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Longshore Union Sues Over 'Brutal' Protest Arrests

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By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on September 26, 2011 9:46 AM

Protests during a heated labor dispute has led to police brutality, a Longshore union claims. The Washington union has sued the sheriff and police chief in response to the violence.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) accuses Longview police of intense harassment and following protestors home.

The union is locked in a months-long labor dispute at the Port of Longview. The ILWU claims that its members should be allowed to work in the newly-built grain terminal.

Members of another union have been hired, sparking the protests.

Things have been violent for some time. Police have made about 200 arrests over the past few months.

ILWU members have tried blocking train access to the terminal by gathering on the tracks. Members donning ILWU clothing raided the terminal on September 8, damaging rail cars and spilling grain. They also allegedly assaulted security officers.

The ILWU says that police intimidated union members and used brutal tactics during arrests. If the union's allegations are true the police and the county may be in trouble.

Legally, police may use reasonable force when making arrests. Police are entitled to use some force if they arrest someone who fights violently or draws a deadly weapon.

If an individual does not resist arrest and follows police procedures, officers are generally not allowed to use force. Beating or injuring non-resisting individuals may amount to police brutality.

Though the Longshore union sued Cowlitz County, this isn't the first legal tiff between the two. A federal judge ruled against the union last week for illegally picketing on the train tracks.

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