Hilary Beaumont of Vice News reports on the arrival of several hundred US military veterans at the Sacred Stone protest camp in the Cannon Ball area of North Dakota, location of the Standing Rock Native American Reservation, where thousands of people are demonstrating against the construction of the contentious Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
“By Sunday, camp organizers say, about 2,000 vets will be on site.
“Our goal is to stand there and if need be take the rounds for the First Nations people so they can do their thing,” said Mark Sanderson, a former Army Sergeant who served in Iraq.
The vets, who will be unarmed but wearing body armor, have vowed to protect protesters from police who have arrested hundreds of people in the last two months while utilizing tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons.
The Army Corps of Engineers has said that on Dec. 5 it will close the land it manages and on which the Oceti Sakowin camp stands. North Dakota’s governor has said the camp must immediately evacuate at that point, citing safety concerns now that the bitter plains winter has arrived.
On Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump said for the first time that he endorses the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline, which protesters, who call themselves water protectors, fear will leak into water supplies and destroy sacred burial sites.”
The gathering of ex-military personnel has been called in response to weeks of violent clashes between the largely indigenous residents of the region, who are protesting the environmental and cultural threat of the crude oil pipeline project, and armed security guards supported by local and state police who are enforcing the building work. So far in excess of one hundred people have been injured in the confrontations, some requiring hospitalisation. One woman, Vanessa Dundon, was left partially blind after being shot in the face with a CS gas canister by law enforcement officers while another, Sophia Wilansky, has undergone hours of surgery to prevent her arm being amputated. The limb was badly mutilated when police threw a concussion grenade which exploded against her body in a stand-off at the neighbouring Backwater Bridge. Retuers has more:
“U.S. military veterans were building barracks on Friday at a protest camp in North Dakota to support thousands of activists who have squared off against authorities in frigid conditions to oppose a multibillion-dollar pipeline project near a Native American reservation.
Veterans volunteering to be human shields have been arriving at the Oceti Sakowin camp near the small town of Cannon Ball, where they will work with protesters who have spent months demonstrating against plans to route the Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, organizers said.
The Native Americans and protesters say the $3.8 billion pipeline threatens water resources and sacred sites.
Wesley Clark Jr, a writer whose father is retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, met with law enforcement on Friday to tell them that potentially 3,500 veterans would join the protest and the demonstrations would be carried out peacefully, protest leaders said.”
Once again, it is worth pointing out that the source of these protests dates back to an unexplained decision by the US authorities to move the planned route of the Dakota Access Pipeline from a crossing over the Missouri River near Bismarck, the majority European-American state capital, to a position 70 kilometres to the south, just upstream of the Standing Rock tribal lands. Which tells its own story.
Well, actually, that is the shortest route to Illinois, so from an engineering point of view, it makes sense when considering the way the collection and distribution points are set up in the north of the state. They could have avoided crossing the river twice (and along with it the problem they have now), had they constructed it going to Minot, Balfour, Moffit and then Linton, but that would have cost more (then… crossing the river twice, how moronic is that???!). The State is over 90% white, so the folks predominantly impacted by the pipeline are white (especially when you look at the mess of distribution and collection points). In contrast, the pipeline was laid around the Fort Berthold Reservation and avoids Lake Sakakawea completely. Even though I view reservations as forced “homelands,” at least they didn’t go straight through it. As for Bismarck, the pipeline still only is some 15 miles from city centre at the closest spot – the area of the protest is actually only about 35 miles straight line from Bismarck, some 48-50 miles by car. The original design took it approximately 7 miles closer to the city centre and to the north, partially encircling the city. Allegedly (as if encircling a city with a pipeline makes sense), this plan was ditched for taking the pipeline across areas comprising some of the main water supply for the state – I don’t think that that is really avoidable anywhere in that state (or anywhere for that matter), but alas. The pipeline already crosses the Missouri River at a majorly risky area in the west of the state, which has tremendous potential for disaster in itself. To me, this has less to do with race or anti-Native American sentiment, than it has to do with the usual greed and profit over people’s welfare in general. An major issue particularly pertaining to the Native Americans in that area (more so than the rest of North Dakota’s population), is the fact that the pipeline was placed into land promised to the Sioux in the Fort Laramie agreement in 1851. This land was not so much later unceremoniously stripped from them in one of the many outrageous violations by the U.S. Government of agreements made with Native Americans. The area has been in dispute ever since, very righteously so. In a nutshell, I really do not think any of these companies really care who they poison (crossing the river twice tells that story – We here sure remember “Shell’s cops” and the Corrib Gas project, don’t we? 10 year anniversary of the famous baton charge just passed us by in November, and after all that, no revenue for Ireland – http://www.shelltosea.com/). Luckily for the folks in the Cannon Ball area, they had some solid people step up and defend their habitat. It is sad to think that if the pipe breaks at Trenton, their water is still going to be fouled up.
You are better informed than I am on the particulars of the controversy than I am but the perception of something political in the rerouting the pipeline away from Bismarck has been around for some time. It’s a complicated subject handled very poorly by the Corps, the DAPL construction companies, and local and state authorities. Fortunately we have a breathing space. Hopefully is is not like the water charges debacle here. Wait until the controversy and animosity dies down and then give it a second go!
Absolutely. Hopefully they’re not just waiting for Kaiser Drumpf to restart this whole debacle. Although having the veterans step up may actually work in their favour. One can only hope it doesn’t end there like it did here.