A Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protester is refusing to testify in a case alleging North Dakota law enforcement officers maimed a fellow pipeline activist during a violent November demonstration.
Steve Martinez, an anti-DAPL protester, is refusing to testify to a federal grand jury regarding the mutilation of fellow protester, Sophia Wilansky, according to his attorney, Ralph Hurvitz. Martinez’s attorney filed a motion to quash a court-issued subpoena requesting his client’s testimony, which was denied Wednesday in a closed hearing.
“Losing my freedom is a small price to pay for keeping my dignity and standing up for what’s right,” Martinez said, adding that he is prepared to go to jail if found in contempt of court.
Martinez declined to comment on his role in a clash that occurred in November when protesters blocked a bridge on a state highway near a makeshift campsite along the now-rejected pipeline route in southern North Dakota. Police officers used fire hoses to extinguish fires on the bridge started by the activists.
Eye witnesses told reporters at the time of the incident that Wilansky was injured after Morton County Sheriff’s Office personnel indiscreetly lobbed a concussion grenade into a pile of protesters during a volatile demonstration. Wilansky was reportedly bent over the grenade before it exploded.
The grand jury document states that “the subpoena further directs him [Martinez] to bring with him information related to the injury of Sophia Wilansky on Nov. 21, 2016, including, but not limited to: photos/SD cards; written statements; any other information within possession.”
The sheriff’s department, which used tear gas and high-pressured water hoses during a November protest 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.
Environmentalists and members of Standing Rock Sioux believe the now-rejected DAPL route could potentially trample tribal grounds and poison waterways. The controversial route was originally expected to travel underneath the Missouri River, a key water source for the tribe.
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