Remember the Veterans Stand for Standing Rock organization? It was a group of supposedly non-violent, left-wing activists headed up by Michael Wood and Wesley Clark, Jr. (son to the military general and erstwhile presidential candidate) which was supposed to bring thousands of veterans to North Dakota to protect the “water protectors” fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
I say “supposedly non-violent” because if you read their organizing documents, which referred to law enforcement as “the enemy” and called for participants to be kitted out with body armor and shields, it seemed clear that violence was very much their intent.
But the movement flopped. It was disorganized and left many of those who responded to its call to action stranded in the middle of an epic North Dakota blizzard.
The group was very successful at raising money, though. They were even raising money, supposedly for supplies for the #NoDAPL protest camps, even as those camps were being closed down and cleaned up by state and tribal authorities.
Now the folks at High Country News – a left wing publication which largely sided with the anti-pipeline protesters – have taken a look at Wood, Clark, and the Veterans Stand money as well as the millions poured into a myriad of online fundraising accounts during the protests (more of their data here).
The bias of the piece is apparent – it describe’s activist Sophia Wilansky’s grievous arm injury as being caused by a “concussion grenade,” a claim made by #NoDAPL activists which is dubious at best and outright fabulism at worst – but that just makes the critical look at Wood and Clark all the more poignant for being a statement against interest.
The whole thing is worth your time to read. I won’t excerpt here, other than to quote the last sentence: “Today, Bakken oil flows through the pipeline, and Wood lives in a condo flanked by palm trees and luxury vehicles, financed by donations meant to help veterans and the Standing Rock Sioux.”
I wish the article had focused on more than just the Veterans Stand donations. There is mention of other shadowy online fundraising – the article identifies some 250 GoFundMe campaigns related to the #NoDAPL protests which raised nearly $8 million – but it’s not a very thorough look.
Back in December of 2016 I reviewed at least 285 different online accounts on sites like GoFundMe, Generosity, FundRazr, Crowdrise, and Indiegogo which had raised, as of that time, over $11.2 million.
That’s just what I could find at that time from fundraising accounts with publicly-reported totals.
It seems unlikely that we’ll ever get a clear picture of where all those millions went, but it’s clear with people like Clark and Wood involved, that a lot of it was diverted far from where donors intended it to go.