Sophia Wilansky, a 21-year-old water protector from New York City, faces arm amputation after being hit with a concussion grenade she says police threw at her intentionally.
Indian Country Today Media Network screenshot

A water protector who was present during the recent violent police response to protesters at Standing Rock in North Dakota is facing arm amputation after a concussion grenade thrown by police reportedly hit her left arm Sunday, Indian Country Today Media Network reports. Sophia Wilansky, 21, of New York City, was headed to bring water to water protectors who were under attack for several hours by Morton County Sheriff forces Sunday when the incident occurred.

As previously reported on The Root, resistance to the $3.8 billion pipeline has been strong from the beginning. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe argues that pipeline construction is desecrating sacred ancestral lands and that the pipeline itself endangers the Sioux’s major water suppliers: Lake Oahe and the Missouri River. Demonstrations in North Dakota have been going on for months and have resulted in a construction halt in the area immediately surrounding Lake Oahe. Recently, the company constructing the pipeline said it would move ahead with plans to drill under Lake Oahe.


According to ICTMN, the Morton County Sheriff’s Office has stated that Wilansky’s injuries are the result of a propane explosion that it claims the unarmed protesters created. That claim is refuted by Wilansky and several eyewitnesses who reportedly watched police deliberately throw concussion grenades at unarmed people. The report says that grenade pieces were removed from Wilansky’s arm during surgery and are being saved for later legal proceedings.

Wilansky was transported out of North Dakota for emergency surgery and is currently in stable condition. Her father, attorney Wayne Wilansky, sent the following statement to Indian Country Today Media Network:

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. 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.

Friends have set up a GoFundMe page to help Sophia Wilansky with her recovery and medical expenses.

Read more at Indian Country Today Media Network.

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