OKLAHOMA - Oklahoma veterans are packing their bags, getting ready to head out to Standing Rock - the site of a protest that’s been going on since April against a proposed pipeline.
Tribal members at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota are protesting it on the basis it will destroy sacred land and could contaminate their water supply.
The protest has steadily grown over the last six months and, just last week, clashes between police and protesters grew violent as police used rubber bullets, tear gas canisters and water cannons to try and disperse the crowds.
The local sheriff’s department has said protesters set fires while they were trying to do this.
Hundreds of veterans from around the country will be making the trip there this weekend as part of an event in support of the Sioux Nation against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
On the Facebook page Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, organizers said they had to close the event at 2,100 veterans, although hundreds more were interested.
They’re asking veterans to bring body armor, gas masks and earplugs but no drugs, alcohol or weapons.
Angie Secrest is heading the Oklahoma delegation.
The former army medic has been going through her old boot locker trying to see what could be useful in Standing Rock.
“Just trying to figure out what’s in here, what’s good still. I’ve got some 18 gauge needles and stuff for splints and iv’s,” Secrest said.
Around 25 Oklahoma veterans will be joining approximately 2,000 others to assemble as a peaceful, unarmed militia - a barrier between the protesters and police.
“We took an oath to protect this country foreign and domestic. To us, you know, I mean and me and some of the other veterans that I know, this is terrorism what’s happening to these people,” Secrest said.
Secrest hopes to use her medical skills at Standing Rock, but Michael Kaseca, another Oklahoma veteran traveling to North Dakota, said he will stand at the front lines of the protest.
“I’m going to the front line and standing with my brothers and sisters up there, the Lakota, the variety of tribal people up there. It’s the call that’s been beckoning in my heart. At times, I couldn’t get sleep,” Kaseca said.
“We want to stop the pipeline. We want to stand for the people, for the civil rights that are being broken here, for the militarized police, that’s not okay,” Secrest said.
Secrest and Kaseca said they’re ready for whatever this weekend will bring, including the extreme cold weather conditions up there.
“We’re getting pallets of arctic sleeping bags to take up there,” Secrest said.
Veterans Stand for Standing Rock has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for travel expenses and supplies.
As of Tuesday evening, they had raised more than $600,000 of their $750,000 goal.
The Morton County Sheriff’s Department told CNN law enforcement will begin to block all people and supplies from coming to the pipeline protest campsite.
The Oklahoma veterans we spoke with said this isn’t stopping them from making that trip.