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Michael Wood, a leader of Veterans for Standing Rock, says his commitment to opposing the $3.8 billion dollar pipeline is rooted in his experience as a former Baltimore Police Sergeant and Marine Corp Veteran

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CROWD: (chanting, drumming) JAISAL NOOR: On Wednesday, February 1st, the Morton County Sheriff’s Department deployed militarized police to disband the Last Child Camp, one protest encampment resisting the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline. Authorities said the camp was on private land, even though the property belongs to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, according to the treaties of 1851 and 1868. At least 76 were reportedly arrested. This is nothing new. Over the past few weeks, dozens have been arrested or shot at with rubber bullets opposing the Dakota Access pipeline, while hundreds have been arrested over the past year. ANGIE SPENCER: Morton County Police Department has come through the Backwater Bridge barricade, they have come to Highway 1806. You can see up there, as I get closer, that it’s militarized vehicles. They have tanks up there; they have the LRAD sound weapon. I see… five tanks in a row. We’ve got helicopters. We’ve got surveillance cameras. CROWD: (chanting, drumming) KEYTHA FIXICO: You know we’re here protecting the water and land here, so that your future generations can enjoy the land and water, too. JAISAL NOOR: This comes the same day as the Seattle City Council advanced a measure to divest $3 billion from the pipeline, with a full vote scheduled for Monday. President Donald Trump, whose administration has extensive financial interests in the pipeline, signed an Executive Order last week, calling for the construction of the last mile of the pipeline that is adjacent to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. This reverses a move from the administration of Barack Obama that had called for an additional environmental review, after the largest convergence of Native American tribes in a century, allies from the Climate Change Movement, along with thousands of Veterans for Standing Rock, demand he take action. On Wednesday, the Army Corps said it had expedited its review, but added, “These initial steps do not mean the easement has been approved.” This countered reports on Tuesday, that corporate media widely circulated, claims by North Dakota Senator, John Hoeven, who said the Army Corps of Engineers will grant the easement needed to complete the final mile of the Dakota Access pipeline. We reached Michael Wood, a retired Baltimore police sergeant and Marine Corps veteran, who’s the executive director of Veterans for Standing Rock. They cautiously put out a call for support for veterans to go to Standing Rock, but also says he stands firm, and says they will make sure the pipeline is not completed. MICHAEL WOOD: The point of being military and the point of having an organizational response is, to be tactical, and to think out our responses, and to have milestones, and achievable goals. So that when we respond, we know what winning looks like. We know what directions look like. So, that’s what I’d like people to do. Hold on right now, until we know exactly what action looks like, because otherwise we can be getting goaded into a distraction that has nothing to do with this situation here. So, help fund us by letting us be prepared, but, like, just don’t get caught up in a lot of the misinformation and rumor mill that goes on out there, because that… I really think that’s what’s going to get us into trouble, is when we get turned against one another. JAISAL NOOR: We also asked Michael Wood to reflect on the fact that it was the U.S. military that used to subjugate and commit genocide against the indigenous people of the Americas. MICHAEL WOOD: Yeah, it’s an interesting position, like, the juxtaposition of patriotism, and what it means when you have veterans that are going in, and being the ones that are standing up and serving the people. But the organization as a whole, of the veterans going up there, they come from tons of different angles. Whether it’s environmental issues, or treaty rights issues, or upholding the Constitution, and all of those issues are perfectly well and good, talking about this particular case. But when we’re talking about why I do it, and in my personal methods that’s going to go down, is a lot of this is just another avenue of police reform. And that’s something that police officers need to do, to get policing to the next place. We have to be honest about what’s occurred. We have to have a truth, reconciliation and reparations kind of aspect. Where in order to get to what we’re supposed to do, we have to acknowledge what has been done, and the lessons learned from that, and move forward. That’s no different when it comes to veterans who are responding to try and help the Dakota Sioux, or any oppressed people. Or people that are being subjected to state action that seems unwarranted, is that when we served, we were kind of serving that same agenda. Whether you’re policing or you’re a veteran, America has kind of, this same policy, whether it’s domestic or it’s foreign. JAISAL NOOR: The Trump administration has vested interests in completing the Dakota Access pipeline. Donald Trump himself, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and advisor Harold Hamm, all have financial ties to the pipeline. Meanwhile, six of the wealthiest banks have loaned $200 million for the project, including Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and Wells Fargo. In addition, taxpayers have spent over $22 million in policing the protests. MICHAEL WOOD: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s clear that none of these veterans served for that, and I don’t think anybody serves for that, or stands for it, when they really break down what is occurring in this situation. Like, if we follow the path, literally what we have here, is taxpayers in Morton County, North Dakota, paying for law enforcement officers to pay, fed… overtime, benefits, people coming from other jurisdictions, to use force, your court systems, all these things. I mean, astronomical amounts of money that they’re paying to put these officers on something that is a… the final connection of a pipeline, which has already been built. So, all the jobs that were going to be created from construction are 99% over and done with. There’s only going to be something like 14 of those jobs that will be permanent for maintenance, in North Dakota. Obviously none of that’s worth all the money that you’ve spent already just paying those police officers in that court system. Further, you’re going to get civil suits, and you’re going to get… the… being embarrassed on the national scene, by how the police are responding, by how their residents are treating citizens. That’s not what they’re paying for their police departments to do. So, they’re paying all that money to go into there. And now that that oil is going to be going through a pipeline, it’s actually taking away jobs because that oil is currently being transported by truck drivers, so all those truck drivers who have oil going over, any of the trains that have oil going over and they’re transporting it now, then they’re going to not have jobs going forward. That’s going to take their jobs away. So, they’re paying for all that policing in Morton County. They’re taking jobs away from truck drivers. And all of this is to funnel those profits into the few people that are actually making money in this, the investors who are invested into the Dakota Access pipeline. And then the politicians who are supported by those investors in the Dakota Access pipeline. The only thing that has really changed here, from the Obama administration time, to the Trump administration time, is that there’s no more middleman. And that the puppet is not being controlled by the puppet master, the puppet master’s actually in the Secretary of State. So, what this is, what the residents of Morton County are paying for to happen, all the… they’re going to socialize the losses and privatize all the gains. JAISAL NOOR: Wood says to give to veterans’ organizations opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline because the fight is bigger than Trump. MICHAEL WOOD: Throw some money our way, whatever you can, and we will put it to good use, and fight these issues for you. Be the boots on the ground, so that we can all be in our lanes, which allows the traffic to go, and fight against this oligarchy and the fascism that we see. Because we have to also remember that, don’t be satisfied that Trump gets out of office. This isn’t just about Trump. This is about systems, which have been in place. A lot of us prefer friendly fascism when there’s a nice face on it, and a pretty face, but it’s still the same thing, and the game hasn’t changed on my end at all. So, we’d like… support us, let us get out there, and we’ll fight these battles for you. CROWD: (chanting, drumming) JAISAL NOOR: Stay tuned to on Twitter and Facebook for updates on this story. This is Jaisal Noor. ————————- END