A group of veterans, led by Wesley Clark Jr., that arrived at Standing Rock to form a human shield between police and protesters state that they’re not going anywhere, despite a promise to halt and re-route the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline project and Monday’s mandatory deadline to leave federal land where protesters have set up camp.
On Sunday, the Army Corps of Engineers refused to allow the company to extend the pipeline beneath a fresh water reservoir beneath the Missouri River. The protesters claim that the pipeline would threaten the tribe’s water source and impede on cultural sites if allowed. The crowd of protesters erupted into chants of “mni wichoni” — or “water is life” in the language of the Lakota Sioux — when the announcement was made.
However, protesters state that the battle isn’t over yet. Despite halting the project and local authorities stating they won’t forcibly remove anyone from the area, the “water protectors” claim they aren’t going anywhere. Miles Allard, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux, told reporters:
“The whole world is watching, I’m telling all our people to stand up and not to leave until this is over.”
Representatives from Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, the company constructing the pipeline, claim that the Army Corps’ decision is politically motivated and claim Barack Obama is simply attempting to delay the matter until he leaves office. In a statement released on Wednesday they said:
“The White House’s directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency.”
President-elect Donald Trump is a pipe line supporter. It is unclear how he will take steps to reverse the Army corps’ decision when he takes office. Allard is pleading with protesters to stay put until Trump’s plans are revealed. Wes Clark Jr. and his group of veterans have pledged to keep supporting the protesters until the issue is completely resolved.
Steven Perry is one of the veterans that traveled to the site of the pipeline to join in the protest. He stated that he, and many other veterans, are compelled to stay due to concerns that a future leak or pipeline failure could pollute the potable drinking water reservoir that lies under the proposed pipeline path.The 66-year-old Vietnam veteran told reporters:
“This is not just a native issue, this is an issue for everyone.”