Mining workers, activists clash at Wisconsin iron mine

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Home video shows a clash between mining workers and environmental activists at an iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin.

The iron ore mine is located 350 miles north of Milwaukee in the Bad River Watershed; a wooded area.

In the video, the activists are shown running through the forest to the drilling site. A worker, wearing a pink shirt, is assaulted and has her cell phone taken from her.

"What we saw was a  group of masked eco-terrorists come onto the work site, the drill site they damaged property, they committed theft," said Scott Manley of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce.

The protesters made several threats; a move that prompted the mining company -- Gogebic Taconite -- to hire armed security. That's a response supported by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state's largest business association.

"The promise of threats and more of this activity, demonstrates that the actions from the security company to hire security was completely appropriate," said Manley.

Critics say security guards are one thing -- but a paramilitary force of masked, camouflaged men bearing assault rifles is quite another.

"These images conjure up the kinds of security forces that are in the Nicaraguan jungles in the 1980s," said State Senator Bob Jauch.

Sen. Jauch called the violent activists "idiots," but says the mining company's response is equally idiotic.

"I think that stupid decisions beget even more stupid decisions. I don't believe that as offensive the language, as illegal the act, taking that phone from that woman and perhaps some other damage they did that necessitates the kind of security force that is represented," said Jauch.

The Arizona-based security force was pulled from the site on Wednesday, July 10th when it was discovered they did not have a proper license to operate in Wisconsin.

The mine has been a source of political controversy for months. When the bill passed through the State Assembly, the chairman of the Bad River Band of Indians promised a fight. But the masked activists are believed to be a fringe group -- and not associated with the Bad River Band of Indians.

The security firm in question is called "Bulletproof." It must get a license to operate in Wisconsin from the Department of Safety and Professional Services. Democrats say that if any security company is hired, it should be one from Wisconsin.