More than 2,000* veterans have signed up to join members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and their supporters to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.
Wes Clark Jr., co-coordinator for “Veterans for Standing Rock” and the son of Gen. Wesley Clark, said their presence is welcomed but the veterans were “asked by [tribal] elders not to direct action.”
According to the Associated Press, he said the National Guard and law enforcement have armored vehicles and are armed, warning: “If we come forward, they will attack us.”
During a press conference on Saturday, Cass County Sheriff Paul D. Laney accused Dakota Access pipeline protesters of attempting to “exploit” veterans.
“We have received very concerning intel that an element within the protest movement wants to exploit vets with PTSD, arm them, and try to trigger their PTSD and turn them aggressive,” said Laney. “Besides being horrible, and wrong, it could be dangerous, and deadly.”
The Sheriff’s statement contradicts the seemingly well-intentioned instructions posted by the “Veterans of Stand Rock” Facebook page, which stated: “Bring Body armor, gas masks, earplugs AND shooting mufflers (we may be facing a sound cannon) but no drugs, alcohol or weapons.”
While the group states they have no intention of arming themselves, the Sheriff believes there are “groups” actively seeking to arm them upon their arrival.
It is not clear the source of the Sheriff Laney’s intelligence but he assured the media it was from a “credible source of information.”
“We had enough [intel] where we brought it out here to say we believe this is a tactic that is actively being worked and I would say as a former veteran, to try and do that to somebody who has already suffered enough serving this country, whose served our country honorably and now come back and has the affects of war or the horrors of war -a PTSD effect on them- and your going to try to trigger that for an activist reason. I think you can see my reaction of how that makes me feel. It’s sickening.”
Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii joined thousands of veterans at the Standing Rock protest in North Dakota with the intention of peacefully protesting this weekend, NPR reports.
After being invited by Wes Clark Jr., Gabbard told NPR, ” My plan was to come here and stand in peace and in prayer with the people of Standing Rock with all of our other veterans. And that’s exactly what’s been happening.”
On Sunday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers backed down to the protesters by announcing that it won’t grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline in southern North Dakota.
*This number has not been verified. It was reported by the “Veterans for Standing Rock” group via their Facebook page.
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