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A Victory for Workers Solidarity
Wyatt McMinn and supporters on the steps of the Clark
County courthouse after victory, June 27.
At a trial today, June 27, in Clark County District Court
in Vancouver, Washington, Wyatt McMinn, the vice president
of Local 10 of the International Union of Painters and
Allied Trades and a class-struggle trade unionist, was
found not guilty of first degree criminal trespass. On the
courthouse steps after the trial, the union and left
activists from the region who had come out to show their
support cheered this victory for labor rights, democratic
rights and workers solidarity.
The case grew out of a labor protest at a Vancouver
meeting this past September 5 of the “Freedom Foundation,”
an anti-union lobbying outfit that is putting “right to
work” initiatives on the ballot in the Pacific Northwest
this year. Police intervened to prevent union supporters
from being heard in the public meeting on a public
The prosecution’s case consisted essentially of repeating
the word “longshoremen” as often as possible (at least two
dozen times) and linking it to “disturbances,” reports of
“physical assault,” “destruction of property” and similar
scare words. This was an attempt to play on the current
anti-union hysteria being whipped up over the year-old
lockout of ILWU longshore workers at Vancouver and
Portland grain terminals.
The “longshoremen” at the meeting could supposedly be
identified, according to the prosecution, by their “orange
shirts” and signs. Although some ILWU supporters did take
part in the protest, it was called by a group of
construction union activists, and the only person with an
orange shirt was Wyatt McMinn. These were distinguished
from supposedly legitimate participants in the meeting who
were distinguished by wearing suits and ties.
The police called in emergency units as if preparing for
a full-scale riot, but when they got there, as Sgt.
David Henderson of the Vancouver Police Department
confirmed under cross examination, there was no assault
taking place nor could the officer “validate” that any
assault had taken place. Instead there was no more than a
heated discussion back and forth between the workers and
the “Freedom Foundation” and others in suits and tries.
As far as the charge of trespass against McMinn, defense
attorney Therese Lavallee stressed that this was a public
event on public property, and demonstrated by reference to
a video that had been posted on-line by a right-wing group
that McMinn was merely exercising his right to free speech
and assembly. She also made clear that the way people were
singled out to be told to leave was by their worker’s
clothing as contrasted to the suits.
Attorney Lavallee pointed to the contradictions between
the sergeant’s police report at the time, as well as his
testimony, which claimed that he had given multiple
warnings to the defendant, and the video which was
replayed several times showing that McMinn was handcuffed
almost immediately after having complained that he was
being “profiled.” Judge John Hagensen, while praising the
police, based his decision on this last point, saying that
the defendant didn’t have time to leave and thus was not
guilty of trespassing.
After the trial, the 20 labor/left activists from eight
area unions who attended the trial went outside where
Wyatt made the following statement:
Hello, my name is Wyatt McMinn, I’m vice-president of
Painters Union Local 10 here in the Portland/Vancouver
area. I’m a supporter of labor solidarity and I was just
on trial for standing up for working people against those
who would take away our rights to defend ourselves and our
rights. They call it “right to work,” but it’s really the
“right” to slave, to not be able to stand up for
your rights and the rights of your coworkers and ordinary
working people like you and me.
I was accused of trespassing in a public meeting in a
public college. I pled not guilty, because I’m not guilty
of anything but exercising my right, and your right,
to free speech. And I am happy to say the court found me
not guilty. This is a victory, a small victory, for
democratic rights, for labor rights, for all our rights.
Honestly, this case should never have been brought to
trial, nor should there ever have been an arrest.
I am proud to have stood up for the rights of working
people in the state of Washington who are facing an
assault on their rights by an outfit, the Freedom
Foundation, whose idea of “freedom” is the so-called
“right” to exploit our labor.
I’m proud of the support I have received from workers and
unions in the Columbia River area and beyond. Among them
are the ILWU longshore workers who have been locked out of
their jobs for over a year by filthy rich corporations who
have brought in armed strikebreakers to herd scabs right
here in the city of Vancouver, Washington in order to
destroy their union. Those scabherders and scabs should be
run out of town, they have no place here.
Labor and community activists showed up today to show
their support. I see people here from the Painters, IATSE,
the IWW “Wobblies,” some of the good working people of
Longview who battled the EGT bosses, AFT [teachers],
letter carriers (retired), musicians and others. We are
union proud and union strong. And we know, as the ILWU
motto says, which it took from the IWW, that “An injury to
one is an injury to all.”
And that’s why we have to stand together with all the
victims of injustice, with those who are fighting to put
an end to oppression. Because the struggle for civil
rights didn’t end in the 1960s, and the struggle for labor
rights is going on right now as we can all see by going
down to the Port of Vancouver to join the pickets there at
If we stand together workers, have the power to win
against capital, against all the powerful corporations,
their bought-and-paid for politicians, the governments
that do their bidding and their state. But we have to use
that power or lose it. We stand for the policy of class
struggle, and there is a long and illustrious history of
that in the state of Washington.
See the articles “Drop
the Charges Against Wyatt McMinn Now!” (January
2014) and “Defend
Wyatt McMinn, Defeat “Right to Slave”!” (November
2013) for more information on this important case. To
contribute to this successful defense of labor and
democratic rights, send checks or money orders to McMinn
Defense Campaign, P.O. Box 86902, Portland, OR 97286.
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