Veterans To Join Standing Rock Protesters, Vow No Pipeline ‘On Their Watch’

U.S. military veterans from the group Veterans Stand are ready to re-deploy to Standing Rock and to stand side-by-side with Native American protesters fighting against the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. The protests against the nearly $4 billion, multi-state pipeline have been ongoing for nearly a year and were spawned by the concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

According to the Standing Rock Sioux, the disputed Dakota Access Pipeline compromises their clean, safe drinking water, as well as many sacred ancient sites and burial grounds. The project, backed by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners, is nearly completed. In order to be finished, the pipeline requires only the completion of the final stretch, which is slated to run under Lake Oahe.

That final stretch of the Dakota Access Pipeline is what is causing so much havoc among the Standing Rock protesters, and it has been the subject of contention for months. In early-to-mid 2016, the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their legal advocates filed several lawsuits in an effort to prevent the completion of the Lake Oahe segment of the pipeline, which is on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land and requires an easement from the corps.

That easement was granted in mid-2016. However, when the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe failed to stop the construction through the judicial system, and amid increasing public outcry and pressure, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, led by the Obama administration, rescinded the requisite easement and advised Energy Transfer Partners to seek out an alternative route for their pipeline. Briefly, in December, the Standing Rock protesters celebrated what appeared to be victory for their cause.

Despite the easement being rescinded, however, Energy Transfer Partners vowed that they would complete the project along its planned route. The company simply sat back and waited for the Obama administration to become the Trump administration. As one of his first acts as president, Donald Trump (a one-time investor in the Texas company) dashed the hopes of the hundreds of protesters who had remained behind at Standing Rock, braving the harsh North Dakota winter and continual threats of eviction, arrest, and potential law enforcement violence. The new president signed an executive order paving the way for the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, despite the outcry of activists.

This week, it was announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be approving a 30-year easement, allowing construction to resume on the pipeline as early as Wednesday. As CNBC reports, the announcement was met by fierce resistance, both from the Standing Rock protesters, many who have been living at the site for months, and a group of U.S. military veterans.

According to the group Veterans Stand, they are ready and willing to put boots on the ground and fight alongside the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to prevent the completion of the controversial pipeline. While the organization is committed to non-violent resistance, they are willing to devote “everything in their power” to prevent construction from resuming near Standing Rock. As Anthony Diggs, Veterans Stand spokesman said in a recent interview, “Not on our watch.”

“We are committed to the people of Standing Rock, we are committed to nonviolence, and we will do everything within our power to ensure that the environment and human life are respected. That pipeline will not get completed. Not on our watch.”

This isn’t the first time that the Standing Rock protesters have received a hand from dedicated U.S. military veterans. As CNN reports, a group of veterans organized at the end of 2016 to help the protest efforts, both financially, and on the ground. They raised $1,155,780 to send thousands of veterans and supplies to Standing Rock, just one day before protesters were scheduled to be evicted by the North Dakota governor. The efforts of the veterans were largely seen as a rousing success, and credited with preventing the mass eviction of thousands of Standing Rock protesters, also dubbed “water protectors.”

Since the December success, a group of veterans involved in the first fundraising effort and “deployment” has banded together to form Veterans Stand, and they are preparing to head back to Standing Rock for a second time. The organization is once again raising money. Through a GoFundMe campaign, the activist veterans have raised $197,090 in 13 days. The money is to be used for supplies, aid, and to send more veterans to Standing Rock to protest the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“Max 20% of the fund will be used for Veterans Stand mobilization readiness. Putting a call out for onsite volunteers to mobilize quickly requires foundational coordination in administration, communications, transport, logistics and supplies. We stand in unity with our brothers and sisters in Standing Rock (and beyond) and our community is ready to mobilize.”

Citing renewed government efforts to force the completion of the disputed segment of the Dakota Access Pipeline near Standing Rock, Veterans Stand have put out a call to action on social media, and are standing in readiness to help their cause.

The Indigenous Environmental Network has been working with the Standing Rock Sioux throughout the pipeline protests, and they are particularly concerned with the Army’s decision to grant the disputed easement without completing the requisite Environmental Impact Study. According to the group, the Army’s actions could “escalate” tensions at Standing Rock. What’s more, the group says that state and federal departments are in the process of bringing in more feds to “assist” law enforcement efforts against Standing Rock protesters.

“Instead of following proper legal procedure and completing the Environmental Impact Study, the Army has chosen to escalate an already tense situation, go against their own processes and potentially put people in harm’s way.”

According to Veterans Stand, protecting the safety of water protectors is part of the reason why they’ve sent vets to Standing Rock in the past and plan to do so again. After all, the public relations nightmare of U.S. vets being hosed down, shot with rubber bullets, and pepper-sprayed may be just the deterrent the government needs not to engage with the peaceful, non-violent Standing Rock protesters.

In addition to getting renewed help from Veterans Stand, the Standing Rock protesters have also reportedly begun filing lawsuits to prevent renewed construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

[Featured Image by David Goldman/AP Images]