As protesters against the North Dakota Access pipeline face increasing violence from law enforcement, more than 2,000 veterans have pledged to serve as “human shields,” with some arriving on Wednesday.
Organizers of the event titled Veterans Stand for Standing Rock said that from Dec. 4 – 7, veterans will defend protesters from “assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police.”
The group had originally envisioned a cavalry of about 500 vets. But the call-out for support soon received such an overwhelming response that they had to limit the number of sign-ups to 2,000.
Their GoFund me campaign, which originally had a goal of $200,000, has already reached more than $640,000, which organizers say will go towards transportation and other logistical matters such as setting up camp.
The decision to aid the protesters comes after a recent mandatory evacuation order by North Dakota’s Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who’s cloaked it behind a “public safety” pretext.
Dalrymple claimed that protesters’ camps “have not been inspected and approved…as proper dwellings suitable for winter conditions,” apparently forgetting that police has used water cannons on protesters even in freezing weather. In the same breath, he also threatened anyone aiding the protesters or even encouraging people to remain and fight with “penalties as defined by law.”
On Tuesday, Morton County law enforcement also announced they would be imposing fines to try to block supplies from getting into the camps.
Unable to witness this “savage injustice being committed right here at home,” as one of their statements read, veterans have decided to stand with the water protectors.
This wouldn’t be the first time that U.S veterans get involved on the right side of Indigenous resistance movements, though it certainly appears to be the first time so many take up the cause.
During the 1973 Wounded Knee Occupation, where about 250 Sioux members faced off against authorities for 71 days, Vietnam vets were also present and weary of the militarized approach the government had taken.
With machine guns shooting over their heads and armored personnel carriers deployed, some vets had even reportedly compared it to a “war zone,” The Atlantic reported.
Some of the vets who joined, mostly Indigenous, would therefore lend their skills in whatever capacity they could, including helping set up security squads and foot patrols. Another vet even contributed an AK-47 he had brought back to the protesters, according to some reports.
Though this time Veterans have pledged their full support for the water protectors in record numbers, they have also committed to peace, assuring that no weapons will be allowed.
“It’s time to display that honor, courage, and commitment we claim to represent,” the GoFundMe page reads. “It’s time for real Patriots. Now more than ever, it’s time for anyone and everyone to lead.”
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