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U.S. veterans arrive at pipeline protest camp in North Dakota
3 days ago
U.S. military veterans were arriving on Thursday at a camp to join thousands of activists braving snow and freezing temperatures to protest a pipeline project near a Native American reservation in North Dakota.
However, other veterans in the state took exception to the efforts of the group organizing veterans to act as human shields for the protesters, saying the nature of the protests reflected poorly on the participants.
Protesters have spent months rallying against plans to route the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline beneath a lake near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, saying it poses a threat to water resources and sacred Native American sites.
State officials on Monday ordered activists to vacate the Oceti Sakowin camp, located on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers land near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, citing harsh weather conditions. Officials said on Wednesday however that they will not actively enforce the order.
Matthew Crane, a 32-year-old Navy veteran who arrived three days ago, said the veterans joining the protest were "standing on the shoulders of Martin Luther King Jr and Gandhi" with the their plans to shield protesters.
"I bought a one-way ticket," he told Reuters as he worked to build a wooden shelter at the main camp. "Hopefully we can shut this down before Christmas."
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday said for the first time that he supports the completion of the pipeline.
Trump's transition team also said Trump supported peaceful protests.
"We respect all Americans’ first amendment right to peacefully protest, and we hope that local and federal officials continue to give support to local law enforcement so they are able to continue to protect these protesters," said the Trump transition team's daily note sent to campaign supporters and congressional staff.
Meanwhile in West Fargo, North Dakota, several members of the North Dakota Veterans Coordinating Council, which represents five veterans organizations in the state, held a news conference to decry the involvement of veterans in a protest that has damaged property and asked veterans not to participate in the demonstration.
North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple on Wednesday told reporters it was "probably not feasible" to reroute the pipeline, but he would try to rebuild a relationship with Standing Rock Sioux leaders.
Dalrymple said state officials never contemplated forcibly removing protesters and his evacuation order was mainly due to concerns about inclement