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Lawmakers Decry Heavily Armed Mining Guards
Company deploys security officers carrying assault rifles in northern Wisconsin.
Two Democratic lawmakers from northern Wisconsin are calling on Gogebic Taconite, the mining company working to establish an iron ore mine in the Penokee Hills region, to remove armed guards from the area where company workers are performing exploratory drilling. Tensions between protesters and company officials have mounted in recent weeks, particularly after protesters wearing masks vandalized Gogebic equipment in June and yelled at workers. Other mining opponents criticized the alleged vandals, and the company responded by hiring armed guards from the Bulletproof Securities firm based in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The outfit employs military veterans and former police officers, trains extensively with firearms and is available for border security and armored vehicle assignments, according to its website. Photos have surfaced online of guards in northern Wisconsin wearing green camouflage and carrying green-painted assault rifles, and the Democratic legislators, State Rep. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) and State Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar), described the men, in a letter to Gogebic President Bill Williams, as, "heavily armed, masked commando security."

"We cannot begin to describe how upset the citizens of Northern Wisconsin are at the sight of our forests being patrolled by masked soldiers carrying military style assault weapons like mercenaries in a time of war," the letter says. "Is the company really going to argue that these camouflaged masked men really need this show of force to protect themselves from innocent citizens armed with bug spray who are hiking the forest to view the drill site?" A Gogebic spokesman told a reporter that mining opponents under surveillance by the guards were the first to spot them, and the company believed that the protesters, found on Gogebic property, were planning further acts of vandalism.

For more, see our feature on the mining clash, "Battle for the Hills."

(image from Arizona television broadcast)

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POSTED 1/12/2015