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MT Veterans Join Standing Rock Protesters on Front Line

Veterans are joining protestors of a pipeline planned to be routed through Native American land in North Dakota. (Becker 1999/Wikimedia Commons)
Veterans are joining protestors of a pipeline planned to be routed through Native American land in North Dakota. (Becker 1999/Wikimedia Commons)
December 1, 2016

BILLINGS, Mont. – More than 2,000 military veterans plan to join the protest in North Dakota against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

The group Veterans Stand for Standing Rock has organized nonviolent protests Sunday through Wednesday at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to act as human shields for protesters.

Among the veterans will be former Marine Jade Emilio Snell of Billings. He says recent escalation in tensions, such as the New York woman whose arm was badly injured last month by police, inspired him to join.

"We expected that in the military,” he states. “We knew what we were signing up for. They're doing peaceful protests and that's happening to them.

“And so, as a veteran I thought, you know, we need to go there and make sure that this no longer happens. This is ridiculous in our own country."

Veterans Stand for Standing Rock has raised more than $680,000 as of Wednesday through the fundraising website gofundme to pay for travel and accommodations for veterans. Snell will be joined by other Montana veterans as well.

Last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would close access to demonstrators' campsite on Dec. 5.

Snell and other veterans will be at Standing Rock when the Corps of Engineers enforces this closure. The agency says it has no plans of "forcible removal."

Snell says even though he feels he has a moral obligation to stand with protesters, he understands law enforcement's perspective. On the other side of the line, he says, he recently spoke to a friend who is one of the National Guard deployed at Standing Rock.

"He goes, 'I have nothing against you,' and I said, 'No, I know that,'” Snell relates. “And I said, 'We've been friends forever, but I also know you're doing your job. You have a career, you have a family, if you're ordered to do it, as veterans we understand you're following orders. That's exactly what we're doing.'"

Snell also has another reason for being there – he's Native American. Although he is not part of the Sioux tribe, Snell says it's time for Native Americans across the country to say enough is enough.

"Same thing with the treaties,” he stresses. “It's like, 'Well, what's one more acre we take away from Native Americans?'

“If you constantly say that, 'Well, what's one more? What's one more?' pretty soon we're not going to have nothing. And I'm tired of the treaties being broken."

The veteran protesters plan to set up camp Sunday and stand on the front lines of the demonstration Monday through Wednesday.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT