(TFC)— Michael Wood Jr. is a former US Marine and Baltimore cop of 11 years. In 2015, a year after leaving the force, Wood shared his experiences on Twitter. Those posts relayed various forms of misconduct he’d witnessed or done. As police protests catalyzed, Wood quickly became a valued information source.
Resistance against the billion dollar project has endured over a year. Standing Rock’s tribespeople feel the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) threatened their water supply, and land. Construction also reputedly desecrated both modern, and ancient Native American burial sites. Hundreds were arrested as the reservation became increasingly militarized.
Media largely focused on continually escalating police violence against protesters. Some journalists eventually faced charges or surveillance, after covering DAPL. They joined countless activists who reported similar intimidation. Even Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was charged months ago. Most of these issued in the reservation, however, have been since thrown out.
Despite this, Morton County Sheriffs and their out-of-state backup continue operations. National Guard units were also deployed, as well as camo-dressed police officers. Months ago, CopBlock Network contributors filmed these soldiers conducting checkpoints outside the reservation. Surveillance aircraft and other ominous activities operated unchecked against peaceful protesters.
Most recently, North Dakota threatened protest camps with a blockade of food and medical supplies. This was attempted at the cusp of the state’s brutal winter season. However, officials were forced to scale back threats after immediate public condemnation. North Dakota’s governor later framed the situation as a safety concern.
A deployment of military veterans later arrived forming human shields around protesters. After that, officials issued more proactive responses to DAPL’s actions.
Police actions to protect the Dakota Access Pipeline shocked many out of their homes. From there, some ventured forth to support, or document, the phenomenon.
The Fifth Column contacted Wood to apply his knowledge to Standing Rock. He’s made several appearances in both mainstream, and independent media. Some of these include the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast, and The Young Turks Network.
Isiah Holmes: Some PD’s (Police Department’s) around the country are more open to sensible reforms. Some who were deployed to DAPL have refused to return whereas others are more eager. For PD’s interested in progressive reform, what should they take away from the tactics used at DAPL?
Michael Wood: It feels rather odd to call the Morton County PD actions, “tactics”. They were more like, crimes. Then, when we say things like progressive or reforming police departments, I have no idea what that means. I do not mean to sound like a downer, it is just that there are no police departments who are truly doing that in earnest. The takeaway for any state agents should be that these types of actions are not condoned by the people of America. And that the people are where the power of the badge is derived.
Isiah Holmes: You have the perspective of both a Marine, and a police officer in various capacities. Looking at the tactics used at DAPL–aside from weapons–is there anything else that is more military than cop? Tactics, posturing, etc. Things not as obvious to ordinary civilians in the same way the MRAP and rifles are?
Michael Wood: One of the reasons that so many veterans showed up in Standing Rock, North Dakota is because the military is not what the police are. If we are using militarization as essentially being synonymous with aggressiveness, then the police departments of the United States, are much more “militarized,” than the military is. I had much greater power and autonomy (as an officer), with much less oversight and lower rules of engagement.
Isiah Holmes: Can we expect PD’s to learn from DAPL for preparations in less transparent, more brutal crackdowns in the future? What may be some changes to expect in procedure?
Michael Wood: Well, history says no, they will escalate further. But there may be a short term, recent memory, type of de-escalation effect. The result of the current policing model is Orwellian at its core. It can only continually escalate with more and more force.
Isiah Holmes: From a police and law enforcement perspective, what does cooperation between DAPL cops and DAPL contractors say? Being that contractors have arguably committed illegal acts of assault, why haven’t any been arrested that we know of?
Michael Wood: This cooperation is nothing new. You are just seeing it expressed, just as police killing unarmed black men is not a new thing. This empowerment of private goons to act indistinguishably from state sanctioned authorities should alarm everyone. It does not. A likely reason that the public is not alarmed is because the police have slowly become the very same thing. Policing in America always served the elite, but corporations began to legally control the politicians who control the police, till now. There is no practical difference between the security hired by DAPL and Morton County SD (Sheriff Department).
Isiah Holmes: If police were military experienced, but without the weapons, and were deployed to DAPL, what would you suspect may occur? Would the scene be as chaotic?
Michael Wood: I would expect the police to put up the appearance of resisting the protest and nothing more.
Isiah Holmes: Have you ever personally participated in the policing of a protest? If so, what’s it like being on the other side of the interaction? Can you put yourself in the boots of the DAPL cops, good and bad, for a moment? What do you come away with if you were to do so?
Michael Wood: The closest I ever came to policing a protest, was as a young Marine in Yorktown, Virginia. But nothing escalated and I do not remember why. Being completely honest, I would show up, collect the overtime and if challenged, I would have my team stand down. But I’m thinking as a commander. As an officer, if there’s no one to stand up for them making moral decisions, I am at a loss.
Isiah Holmes: Even if construction at Standing Rock is defeated, what should protesters take that motivation and aim it towards next? Is defeating DAPL, hypothetically, the end?
Michael Wood: Standing Rock is just the beginning or a milestone in a much larger movement. The violence by the police; land rights issues, treaty violation, water rights, racial issues, private profiteering, government oppression, have more opened the eyes of many to how oppression can reach their own front yard. Many groups have formed and will branch out in different directions. We have built Veterans Stand, a not for profit to unite the veteran community to combat identified areas of oppression.