PHOTO: Rob Ganson

PHOTO: Rob Ganson

Senate Democrat Bob Jauch of Poplar and Assembly Democrat Janet Bewley of Ashland are calling on Gogebic Taconite to immediately remove the “heavily armed masked commando security forces” currently hired to protect the company’s mining site in the Penokee Hills of Ashland and Iron counties.

“The company that claims they want to do good for northern Wisconsin is arming itself against northern Wisconsin.” Bewley says company officials are completely out of touch with how things work up north, or they simply don’t care.

Anti-mining blogs have shown photos of security guards wearing military-style camouflage carrying assault rifles. Bewley and Jauch call the photos “horrifying,” saying this kind of “quasi military action” is common in third world counties or war zones but doesn’t belong in Northern Wisconsin.

Bewley says G-tac “overreacted” in an area that has been “very peaceful.” She says, “They changed from a very appropriate and low-key security company to this very dramatic, frightening, assault rifle-bearing, camo-wearing group from Arizona.”

Company spokesman Bob Seitz defends the security measures, saying the guards were hired after mining opponents violently attacked the drill site in June. “We’ve provided security that has prevented further violence and we’ve prevented the need for law enforcement to be dispatched.”

In a letter to Bill Williams, president of Gogebic Taconite, the two lawmakers wrote: “While no one can argue that your company does not have the right to protect your private property, these armed guards serve no purpose other than to intimidate local citizens and increase local tensions. No one in their right mind can justify this excessive use of force. These individuals are not deputized and they can’t arrest anyone.”

Bewley and Jauch continue, “We hope you will recognize this serious error in judgment and replace these new security forces with something far less offensive and more along the lines of the local security staff that have been safely protecting the property for the last month.”

AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:35

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