Surgeons Fight To Save Woman’s Arm Partially Severed By Police Grenade

Returning to news about last Sunday’s clashes at an anti-DAPL demonstration in North Dakota, where local and state police attacked protesters with a vehicle-mounted water cannon, rubber bullets and concussion grenades, activists are reporting that a twenty-one year old woman may loose an arm due to injuries suffered during the confrontation. Sophia Wilansky, from New York City, was wounded by a stun-grenade exploding close to her body as law enforcement officers fired directly into a crowd of several hundred people gathered at the barricaded Backwater Bridge in Morton County. Surgeons are currently working to save her arm after she was airlifted to a Minneapolis hospital. Her father, lawyer Wayne Wilansky, has issued this statement to the press:

“At around 4:30 a.m. after the police hit the bridge with water cannons and rubber bullets and pepper spray, they lobbed a number of concussion grenades which are not supposed to be thrown at people directly, at protesters, or protectors, as they want to be called. A grenade exploded right as it hit Sophia in the left forearm, taking most of the undersurface of her left arm with it. Both her radial and ulnar artery were completely destroyed. Her radius was shattered and a large piece of it is missing. Her medial nerve is missing a large section as well. All of the muscle and soft tissue between her elbow and wrist were blown away. The police did not do this by accident—it was an intentional act of throwing it directly at her. Additionally police were shooting people in face and groin intending to do the most possible damage.

Sophia will have surgery again tomorrow as bit by bit they try to rebuild a somewhat functioning arm and hand. The first surgery took a vein from her leg, which they have implanted in her arm to take the place of the missing arteries. She will need multiple surgeries to try to gain some functional use of the arm and hand. She will be, every day for the foreseeable future, fearful of losing her arm and hand.

There are no words to describe the pain of watching my daughter cry and say she was sorry for the pain she caused me and my wife. I died a thousand deaths today and will continue to do so for quite some time. I am left without the right words to describe the anguish of watching her look at her now alien arm and hand.”

Twenty-one year old Sophia Wilansky, from New York City, injured by a concussion grenade thrown at her by US police

Representatives for the Standing Rock tribe, whose lands and communities are adversely effected by the DAPL pipeline project, are also reporting that a second woman is in a serious condition after being shot in the face with a rubber bullet, damaging at least one of her eyes. Irish readers will of course be familiar with the use of so-called baton rounds, rubber and plastic bullets, by the British Forces in the UK-administrated north-east of Ireland from the 1970s to early 2000s. During that period it was common practice for soldiers and paramilitary police officers to target protesters in the upper torso. Research at Belfast’s main hospital, the Royal Victoria, found that 80% of injuries resulting from baton rounds were to the head and neck while 64% of all those shot with such weapons were children and teenagers. In many cases the victims were blinded or left with severe brain injuries.

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8 comments

  1. This entire protest seems to be getting far more coverage on blogs and through social media than traditional media. I don’t know if that’s because I’m more attuned to the former or because the latter have done an inadequate job of publicizing what’s going on in North Dakota.

    1. The latter I think. However the wounding of Sophia Wilansky may have changed the situation. A few of the bigger or more mainstream press are beginning to show an interest in the events at Standing Rock. A nice middle-class – white – girl from New York City being injured by a concussion grenade thrown by a police officer gains greater empathy from journalists of a similar background in the WaPo and NYT than dozens of wounded Native Americans or their eco-activist associates. Such is life.

  2. It makes my blood boil. I can’t understand how Americans can stand back and ignore this. It goes to the core of the values that are trumpeted by all shades of political opinion there – freedom from oppression, right to assemble etc. The true Republican tradition of small government and independence should be up in arms about this kind of stuff.
    I accept, much like happens over on this side of the Atlantic, that there’s also bending of the truth on the protesters side and i presume they’ve attracted the usual anarchist hard-men who’ll jockey them for their own ends but the bullying is too obvious this time, isn’t it …

    1. The problem here is too many folks, including the federal government itself are deriving profit from this venture. The court battle has been lost, and the construction is taking place on private property, where no right to assemble exists. While not excusing any excessive force by those entrusted to keep the peace, the proper term is also “peacefully assemble,” which is far from what the protesters are doing. In their defence, if the people of that region wish to preserve their environment and the integrity of their holy ground, they have no choice at this point but to occupy the space as long as possible to hopefully ward off the seemingly inevitable by passage of time. This is a real engagement, from which many Americans traditionally shy away from. Similar to the Brits in our country, the industry behind the pipeline is trying to apply overwhelming force in subduing the lot, not wanting the cost of a long standoff. Violence is thus at at a premium. So, very similar to the Troubles in our country, private persons, or “private security,” who in the U.S. have powers of enforcement on private property, you have the equivalent of the UVF, UDA, UFF, RUC, DUP, etc… (Blackwater ring a bell?) running the full gambit of uncontrolled idiocy here as well. Similar to our conflict, police and military are not exercising control over them here either (and seemingly by choice here as well). Even though there is no confirmation of which entity threw the grenades, and a differentiation of police, private security, and national guard is most difficult in the melees, the lack of restraint and enforcement of restraint is reprehensible. The use of explosives and baton rounds against a (mostly) passively resisting group of people is not only not justifiable, but entirely uncivilised. Federal involvement is long outstanding. I fear that when it does eventually happen, it is not going to end well for the protesters. In Meirica, only money talks.

  3. Unfortunate as it is maybe the injury to the poor young woman – with her white, articulate lawyer father – may turn out to be a turning point in press coverage.

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