Wisconsin Lawmakers Ask Mining Company To Remove Security Guards With Assault Weapons (VIDEO)

Heavily Armed Security Guard At Gogebic Taconite Mining Site

Thanks to a controversial mining company, this lushly-wooded hiking and camping destination is crawling with masked commandos carrying assault weapons.. Photo of heavily-armed security guard at Gogebic Taconite mining site by Rob Ganson, and shown in the Wisconsin State Journal.

If you’ve been looking forward to your annual autumn camping trip in Northern Wisconsin’s lushly wooded Penokee Heritage Park, you might want to make alternative leaf-peeping plans this year. Thanks to the controversial mining company, Gogebic Taconite (GTAC), this popular hiking and camping destination is now crawling with camouflaged, masked commandos bearing assault weapons. Why? Apparently, they were terrorized by a handful of protesters — including 26-year-old Katie Kloth — who vandalized their equipment last month and incurred a whopping $2,000.00 in damages. Kloth wrestled a worker’s cell phone away to prevent her cohorts from getting photographed, and was arrested and charged with “robbery with use of force, misdemeanor theft and two counts of criminal damage to property,” according to Lee Berquist from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

GTAC has attracted the ire of environmentalists and local groups since purchasing the mineral rights for 21,000 acres of land in the Penokee mountain range, and proposing to build “what could become the largest open-pit iron-ore mine in the world,” according to the Sierra Club’s Taconite Mine Web page. Nonetheless, the Penokee woods are supposed to be open to the public, as per a tax agreement with the state. The site is also adjacent to the scenic Copper Falls State Park. Nonetheless, GTAC’s extreme and over-the-top reaction sounds worthy of some Gilded Age robber baron or third world potentate. Two Wisconsin lawmakers certainly think so. Steven Verberg from the Wisconsin State Journal reports that — after viewing widely circulated photographs taken by the local poet and anti-mining activist Rob Ganson — State Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) and Representative Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) wrote a sharply worded letter to GTAC’s president, Bill Williams demanding that they remove their paramilitary security forces from the site:

Dear Mr. Williams:
We are calling on you to immediately remove the heavily armed masked commando security forces currently hired to protect your company’s property in the Penokee Hills. The images are horrifying and the action by the company to hire this high security Arizona firm is appalling. These kinds of security forces are common in third world counties but they don’t belong in Northern Wisconsin.

Thanks to their Republican-led legislature, Wisconsin’s citizens are heading towards third world status faster than they think. Nonetheless, hiring the Arizona-based Bulletproof Securities — which ominously claims to provide a “no compromise security force” — is bound to further antagonize pro- and anti-mining locals alike.

Jauch also told reporters:

“I’m appalled. There is no evidence to justify their presence. Do they have the authority to use those weapons? If so, on who? I don’t know if there’s a hunting season right now except maybe for rabbit, but you shoot a rabbit with that, all you’ll end up with is fur. What would you use those weapons for except to hurt somebody?”

Meanwhile, Bob Seitz from GTAC reportedly “laughed at the suggestion that the company would remove the guard detail,” and told the Wisconsin Radio Network:

“The guards are going to stay. We have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace.”

Because mining companies are celebrated for keeping their workers safe, and everyone knows assault weapons make our work environments safer, right?

Oh, and guess what? Gogebic Taconite faces even fewer obstacles to its proposed taconite (low-grade iron ore) mining project, since the state legislature passed and GOP Governor Scott Walker signed SB1 back in March. The Wisconsin Mining Act (dubbed the “Bad River Watershed Destruction Act” by opponents) was basically written by the GOP’s friends at GTAC, and pretty much strips any environmental protections Wisconsin had left.

Meanwhile, some folks from Indian Country TV took a walk through the woods with their children and grandchildren — to emphasize that many locals and visitors come for outdoor recreation with their families — while a man with a video camera chatted up the hired guns. After discussing various topics like hunting, the weather, and whether folks on the security detail had actually killed anyone, the gruff-voiced film-maker warned:

“Someone’s freaked out about something, and that’s cool … but you’ve got the gun, and you’ve got to decide whether to pull the trigger. And that’s a pretty hard decision, ain’t it?”

Then, with the typical low-key friendliness of a mid-westerner, he told everyone it was time to go, but first told the commandos that “if you get hungry” they’re welcome to come to “the Harvest Camp for some fried bread.”

here’s the video:

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