As many as 2,000 veterans plan to gather next week at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to serve as “human shields” for protesters who have clashed with police for months 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 demonstrators from what the group calls “assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force.”
The veterans’ plan coincides with an announcement Tuesday by law enforcement officials that they may impose 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 they 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, a Republican, cited “anticipated harsh weather conditions.” It came before a winter storm dumped about 6 inches of snow and brought strong winds to the area Monday, making roads “nearly impassable at the camp sites,” according to Doualy Xaykaothao of Minnesota Public Radio.
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