Standing Rock Protester Struck In Eye By Tear Gas Canister May Go Blind

A Standing Rock protester, Vanessa Dundon may lose her right eye after being struck by a tear gas canister, the Daily Beast is reporting.

The 32-year-old member of the Navajo Nation from Arizona was part of a group of protesters trying to remove burned-out trucks that had blocked the highway since clashes spiked in October. Law enforcement had used the trucks as a barrier to stop people from traveling down the road to the contentious North Dakota pipeline site.

The barrier had prevented people from getting the injured out of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation sites to the cities of Mandan and Bismarck. According to a lawsuit filed by Dundon, law enforcement started shooting rubber bullets at protesters when they tried to clear the highway. It was the moment that she was also struck in the eye by a gas canister.

“I did not have time to move to avoid being hit by the canister. I instinctively closed my eyes and was struck in the right eye by the canister.”

The 32-year-old said she tried to run and was felled by a rubber bullet to the left thigh. She revealed she was picked from the ground and taken to safety. Vanessa said she noticed that her eye was bleeding and that it felt like the eye was hanging out of the socket. After paramedics had stopped the bleeding, she was sent to a specialist who said she might never see with her right eye again because her retina was detached.

“My eye was bleeding so much that I could not see and I was worried my eyeball was hanging out. Dr. Baggins told me the trauma to my eye will likely affect my vision for the rest of my life and it is unclear at this time if I will be able to see out of my right eye again.”

A GoFundMe account has been opened for Dundon and it has had more than $80,000 in donations so far. The 32-year-old is just one of several people suing Morton County Sherriff Kyle Kirchmeier, his department, and two other law enforcement agencies for the use of strong-arm tactics against protesters, particularly on November 20. According to the lawsuit, protesters were struck by an avalanche of rubber bullets, choked with tear gas and drenched with water in sub-freezing temperatures.

Israel Hoagland Lynn, from California, said a rubber bullet struck him in the head and he lost consciousness. The 42-year-old said when he regained consciousness he was in a hospital and had his head stapled in 17 different places to close up a head wound.

David Demo said he was filming police on his GoPro camera when was allegedly targeted. According to the 25-year-old man, 30 seconds after being sprayed with water, he was shot in the hand holding his camera with a rubber bullet. He said the sheer impact of the bullet broke several knuckles and needed reconstructive surgery. Demo, who resides in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, said he was not threatening the officers in any way and was only there to observe.

Mariah Marie Bruce said she was doused with water in freezing temperatures and blinded with tear gas. She said she was trying to reach medics to treat her burning eyes when a flash bang grenade exploded close to her genitals.

“As my body began to warm-up, I started to feel the pain in my vagina and abdomen. The pain suddenly worsened and I began vomiting and the medics became very concerned.”

During the weekend, thousands of veterans led by Wesley Clark Jr, son of General Wesley Clark, promised to serve as human shields for protesters. Governor Jack Dalrymple has issued an executive order that protesters leave by December 5 or face severe consequences. The governor also revealed that he would stop paramedics from providing emergency services to protesters.

Police have denied the use of excessive force, blaming protesters for rigging propane tanks and using them to fight back. They attributed the severe injuries of Vanessa Dundon and a 21-year-old New Yorker, Sophia Wilansky, to these explosive devices.

Since August, thousands of protesters and activists have journeyed to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to protest the construction of the multi-billion dollar Dakota Access Pipeline that would navigate through four states and transport over 450,000 gallons of oil. Protesters argue that project would contaminate the Missouri River if it leaks and is already in violation of sacred tribal sites.

[Featured Image by GoFundMe]