Breaking News
More () »

Phoenix-area support for Standing Rock grows, but not without criticism

The co-owner of a Phoenix restaurant is taking heat for hosting a fundraiser in support of the protestors fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation.

<p>Members of the Standing Rock Sioux protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. (Photo: NBC)</p>

PHOENIX - Support and criticism continues to grow for protestors fighting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

Valley residents are working to send support to hundreds of people camped out near the construction site, some who have been there since August.

"Obviously we are going up there," said Ron Washum, a Navy veteran and resident of Fountain Hills. "We are definitely not bringing any firearms. Our intent is to be peaceful, but this is not a group of people that's afraid of anything."

Washum is one of about 75 veterans from Arizona who are self-deploying out to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation on Friday to support protestors, or water protectors, as they call themselves.

"This is our response," he said. "We are going to stand between and with the Native Americans up there -- arm in arm, brother to brother, sister to sister. We are together in this."

The trip is part of a national call to action, Veterans For Standing Rock, which has raised over $600,000 in funds on a GoFundMe page. Hundreds of veterans are expected to arrive to the camps on Dec. 4 where preparations are being made for a frigid winter.

Katherine Stacie is an enrolled member of the Crow Tribe and is helping to coordinate travel and support for the veterans.

The effort is her second time organizing support to Standing Rock, where she says one of her grandsons has been protesting since the very beginning.

She created a separate GoFundMe page specifically for veterans for Arizona that will help cover transportation costs for those who can't get a ride.

"This is so important for a number of reasons, the biggest is these are our treaty lands," Stacie said. "We used to have the whole country. We don't want the pipeline under there. They break all the time, they contaminate the water and there's just no way to clean it up."

But not everyone is in support of the protestors.

The backlash was quick and fierce for Liam Murtagh, the co-owner of The Coronado eatery in central Phoenix after hosting a fundraiser benefiting the protestors on Friday.

Online comments and reviews on the restaurant's Facebook page have been largely negative in the days since the event.

"Whenever you take a stand on something, you're going to get some blowback," Murtagh said. "But what outweighs that is the amount of support we've gotten and what we've been able to direct to North Dakota."

One hundred percent of food purchases went toward the fundraiser, which yielded nearly $3,000.

Murtagh said the line for the restaurant, at times, stretched outside to the sidewalk and people were also bringing items like blankets and clothing to donate.

The restaurant regularly holds fundraisers for various local organizations, but said future plans for another Standing Rock fundraisers may be in the works.

Before You Leave, Check This Out