The mining industry has always loved violent labor intimidation, armed thugs, paramilitary operations against unions, and other fun parts of the Gilded Age we once thought we had left behind us. But with the new Gilded Age upon us, mining companies are happy to go old-school:
Heavily-armed, masked paramilitary forces descended upon the Gogebic Taconite mining site in Wisconsin over the weekend, much to the chagrin of local residents and elected officials.
“I’m appalled,” state Sen. Bob Jauch (D) told The Wisconsin State Journal on Monday. “There is no evidence to justify their presence.”
Jaunch sent a letter to Gogebic President Bill Williams on Monday demanding the company remove the guards, which he called “common in third world countries,” but stressed that “they don’t belong in Northern Wisconsin.”
The company brought in the paramilitary forces after being confronted by a group of about 15 protesters in June. At least one of the demonstrators, a young woman, was hit with misdemeanor charges for trying to take a camera away from one of the company’s geologists. Gogebic claims they’ve since caught several people illegally camping on their property and did not want to take any chances.
The company hired by Gogebic is Arizona-based Bulletproof Securities, which boasts that many of their employees are ex-military and many of their clients are celebrities and government officials. They certainly look the part, too: photos of Bulletproof guards at the Gegebic site published by the Wisconsin progressive blog Blue Cheddar show men who look very much like special forces soldiers, complete with assault rifles and black masks.
The protests against the iron mine revolve around the Chippewa, who have a reservation just to the north of the mine site, claiming that pollution from the mine will contaminate their land and destroy their wild rice beds, which really is even more perfect. The Gilded Age was also great for forcibly stealing resources from indigenous peoples so bringing that back would be an added bonus, right?
A couple of Wisconsin Democratic lawmakers have asked the corporation to remove the armed thugs, but you think the government of Scott Walker cares? Of course not.