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Wisconsin Mining Company Hires Paramilitary Squad To Protect Site From Protesters

By aaroncynic in News on Jul 10, 2013 5:45PM

Photo credit: Jim Limbach

Two Wisconsin lawmakers, along with some residents and environmental activists, are outraged over a mining company’s response to protests over a test drilling site. Gogebic Taconite, a mining company which began test drilling at a site near Lake Superior in Iron and Ashland counties, hired a company called Bulletproof to provide security guards at the mine after several protests at the site.

Bulletproof doesn’t just provide your average night watchman, however. Talking Points Memo reports the company owns all sorts of heavy tactical equipment and provides paramilitary squads that Gogebic Taconite is making use of.

The Isthmus Daily reports Rob Ganson, an opponent of the mines who has been spending time at a nearby tribal camp of Native Americans to learn more about their views of the mine, photographed several heavily armed masked guards at the site. State Sen. Bob Jauch said he was “appalled” by the news of the guards, and expressed concern not only for the small groups of mostly peaceful protesters, but also hikers and vacationers. Jauch told the Wisconsin State Journal:

“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?”

State Rep. Janet Bewley joined Jauch in writing a letter asking the company to remove the guards, but it doesn’t look like Gogebic Taconite will budge. Bob Seitz, a lobbyist speaking on behalf of the company, told the Isthmus Daily the guards would stay, saying “we have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace.” That “safety” though, seems to be overshadowed by the potential tension a company which claims if needed, it can provide “a QRF (quick reaction force) tactical unit to secure a manufacturing plant during a heated worker strike.” As Bob Ganson put it: “It has definitely ramped up the tension. The last thing we need is a Kent State up here in the hills.”