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Friday, February 24, 2017

Veteran's support group raises over $200,000 to support Standing Rock pipeline demonstrators

Veteran's Stand, a military veteran's organization has collected $213,500 to send supplies to the Standing Rock Native American reservation in North Dakota as part of a renewed campaign against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

The pipeline will cost $3.7 billion and run through four states. Critics claim it threatens the water supply of millions of people. The group wrote on Facebook: "We have continued to stay in contact with indigenous and camp leadership and have identified several areas where the Veterans Stand network can continue to serve the needs of the camp and local community."
Michael Woods, founder of the group said to CNN that it was unlikely the group will send a large group of protesters as they have done in the past. He said the group did not want to do anything aggressive in response but wanted to give people a platform. The secretary of communications of the group, Anthony Diggs, spent a week at the Standing Rock Reservation meeting with camp leaders arranging to send supplies and organize volunteers. Last year veterans raised more than $1.5 million to support protests.
The protesters thought they had won the battle when in December then-president Obama ordered the US Army Corps of Engineers to look at ways to reroute the pipeline. Within 4 days of taking office new president Donald Trump signed an executive order to "get the pipeline built" and also restarted the process on the Keystone XL pipeline. Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) the company building the pipeline said that work was beginning immediately and was expected to be completed in about 83 days.
A number of veterans are already returning to Standing Rock and have said they are ready to shield indigenous activists from attacks by an increasingly militarized police force. A number of veterans have already arrived at Cannon Ball North Dakota or are en route after hearing the news that Trump had allowed ETP to drill under the MIssouri river.
The presence of many veterans may make it more difficult for police to remove hundreds of activists who remain camped near the construction site and some hope that their presence will limit the use of excessive force by police. Elizabeth Williams, a 34-year-old Air Force veteran who arrived at Standing Rock late Friday said: “We are prepared to put our bodies between Native elders and a privatized military force. We’ve stood in the face of fire before. We feel a responsibility to use the skills we have.” There are wide differences as to how many veterans will show up. Some organizers estimate a few dozen are on their way but other activists are pledging that hundreds will appear in the coming weeks. In December it was estimated almost 1,000 had taken part in protests before Obama announced the government was denying a key permit. Some critics claimed the veterans were not well organized and not prepared to camp during the harsh winter conditions. Others complained that they did not follow directions of the aboriginals leading the movement.
Matthew Crane, a navy veteran who is helping coordinate a return group said that his group has vowed to be self-sufficient, and help the activists, who call themselves the "water protectors". He said the group intend to provide cleanup efforts, kitchen duties, medical support and even protection from the police if needed. Crane said: “This is a humanitarian issue. We’re not going to stand by and let anybody get hurt.” Jake Pogue, a 32-year-old marine veteran said as he helped organize a vets camp area: “We’re not coming as fighters, but as protectors. Our role in that situation would be to simply form a barrier between water protectors and the police force and try to take some of that abuse for them.”
Dan Luker, 66 year old Vietnam vet from Boston, who visited Standing Rock in December was returning. He said that for many vets, helping the water protectors was "healing". Luker said: “This is the right war, right side. Finally, it’s the US military coming on to Sioux land to help, for the first time in history, instead of coming on to Sioux land to kill natives.” LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, founder of the Sacred Stone camp where Luker and others were setting up their own camp said that she welcomed the return of the vets. Allard said: “The veterans are going to make sure everything is safe and sound. The people on the ground have no protection.”
The protests have seen many arrested. Since last fall police have made roughly 700 arrests. Company private guards and police have been accused of using violent tactics. They have deployed water cannons in freezing weather, mace, rubber bullets, teargas, pepper spray and other less than lethal weapons.


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