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.”
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.