A Dakota Access Pipeline demonstrator may lose her arm after a direct hit from a concussion grenade used by law enforcement officers at the protest site, according to activists. Authorities have denied using any weapons that could have caused such damage.
Pipeline protester Dallas Goldtooth identified the woman as fellow demonstrator Sophia Wilansky, saying she was “struck directly by a concussion grenade” during the Sunday protest on a bridge near Cannon Ball, North Dakota.
Wilansky was taken to a Minnesota hospital where she was sent to surgery, according to Goldtooth.
An image which reportedly shows Wilansky in a vehicle with a severe arm injury has circulated online, with a bone clearly visible.
A GoFundMe page for Wilansky says she was handing out bottles of water to protesters when she was struck by the concussion grenade.
However, a spokeswoman for the Morton County Sheriff’s Department has denied accusations that local authorities used concussion grenades during the protest, contradicting several reports from activists.
“It wasn’t from our law enforcement, because we didn’t deploy anything that should have caused that type of damage to her arm,” spokeswoman Maxine Herr said, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times. She added that the woman could have been injured while demonstrators were “rigging up their own explosives” to be thrown at police.
“The only explosion the officers heard was on the protesters’ side,” Herr said.
The police spokeswoman went on to say that medical officials encountered the woman away from the action, at a nearby casino.
“We’re not sure how her injury was sustained,” she said.
Wilansky was one of 26 people to be taken to hospital following clashes at the pipeline site on Sunday, according to activists. More than 200 reportedly had to be treated for hypothermia after the Sheriff’s Department deployed water cannon in below-freezing temperatures.
The use of water cannon on protesters has been defended by authorities, with Herr saying it was brought out to help put out a brush fire, but that authorities repurposed it following “aggression from the agitators in the camp [who] continued to raise their level of resistance against law enforcement.”
Authorities also deployed tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters.
The Sunday protest – the latest in a string of demonstrations to take place against the $3.7 billion pipeline – saw protesters being trapped by authorities on a bridge at Highway 1806 in Morton County.
“The options are: endure the tear gas or trample each other,” said Kevin Gilbertt, who broadcast the protest live on Facebook.
Demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline have taken place since spring 2016, with the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and environmental activists claiming it could pollute nearby water sources and destroy the tribe’s sacred sites.