UPSON, Wis. — Local Wisconsin politicians sent a letter to Gogebic Taconite president Bill Williams, asking him to immediately remove the “heavily-armed, masked commando security forces” currently hired to protect the company’s property, the site of a proposed iron mine near Upson.
Sen. Bob Jauch (D-Poplar) and Rep. Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) sent the joint letter, called the hiring “horrifying” and “appalling.”
“These kind of security forces are common in third world countries, but they don’t belong in northern Wisconsin,” the letter said. “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.”
According to G-Tac spokesman Bob Seitz, he said that it is “disappointing” at how the letter “downplays” the attack at the site on June 11.
The security company was hired to protect workers that are drilling test holes at the site near the Iron and Ashland county line. On June 11, protestors attacked the site, resulting in a G-Tac employee sustaining a wrist injury after a camera was taken out of her hands by a protestor.
“They are calling our actions over exuberant and are now attacking us for providing a safe work place for their constituents, after one of their constituents was attacked,” Seitz said. “The location of the drill site is far from anyone, and is very isolated. We are just providing a safe place for our employees, and their constituents, to work in.”
According to a criminal complaint on the June 11 incident filed by Iron County District Attorney Marty Lipske, 15-20 protestors came out of the woods and began throwing soda cans and yelling obscenities at G-Tac employees. Protestors then climbed on drilling equipment at the site and began throwing shovels and other items around.
Items were destroyed during the skirmish, including equipment and protections for the environment, like silt screens, required by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The complaint also said that one protestor told a G-Tac employee, “If there weren’t police officers coming, I’d ******* kill you.”
Charges have been filed against protestor Katie Kloth, 26, of Stevens Point, after she was identified as the one who stole the camera away from a G-Tac employee. She has been charged with being party to the crime of theft, criminal damage to property and being a party to criminal damage to property.
In the letter from Jauch and Bewley, it said that “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. ...
“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?”