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.
Among the devices deployed by law enforcement were tear gas canisters, Stinger grenades, and Instantaneous Blast CS grenades.
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) November 22, 2016
Stephen Joachianson, who was standing next to Sophia immediately prior to the blast, made the following statement.
“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.
“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 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.
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.
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
To help our volunteer-operated, horizontally-organized, non-profit media collective please consider a tax-deductible donation:
Unicorn Riot’s coverage of the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline struggle #NoDAPL from early summer 2016 to present:
March – May 2016
- March 29th, “Tribal Citizens Prepare to Blockade Bakken Oil Pipeline“.
- April 3rd, “Tribal Citizens Build Camp in Path of Oil Pipeline“.
- May 5th, “Sacred Stone Camp Resists Dakota Access Pipeline“.
- May 27th, “Dakota Access Pipeline Blockade Enters 2nd Month“.
- After covering the camp in the spring of 2016, Unicorn Riot returned to Standing Rock Reservation on Wednesday, August 10th, when Standing Rock tribal members and allies blocked the entrance to the Dakota Access Pipeline construction site.
- On Thursday, August 11th, a dozen or so people were arrested blocking the construction site entrances.
- Day 3, Friday, the fight to protect land & water intensified around the construction sites of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
- On the 4th day, the pipeline resistance encampment swelled and prepared for more action.
- Monday, August 15th, land defenders stormed the construction site halting construction, and the next day construction was halted as well.
- August 17th saw State Police begin checkpoints, roadblocks, and psyops as protesters united to defend water.
- August 24th, camps prepared as Federal injunction hearing looms.
- Camps Organize to Stay as Injunction Postponed.
- On August 31st, Non-Violent Direct Action Stopped DAPL Construction for Over 6 Hours.
- September 6, indigenous water protectors swarmed Dakota Access Pipeline site, stopped work
- September 7, Uŋpa Nuŋpa was interviewed about ongoing #noDAPL actions
- North Dakota highway patrol refused to release email correspondence with Energy Transfer Partners
- September 8, ND National Guard took over Dakota Access Pipeline checkpoints
- Friday, September 9, US Govt. overruled federal judge and requested pipeline construction halted at Lake Oahe
- Meanwhile, cultural activities continued at #NoDAPL camps despite more arrests/warrants
- September 13, 20 were arrested during #NoDAPL lockdown, including 2 Unicorn Riot journalists
- September 14, direct actions continued against Dakota Access Pipeline while legal repression intensified
- On September 16 a federal judge dissolved the unconstitutional temporary restraining order Dakota Access, LLC had filed against Stranding Rock tribal members
- September 19, as solidarity protests spread nationwide, the federal appeals court ordered construction temporarily stop on Dakota Access segment as Solidarity Protests Spread Nationwide
- September 21, #NoDAPL noise demo demanded freedom for jailed water protector Olowan Martinez
- September 22, water protectors disrupted the annual meeting of the North Dakota Petroleum Council
- September 25, water protectors planted trees on DAPL construction site
- In Iowa on September 26, a non-violent direct action from the Mississippi Stand camp stopped DAPL construction for the day
- September 26, a caravan of water protectors stopped work at DAPL site
- September 27, militarized police arrested 23 water protectors in DAPL work stoppage
- September 29, a #NoDAPL solidarity action took place at MN Enbridge office
- October 3rd-4th saw the “Toxic Tour,” Governor debate disruption, and water protectors attend their court arraignment
- October 4, we learned North Dakota Governor Dalrymple’s email inbox was full of support for #NoDAPL
- October 5, Buffer Zone Holds as Caravans Continue to Disrupt DAPL – New Felony Charges
- October 7, 6 Arrested in Iowa #NoDAPL Action, Including Unicorn Riot Journalist
- October 8, Iowa Water Protectors Blockade DAPL Drill Site Twice in 24 Hours
- October 9, Federal Appeals Court Rules to Allow DAPL Construction
- October 10, 27 Arrests After Water Protectors Pray at DAPL Site on Indigenous People’s Day
- October 12, Lockdown Stops DAPL Construction in Iowa, 3 Arrested, Including Unicorn Riot Journalist
- October 14, Emails Show North Dakota Budget Bureaucracy Behind #NoDAPL Policing
- October 16, Direct Actions Continue to Stop DAPL Construction in Iowa and North Dakota
- October 17, Four Unicorn Riot Journalists Face Charges For Covering #NoDAPL
- October 17, Water Protectors Blockade Highway in Bismarck, Some Charges Dropped
- October 20, As DAPL Construction Advances, Water Protectors Continue Direct Action
- October 22, Water Protectors’ Prayer Walk Ends up with 127 Arrests, Including Unicorn Riot Journalist
- October 23, Law Enforcement Attack Private Drone as Water Protectors Erect Blockade & New Winter Camp
- October 24, Mississippi Stand Blockades Iowa DAPL Drill Waste Site, Drilling Stops
- October 25, Records Release: Morton County’s Law Enforcement Mutual Aid Assistance Agreement
- Hundreds Flood Minneapolis City Hall to Demand Local Sheriff Withdraw from North Dakota
- October 26, Tensions Rise as Pipeline Construction Nears #NoDAPL Blockade
- October 27, Police and Military Attack Oceti Sakowin Treaty Camp
- November 1, #NoDAPL Solidarity Rally & Sit-In in Minneapolis Prods Sheriff into Removing Deputies
- November 1, DAPL Resistance Continues Despite Advancing Construction
- November 2, Police Attack Water Protectors Defending Sacred Sites
- November 5, DAPL Construction Nears US Army Corps Land While Still Lacking Permits
- November 6, Water Protectors Attempt to Reclaim Sacred Burial Site, Demonstrate in Cemetery
- November 8, Dakota Access Announces Plan to Drill Under Missouri River Within Weeks
- November 11, Dakota Access Pipeline Work Stopped As Water Protectors Storm Site; 30+ Arrested
- November 14, #NoDAPL Water Protectors March on ND State Capitol after Caravan Disrupts Construction
- November 14, Mississippi Stand Goes Inside Pipeline and Shuts Down DAPL Construction
- November 14, Army Corps Delays DAPL Easement
- November 15, “No More Stolen Sisters” Demonstration Blockades DAPL Man Camp; 25+ Arrests
- November 16, Despite Army Corps Statement, DAPL Moves Horizontal Drill to Missouri River Crossing
- November 17, Demonstration in Bismarck-Mandan, Cass County Deputies Beat Man Bloody
- November 20, Police Attack Unarmed Water Protectors w/ Rubber Bullets, Tear Gas, and Water Cannons; 160+ injured
- November 21, Land Defense & Water Protection Actions Ripple Across Turtle Island
- November 22, Hundreds Target U.S. Army Corps Building in St. Paul w #NoDAPL Message
- November 22, Anonymous DDOS Munitions Vendor After Sheriffs Attack #NoDAPL