A video posted online purportedly shows one of the clashes with environmental activists that a company has claimed forced it to bring heavily armed private security guards to the location of a proposed iron mine in northern Wisconsin. In the clip, which was posted on Facebook Wednesday, masked protesters can be seen running through the woods to a drilling site, where they curse at workers and climb on their equipment. At one point in the footage, which seems to have been filmed by one of the activists, a worker and a protestor struggle over what appears to be the worker’s camera.“You have to get out! You’re here illegally! You have to fucking get out of here and you can’t drill anymore!” one of the activists shouts at the workers.
The video of the clash between the protesters and mine workers was posted Wednesday on a Facebook page identified as belonging to a Wisconsin woman named Andrea Ladenthin. In multiple posts on the Facebook page, Ladenthin describes herself as an opponent of the mine who spent time at a “harvest camp” near the site run by the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Ojibwe Native Americans. She wrote that she found the footage in her belongings after she returned home and unpacked following her visit to the camp:
“Since the last time I was there I hadn’t unpacked a lot of my camping gear, so it’s been sitting in a corner on my porch. Recently deciding to put it all away, I discovered a camera I didn’t recognize. So I took a look at the pictures to see if I could figure it out. I found out everyone can now know exactly what conspired by the group of anti-mine protesters. Given the recent actions by the mining company…I thought it best to help clear up any more misunderstandings, and share this video with you. … The mining company has hired guns. It’s my responsibility as a mother of 5 and grandmother, and for everyone I love… to ensure the best for their future…as it is yours.”
Ladenthin did not immediately respond to a request through comment sent through her Facebook page.
This past week, controversy erupted at the proposed mine after photos and videos emerged of security guards armed with assault rifles patrolling at sites where drilling has begun. Those guards have been linked to an Arizona-based contractor, Bulletproof Securities. A spokesperson for Gogebic Taconite, the company that owns the mineral rights to the site, has said the guards were necessary because protesters have “attacked” the site. On June 11, a woman was arrested after an incident a local radio station described as a “raid” against Gogebic Taonite that reportedly involved “about 15 people” who threatened workers and damaged equipment.
Update (4:18 PM): In an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal published online Thursday Bulletproof Securities President Tom Parrella confirmed his company provided the guards at the mining site. He also described “a handful of radicals, what we could consider eco-terrorist types” who had engaged in “strange and threatening behavior” against the workers including death threats posted online. Parrella said his guards wear masks to avoid having “their faces posted all over radical websites” and carry semiautomatic rifles to have “the opportunity to defend themselves and the people at the site.”
The Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Ojibwe established the harvest camp near the proposed mine because the tribe believes it has fishing and hunting rights in the area under the Voight Decision. That case found the tribe did not relinquish the hunting and fishing rights to territories it ceded in treaties with the U.S. government. By establishing the harvest camp, the tribe hoped to demonstrate there are natural resources in the area it is entitled to use.
Gary Smith, a tribal historic preservation officer with the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Ojibwe, told TPM that he does not believe there is any violent or aggressive protest activity associated with the harvest camp.
“They set a camp up there and what they’re doing is they’re using their treaty rights to gather and to protest it that way,” Smith explained. “We’re still using this area to gather, let’s say birch bark, medicinal plants, setting a precedent like that, hopefully that the mine won’t go through the national forest.”