Energy

Pipeline Protester Injured In Explosion Loses A Key Court Battle

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter

An anti-pipeline activist lost her bid to obtain evidence relating to an injury she sustained while fighting police, a setback in her plans to ultimately sue law enforcement.

Sophia Wilansky, a woman who was involved in a violent clash with police, lost a legal battle to obtain evidence she hoped to use in a lawsuit against law enforcement. U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright ruled Monday that Wilansky never produced “any evidence or argument as to why she is unable to commence a timely civil action without first obtaining access to or possession of the seized property.”

The issue dates back to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests that took place in 2016 and early 2017.

A New York City native, Wilansky traveled to North Dakota to join activists who were protesting against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. While environmentalists committed numerous acts of aggression, the 10-month long demonstration took an especially dangerous turn in the early morning of Nov. 21, 2016. Protesters, in their attempt to get past a state highway, began to throw rocks and burning logs at police. Law enforcement attempted to subdue the protesters with rubber bullets and tear gas. (RELATED: Environmentalists Claim In Court They Had No Choice But To Vandalize A Pipeline)

Wilansky, a 21-year-old at the time, was among those clashing with police. At one point during the skirmish, a loud explosion threw her to the ground and ripped apart segments of her left arm. Fellow activists were able to take her to a nearby hospital and she has since undergone several surgeries.

The origin of the blast has remained unsolved. Wilansky claims she saw an officer throw a concussion grenade at her before the blast. However, authorities say they never used grenades that day, suggesting instead that the cause was likely the result of propane tanks the protesters rigged to explode. A subsequent investigation did find three propane canisters in the area where the explosion happened.

Though Wilansky was never charged with a crime, federal investigators seized her clothing and shrapnel from the incident, and the FBI applied for a warrant to search her Facebook in search of any possible connection to homemade explosives.

She says she is preparing to sue law enforcement for the injuries she endured. The environmental activist began a suit in February to retrieve her clothes and shrapnel, arguing it was pertinent to her case. However, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota rejected her request.

Wilansky vowed to continue fighting for environmentalist causes.

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