Gabbard to stand with vets on pipeline

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HILO — U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will join other veterans in North Dakota next week as they show support for protesters trying to block construction of an oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

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HILO — U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard will join other veterans in North Dakota next week as they show support for protesters trying to block construction of an oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.

A Gabbard spokeswoman said in an email that event organizer Wesley Clark Jr. invited the congresswoman to “join the opening ceremony, press event, and leading the group as it presents itself” to the tribe’s leader.

As many as 2,000 veterans are expected to join the protests from Sunday through Dec. 7 as part of a nonviolent intervention.

Organizers of “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock” say they want to defend protesters from “assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force.”

Gabbard has been critical of plans to build the 1,170-mile Dakota Access Pipeline, which tribal members fear will pollute the Missouri River, their drinking water source, and harm sacred cultural lands and tribal burial grounds.

“I’m participating in the Dakota Access Pipeline protest because of the threat this project poses to water resources in four states serving millions of people,” she said in a statement. “Whether it’s the threat to essential water sources in this region, the lead contamination in Flint, Mich., or the threat posed to a major Hawaii aquifer by the Red Hill fuel leak, each example underscores the vital importance of protecting our water resources.”

Her office also referenced a Reuters article that said Sunoco Logistics, the pipeline’s future operator, spilled crude oil more often than its competitors since 2010, with more than 200 leaks.

“If my participation in this protest helps send one message, it is this: We must protect our fragile water resources for current and future generations,” said Gabbard.

“I hope President Obama will do the right thing and stop this pipeline project before water resources for millions are forever ruined.”

On Monday, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple issued an evacuation order for the protesters’ camp due to winter storms. Law enforcement officials said they would begin blocking supplies. Protesters say they are staying put.

The Army Corps of Engineers also intends to close off access to the campsite after Dec. 5 and create a separate “free speech zone.”

Police have been criticized for using water cannons, rubber bullets and pepper spray against protesters. Both sides have accused each other of violence.

The protests have attracted participants from across the country, including Hawaii Island.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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