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Fallbrook man describes Dakota Pipeline protest experience, plans to return soon

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SAN DIEGO - Army combat vet Evan Ulibarri went to Standing Rock with a local chiropractor to provide supplies to the protesters and connect with people at the front lines.

The Fallbrook resident, who is a chef, told FOX 5 he spent a week in North Dakota supporting the Standing Rock protesters, who are against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Evan Ulibarri

Evan Ulibarri

"We probably took $7, 000 in medical supplies, donated to the group, as well as a tent, a teepee, wood burning stove, jackets, blankets and things that had been donated locally," he said.

Read more: North Dakota pipeline protests see peaceful Thanksgiving

Ulibarri said he was drawn to the protest because he suffers from PTSD and that getting close to nature helps him deal with it. He says he learned how to believe in something without violence.

"I've never stood with anybody who has that deep a connection with the land. It's a very sacred place for them," Ulibarri said.

Although, he said the cold weather mixed with frustrated people became a challenge for both sides.

"I split my time between being a stone in prayer and keeping police and protestors separate. I did that with a lot of the veterans. We created lines in front of the protesters to keep them from crossing it as to not further aggravate the police," Ulibarri said.

He said he saw water bottles thrown at police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons.

"Unfortunately, when it comes to large groups of people you're always going to have rebel rousers, you're always going to have people who are frustrated, that are cold, tired, that are going to make bad decisions."

Read more: Woman nearly loses arm after explosion at Dakota pipeline protest

While at the protest, Ulibarri said he had flashbacks to his 16-month tour of duty in Iraq.

"It was also difficult for me to see the same Humvees I rolled around Iraq in being used to herd these people and against these people," Ulibarri said.

Ulibarri returned from his trip Sunday. He plans to share pictures and videos of his unforgettable experience with FOX 5 later this week.  We'll post the follow up stories.

Ulibarri is planning on returning to Standing Rock in mid-December. He's accepting donations online.

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