The father of severely injured Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protester Sophia Wilansky says that the 21-year-old needs additional surgeries and still faces the possibility of losing her arm. He is now speaking out about the increasingly violent police actions towards the protesters, Indian Country Today Media Network reports.
According to the Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council at the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance camps, Sophia Wilansky was injured early Monday morning while heading to bring water to unarmed people who were being “attacked for several hours” by Morton County Sheriff forces.
“On November 21st as a direct result of the violent police response at Standing Rock towards unarmed people opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline, a 21-year-old woman from New York City, Sophia Wilansky, was severely injured when a concussion grenade thrown by police hit her left arm and exploded.”
— Erin Schrode (@ErinSchrode) November 22, 2016
The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has stated that she was injured by a purported propane explosion that they claim was created by protesters. The Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council maintains that these statements are refuted by Sophia’s testimony, as well as by several eyewitnesses who watched police throw the concussion grenades and by “the lack of charring of flesh at the wound site.” They say that grenade pieces that were removed from Sophia’s arm in surgery will be saved for legal proceedings.
— RoseAnn DeMoro (@RoseAnnDeMoro) November 23, 2016
Sophia was safely taken to a Minneapolis hospital for emergency surgery and is currently in stable condition.
Sophia’s father, lawyer Wayne Wilansky, released a statement updating her condition and once again condemning violent police responses to the protesters.
“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,” he said. “A grenade exploded right as it hit Sophia in the left forearm, taking most of the undersurface of her left arm with it.”
— relombardo (@relombardo3) November 25, 2016
— RoseAnn DeMoro (@RoseAnnDeMoro) November 24, 2016
Wayne Wilansky reported that his daughter’s radial and ulnar artery were completely destroyed. Her radius was shattered and a large piece of it is missing, he said, and her medial nerve is missing a large section. All of the muscle and soft tissue between Sophia’s elbow and wrist were blown away, he said.
“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.”
Mr. Wilansky reported that Sophia would have surgery again on Wednesday as “bit by bit they try to rebuild a somewhat functioning arm and hand.”
— AJ+ (@ajplus) November 22, 2016
The anguished father said that the first surgery took a vein from Sophia’s leg, which they have implanted in her arm to take the place of the missing arteries. He said that she will need multiple surgeries to try to gain some functional use of the arm and hand and 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.”
The Associated Press reports that police used tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons against protesters during the clash Sunday night and early Monday morning. Police claim the protesters assaulted them with rocks, asphalt, burning logs, and water bottles. One officer was reportedly injured when he was hit in the head with a rock.
Michael Knudsen, a medic with Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council, told Inside Climate News that he was at a loss for words to describe the hours-long confrontation with police that left 300 protesters injured and 26 in need of hospitalization.
Knudsen said that he was in a triage site away from the front line helping people who had been maced or exposed to tear gas, coordinating evacuations, assessing rubber bullet wounds, and providing hypothermia care.
“I think of Birmingham, [Alabama], I think of Wounded Knee, it felt like low-grade war,” he said. “If we hadn’t been there on Sunday night, people would have probably died. The use of water [cannons] for 8 hours on hundreds and hundreds of demonstrators in 22 degrees is enough to kill someone.”
A GoFundMe account set up to help cover Sophia Wilansky’s medical costs has already raised more than $360,000, with the environmental advocacy group Climate Hawks Vote promising to partially match the donations. According to family friend Michael Basillas, Sophia faces a total of approximately 20 surgeries to treat her injuries and attempt to save her hand and arm.
[Featured Image by Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock]