conflicting information" about what picketers are allowed to do when protesting United Grain.

In the news release, Cager Clabaugh, president of ILWU Local 4 in Vancouver, said: "Another day, another false accusation from the company and their stooges. (Bryant's) experience is terrible, but we've come to expect overzealous law enforcement."

He went on: "The company and their hired guns make false accusations to make workers look bad, and Vancouver Police are all too happy to waste taxpayer dollars chasing after longshoreworkers who are fighting for good jobs."

Asked to respond Friday, Pat McCormick, spokesman for the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association — whose membership includes United Grain — said he wasn't familiar with the news release but would attempt to comment in time for The Columbian's deadline.

In the ILWU's news release, Mark Muenster, Bryant's attorney in the case, said the "arresting officer didn't interview any union witnesses who were on the scene and simply took the Gettier accuser at his word. The jury very quickly came to the correct conclusion in finding (Bryant) not guilty of the misdemeanor harassment charge."