Kelso, WA - With officers far outnumbered by protesters, Sheriff's deputies, police officers and Washington State Patrol troopers had to back off to a defensive position during Wednesday's ILWU rally due to threats to their safety.
"Our teams of 4 or 5 officers were confronted by baseball bat and axe handle wielding protesters." Said Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson. "They had their protest signs attached to bats and axe handles. When we attempted to make simple, misdemeanor arrests for trespassing, the officers were rushed by the crowd. Officers were literally holding people back to protect other officers attempting to make lawful arrests." Nelson said. "This is a game changer. We have actively worked with all parties in this situation trying to keep the peace. This is blatant disrespect of the process, the law, and we who are sworn to enforce it." Nelson said.
Due to being seriously outnumbered by violent protesters, additional arrests were not made at that time. However, "This investigation is far from over." Nelson said. "I anticipate that as we review the evidence we have collected, we will be making many more arrests."
Also of great concern was the perception of safety by the security personnel on scene. After seeing all the cars and people massing, then pouring through their gates, smashing out the guardshack window with a baseball bat, and causing damage, the officers had no way out. They were blocked from leaving down E. Mill Road, and there was no other open access out of the facility. At some point they felt that their personal safety was at too great a risk, and they ran for a vehicle and headed towards a back gate. They reported that a group tried to block them in, but the lights of approaching law enforcement vehicles stopped the group and the officers were able to flee.
One of the most frightening parts of the incident was when several saboteures, blocked a Columbia Security officer, (a 48 year old Longview man)dragged him out of his security patrol vehicle, took the vehicle and after recklessly driving it around the EGT facility, crashed it into an embankment. "This is no different than if it had happened on the street, or in the parking lot of any local business." Sheriff Nelson said. "It was a felonious act."