Morton County Sheriff’s deputies and assisting cops used three high water pressured cannons, tear gas chemicals, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and sonic equipment (LRAD) to disorient unarmed protesters at the Backwater Bridge near the Oceti Sakowin Camp.
By H. Nelson Goodson
Hispanic News Network U.S.A.
November 22, 2016
Cannon Ball, N. Dakota – On Monday, Sophia Wilansky, 21, from New York City went through several surgeries in an attempt to save her left arm from amputation after a concussion grenade blew part of her flesh in the left arm open exposing bones. Wilansky was part of more than 400 Native Americans and allies attempting to clear burned vehicles from the Backwater Bridge on Sunday near the Oceti Sakowin Camp. She was helping to provide water to Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protesters or water protectors when police threw a concussion grenade that exploded by her arm. Wilansky was flown to Minneapolis in Minnesota for treatment.
Photos of Wilansky’s injuries were circulated on social media and Facebook (FB).
Protesters at the Backwater Bridge were able to recover rubber bullets shot by police at water protectors, pieces of concussion grenades and other projectiles at the scene. The Morton County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) has denied that deputies and assisting cops from multiple states had used concussion grenades at crowds of water protectors. The MCSO on Monday during a press conference attempted to justify the brutal assault against unarmed water protectors. During Sunday’s assault on protesters, the MCSO released the following statement, “Law enforcement is currently involved in an ongoing riot on the Backwater Bridge, north of a protest camp in Morton County. Protesters in mass amounts, estimated to be around 400, are on the bridge and attempting to breach the bridge to go north on highway 1806. Protesters have started a dozen fires near the bridge.” According to live streaming videos posted on FB and Native American media drone videos, the MCSO used three water pressured cannons and dosed protesters with cold water in frigid weather conditions, mace/tear gas was used, rubber bullets fired at unarmed protesters and sonic sound equipment (LRAD) was deployed to disorientate those protesting DAPL at the front line on Backwater Bridge.
The Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council at the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) Resistance Camps in a press released on Monday reported that approximately 300 injuries were identified, triaged, assessed and treated by their physicians, nurses, paramedics and integrative healers working in collaboration with local emergency response. These 300 injuries were the direct result of excessive force by the Morton County Sheriff’s deputies and assisting police over the course of 10 hours. At least 26 seriously injured people had to be evacuated by ambulance to 3 area hospitals.
Police continuously assaulted demonstrators with up to three water cannons for the first 7 hours of this incident in subfreezing temperatures dipping to 22F (C) causing hypothermia in the majority of patients treated. Chemical weapons in the form of pepper spray and tear gas were also used extensively, requiring chemical decontamination for nearly all patients treated and severe reactions in many. Projectiles in the form of tear gas canisters, rubber bullets, and concussion grenades led to numerous blunt force traumas including head wounds, lacerations, serious orthopedic injuries, eye trauma, and internal bleeding.
Every emergency medical unit from the Standing Rock Sioux reservation responded to the incident and additional ambulances were sent from Cheyenne River Sioux tribe (South Dakota), Kidder County, and Morton County. Three seriously injured patients were transported directly by ambulance from the scene and another 23 patients were transported by ambulance after initial assessment and treatment in camp. Injuries from the mass casualty incident include:
• An elder who lost consciousness and was revived on scene
• A young man with a grand mal seizure
• A woman shot in the face by a rubber bullet with subsequent eye injury and compromised vision
• A young man with internal bleeding who was vomiting blood after a rubber bullet injury to his abdomen
• A man shot in the back near his spine by a rubber bullet causing blunt force trauma and a severe head laceration
• Multiple fractures secondary to projectiles fired by police
The Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council condemns the excessive police violence and calls upon law enforcement to cease and desist these nearly lethal actions. Specifically, we demand the cessation of water cannons in subfreezing temperatures.
Our volunteers performed well under challenging circumstances on Sunday night, but we would not have been able to do this without the help of water protectors and local community members who transported patients to our clinic, organized warming spaces, and provided food and tea. We specifically want to thank the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe EMS services for their excellent response and highest quality care in an unprecedented situation. “They were phenomenal. They recognized the severity of what we were dealing with, it could have been a lot worse” said Jazmine, a volunteer physician from the Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council, according to the press release that was signed by:
• Linda Black Elk, PhD, Ethnobotanist, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
• Michael Knudsen, MPH candidate, Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council
• Noah Morris, EMT
• Amelia Massucco, RN
• John Andrews, RN
• Kristina Golden, EMT, herbalist
• Sebastian Rodriguez, RN
• Rosemary Fister, RN, MNPHN, DNP Candidate
• Rupa Marya, MD, DoNoHarm Coalition, University of California – San Francisco
• David Kingfisher, MD, JD, Wichita State University
• Jesse Lopez, MD, Heartland Surgical Care
• Kalama O Ka Aina Niheu, MD, Aha Aloha Aina
• Howard Ehrman, MD, MPH, University of Illinois – Chicago
• Geeta Maker-Clark, MD, University of Chicago
• Elizabeth Friedman, MD
• Vanessa Bolin, ALS Paramedic
Update: The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has stated that she was injured by a purported propane explosion that the Sheriff’s Department claimed the unarmed people created. These statements are refuted by Sophia’s testimony, by several eye-witnesses who watched police intentionally throw concussion grenades at unarmed people, by the lack of charring of flesh at the wound site and by the grenade pieces that have been removed from her arm in surgery and will be saved for legal proceedings.
Sophia was safely taken out of North Dakota for emergent surgery and is currently in stable condition. The following is Sophia’s statement as conveyed by her father, lawyer Wayne Wilansky.
“At around 4:30am 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.”