Dozens of citizens and 21 environmental groups from across the state rallied at the Capitol Saturday at noon, voicing opposition to the recent mining legislation that would allow mining in northern Wisconsin.
The rally was organized by the Madison Action for Mining Alternatives and was followed by a march down to the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce office, a group that has pushed for mining legislation.
Protesters gathered to have their voices heard – voices they believed to be ignored in the public hearing on the bill held earlier that week. They argued the mining proposal will destroy the environment and water and have severe impacts on local famers and the tourism industry.
The protesters demanded the state reject both the GOP bill and an alternative bill Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, put out. Speakers at the rally said both bills would weaken environmental standards and called on the government to respect Native American treaty rights.
Supporters sported pins reading “I Love Lake Superior” held posters with slogans such as “Respect Treaty Rights!” as they listened to speakers representing various anti-mining voices from across the state.
“Not on our land, not in our lifetime” became the catch phrase of the rally as the crowd chanted in response to speaker Andy Heidt of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Other speakers included Cherie Tero, representing the Bad River Band, Frank Koehn of the Mining Impact Coalition, Marc Rosenthal of the Midwest Coalition Against Lethal Mining, Dave Blouin of the Sierra Club and John Peck of Family Farm Defenders.
All speakers echoed the assertion that mining in northern Wisconsin would ruin the environment and provide little economic relief. “We don’t need a mine” was another popular chant at the rally.
However, at the public hearing last Wednesday, Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, touted his bill as one that would bring prosperity to Wisconsin.
Republican Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, reiterated the importance of job creation at the hearing.
“The thousands of jobs this will create are not Democratic or Republican jobs,” Suder said. “They’re an opportunity for all Wisconsinites.”
Suder emphasized the bill does not allow for automatic permission of a mine. He also mentioned mining is deeply embedded in the state’s history and referred to the badger present on Wisconsin’s state flag as a reminder of this history.
Rep. Mark Honadel, R-South Milwaukee, bolstered this argument Wednesday as well. He noted the severe economic hardship Wisconsin faces and citizens’ desperate searches for employment. This bill is seen as a good solution to the thousands of jobless people across the state, he said.
Although Gogebic Taconite, the company trying to open a mine in the area, as well as many speakers at the hearing said this will create hundreds of jobs, protesters at Saturday’s rally disputed this claim.