- Wayne Wilanskyfather of 21-year-old activist Sophia Wilansky, who was injured during the standoff at Standing Rock in North Dakota.
We get an update from Wayne Wilansky, the father of 21-year-old activist Sophia Wilansky, who was injured during the standoff at Standing Rock in North Dakota. Sophia has been undergoing a series of surgeries after reportedly being hit by a concussion grenade during the police attack against water protectors protesting the Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota Sunday night. The Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council says 300 people were hurt in the attack, with injuries including hypothermia from being sprayed by water cannons in subfreezing temperatures, seizures, loss of consciousness, and impaired vision as a result of being shot by a rubber bullet in the face. “President Obama has to step in there and stop this,” says Wayne Wilansky. “They’re drilling now, even though they don’t have a permit.”
NERMEEN SHAIKH: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Nermeen Shaikh, filling in for Amy Goodman. She’s on assignment and will be back on Monday. In Minneapolis, 21-year-old activist Sophia Wilansky has been undergoing a series of surgeries after reportedly being hit by a concussion grenade during the police attack against water protectors fighting the $3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline in North Dakota Sunday night. The Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council says 300 people were hurt in the attack, with the injuries including hypothermia from being sprayed by water cannons in subfreezing temperatures, seizures, loss of consciousness, and impaired vision as a result of being shot by a rubber bullet in the face. On Sunday night, Sophia Wilansky was evacuated and airlifted to a Minneapolis hospital after suffering a critical injury to her left arm. Photos show parts of Sophia’s left arm nearly blown away, with her arteries, muscle and bone exposed. A warning to our TV audiences, these photos are graphic. This is Army veteran Brandi King of the Fort Belknap Reservation, who helped transport Sophia after she was injured. King served in the U.S. Army for eight years, including in a combat tour in Mosul, Iraq.
BRANDI KING: I can’t even explain to you how it felt, because you don’t really—I guess you don’t expect those kind of wounds happening when they’re not in combat. That was just—just felt like it was a combat wound, you know, looked like it was a combat wound. She had shrapnel wounds. She didn’t have any burns. Her arm was split open. Her skin, her flesh was ripped off of her arm. Her bones were broke.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: The Morton County Sheriff’s Department is claiming the police are not responsible for her injury and that concussion grenades were not used during the police attack.
Well, for more, we’re joined in Minneapolis by Sophia’s father, Wayne Wilansky.
Mr. Wilansky, thank you so much for joining us on Democracy Now! Could you tell us, first off, how your daughter Sophia is now?
WAYNE WILANSKY: She is resting. And she had a second surgery yesterday, so they could try to clean out the open wound. She still has an opening from her elbow to her wrist. There’s no flesh there. And she’s resting comfortably, and she will have a third surgery on Friday.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Mr. Wilansky, what about your response to the claims made by the Morton County Sheriff’s Department that they were not—that the police were not responsible for the concussion grenades?
WAYNE WILANSKY: Yeah, they’re ridiculous. Apparently, they’ve changed their story three times since the incident occurred. My daughter is very clear about the fact that she was being shot at the time. She’s got bullet wounds on her body. And she was backing away at the time, and she was trying to reach for a shield so that the bullets wouldn’t hit her at the time that the concussion grenade hit her in the arm and exploded. Witnesses that I’ve spoken to said that the police officers—it takes seven seconds for these concussion grenades to go off. And Instead of throwing them on the ground, they pulled the plug, held them for five seconds and threw them directly at her. So, I’d say that the comments from the Morton County Sheriff’s Department are utterly absurd and ridiculous and not worthy of a shred of belief.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And the doctors also found shrapnel in her wound?
WAYNE WILANSKY: Yes, her treating vascular surgeon told me after the surgery that he was—he pulled as much out as he thought he could, and the second day was to clean it out and make sure that they didn’t leave anything in there. They try to get as—you have to get all of the debris out; otherwise, you can’t—all the tissue will get infected, and the whole arm will die anyway. So, yes, he pulled all the shrapnel out. Apparently, it went to the pathology, so it’s in the hospital records.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Wayne Wilansky, I want to ask you about the FBI agents who visited your daughter’s hospital room yesterday. At least one of the FBI agents was wearing a jacket from the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Democracy Now! reached out to the FBI Tuesday, but the agency refused to comment. Can you explain what the FBI agents were doing at the hospital yesterday?
WAYNE WILANSKY: Well, obviously, it was a very intrusive and it was a very hard time, and Sophia was being—waiting to go to surgery. And they’re basically keeping us prisoner inside her hospital room, waiting for a warrant, which never came. They didn’t tell us what they were there for, for many hours. Eventually, I got to speak to a supervisor and learned that what they were looking for was her clothing. And I did eventually consent. I had taken her clothing back to my hotel room the night before, and I did consent to give them the clothing, eventually, after talking to the supervisors. I have an unwritten agreement, but I put it in writing anyway, that they will give me access to those materials so that I can test them, as well, and that they’ll preserve and not destroy that evidence, because I would want to see it, and I would want to have it forensically tested myself.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, very quickly, before we conclude, Mr. Wilansky, what is it that you’re demanding now?
WAYNE WILANSKY: Well, what I’m demanding is, number one, they clear that bridge, because it took many, many hours to get Sophia airlifted out of there, and there are people that are going to die there. They need to clear that bridge so that people can get to hospitals. They need to have someone—the president, President Obama, has to step in there and stop this. They’re drilling now even though they don’t have a permit. The Army Corps of Engineers has asked them to stop. The Army Corps of Engineers has said that they were not going to issue a permit until after they did further environmental studies and spoke with the tribe, and yet they go ahead and set all the drills in place, and they continue. They’re probably drilling under the river right now, as we speak. And it’s a very, very dangerous situation there. And that’s just thing number one. Number two is they have to demilitarize the police there. There’s no reason that the police should be intentionally trying to kill people, maim people. And this has to stop.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I want to thank you very much for joining us from Minneapolis, Wayne Wilansky, father of 21-year-old activist Sophia Wilansky.