Hundreds of Veterans to Join Water Protectors at Standing Rock to Protest Dakota Access Pipeline
A Facebook page for the event, Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, has more than 600 confirmed reservations with more than 4,500 other people expressing interest.
High-profile veterans including U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and retired Baltimore police officer/whistleblower Michael A. Wood, Jr. plan to attend.
"This country is repressing our people," Wood Jr. told Task & Purpose. "If we're going to be heroes, if we're really going to be those veterans that this country praises, well, then we need to do the things that we actually said we're going to do when we took the oath to defend the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic."
The "operations order" states:
"In response to the assertion of treaty rights, citizen rights, tribal rights and protection of the most valuable of resources, water, the Sioux tribes and allied comrades, are under sustained assault by agents of and working for private interests under the color of law. First Americans have served in the United States Military, defending the soil of our homelands, at a greater percentage than any other group of Americans. There is no other people more deserving of veteran support and this situation encapsulates whether we are called heroes for violence and cashing paychecks or for justice and morality."
They say their mission is to "prevent progress on the Dakota Access Pipeline and draw national attention to the human rights warriors of the Sioux tribes regarding the United States lack of treaty enforcement."
GoFundMe crowdsourcing campaign, created by event organizer and army veteran Wesley Clark Jr., is currently raising funds for the three-day effort. The description states:
"We are veterans of the United States Armed Forces, including the U.S. Army, United States Marine Corps, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard and we are calling for our fellow veterans to assemble as a peaceful, unarmed militia at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation on Dec 4-7 and defend the water protectors from assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force and DAPL security."
So far, more than $75,000 has been raised toward the $200,000 goal in 11 days. The money raised is "strictly" going towards "transportation and bail money," Clark Jr. tweeted.
"Everyday becomes more evident that the defenders of America must stand with the Water Protectors," Clark Jr. wrote on the GoFundMe page. "Let's stop this savage injustice being committed right here at home. If not us, who? If not now, when?"
"We'll be standing alongside peaceful water protectors, who've endured violent attacks from the private security funded by DAPL and more brutality and arrests at the hands of militarized police and DAPL security," he continued. "We have full support of the Sioux tribe elders and will be cooperating with them every step of the way."
The Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters say the $3.7 billion, 1,100-mile pipeline which crosses the Missouri River and sacred sites threatens their access to clean water and violates Native American treaty rights.
"It's immoral, and wrong, and dangerous to us all," Clark Jr. told Task & Purpose about the DAPL.
The protest, ongoing since April, has been marked by an escalation in violence. The Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council reported 300 injuries on Sunday from the "direct result of excessive force by police." Eyewitnesses say that law enforcement used tear gas, pepper spray, a Long Range Acoustic Device, stinger grenades, rubber bullets and water cannons to blast away pipeline protestors in freezing temperatures.
A number of veterans have already descended upon the Oceti Sakowin camp near the construction site, as you can see in the video below from The Real News.
"My first duty as a marine is to protect the people of the United States," Gulf War veteran Michael Markus said. "That's why I'm here, to protect the people, protect the water, protect future generations."
He recently interviewed Ken Ward, a co-founder of the Climate Disobedience Center and one of five activists who successfully shut down five pipelines in October across the U.S. that deliver tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada.