Statement from Governor Scott Walker on Situation at Proposed Mine Site
"The type of harassment and abuse we saw on the recent video of radical activists at Gogebic Taconite's proposed mine site has no place in Wisconsin. These extremists - who are disrupting work and causing harm to law-abiding employees - should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I appreciate the efforts of law enforcement in the area and spoke with the Iron County Sheriff to offer any assistance that may be needed going forward. The laws of Wisconsin will be upheld."
MADISON (WKOW) -- A video of the protester raid that prompted Gogebic Taconite to hire armed security guards at its northern Wisconsin iron mine site was posted on Facebook Wednesday afternoon and is prompting a strong reaction across the state.
The six-minute video, taken by one of the protesters participating in the raid, shows a group of several masked individuals confronting a small group of Gogebic Taconite employees at a drill testing site and profanely shouting at them to leave the area.
The video shows one of the protesters attempting to steal the camera of a Gogebic employee, who unsuccessfully struggles with the protester to keep it.
The Iron County District Attorney's office charged that protester, who is identified as 26 year-old Katie Kloth of Stevens Point, with a felony count of robbery with use of force.
Throughout the video, Kloth and the other protesters can also be heard shouting dozens of obscenities at the workers.
"We thought that the video was just shocking," said Scott Manley, Vice-President of Government Relations for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, which strongly supports the mine.
In response to the incident shown in the video, Gogebic Taconite hired guards armed with assault rifles, some of which came from an Arizona company called Bulletproof Securities.
"The violent nature of the incident and the threatening nature of the incident is why the mining company had to take all of it very seriously," said Manley.
The state senator, who represents the district where the mine is located, also condemned the protesters.
"It was vile behavior, they used terrible language, they embarrassed their parents if anything and broke the law in a few cases," said Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar), a staunch mine opponent.
But Sen. Jauch says the actions on the video don't justify such an intimidating response from the company.
"There is no justification to bring in this excessive force. And then, it still begets the question, why not hire a Wisconsin firm?," said Sen. Jauch.
On Wednesday, Gogebic asked those guards to stand down after it was revealed Bulletproof Securities did not have a license to practice as a private security firm in Wisconsin.
Gogebic Spokesperson Bob Seitz says the guards will be back on duty once Bulletproof Securities obtains a license from the Department of Safety and Professional Services.
"I don't know if Senator Jauch is an expert in security, but the firm that was hired has a national reputation. They hire very well trained and experienced law enforcement," said Manley.
According to state law, a private security firm convicted of practicing without a license cannot obtain one for a period of one year. But DSPS officials will not comment on any potential disciplinary actions against the company.
Northern Wisconsin (WQOW) - There's new video showing how intense the battle has become over mining in northern Wisconsin. The video is of a confrontation in the woods.
This week, we've seen the steps a company has taken to protect its proposed mining site along the Iron-Ashland County line.
Armed guards from an Arizona security company were hired. Gogebic Taconite has had concerns ever since an incident with protesters last month. For the first time, we're seeing video believed to be from that incident. The video was posted on Facebook on Wednesday. A camera was stolen from a woman in the video. Criminal charges were filed against a protester because of that. GTac says mining equipment was also damaged.
Also on Wednesday, WQOW News 18 learned those armed guards from Arizona are no longer on the job. The company hired by GTac, Bulletproof Securities, has been operating without a Wisconsin license. The state says the company has now applied for one and it typically takes two to three days to process a license for a security guard agency.
GTac says it won't use the guards again until all of the necessary approvals have been granted. The company says it has other options and will rely on those for the time being.