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July 16, 2018

6/26/2018 7:30:00 AM
Anti-mining forces march over the cliff of credibility

It has often been said that if you lie down with dogs, you will get upon with fleas.

That's awfully unfair to dogs but pretty apt when you're talking about your political allies, for politics is most often, well, a dog-eat-dog world.

For instance, the extreme radical Al Gedicks, Jr., who is the executive secretary of something called the Wisconsin Resources Protection Council, recently came to town and, by the time he left, he had not only given the anti-mining crowd he was palling around with political fleas but he had very much devoured their credibility.

Dog eat dog, you know.

Gedicks showed up and sat with mining opponents at a June 6 public hearing on the county's proposed mining ordinance, as we report in today's edition. He gave impassioned testimony, too, starting out with all the supposed death-dealing effects of sulfide mining.

But then he wandered off the well-beaten path of science and into the woods of hysteria. Let a mining company come in, he warned, and the next thing you know you will have masked private security guards prowling around public lands wearing camouflage and carrying semi-automatic weapons.


And he had proof, too, for that is exactly what the mining company Gogebic Taconite did some years ago when they tried to open an open-pit iron mine in Wisconsin's Penokee Hills. It was indeed over-the-top stuff.

To Gedicks, the company was employing abhorrent police-state tactics to suppress political opposition: "If Oneida County lands are open for mining in the face of widespread local opposition, how long will it be before we see armed guards protecting mining operations from democratic dissent?" he asked.

But wait! What Gedicks failed to point out was the nature of that "democratic dissent" in the Penokee Hills.

If fact, there was nothing democratic about it. As we report, the company was responding to an attack by masked environmentalists who allegedly slashed tires, damaged company equipment, destroyed a worker's camera and pulled down fences. A protester was found guilty of criminal damage to property and of felony robbery with the use of force.

While the company's response was surely an over-reaction, the behavior of the protesters was absolutely abhorrent.

This was not democratic dissent, just the opposite; it was a violent assault on property rights and democratic values.

All of which begs the question: Does Mr. Gedicks truly believe this is what democratic dissent looks like?

His past may hold a clue to that answer. As we also report today, in 1970, Mr. Gedicks was convicted of attempted arson and possession of a fire bomb in connection with the attempted bombing of an Army ROTC building on the University of Wisconsin campus in May 1970.

Mr. Gedicks challenged his conviction, but it was upheld by the state Supreme Court.

To be sure, Mr. Gedicks has through the years maintained his innocence. But that doesn't change the fact that he stands convicted of possession of a fire bomb and attempted arson.

In other words, he was convicted of trying to blow up, or at least burn down, the ROTC building.

What's more, Mr. Gedicks's testimony about that night strains credulity. There was gas on gloves found on Mr. Gedicks as well as gas in the ROTC building, an analysis of the gloves showed.

No problem, according to Mr. Gedicks, because he had been working on a car the day before, using gas-tipped rags. Yeah, right, while wearing gloves, of course.

In addition, the state also found that the 'wick' taken from the bomb's bottleneck and a piece of cloth found on Mr. Gedicks were of cotton bed sheet material about the same length and width, with similar iron folds and stitching marks - in other words, probably at one time part of the same piece, the state asserted.

Mr. Gedicks quite naturally had answers to all of this, none of it very believable, plus reasons why he did not tell police right away when they grabbed him that he saw two men running by him and that they must be the culprits. That was only his later testimony.

It's not a stretch that Mr. Gedicks made it all up, and of course that's what the court believed, or as justice Robert Hansen put it, "that the trier of fact believed none of his testimony as to his reason for being on the scene or for not telling the officer what he had seen ..."

So is this what Mr. Gedicks believes is democratic dissent - firebombs and attempted arson? Violence, in other words?

It's certainly not unreasonable to conclude that Mr. Gedicks believes violence is an acceptable form of democratic dissent, since that is apparently what he thinks was going on in the Penokee Hills when violent, masked environmentalists illegally attacked and destroyed private property.

Two incidents years apart form a long-standing pattern of what Mr. Gedicks believes is acceptable dissent.

None of this is to suggest that anti-mining people in the Northwoods would resort to violence. But bringing this extremist in as an "expert" witness - and, make no mistake, they clapped enthusiastically after his presentation - shreds their credibility.

It especially shreds their credibility because his testimony was false and dishonest - by omission. By portraying the mining company in a police-state light without including the initial violence of the protesters, Mr. Gedicks made up a false narrative.

Obviously, given his criminal record, he has a history of doing so. Thus nothing he says can be believed, including his testimony about the environmental consequences of sulfide mining.

And if Northwoods mining opponents continue to look to him as an "expert" and to clap for this unbelievable extremist, they should not be believed, either.

So maybe this will be a wake-up call for them to do their homework and to vet their "experts" to make sure they are credible and law-abiding experts.

As for Mr. Gedicks, he has no business making his way to our county to tell us how to live our lives. We can control our own destiny without the help of "expert" outsiders, especially convicted ones.

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