As many as 2,000 veterans planning to join the Dakota Access pipeline protest Monday have been advised to bring body armor and gas masks in anticipation of a conflict with local officers, identified as the “enemy.”
In an “operations order” posted online, Veterans Stand for Standing Rock said the “opposing forces” include the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and other “state police agencies and private security contractors.”
“Enemy has rubber/plastic bullets, CS gas, pepper spray and an LRAD sound cannon,” the 11-page order said. “They will be limited in their violence against us by US and international human rights laws, a national press presence and observers from the US Congress.”
The organization has raised over $726,000 on a crowdfunding website to send an estimated 2,000 veterans to support the Standing Rock Sioux, which is trying to stop the 1,172-mile, four-state pipeline that runs at its nearest point a half-mile from the reservation.
At the same time, the order urges those participating not to bring weapons and to respect the tribe’s call for non-violent protest, saying “we are there to put our bodies on the line, no matter the physical cost, in complete non-violence to provide a clear representation to all Americans where evil resides.”
Local law enforcement has clashed repeatedly with hundreds of activists, some of whom have ignored the tribe’s call for peaceful protest and set fires, thrown rocks, and hurled Molotov cocktails at officers trying to remove them from private construction sites and public roads.
Craig Stevens, spokesman for the Midwest Alliance for Infrastructure Now, said that 60 percent of the pipeline workers are also veterans, as are many local deputies, police and members of the North Dakota National Guard.
“It’s important to remember that there are veterans on both sides of this issue,” said Mr. Stevens, whose group supports the pipeline.