Hawaii Congresswoman #Tulsi Gabbard is going to the #Dakota Access Pipeline protest to join what's being called a "peaceful, unarmed militia” of some 2,000 military veterans who are heading to the protest site to support demonstrators trying to halt work on the pipeline.
In a Twitter posting, Gabbard says she will be joining the veterans, a group calling itself “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock,” who will be standing with protesters at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, for three days beginning on Dec. 4. Initially organizers of the veterans group were expecting a few hundred veterans to join them, but a gofundme page set up to raise money for the effort says 2,100 veterans have signed up and donations have been pouring in. Through Tuesday night more than $600,000 has been contributed through the site.
In an email to the Observer, Gabbard’s Press Secretary, Emily Latimer, provided more details about Gabbard's visit
“Next weekend, the congresswoman will be joining thousands of veterans from across the country to stand in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota who are protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through their tribal lands, with grave concerns about the contamination of their major water source,” Latimer said in the email.
Gabbard to be first member of Congress at protest site
Gabbard’s announcement comes as a number of members of Congress have been throwing their support behind the protesters, who are trying to stop Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners from building the final segment of the pipeline. But Gabbard is the first federal lawmaker to go to the protest site and join the demonstrators.
The 35-year-old Gabbard, herself a veteran, served two tours of duty in Iraq and still holds the rank as a major in the Army National Guard. When she volunteered to be deployed in Iraq in 2004, she stepped down from the position she held at the time as a member of the Hawaii state legislature. According to her website, in doing so, she became the first state official to voluntarily resign from public office to serve in a war zone.
Gabbard made headlines in meeting with Trump
More recently, Gabbard, who is a Democrat serving her second term in the U.S. House of Representatives, made headlines when she met with President-elect Donald Trump last week. Reportedly being considered for a position in his cabinet, she says she had a "frank and positive" conversation with the Trump, discussing Syria and other foreign policy issues.
Meanwhile, the Standing Rock protesters -- or “water protectors” as they call themselves because they say the pipeline would endanger the water supply for the Standing Rock Sioux reservation -- have been getting considerably more media coverage and subsequently additional support from Congress and elsewhere after a violent confrontation with law enforcement officers earlier this month. In that confrontation, Morton County sheriff’s officials, claiming they were dealing with what they termed an “ongoing riot,” soaked protesters with water cannons, fired rubber bullets and lobbed tear gas canisters into the crowd. Protest leaders have denied it was a riot and said that nearly 200 people were hurt in the melee.
Senator Cory Booker seeking federal investigation
The incident prompted U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, from New Jersey, to call for the Justice Department to open an investigation into police tactics, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich are urging President Obama to intervene.
The National Lawyers Guild has also filed a lawsuit against the Morton County sheriff, alleging the use of excessive force, while the American Civil Liberties Union is also criticizing law enforcement over the matter for using what the union calls “life-threatening crowd-control weapons” against the demonstrators. #NoDAPL