Standing Rock, North Dakota (TFC)— The Fifth Column News contacted Michael Wood Jr. regarding his organization Veterans Stand and it’s Standing Rock operations. Wood responded shortly before the government issued eviction orders, then raided the remaining camps. He relayed Veterans Stand’s goals and its volunteer’s experiences at Standing Rock.
Veterans Stand unites US veterans wanting to “defend America from enemies, foreign and domestic”, its website reads. Former Baltimore PD Sergeant of 10 years and US Marine Michael Wood Jr. currently serves as the organization’s executive director. According to Wood, VS has “ a continually growing volunteer staff of 16”. It’s staff largely consists of military veterans wishing to continue fulfilling their oaths to protect.
Veterans Stand also maintains a lengthy roster list of “thousands of veterans who have signed up wanting to participate.” This has created an “interesting issue” for VS field operations. “If we released the floodgates, we simply would not have the resources necessary.” While this shows the youth of Veterans Stand, it also highlights a resounding public support.
“Out in Standing Rock”, says Wood, “our Secretary of Operations, Chris Duesing (Capt. US-Army), is leading a mission with the current fundraiser to support the efforts there, under service to the Cheyenne River Camp.” Funding currently allows Veterans Stand “50-100 staying at the Cheyenne River Camp to build infrastructure as needed to fulfill the requests of the indigenous nations”, Wood explained.
“The scope of our operations is fundamentally one of serving the communities that request our assistance. Service, is a broad scope of a term and intentionally so. Everything is on the table for our responses. Of course, our individual members have political leanings, but as an organization we could not care less. No group is safe from our attention if they become an enemy of the people, foreign or domestic.”– Michael Wood Jr., Veterans Stand
Whereas Wood reports no member of VS arrested, other organizations aren’t so lucky. Shortly before the latest stint of raids and burnings, members of a group–Veterans Respond–were arrested by authorities at Standing Rock.
“We have communication with Veterans Respond,” says Wood, “and intend on cooperating with them when appropriate.” He did, however, indicate the two maintain “fundamentally different missions and ways of conducting ourselves.”
Possibly shielding VS volunteer’s from arrest is their shying away from protesting themselves. “We are primarily voluntary defenders and logistical supports of the people we serve”, he told TFC journalists. Wood also noted, “a dramatic difference in the way authorities respond to civilian water protectors, as opposed to Veterans Stand”.
“Being an adamant supporter of Black Lives Matter, I have long observed a dramatic difference between the way police treat me and civilian protesters. Generally speaking, the police will avoid me and will go after peaceful protestors. Avoiding me is a delay tactic, but I do not think that tactic will last much longer, they will have to choose. Standing Rock is not the only battle, it simply encapsulates the battle that is affecting us all, state oppression.” — Michael Wood Jr., Veterans Stand
Operating so close to the action, however, inevitably means you get caught in the middle. “We have seen the same things everyone else has seen. Sound cannon, less lethal weapons (which ARE lethal, just not as likely to be lethal)”, Wood described to TFC, “ and the traditional tools of violence.”
It then became imperative to ask Wood of possible surveillance attempts on volunteers at Standing Rock. Countless water protectors, journalists, and protesters have reported electronic and physical surveillance since the beginning. Reports, alongside becoming more numerous and increasingly disturbing, are largely consistent. Multiple organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have launched investigations into what this could be.
“I am just about the last person to get conspiratorial”, Michael Wood Jr. told TFC. “Despite that reluctance, there have been way too many coincidences, to be coincidence. The weird cellphone behavior; clicks on calls, computer glitches, etc, are incredibly suspicious.” These phenomena, while rampant at Standing Rock, appear whenever you find police surveillance operations.
Despite this, and continued destruction of Standing Rock’s camps, Veterans Stand remains firm. The organization, according to Wood, also isn’t limiting its operations to oil protests.
“Speaking for myself”, Wood states, “I am dedicated” to defeating what he calls “three pillars of American policing”. “Those pillars are the creation and maintenance of oppressed classes, valuing the property of the 1% more than the lives of the 99%, and the continued genocide of the Native American People.”
“We will continue to fight these issues because they proliferate our communities because they are the foundations of America and its colonialism.”– Michael Wood Jr., Veterans Stand.