Army Corps Reverses Course on Standing Rock Eviction as Thousands of Veterans Plan to Shield Water Protectors from Forcible Removal

On Friday, November 26, 2016, the Army Corps of Engineers announced a December 5th deadline to move protesters, or “water protectors” as they prefer to be identified, off their current location to a nearby “free speech zone.” The justification given for this action is predictably some absurd claims of public safety and access to medical and food supplies. The great irony being that the police are actually violating the exact same trespassing laws cited by the army corps, acting on behalf of a private corporation to ensure the safety of an inanimate object threatening the water supply to millions of people, in order to commit brutal acts of violence against the public “safety.” Additionally, the only barrier to the flow of traffic is a road block completely obstructing the way, erected by the militarized police which has cut off vehicle access to the camp from the north, forcing supporters headed there from that direction to take a lengthy detour in order to bring more activists and material resources needed for the harsh winter to the camp from the north.

30205885184_fb3ee408ab_oJust days after setting this ultimatum for demonstrators encamped at the Oceti Sakowin site of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, the Army Corps walked back their deadline to move the camp from its current location.

On November 26, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, the Army Corps announced that thousands of protesters, who have been at the Oceti Sakowin campsite in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, the largest peaceful gathering of different native tribes in modern history, would have to vacate the camp or face arrest. The protest site is on land managed by the Army Corps, some of which they’ve rented out to private parties, though it is unconceded territory that rightfully belongs to the Sioux tribe according to treaties agreed upon over a century ago at Fort Laramie – treaties that have been egregiously violated again and again by the U.S. federal government. Demonstrators would be moved to a smaller camp that has been designated as a “free speech zone” just south of the current site.

The Standing Rock tribe’s chairman, Dave Archambault II, said in a statement the tribe would stand its ground, and further pressed U.S. President Barack Obama to stop the pipeline:

“Our Tribe is deeply disappointed in this decision by the United States, but our resolve to protect our water is stronger than ever. We ask that all everyone who can appeal to President Obama and the Army Corps of Engineers to consider the future of our people and rescind all permits and deny the easement to cross the Missouri River just north of our Reservation and straight through our treaty lands.”

On November 27, 2016, the Army Corps appeared to reverse course, announcing in a media statement that there are “no plans for forcible removal” of water protectors, a seemig contradiction to the stupendous and frightening display of militarized police forces from 10 different states in full riot gear and tanks, with snipers aimed at the unarmed and peaceful demonstrators below. The Corps is instead “seeking a peaceful and orderly transition to a safer location.”

Meanwhile, over 2,000 U.S. military veterans announced they are mobilizing in an effort to protect the Oceti Sakowin camp at its current location, and act as “human shields” for the water protectors who have been violently and excessively brutalized by projectile tear gas (and possibly mustard gas, though it is just speculation over a mysterious poisonous gas sprayed upon the demonstrators with particularly damaging effects), long range acoustic devices (LRAD’s), rubber bullets fired at point blank range, vicious attack dogs, water cannons in below freezing temperatures, and concussion grenades, subjected to humiliating and dehumanizing strip searches while being arrested and detained in dog cages, for months with nobody to stand up for them or protect them, by aggressive militarized police forces keen on trying out all of their shiny new offensive gear from the federal government surplus.

Michael A. Wood, Jr., a Marine Corps veteran and former Baltimore police officer, said the veterans’ event drew so much interest that organizers were forced to cap the number of participants at 2,200. As of November 28, 2016, the group has already raised more than half a million dollars from supporters. The veterans plan to dress in their military uniforms, with the intention of drawing media attention with the provocative images.

Wood explained:

This is literally what we swore to do — to protect the citizens of America from enemies both foreign and domestic. Just because someone pretties it up with a badge and uniform doesn’t mean it isn’t violence against our people.

The group had planned the event, Veterans for Standing Rock, for December 4 through December 7 in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux. The Standing Rock Sioux have stood in opposition to the pipeline, launching their demonstration in April of 2016. They have attracted increasing attention as the loggerheads between the tribe and Energy Transfer Partners, the builder of the $3.8 billion project, have continued.

The Sioux view the pipeline, which is routed to pass under the Missouri River, a water source to millions of Americans, as already having destroyed and violated sacred burial sites and posing a great threat to the safety of their water supply. Despite lacking the necessary permits, growing public opposition, and repeated requests to halt construction from the Obama Administration, Energy Transfer Partners continues to rush the building of the pipeline, refusing to reroute the project, with CEO Kelcy Warren saying, “There’s not another way. We’re building at that location.”

On November 20, 2016, Sophia Wilansky, a 21-year-old activist from New York, was badly injured by what witnesses reported was a concussion grenade. According to a statement made through her father, Wayne Wilansky, a police officer tossed the grenade at her, which exploded on contact with her forearm and blew away most of her lower limb. Police have said they used no such device and denied causing Wilansky’s injury. Surgeons are currently working to save her arm.

Donations to Sophia’s medical fund can be submitted at this link:

https://www.gofundme.com/30aezxs

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