Heavily-armed, masked paramilitary forces descended upon the Gogebic Taconite mining site in Wisconsin over the weekend, much to the chagrin of local residents and elected officials.
“I’m appalled,” state Sen. Bob Jauch (D) told The Wisconsin State Journal on Monday. “There is no evidence to justify their presence.”
Jaunch sent a letter to Gogebic President Bill Williams on Monday demanding the company remove the guards, which he called “common in third world countries,” but stressed that “they don’t belong in Northern Wisconsin.”
The company brought in the paramilitary forces after being confronted by a group of about 15 protesters in June. At least one of the demonstrators, a young woman, was hit with misdemeanor charges for trying to take a camera away from one of the company’s geologists. Gogebic claims they’ve since caught several people illegally camping on their property and did not want to take any chances.
The company hired by Gogebic is Arizona-based Bulletproof Securities, which boasts that many of their employees are ex-military and many of their clients are celebrities and government officials. They certainly look the part, too: photos of Bulletproof guards at the Gegebic site published by the Wisconsin progressive blog Blue Cheddar show men who look very much like special forces soldiers, complete with assault rifles and black masks.
“Do they have the authority to use those weapons? If so, on who?” Jauch asked the Journal. “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?”
The mining site they’re protecting in the Penokee Mountains is highly controversial and critics say in violation of a treaty with Native Americans.
Video shot by Wisconsin-based website Indian Country TV over the weekend featured at least one of the paramilitaries wearing full camoflage and a military-style net over his face — an image that would have been completed by an assault rifle, if he hadn’t left it sitting on the passenger’s seat of his vehicle, right next to a cameraman.
“What happened to your fancy guns?” the cameraman asked. “Look at that. Very close by. Who are you going to shoot?”
“It’s a security protocol,” the guard replied, refusing to provide his name or his employer’s name.
“You’re being caught up in a national phenomenon,” the cameraman informed the guard. “We’ve got reporters calling from all over the country wondering about the occupation of Penokee Mountains Heritage Park by people who’ve got automatic weapons. And the question is, ‘Why?'”
A spokesperson for Gogebic told The Cap Times on Tuesday that they’re considering restricting their drilling sites from public access, which wouldn’t be an option until December when the state begins accepting applications.
This video is from Indian Country TV, published July 7, 2013.
[“Stock Photo: Police With A Weapon, A Special Unit” on Shutterstock.]
(H/T: Talking Points Memo)