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DA Could File Charges in Anti-Mining Raid
Members of a small group of protesters stand accused of damaging mining equipment.
Relations between Gogebic Taconite (GTAC), the company seeking to drill an iron ore mine in the Penokee Hills region of northern Wisconsin, and a small set of protesters have grown strained in recent weeks after a raid on company equipment parked at the site. Until now, local authorities have been reluctant to prosecute protesters, but Iron County District Attorney Marty Lipske says he's considering charges of theft, property damage and possibly even assault against a man and woman accused of vandalizing company property on June 11. Workers said about a dozen people wearing black clothes (and with their faces covered) ran out of the woods at about 9:30 a.m., slashed tires, damaged a hydraulic lever and allegedly stole items from a company geologist.

One observer said the protesters, disavowed by other anti-mining groups in the area, appeared to be young activists in their 20s. A number of conservative commentators, including Brian Fraley at Right Wisconsin, have used the incident to criticize local mining opponents at-large. Fraley, who dubbed the dark-clothed protesters "masked ecoterrorists," posted a video of two of the activists lambasting a worker wearing a hardhat. "You're not supposed to f--king be here," a woman wearing a black cloth over her face says. "The DNR denied your waste water permit, so you're up here f--king illegally; and you f--king know it ... You're up here illegally a--hole. You don't know what the f--k is going on." (Watch the bleeped version posted by the Journal Sentinel below.)

Gogebic Taconite was setting up to perform exploratory drilling when protesters ran out of the woods, after having already set up barriers blocking passages leading into the area, company employees said. In the days since the blitz, a state representative from southeastern Wisconsin, Mark Honadel (R-South Milwaukee), has suggested inserting a measure into the state budget bill that would somehow bar protesters from getting close enough to the company's operations to obstruct them, according to the JS.

Our May feature "Battle for the Hills" explored the cultural divide that has so inflamed passions in the Penokee region, where stances regarding GTAC's plans vary as widely as those in the statewide debate over mining.

(photo by Azael Meza)

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