Day labor center protestor convicted, fined $500

Day labor center protestor convicted, fined $500 »Play Video
Tom Wenning blocks the entrance to Portland's day labor hiring site in this file photo.

PORTLAND, Ore. – A man charged with blocking the entrance to Portland's new day labor center in a one-man protest was convicted Monday of disorderly conduct.

Tom Wenning wanted his day in court to make a point that the city of Portland is subsidizing illegal activity with its day labor center.

The hiring site, located at the corner of Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Northeast Everett Street, opened in June thanks to a $200,000 grant from the city.

Prospective employers can find workers there, but those workers are not required to show identification or proof of citizenship – leading critics to charge that it is essentially a hiring station for people in the country illegally.

In court Monday, Wenning tried to use what is called the "choice of evils" defense, arguing that his act of blocking the entrance to the site was a lesser evil than the city knowingly subsidizing a day labor center that may help illegal immigrants get work.

"At least 75 percent of those people in there are illegal aliens," Wenning told Judge Steve Todd during a hearing in a Multnomah County courtroom. "They are not entitled to work in this country. You're not allowed to hire them to work for you, and it's illegal to aid and abet their hiring in this country, and that's exactly what's going on there."

But the judge said the "choice of evils" defense requires an emergency, such as a life-or-death situation.

"...You really don't have any evidence of exactly what was going on there, whether or not they were filling out their paperwork, whether or not those people going through the door were legal or illegal," Todd said. "You don't know that. You're speculating on that. You're putting your judgment over everybody else's, and, frankly, that's not fair."

The judge ordered Wenning to pay a $500 fine.

Despite losing in court Monday, Wenning is continuing with a civil suit he filed against Portland Mayor Tom Potter and three other council members for what he calls using public funds to support illegal activity.