Titan break-in yields arrests

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 1999

Natchez police arrested eight members of Steelworkers Local 303L Tuesday in connection with a Saturday break-in at Titan Tire of Natchez.

All were charged with trespassing. Those arrested and released on $634 bond Tuesday included William Cobb Jr., 58, of 707 S. Sixth St. in Ferriday; James White, 56, of 231 Country Club; R.C. Wilkinson, 52, of Route 1, Box 119 in Clayton; and Horace Harris III, 57, of 128A Sedgefield Road.

Those still being held in the city jail on $634 bond as of late Tuesday afternoon included John Edwards, 52, of 8 Ray St.; Harry Gaylor, 61, of 9 W. Woodlawn; Al Reynolds, 43, of 811 N. Union St.; James Washington, 55, of 702 Old Washington Road.

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&uot;These guys are all turning themselves in,&uot; said Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff. &uot;They don’t want us towing their cars and knocking on their doors.&uot;

Police have arrest warrants for 10 suspects in connection with Saturday’s rally.

The incident happened when, after a rally the union local had Saturday afternoon to mark the one-year anniversary of its strike against the Titan plant, those attending the rally pushed open the plant’s gate and walked into the factory.

Meanwhile, Morry Taylor, chief executive officer of Titan International, had plenty to say about Saturday’s break-in – starting with jabs at Leo &uot;T-Bone&uot;&160;Bradley, Local 303L president.

&uot;T-Bone incited (union members) to break the law but stayed on the other side of the street while it happened,&uot;&160;Taylor said. &uot;That tells you it was premeditated. They’re just a bunch of thugs.&uot;

After consulting with an attorney for the United Steelworkers of America, Bradley said he would respond to Taylor’s comments.

Taylor also blamed Lt. Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, who emphasized his support of unions, the need for more jobs and better education at a gubernatorial campaign speech at the beginning of Saturday’s rally.

&uot;Somebody should tell him that the people he was yapping to aren’t even from Mississippi,&uot;&160;Taylor said, referring to union members from throughout America and even Uruguay who attended the rally.

Taylor said the large amount of out-of-towners at the rally shows that Local 303L now lacks local support.

&uot;(Musgrove) gets those hotheads and propagandists cranked up, and they (union members) terrorized workers and disrupted my business,&uot;&160;he said.

But just as he did late Saturday, Musgrove said through Press Secretary George Shelton that he left the rally well before it escalated into the break-in.

&uot;I went to Natchez to talk about creating jobs and extending opportunity to everyone in our state and making our state a better place to live,&uot; he said. &uot;I don’t know anything about this other than what you’ve told me.&uot;

Amy Tuck, a Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, also spoke at the rally but did not return calls Monday.

State Rep. Phillip West, who was also at the rally, could not be reached for comment, but other local officials who attended gave their reaction to Saturday’s incident at the plant.

&uot;I&160;support the union and want to see them get back to work, … and this didn’t change that support,&uot;&160;said Adams County Supervisor Darryl Grennell. &uot;But I&160;don’t agree with them going into the plant.&uot;

Supervisor Sammy Cauthen said he does not believe that an official endorses the union’s activities just by attending one of its rallies.

&uot;I&160;go to these things when people invite me,&uot; Cauthen said. &uot;Since I&160;left before (the break-in) started and since I&160;didn’t see who started it, I’m not going to comment at this point.

&uot;But I&160;will say that I’m opposed to violence, union or non-union.&uot;

As for the future, Taylor said he does not plan to add more security to the Natchez plant.

&uot;Why should I&160;have to? Last time I&160;looked, it was the Police Department’s job to provide protection,&uot; Taylor said. &uot;It would be a lot easier to close the plant and move it somewhere else.&uot;