After the militaristic crackdown on those protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, the latest group with a new plan to prevent the pipeline’s construction seems highly apropos. A movement known as Veterans Stand For Standing Rock has been gearing up to aid the embattled protesters and offer their support and presence. According to The New York Times,
‘As many as 2,000 veterans planned to gather next week at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to serve as “human shields” for protesters who have for months clashed with the police over the construction of an oil pipeline, organizers said. The effort, called Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, is planned as a nonviolent intervention to defend the demonstrators from what the group calls “assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force.”‘
The group’s plan has some good timing, as it comes on the heels of an executive order by the governor demanding a mandatory evacuation. The state government also intends to begin imposing fines to deter the flow of supplies into protester camps. The governor declined to go as far as to create a physical blockade, although the idea was discussed.
But protesters aren’t going anywhere. The Oceti Sakowin camp, where the majority of pipeline opponents have gathered, is located around 40 miles south of Dakota state capitol of Bismarck, and there’s no sign that the thousands gathered there will disperse any time soon. Opponents of the pipeline are concerned about damage it could do to the local ecosystem, as well as desecrating sacred burial grounds and polluting local water sources.
But Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s motivation to have the site evacuated wasn’t merely a power play. The governor’s executive order cited danger to the protesters camped in the area due to harsh weather conditions. Already, a winter storm has dumped 6 inches of snow on the ground, severely limiting accessibility to camp sites. In a statement, the governor told press that,
‘Any person who chooses to enter, re-enter or stay in the evacuation does so at their own risk.’
Protesters may also run afoul of the Army Corps of Engineers, who plan to close off the campsite early next month. Protesters could even be charged with trespassing for staying after Dec. 5. But as Michael A. Wood Jr., one of the founders of Veterans Stand For Standing Rock said, “Yeah, good luck with that.”
Wood has gotten 2,000 veterans of all ages and all wars, far above the initial goal of 500 that his organization set. And a fund raiser has pulled in well over a half million dollars to pay for food, transportation, and shelter for the activist vets.
As a member of the army for eight years and Native American of the Oglala Lakota and Northern Arapaho tribes, Loreal Black Shawl has a powerful connection to the movement. She told The Times that it comes down to respect, and being heard.
‘Okay, are you going to treat us veterans who have served our country in the same way as you have those water protectors? We’re not there to create chaos. We are there because we are tired of seeing the water protectors being treated as non-humans.’
If you’d like to donate to Veterans Stand For Standing Rock, you can visit their GoFundMe page.
Featured image courtesy of Chip Somodevilla on Getty Images. All rights reserved. Image has been modified from its original form.