A Wisconsin mining company has hired private paramilitary forces to defend and protect its property from environmentally minded protesters, on the heels of a confrontation with activists at the mine in June.
The troopers are uniformed and carry tactical gear and semi-automatic weapons, Wisconsin Watch reported. Their presence has generated quite a bit of outcry in the community among lawmakers and residents who say the security is over the top. But a company spokesman say the troops aren’t leaving any time soon.
“The guards are going to stay,” said Bob Seitz, a Madison lobbyst who represents the mining company, Gogebic Taconite, in Wisconsin Watch. “We have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace.”
The prior conflict between mine workers and anti-mine protesters, on June 11, turned physical. One woman was charged with felony robbery with the use of force after she grabbed a camera from a mine worker. But critics of the paramilitary’s presence say that incident doesn’t warrant such security response.
“I’m appalled,” said Democratic state Sen. Bob Jauch, in The Wisconsin State Journal. “There is no evidence to justify their presence.”
The protesters are opposed to the mine’s plans to expand operations and construct an open-pit iron mine at the Penokee Range site.