Last week, the newly formed group “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock” called on veterans to nonviolently stand up to militarized law enforcement at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Since its initial call to action, the veterans’ movement has grown exponentially.
Last week, the Facebook event, which was launched by Army veteran Wesley Clark Jr. and former Marine and Baltimore cop-turned-reformist, Michael A. Wood Jr., received widespread media attention. This boost helped increase the number of attendees from a couple hundred veterans to their maximum capacity of 2,000.
A standard email response from the group (as of Saturday) reads:
“We are happy to announce our small campaign has grown to 2,000 Veterans from every corner of the US [and] will be joining us to stand in peace with our brothers and sisters in Standing Rock.”
Their event page states they have over 2,100 veterans signed up and are exploring options for a second trip.
The group has a strict no weapons policy but is stocking up on body armor and protective gear like gas masks to withstand potential attacks from the heavily militarized police, who have arrested at least 400 of protesters so far. According to on-site medics, hundreds of protesters have also been injured. Last week, a 21-year-old woman was reportedly hit with a concussion grenade, leading to a severe injury that may require her arm to be amputated. Though police have blamed protesters for what happened to her, at least one witness claims law enforcement’s version of events is untruthful.
“This country is repressing our people,” Wood Jr. said last week. “If we’re going to be heroes, if we’re really going to be those veterans that this country praises, well, then we need to do the things that we actually said we’re going to do when we took the oath to defend the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic.”
With 2,100 veterans signed up to make a stand, it appears police will be forced to reconcile their aggressive behavior with the nonviolent show of veterans, who intend to march toward police on site.
The group has gained substantial financial backing since word of their mission spread. According to their GoFundMe page, they have already raised over $500,000 to fund their trip, which is planned for December 4 to December 7.
Their goal is currently set at $750,000, an increase from the $100,000 — and then $200,000 — requested last week.
“I increased the goal because I was wrong,” Wood Jr. said, according to Task and Purpose. “I was giving a ballpark number that we could get 500 people there without feeling like I was asking much of the public. In a short period of two days, the picture changed dramatically. As long as we’re increasing in size, I have to ask for more funds. And as long as we have more funds, we will increase in size.”
“This is already way beyond transportation. So the additional funds will go toward protective equipment, infrastructure, lodging, food, medical supplies, and stuff to help deal with the elements of nature.”
The funds will also go toward bailing out members of the group who are arrested during their demonstration.
As the cash and volunteers continue to roll in, the group’s resolve in its self-described “deployment” is only increasing.
“We’ve grown to the point where we have an actual chain of command now,” Wood Jr. said. “Emails are hundreds a day, if not thousands.”
Anti-Media spoke to one Navy veteran, Jake Bagwell, who heard about the event last week through social media and is now scheduled to head to Standing Rock, pending his request for time off from work.
“I figured if any demographic would have a big enough impact to wake people up, it’s vets. Especially when it comes to standing up to the government,” he said.
“Nothing about what the ‘authorities’ are doing makes sense. Water cannons in subfreezing temperatures? Are you serious?”
Another veteran, Sam Deering, posted on Facebook about his decision to join Vets Stand for Standing Rock:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the land where protesters are camped out, issued a notice last week warning them to evacuate by December 5. Reuters reports the agency has said it has no plans to forcibly remove protesters, but on Monday, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple issued a separate mandatory order to evacuate the area.
Anti-Media has reached out to Veterans Stand for Standing Rock to learn how they plan to respond to these demands and will update this story if they respond.