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2,000 veterans plan to protect Dakota Access pipeline protesters

By Andrew V. Pestano
2,000 veterans plan to protect Dakota Access pipeline protesters
About 2,000 veterans belonging to the Veterans Stand For Standing Rock group plan to protect Dakota Access pipeline protesters from what it describes as humiliating and abusive tactics by police. In this image, police and protesters clash on the Backwater Bridge, north of a protest camp in North Dakota's Morton County on November 20. Police said about 400 protesters attempted to breach the bridge, which was blocked since late October, near the site of the Dakota Access pipeline. Photo courtesy of Morton County Sheriff's Department

MORTON COUNTY, N.D., Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The Veterans Stand For Standing Rock group said it plans to gather up to 2,000 veterans starting Sunday to help protect Dakota Access Pipeline protesters.

The group defines itself as a non-violent demonstration to defend protesters from what it describes as abusive and humiliating tactics committed by a "militarized police force."

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Veterans Stand For Standing Rock, which capped the capacity of the event at 2,000 veterans, has called on veterans joining the protest to bring body armor, gas masks, earplugs and shooting mufflers, due to possible use of a sound cannon by police, the group said. The group asked veterans not to bring drugs, alcohol or weapons.

"This event ... will not tolerate hate, violence or divisive behavior of any kind. We're doing this to support our country so let's do it with honor, working together," the group wrote on Facebook. "We can stop this savage injustice being committed right here at home. If not us, who? If not now, when?"

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An online fundraiser for the event, which will run from Sunday until next Wednesday, has raised more than $650,000 out of a $1 million goal. North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple this week signed an emergency evacuation order to clear Dakota Access Pipeline protesters from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers territory.

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If completed, the $3.7 billion pipeline will carry 470,000 barrels per day from North Dakota oil fields to southern Illinois. Some Native American tribes, including the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, launched protests against the 1,134-mile oil pipeline's construction -- fearing the pipeline could pollute water sources.

Police forces have been criticized for using tear gas and other non-lethal methods, such as rubber bullets and water cannons amid freezing temperatures, to disrupt the protests.

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"Are you going to treat us veterans who have served our country in the same way as you have those water protectors?" Loreal Black Shawl, a Native American eight-year U.S. Army veteran, said. "We're not there to create chaos. We are there because we are tired of seeing the water protectors being treated as non-humans."

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