[Marxism] Veterans to Serve as ‘Human Shields’ for Dakota Pipeline Protesters

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Nov 30 08:32:41 MST 2016


NY Times, Nov. 30 2016
Veterans to Serve as ‘Human Shields’ for Dakota Pipeline Protesters
By CHRISTOPHER MELE

As many as 2,000 veterans planned to gather next week at the Standing 
Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to serve as “human shields” for 
protesters who have for months clashed with the police over the 
construction of an oil pipeline, organizers said.

The effort, called Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, is planned as a 
nonviolent intervention to defend the demonstrators from what the group 
calls “assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police 
force.”

The veterans’ plan coincides with an announcement on Tuesday by law 
enforcement officials that they may begin imposing fines to block 
supplies from entering the main protest camp after a mandatory 
evacuation order from the governor. Officials had warned earlier of a 
physical blockade, but the governor’s office later backed away from 
that, Reuters said.

Protesters have vowed to stay put. Opponents of the 1,170-mile Dakota 
Access Pipeline have gathered for months at the Oceti Sakowin camp, 
about 40 miles south of Bismarck. The Standing Rock Sioux and other 
Native American tribes fear the pipeline could pollute the Missouri 
River and harm sacred cultural lands and tribal burial grounds.

The evacuation order issued on Monday by Gov. Jack Dalrymple cited 
“anticipated harsh weather conditions.” It came before a winter storm 
dumped about six inches of snow and brought strong winds to the area on 
Monday, making roads “roads nearly impassable at the camp sites,” 
according to Doualy Xaykaothao of Minnesota Public Radio, who was cited 
by NPR.

The governor’s statement said, “Any person who chooses to enter, 
re-enter or stay in the evacuation does so at their own risk.” The order 
was effective immediately and was to remain in place indefinitely.

The veterans’ effort will also run up against a plan by the Army Corps 
of Engineers to close off access to the protesters’ campsite and create 
a “free speech zone.” Federal officials said anyone found on the land 
after Dec. 5 could be charged with trespassing.

“Yeah, good luck with that,” Michael A. Wood Jr., a founder of the 
veterans’ event, said in an interview.

Mr. Wood, who served in the Marine Corps, organized the event with 
Wesley Clark Jr., a screenwriter, activist and son of Wesley K. Clark, 
the retired Army general and onetime supreme allied commander in Europe 
for NATO.

Mr. Wood said he had initially hoped to attract about 500 veterans; he 
had to stop sign-ups when they reached 2,000. He said volunteers are 
from diverse backgrounds: “We have every age, we have every war.”

An online fund-raiser has drawn over $570,000 in pledges as of Tuesday 
afternoon to pay for food, transportation and supplies for the veterans’ 
“muster,” which was planned for Dec. 4-7.

One veteran, Loreal Black Shawl, said the mission to support the 
protesters was intensely personal.

Ms. Black Shawl, 39, of Rio Rancho, N.M., is a descendant of two Native 
American tribes, the Oglala Lakota and Northern Arapaho. She served in 
the Army for nearly eight years, finishing her career as a sergeant.

“O.K., are you going to treat us veterans who have served our country in 
the same way as you have those water protectors?” Ms. Black Shawl said, 
referring to the protesters. “We’re not there to create chaos. We are 
there because we are tired of seeing the water protectors being treated 
as non-humans.”

The authorities have used rubber bullets, pepper spray and water cannons 
against demonstrators, hundreds of whom have been injured, according to 
protest organizers. The clashes have been highly contentious, with the 
police and demonstrators leveling accusations of violence at each other.

Some protesters filed a class-action lawsuit on Monday against the 
Morton County police and others, alleging excessive use of force and 
seeking a court injunction to prevent the authorities from using rubber 
bullets, explosive grenades and water cannons, according to The 
Atlantic. One woman was injured and in danger of losing her arm after an 
explosion at the protest site this month.

By spotlighting issues such as the use of force by the police, national 
energy policies and the treatment of Native Americans, the protests have 
garnered national headlines and widespread attention on social media.

Ms. Black Shawl acknowledged that the operation could prove problematic 
because the veterans and the police both have military or tactical 
training. She said she had a “huge, huge nervousness and anxiety” about 
possibly being injured and what could happen to other veterans.

An “operations order” for participants outlined the logistics with 
military precision and language, referring to opposing forces, friendly 
forces and supporting units. Organizers encouraged attendees to wear 
their old uniforms.

Mr. Wood said they were discouraging active-duty service members from 
attending. “There’s no reason for them to get into hot water,” he said.

In a break from military custom, the gathering will have a “chain of 
responsibility” instead of a chain of command, he said. There are no 
ranks, and participants will refer to one another by their given names.

Mr. Wood said the early stages of the event will be logistical: setting 
up tents and organizing food supplies. The first arrivals are expected 
on Wednesday.

The premise is for the veterans to be fully self-sufficient, he said. 
“There will be civilian and tribe members watching us from behind but 
nobody supporting us,” the operations order said. “We are the cavalry.”

A spokesman for the North Dakota State Highway Patrol, Lt. Thomas O. 
Iverson, said in an email on Monday, “Law enforcement is aware of the 
upcoming event planned for December 4-7.” He added, “If the group 
remains lawful and refrains from blocking the roadway, there will be no 
issues.”

Some officials expressed the hope that the demonstrators would move on.

“The well-being and property of ranchers, farmers and everyone else 
living in the region should not be threatened by protesters who are 
willing to commit acts of violence,” Senator John Hoeven, a Republican, 
said in a statement on Friday, The Associated Press reported.

The chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Dave Archambault II, said 
in an email that he had no concerns that tensions could escalate.

“Everyone that comes knows our intent — to remain in peace and prayer,” 
he said.



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