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Walker: Mining company had obligation to hire security

Published On: Jul 11 2013 11:38:14 AM CDT   Updated On: Jul 12 2013 08:09:22 AM CDT
Activists at a northern Wisconsin mining site

Activists at a northern Wisconsin mining site

MADISON, Wis. -

Gov. Scott Walker said a mining company had an obligation to hire security after a video posted to the Internet showed activists confronting workers at a mining site in northwestern Wisconsin.

The video shows the activists approaching a Gogebic Taconite work site, yelling at the workers and telling them to leave the land. The activists also take video of the equipment and activities at the site.

The mining company is currently conducting tests at the Penokee Hills site for a possible mining operation.

"The angst seems to be focused on the company (for hiring the guards) and not the people who came in masked like ninjas on personal property, violating the law," Walker said.

Walker said local law enforcement should handle situations at the mining site, but did not rule out state assistance because of concerns that local agencies were too small to handle larger protests.

Frank Koehn with the Penokee Hills Education Project, a group opposed to the mine, told News 3 he believes the incident occurred June 11. The video appears to show the incident that led to criminal charges against a demonstrator, Katie Kloth, 26, of Stevens Point. Mining equipment was damaged and a cellphone and camera were taken.

A criminal complaint related to the June 11 incident states Kloth was charged with robbery with the use of force, criminal damage to property, and party to a crime of theft and criminal damage to property.

According to the complaint, the workers told police people came to the work site from all directions at once and threw full soda cans and water jugs at workers. The activists also screamed obscenities and threats and remained at the site for more than an hour, according to the workers.

The workers also described to police how activists took a camera and phone from one of the workers.

The video surfaced after the mining company said Wednesday that it had suspended its use of Bulletproof Securities because the security firm is not licensed in Wisconsin.

A spokeswoman for Scottsdale, Ariz.,-based Bulletproof Securities said the guards were ready to immediately redeploy once the company obtained the necessary state permit.

The guards are prepared to prevent eco-terrorism and economic sabotage, said the spokeswoman, Stacy Pearson.

"Their sole goal is to discourage folks from giving it a shot, trying something, getting crazy," Pearson said. " No one is concerned about the peaceful protests from the neighboring town or county."

The security firm has contracted to patrol dams, bridges, power plants, and farms where genetically modified crops are grown, Pearson said.

Koehn, of the anti-mine group, said he does not condone the behavior that went on in the video and said he believes it was an isolated incident.

"I would not have allowed that to go on," Koehn said. "I think some people went out and one thing led to another, and there was a confrontation."

A worker at the Penokee Hills education and gathering camp, Andrea Ladenthin, told News 3 she obtained the video, but that she was not part of the group that visited the work site. She said she found the video in her camping gear. She said she felt it was her duty to share it.

Ladenthin said she doesn't condone what's shown in the video.

"I would not go that far. I think it’s a group of young individuals who think they know everything," she said.

Iron County Sheriff Tony Furyk told News 3 they're reviewing the video to determine the identity of the other people involved in the incident. The district attorney also has the video.

The video surfaced after the mining company announced Wednesday that it would suspend its use of armed guards at the mining site. The company said it suspended its use of Arizona-based Bulletproof Securities because it is not licensed in Wisconsin.

Furyk said another security team arrived Thursday.

The use of Bulletproof Securities was criticized by Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, who said he was appalled and horrified by the images of the guards and angry over the fact that they've been in the state illegally.

Bill Williams, Gogebic Taconite president, said the security company applied for the appropriate Wisconsin license but had not yet had its application approved.

Warning: The video contains graphic language.

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