“We are prepared to put our bodies between Native elders and a privatized military force,” Elizabeth Williams, a U.S. Air Force veteran, told the Guardian on her decision to come to Standing Rock as a human shield.
Williams and perhaps hundreds of other military veterans are descending on several remaining camps at Cannon Ball, North Dakota, near the banks of the Missouri River’s Lake Oahe reservoir in a last stand against construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“This is a humanitarian issue,” asserted U.S. Navy veteran Matthew Crane. “We’re not going to stand by and let anybody get hurt.”
But things could get ugly. They have multiple times in the past.
Indeed, hostilities have increased on every front — the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Council voted to ask water protectors not from the area to go home. A multi-state police force led by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department randomly employs violence against water protectors it also wishes would leave.
Meanwhile, the few hundred water protectors remaining in Standing Rock have vowed to halt the pipeline, no matter the cost — up to and including paying with their lives. That’s where the veterans come in — they see shielding the unarmed water protectors as not only the right thing to do, but as duty.
And they are well prepared.
“We’ve stood in the face of fire before,” Williams continued. “We feel a responsibility to use the skills we have.”
Jake Pogue, a veteran of the Marines, expressed concerns about possible police tactics in coming days and told the Guardian, “We’re not coming as fighters, but as protectors. Our role in that situation would be to simply form a barrier between water protectors and the police force and try to take some of that abuse for them.”
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