Veterans group ramping up for second Dakota Access Pipeline protest

By Eric DuVall  |  Feb. 10, 2017 at 9:09 AM
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Feb. 10 (UPI) -- A veterans group opposed to construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline said it will "redeploy" volunteers to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation due to increased "turmoil and uncertainty."

The group Veterans Stand formed after hundreds of U.S. military veterans traveled to the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota last year to stand in solidarity with Native Americans and other environmentalist groups in opposition to a government plan to construct a pipeline running from the Dakotas, south to Illinois.

Protesters have said the pipeline would run over sacred land for the Sioux people, and endangers the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest in the world, which provides fresh water to millions in the Midwest.

The group claimed a temporary victory in December when, under the Obama administration, the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would look for an alternative route for the pipeline, away from the aquifer and Sioux land. But President Donald Trump last month signed an executive order permitting the pipeline construction to move forward. Since then, the Army Corps notified Congress it is prepared to grant an easement for continued construction.

A spokesman for Veterans Stand said it is unlikely the group will send another large contingent of protesters to stand with natives who have set up a semi-permanent camp near the construction site. Instead, the group, which is seeking to raise $500,000 through a GoFundMe campaign, will concentrate on coordination of supplies.

"It is unlikely that we will send a mass group of people like before," Veterans Stand founder Michael Wood Jr., told CNN. "The biggest misconception is that Veterans Stand wants to do anything aggressive in response. People want to do something and they just don't know what to do. We just want to give people a platform."

Instead, the group said on its Facebook page, there are other ways veterans can help the cause.

"In the past two weeks the turmoil and uncertainty at Standing Rock has increased significantly. We have continued to stay in contact with indigenous and camp leadership and have identified several areas where the Veterans Stand network can continue to serve the needs of the camp and local community."

The first GoFundMe effort by the group raised more than $1.1 million to support the protesters.

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