Military veterans plan to gather at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota next week to show their support for those camped in protest of the four-state Dakota Access pipeline.
Veterans Stand for Standing Rock says 2,000 veterans will gather Sunday in Fort Yates, which is on the reservation. The organization says they'll be bused to the protesters' main camp on Monday and spend most of Tuesday and Wednesday on the front lines.
The group has set up a page at GoFundMe.com to raise money for food, transportation and supplies. As of Wednesday afternoon, it had raised nearly $700,000 of its $1 million goal.
North Dakota's governor said via a spokesperson Tuesday that an evacuation order he issued to those protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline was "misconstrued" and that he has no intention of blocking food and supplies from those gathered at the encampment 50 miles south of Bismarck.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple issued Monday a "mandatory evacuation" for the camp "to safeguard against harsh winter conditions." But the order didn't specify any action to be taken against protesters who don't comply, and state Emergency Services spokeswoman Cecily Fong later said no action would be taken to enforce it.
Standing Rock Sioux tribal leader Dave Archambault called Dalrymple's order "a menacing action meant to cause fear, and is a blatant attempt by the state and local officials to usurp and circumvent federal authority."
Dalrymple's order was not the first attempt from officials to clear the camp of protesters: The Army Corps of Engineers issued a letter last week stating that all federal lands north of the Cannonball River will be closed to the public for "safety concerns" starting Dec. 5. That order includes the encampment called Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires camp.
A North Dakota sheriff on Monday dismissed the Dec. 5 deadline as a meaningless move aimed only at reducing the government's legal responsibility for hundreds of demonstrators.
The Corps "is basically kicking the can down the road, and all it is doing is taking the liability from the Corps and putting it on" the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier said.
The agency had cited North Dakota's oncoming winter and increasingly contentious clashes between protesters and police as reasons for the evacuation date.
But in a statement issued late Sunday, the Corps said it "has no plans for forcible removal." Anyone on land north of the river, including the main protest camp, after the deadline may be prosecuted for trespassing.
Before issuing his own order, Dalrymple had called the Corps' position "very puzzling."
"When you put out a pronouncement that people must leave your land by a certain date, I think you take on a responsibility to somehow bring that about," Dalrymple said. "Clearly the responsibility of clearing that land now lies primarily with the Corps."
The 1,172-mile pipeline is nearly complete except for a small section beneath a Missouri River reservoir near the encampment, which is about 50 miles south of Bismarck.