Protests at the Standing Rock reservation are kicking into high gear as demonstrators brace themselves against mounting evacuation efforts from North Dakota officials. Protesters have vowed to stand their ground as donations of supplies and money pour in from supporters from across the country. Next week, the #NoDAPL protest will swell as more than 2,000 veterans travel to Standing Rock to act as "human shields" for protesters, who have repeatedly clashed with police allegedly using excessive force.
Organized by Michael A. Wood Jr., a Marine Corps vet, and Wes Clark Jr., a veteran-turned-Hollywood screenwriter, they initially hoped it would be able to bring 500 veterans to Standing Rock. But as word spread, attendance on the Veterans Stand for Standing Rock event page ballooned to more than 2,000, they had to close sign-ups, Wood told the New York Times. The veterans plan to be there from Dec 4 to 7.
A GoFundMe page set up to collect donations for supplies has racked up more than $685,000 at the time of writing, but still falls short of its $1 million target.
The veterans' participation in the protest will come days after Gov. Jack Dalrymple's order for an emergency evacuation, and North Dakota police's announcement to block supplies, including food, water, building materials and portable bathrooms, from reaching protesters.
Dalrymple said that the protesters' temporary campsites at what they've dubbed Sacred Stone Camp have not been inspected and could pose public safety concerns, CNN reported. In their efforts at dispersing protesters, police have reportedly resorted to firing on them with rubber bullets and water cannons in subzero temperatures, as well as using tear gas.
Veteran Loreal Black Shawl, a descendant of two Native American tribes, told the Times her support of the protest was personal.
"Are you going to treat us veterans who have served our country in the same way as you have those water protectors?" she said, referring to the demonstrators. "We're not there to create chaos. We are there because we are tired of seeing the water protectors being treated as non-humans."
Among the veterans joining the group is Sam Deering, a Virginia resident who will be donning his Navy uniform once more to fight for the sovereignty and the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.
The pipeline protests may not have elicit any response from the incoming president and his team yet, but the support it's garnered from the public has been overwhelming. Bernie Sanders and actress Shailene Woodley, some of the most prominent advocates for the pipeline to be rerouted, have been actively involved in the protest for months now.
Ashleigh Jennifer Parker, a PR spokesperson from Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, told A Plus that anyone who was aware about the Dakota Access Pipeline should have wanted to help.
Their goal was to "offer our help to the native tribes who have been facing brutal and unconstitutional inhumane treatment by militarized police for months," Parker said. "Veterans took an oath during their enlistment that states: 'I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.' We consider the brutal force of militarized police against unarmed citizens for capitalistic gain as a domestic enemy. We are traveling to Standing Rock to offer our support to the Standing Rock tribes and follow their directives in this situation."
In October, Facebook users checked-in at Standing Rock in an attempt to confuse police attempting to weed out protesters on social media. (The check-in tactic was not confirmed by any of the protest's leaders, but it ultimately became a symbol of solidarity and awareness about the struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline.)
On the other side of the world, indigenous people in New Zealand and Australia expressed their solidarity with Native Americans on social media, too. Some even made the long journey to North Dakota to protest alongside their indigenous families.
A Plus has reached out to Veterans Stand For Standing Rock for comment.