Police have filed charges against two US veterans supporting Standing Rock, holding one in jail for several days, raising concerns that law enforcement is trying to prevent them from aiding activists at the Dakota Access pipeline.
Officers in North Dakota and South Dakota have pulled over and searched at least four veterans on their way to the camps at Standing Rock in recent days, charging two of them for medical cannabis. Police confiscated one veteran’s car and also seized what officials called “protester gear”, which included camping supplies.
The charges against two veterans, who said they use medical cannabis to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, come days after a veterans service organization announced it would be returning to Standing Rock to provide support. Indigenous activists, known as water protectors, have been fighting the $3.7bn pipeline since last spring and have continued to live at camps near the construction site as drilling has resumed.
“I’m honestly disgusted. It makes no sense to us,” said Mark Sanderson, executive director of VeteransRespond, the group coordinating the return to Standing Rock. “Why are you trying to attack a group of veterans doing nothing more than a humanitarian aid mission in North Dakota?”
News of the charges adds to growing concerns that law enforcement is aggressively monitoring, arresting and prosecuting people affiliated with the anti-pipeline movement. The Guardian recently reported that an FBI terrorism task force has attempted to contact at least three people tied to the demonstrations.
The Morton County sheriff’s office announced the news of the arrests late Monday with a press release titled “Leader of VeteransRespond Cited for Drug Possession”, which summarized charges against a number of vets.
Matthew Crane, one of five founding members of VeteransRespond, was pulled over last Friday night when he was arriving to Standing Rock with two other vets and a fourth passenger. The group got lost on a closed road, he said, and they were trying to find officers to get directions.
When they encountered police, officers eventually searched the vehicle and their luggage and found Crane’s bag of marijuana. He was charged with possession of marijuana and paraphernalia, since cannabis remains illegal in North Dakota..
“Everyone is trying to slander a service organization,” Crane said in an interview on Monday night at the Sacred Stone camp, hours after police blasted his name and charge to the media. “It gives me a sick feeling in my stomach that veterans are being attacked.”
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