A group of vets plans to meet with the pipeline protesters over the weekend. In a statement issued by the Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, an organization composed of more than 3,500 vets, they announced that thanks to the large sum of money they have raised they will travel or “deploy” to North Dakota.
In less than 21 days, the veterans, who are urging others to join their “unarmed militia at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation,” were able to collect almost $1 million via their GoFundMe page.
The vets said they plan to support the Standing Rock Sioux elders and protect them as they continue to protest against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The controversial $3.8 billion pipeline will be built over a lake near the tribe’s reservation.
Members believe that chemicals from the pipeline will pollute the water and the soil. For the past months, more than 400 Native Americans and their supporters have been arrested, dozens have been injured – dogs bit some, others were severely harmed with water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets.
Numerous police officers have also suffered injuries – most recently one law enforcer was hit in the eye by a rock. In the upcoming days, many predict that the protests might take a turn for the worse for a long list of reasons, which include the harsh winter weather, the large number of protesters expected to come out, and the fact that police are determined to clean out the camp around the site.
While the vets are hoping for a peaceful protest, they also believe that if they are treated violently, it will get the media’s attention, and their cause will go viral. Ashleigh Jennifer Parker, a Coast Guard veteran and spokeswoman for Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, said:
“We’re hoping if we stand together in formation and look the aggressors in their face … if they can treat us the same way (as they have the protesters) then that should showcase to the American people what’s going on up there.”
Protesters also look forward to being arrested. Terrell Iron Shell, 23, said he is willing to pay the ultimate price. The South Dakota resident, who has been camping in a yurt since August, said:
“I’m not going anywhere.I’m willing to set my life on the line to protect this water, to protect this way of life, Unci Maka (grandmother earth), mother earth. And so, I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”
“I’m willing to give my life for this cause. I hope it doesn’t come down to that. But you know Crazy Horse once said, ‘Today is a good day to die,’”
The protesters are currently winning the PR fight.