Peter Russo Reacts To Armed Guards At Mine Site

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Peter Russo Reacts To Armed Guards At Mine Site

Premiere Date: 
July 11, 2013

Peter Russo speaks on his concerns over armed guards at the Gogebic Taconite mine site.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

Today the Bad River Chippewa, who have been against the mine from the start, released a statement regarding the tensions on and around the mining state, Tribal chair Mike Wiggins saying, “We absolutely condemn any planned or improvised act of violence or vandalism against the industry or companies, and emphatically discourage any person to take part in any violent action.” Well, you just heard Gogebic spokesman Bob Seitz mention that he'd like to see state and local leaders from the area cool their rhetoric. We're now joined by a local leader who has not minced his words this week. Ashland Country board chairman Pete Russo calls armed guards in the Penokee hills a cocktail for disaster. Chairman Russo joins us now from Ashland. Chairman Russo, I wanted to suggest that the mining company fully believes that the kind of armed guards they've employed are necessary to protect property and people there. What in your mind then is a kind of cocktail for disaster?  

Peter Russo:

Well, let me say this, first of all. The property that that mine is on up there is federal-- not federal. It's forest crop land. Now, forest crop land is open to the public for hunting, fishing and camping. That means that anybody can walk in there at any time and do what they want to do, pick wild leeks or whatever they're going to do. And you've got people up there with AR-15s standing around. It's way, way overkill. Furthermore, I believe, hunting season is coming up here shortly, you're going to have people hunting with rifles in that part of the Penokees. Can you imagine what that's going to be when you've got armed security forces up there with automatic weapons or semiautomatic weapons, and you've got people with 30 06 rifles hunting deer? What if they come across each other in a clearing 50 feet away or 50 yards away? One can't see the other? What could happen? It’s a cocktail– I'm telling you, it's a disaster waiting to happen. And they can say what they want, Gogebic mine, but it's not good.

Frederica Freyberg:

What would you like to see then differently in terms of security for the mining site?  

Peter Russo:

Well, I think it would be feasible if they hired some people with a .45 caliber side arm, maybe some Mace, something to that kind of would be plenty good enough for security up there. This outfit here, I mean, these guys are out there in New Mexico, Arizona, border patrolling. Basically that’s what this outfit does. And I don't know-- It's a whole different story up here. We're not in Arizona.

Frederica Freyberg:

Well  --

Peter Russo:

And furthermore, Gogebic Taconite said they are going to hire all local help. They turned around, they hired an outfit out of Arizona for security, and there's three of them right here in Wisconsin. They never asked them.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, looking at the videos of protestors that was just posted a Facebook this week, they did certainly look menacing, and by appearances did wrest this camera from an employee of the mine. What is your message to protestors?

Peter Russo:

We will not put up with any violence from protestors up there. I'm strictly against violence. That person that was involved in there wasn't even from up here. She was from down below in Eau Claire somewhere, I believe. The tribe that is out there that is in place out there in the camp, they're nonviolent members of the-- I think it's Ojibwa tribe. I mean, you can't-- there's no violence there with the tribe whatsoever. And I can't stop people from coming from out-of-state in here or from down below state. But I can say this, if they-- if they're going to be guarding that place up there with automatic weapons or other semiautomatic, doesn't make any difference either, which one, you just don't realize the potential for violence that could happen. And I've talked to both sheriffs on Iron County on Ashland County, and both sheriffs are concerned about this.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right, we need to leave it there. We will be watching. Peter Russo, thank you.


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