#NoDAPL Water Protector Faces Possible Loss Of Her Arm After Police Attack

UPDATED: November 23, 2016 Cannonball, ND – On the November 20th Highway 1806 standoff, police forces injured over 300 unarmed water protectors.

Among those injured was Sophia Wilansky, a 21-year-old from New York, who was attempting to exit the bridge when police fired multiple rounds of rubber bullets and threw two grenades, one of which exploded directly on her arm.

Sophia Wilansky

Among the devices deployed by law enforcement were tear gas canisters, Stinger grenades, and Instantaneous Blast CS grenades.

Stephen Joachianson, who was standing next to Sophia immediately prior to the blast, made the following statement.

(From The Guardian)

They threatened that they were going to shoot us with less-than-lethal force and within 20 seconds of that warning they just started firing on us…When she got hit with the rubber bullet she was hurt and she was scared and she ran back, and that’s when they hit her with the concussion grenade and it blew up right on her arm” – Stephen Joachianson

Two Montana residents were with Sophia at the time as well and witnessed the explosion. Both of their accounts match the one described by Stephen.

(From the Montana Standard)

They shot her with a rubber bullet and she fell. She was trying to get up and run back and that’s when they threw that grenade at her. Big old wound. All open. As big as a hand.’ Willis said he saw men get out of a giant armored vehicle labeled Stutsman County (N.D.).’They were laughing. One of them said something like ‘That was a beautiful shot.’ ‘We couldn’t believe it was the police saying it. They didn’t act like professionals at all. They acted like were in a different country and they were in a war.

The “giant armored vehicle labeled Stutsman County” refers to is the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle frequently deployed against water protectors by North Dakota. On October 10, when we first noticed the MRAP being deployed in Morton County, Unicorn Riot called Stutsman County Sheriff Chad Kaiser, who told us that the Stutsman County MRAP was operated by “Bismarck SWAT“.

This means that the officers responsible for blowing open Sophia Wilansky’s arm with a grenade were likely from the West Dakota SWAT team, which is made up of police officers from Bismarck and Mandan and Sheriff’s deputies from Morton and Burleigh counties.

West Dakota SWAT Team patch
West Dakota SWAT Team patch

West Dakota SWAT team members wear a distinct camouflage military-style uniform which distinguishes them from other law enforcement, and they are often seen operating the MRAP or Bearcat armored vehicles.

West Dakota SWAT Unit member with Stutsman County MRAP in Morton County on October 10. Screenshot from Shailene Woodley Facebook livestream
West Dakota SWAT Unit member with Stutsman County MRAP in Morton County on October 10. Screenshot from Shailene Woodley Facebook livestream
Stutsman County Sheriff MRAP at Backwater Bridge on Sunday, November 20

The “West Dakota SWAT Team” web page was mysteriously deleted late last week but was still visible on Google search results as of November 26th.



A cached version of the West Dakota SWAT page on the Bismarck city website
A cached version of the West Dakota SWAT Team page on the Bismarck city website

It took hours for Sophia and other injured water protectors to reach multiple area hospitals because concrete police barricades and razor wire are blocking Highway 1806, the quickest route to emergency care. First responders were eventually able to transport Sophia to the Hennepin County Medical Center, in Minneapolis, for surgery.

In an apparent attempt to deflect blame onto the water protectors themselves, Morton County Sheriff’s spokesperson stated that the police couldn’t have inflicted that “type of damage to her arm” and said that “protesters” were “rigging up their own explosives“.

A press conference was held at noon on Tuesday the 22nd. AIM co-founder Clyde Bellecourt introduced Sophia’s father, who gave an update on Sophia’s condition.

During the press conference, Sophia’s father said that doctors have found grenade shrapnel in Sophia’s arm and that the surgeons confirmed a grenade explosion would have caused her injuries. Her father also spoke to the extent of the devastating injuries caused by the blast.

The force of the explosion blew the bone out of her arm and all of the arteries and all of the muscle.” – Wayne Wilansky

Unicorn Riot was live:

An online fundraiser was launched for Sophia’s medical care which at the time of this publication has raised over $320,000.

Sophia’s arm, blown apart with large bone fragments visible, is pictured in extremely graphic (CONTENT ADVISORY) images posted on social media that were taken at the scene.

Footage from the front lines of the police attack, seen in the video below, clearly shows a variety of munitions, grenades, and explosives deployed by Morton County Sheriff’s deputies directly into the crowd.

Pictured below are munitions that were recovered on scene during the standoff. All of these are products of Safariland, a law enforcement vendor known for making “less lethal” crowd control weapons for police. A product specification” sheet for Safariland’s “Instantaneous Blast” grenades, used by Morton County Sheriff on Backwater Bridge, contains a warning that “This product may cause serious injury or death to you or others.”

After a press conference on Monday afternoon about Sophia Wolansky’s injuries, Anonymous conducted a series of Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks which took down Safariland.com as well as http://safarixchange.com, the purchasing portal for Safariland products.  DDOS attacks had still disabled the servers for both sites as of 7 PM central Wednesday night.

Chemical and “less lethal” munitions fired at #NoDAPL water protectors

Below are the recordings from our livestreams of the night of November 20-21, 2016:

After the press conference finished, Unicorn Riot interviewed Alex Lundberg, a friend of Sophia’s.

This latest escalation in excessive police force and violence against peaceful water protectors just shows what the state is willing to do to protect the interests of oil companies.” – Alex Lundberg

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Unicorn Riot’s coverage of the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline struggle #NoDAPL from early summer 2016 to present:

March – May 2016

August 2016

September 2016

October 2016

November 2016

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