Police And Dakota Activists Blame Each Other For Blast Mutilating Protester

Chris White | Energy Reporter

Activists claim a protester was horribly mutilated Monday by a concussion grenade lobbed by police during a demonstration against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Sophia Wilansky, 21, could lose her left arm after an explosion behind a blockade near the oil pipeline’s construction site ripped through her winter jacked. She is now in hospital at Minneapolis County Medical Center.

“They’re trying to see if her arm can be saved,” Wilansky’s friend and fellow DAPL activist Vaimoana Niumeitolu told reporters.

Eye witnesses say Wilansky was injured after Morton County Sheriff’s Office personnel indiscreetly lobbed a concussion grenade into a pile of protesters during a volatile demonstration, Niumeitolu explained. Wilansky was reportedly bent over the grenade before it exploded.


“They told me she was bringing water to people at the frontlines,” Niumeitolu said about Wilansky, who is an environmentalist from New York.

The sheriff’s department, which used tear gas and high-pressured water hoses Sunday night to disperse 400 “very aggressive” activists, said the blast likely came from one of the incendiary devices protesters have been using to beat back the police.

Nearly 300 people were treated for injuries that were a “direct result of excessive force by police,” according to a press statement issued by the Standing Rock Medical and Healer Council.

Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier has defended the department’s use of force, telling reporters that fire hoses and concussion grenades were necessary to corral a “very aggressive” crowd. One officer was injured and one person was arrested during the confrontation.

“We don’t know where it came from,” Kirchmeier said at a Monday press conference. He claimed activists were hurling fuel canisters at officers.

Kirchmeier added: “The tactics the protesters have used have been increasing in their aggressiveness.”

Activists posted videos and photos on Facebook showing law enforcement officials spraying water over demonstrators in below-freezing temperatures.

The Morton County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Rob Keller told reporters the water was sprayed from a fire truck battling blazes the activists started.

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