Standing Rock protesters were dealt a serious blow when Donald Trump took office, but now the water protectors are getting some much-needed support from a group of U.S. military veterans. In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s executive order allowing the completion of the disputed Dakota Access Pipeline, the group Veterans Stand has vowed to stand with Standing Rock and help dedicated protesters protect their water and their sacred sites.
As NBC News reports, the veterans announced new efforts to stand behind Standing Rock protesters in direct response to Trump’s decision to revamp the disputed DAPL, and the group Veterans Stand announced their renewed efforts to support the Standing Rock Sioux and other water protectors just days after Trump publicly put pen to paper to open the door to the completion of the multi-billion dollar project.
The Veterans Stand organization’s pledge to the Standing Rock protesters includes being ready to send thousands of U.S. military veterans to Standing Rock in North Dakota at a moment’s notice. The purpose of the vets’ presence at the site would be to create a barrier between protesters and law enforcement, something that was done in December when vets formed a human shield to protect Standing Rock protesters from escalating police violence and threats of eviction.
Tensions between Standing Rock protesters and law enforcement have become increasingly volatile in recent weeks. After months of largely peaceful protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline, police forces and hired private security have gotten more and more violent with protesters, with serious injures having been reported.
Things have gotten so bad between protesters and law enforcement at Standing Rock that North Dakota legislators have introduced a bill that would decriminalize “accidentally” running over protesters blocking roadways in the state.
Veterans Stand - Standing Rock Fund https://t.co/xgk8n18tOx— Michael A. Wood Jr. (@MichaelAWoodJr) January 31, 2017
If the group Veterans Stand is able to ensure that the boots of thousands of U.S. military veterans are on the ground alongside water protectors, it could put the White House in an extremely precarious position in the event that military or police action is taken against the Standing Rock Sioux or other protesters. In fact, the presence of veterans could make the difference between forcible removal of protesters and rational negotiations.
Last week, the group Veterans Stand began a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to help the protesters currently camped out at Standing Rock, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The goal is to raise half a million dollars in funds, which would be utilized to buy supplies, provide transportation, and facilitate the ability to rapidly “deploy” thousands of veterans to Standing Rock at a moment’s notice in the event that their presence is deemed necessary by protesters. So far, the fundraising effort has raised over $30,000 for their cause.
“We stand in unity with our brothers and sisters in Standing Rock (and beyond) and our community is ready to mobilize.”
According to Veterans Stand, roughly 4,000 veterans with ties to the activist group made it to Standing Rock in December. The group claims it could have sent thousands more had the need arisen, and they want to be funded and ready to “deploy” to the disputed area immediately if they need to do so in the wake of Trump’s Dakota Access Pipeline Executive Order.
“The 4,000 could have easily turned into 20,000, because that’s how we’re trained to operate.”
Water protectors have been actively protesting the DAPL at Standing Rock for nearly a year, claiming that the pipeline jeopardizes both sacred ancient sites and clean water for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all downriver. The project, backed by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, is nearly completed, lacking only the final stretch running under Lake Oahe. In order to complete the project, Energy Transfer Partners requires an easement from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
As one of his final acts as POTUS, Barack Obama and his administration pulled strings to have the previously granted easement rescinded, advising the company behind the DAPL to look for an alternative route for the completion of the crude oil pipeline.
The company vowed that they would complete the project along its planned route, waiting for Donald Trump to take office. As one of his first acts as president, Trump signed an executive order allowing for the completion of the DAPL and the disputed Keystone XL project, too.
Following his controversial and highly publicized decision to allow the DAPL to be completed along its controversial route, Trump blatantly ignored a media request to make a statement to the Standing Rock Sioux and protesters invested in preventing the completion of the pipeline.
Because of escalating tensions between law enforcement and protesters, Veterans Stand claims that the presence of vets at the protest site can calm tensions and make authorities think twice before creating the public relations nightmare that would go hand in hand with having “veterans standing in solidarity in peaceful protest being fired upon with rubber bullets on live TV.”
According to Veterans Stand, their primary concern is making sure that protesters on site at Standing Rock have the supplies they need to endure the harsh North Dakota winter, and getting aid to protesters is priority number one. If more volunteers (i.e., veterans supporting protesters) are sent to the site, the decision will be made alongside tribal leaders.
What do you think? Is Veterans Stand making the right move in the wake of Trump’s controversial executive order? Should U.S. military veterans be standing in solidarity with Standing Rock protesters, or should the protesters clear out and make way for the completion of the pipeline?
[Featured Image by David Goldman/AP Image]