A local Air Force veteran is packing up supplies and heading to North Dakota to join protests against the hotly-contested Dakota Access Pipeline.
Mark Daniels, 37, is a student studying digital multimedia communications at Lindenwood University-Belleville. Daniels, a native of Oklahoma, said he has concerns about the potential environmental impact of the pipeline, which is planned for construction north of reservation lands belonging to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
Daniels, a three-time Iraq veteran, plans to leave Belleville on Friday to make the 15-hour drive to the site of the protests. He says he will join other veterans in protest.
The final straw came, Daniels said, when he saw images of protestors “getting shot with water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas.”
“I understand police have to use force, but we don’t want there to be any unnecessary force,” Daniels said. “As veterans we’re not going up there to antagonize the police or work against our own country, but to support liberty and justice and our fellow countrymen.”
Daniels also says he plans to take video and interview the different parties involved in the protests, including other veterans, Native Americans and authorities.
Prepared with cold-weather gear, Daniels says he’s “hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told the Sioux Tribe the public will not be allowed on the land as cold, winter weather encroaches, NPR reported this week. Protestors have opposed the $3.8 million project for months, saying it will harm drinking water and violate sacred sites, according to NPR.