Police Are Deliberately Hurting Standing Rock Protesters to Deter Others From Coming, Father of Injured Protester Claims
23 November 16
A few hundred people gathered for a prayer vigil Tuesday evening outside the Minneapolis hospital where 21-year-old Sophia Wilansky was recovering from her injury at Standing Rock.
Witnesses say her arm was severely damaged when an officer pulled the pin on a stun grenade, and held it, then timed the throw so the grenade would explode exactly as it hit her. Witnesses say the police threw the grenade directly at Ms. Wilansky as she was backing away from the police. The grenade explosion caused bone, muscles and arteries to be blown from her arm, according to her father, Wayne Wilansky.
Ms. Wilansky was airlifted to a Minneapolis hospital, where she has undergone multiple surgeries to save her arm, though it’s not yet clear whether doctors will need to amputate. Wayne Wilansky said his daughter may need up to 20 surgeries, and if she keeps her arm it will have very minor functionality.
Mr. Wilansky says FBI agents, including a representative from the Joint Terrorism Task Force, kept his daughter prisoner inside her hospital room yesterday. The agents didn’t say why they were there for hours, but they eventually collected his daughter’s clothing. Mr. Wilansky says he reached a verbal agreement with the FBI that they will give the Wilansky family access to the clothing to forensically test it themselves.
Police have denied responsibility for the injury to Ms. Wilansky, but her father said, “My daughter, who was completely conscious, says that they threw a grenade right at her.” Multiple witnesses also say Ms. Wilansky was injured due to a police grenade.
Mr. Wilansky continued, “I spoke to the surgeon myself directly. They took shrapnel out of her arm, so it’s pretty clear that it’s a grenade and they're going to save that shrapnel. It's going to stay in pathology until it's needed. There's proof. There's evidence that our government is throwing grenades at our people who are there peacefully protesting."
The police have changed the story of how Ms. Wilansky was hurt three times, according to her father. He also said police are intentionally hurting people in an attempt to deter new protesters from joining those already at Standing Rock.
“It’s unbelievable that governments are violently attacking citizens who are there peacefully in an attempt not to control the protest, not to protect property, but to potentially damage people, to hurt people on purpose so that other people won’t come.”
The authorities blocked medical help from reaching injured protesters, according to Mr. Wilansky.
“They are intentionally blocking ambulances from getting to the site. One of the things that hampered [my daughter’s] healing process was that it took her 6 to 8 hours to get to a hospital where they could do this kind of surgery. [Ambulances] don’t have any access to the roads. They stopped people from getting through.”
Despite her injury, Ms. Wilansky has asked that the attention be kept on the people of Standing Rock.
“Sophia said please go out there and say it’s not about me, it’s about the indigenous peoples. Even though she’s lying there with her arm pretty much blown off, she’s focused on the fact that it’s not about her. It’s about what we’re doing to our country and what we’re doing to the native peoples and what we’re doing to our environment,” her father said.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has been fighting to stop the 1,170 mile Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) for seven months.
DAPL is planned to go under the Missouri River just a half-mile north of the Standing Rock reservation. The pipeline would cross culturally significant areas, and any spill would have a devastating impact on the reservation’s water. The reservation already faces significant issues, including rates of unemployment, poverty, overcrowded housing, premature deaths, and a suicide rate that are all much higher than the national average.
Thousands of supporters have come to the Sacred Stone camp at Standing Rock to act as “Water Protectors” in an attempt to help the Standing Rock Tribe stop the pipeline.
One protester who spoke at the vigil had just returned from Standing Rock and said that police were firing directly at protesters who were posing no threat to law enforcement or to property. He held up a blue sponge round and said, “This is what I get for trying to take a selfie near the police line.”
Activists at Standing Rock have described police firing these sponge rounds at protesters’ faces and heads.
Mr. Wilansky blamed the governor of North Dakota, Jack Dalrymple, law enforcement, and the National Guard for his daughter’s injury. He also asked for everyone to call their local and federal representatives to say the violence towards protesters at Standing Rock must end.
“Everyone has to just say no, we can’t be throwing grenades at people who are peacefully protesting, singing, and chanting and supporting our indigenous nations. This is not the way we behave. This is not Afghanistan and Iraq. We don’t throw grenades at people.”
Mr. Wilansky said that Obama needed to intervene to stop the police attacks on protesters.
“Even president Obama, who I love, said three weeks ago, ‘We’ll wait and see.’ What is there to wait and see? People will die if the situation isn’t stopped.”
Ms. Wilansky’s injury is far from the first injury caused by a “non-lethal” police grenade. Police officers have lost their hand or been killed by mishandling the grenades. Victims have also experienced “bone deep” burns, smoke inhalation, loss of fingers, and even death.
The activist media outlet Unicorn Riot has collected fragments of the different types of grenades that police are firing at Standing Rock protesters.