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What Happened to Sophia Wilansky ’16?

From The New York Times:

Cause of Severe Injury at Pipeline Protest Becomes New Point of Dispute

Sophia Wilansky, 21, who grew up in the Bronx, rested in a Minneapolis hospital bed, her father by her side, recovering from surgery to try to save her left hand and arm after an explosion at a pipeline protest in North Dakota this week.

“From an inch below the elbow, to an inch above her wrist, the muscle is blown off,” her father, Wayne Wilansky, said from the hospital, Hennepin County Medical Center. “The radius bone, a significant amount of it, is blown away. The arteries inside her arm are blown away. The median nerve is mostly blown away.”

All the while, the protests have gone on, and the polarization between the police and protesters extended to their sharply differing explanations of how Ms. Wilansky was injured early Monday. Law enforcement accounts suggest that fellow protesters caused the explosion; the demonstrators insist the police are to blame.

Mr. Wilansky, who spoke by telephone and checked details with his daughter as he did, said the explosion had taken place around 4 a.m. Monday, when most of the protesters were gathered around a bonfire near the foot of the bridge.

His daughter and a handful of others were farther up on the bridge, he said, “playing around,” using pieces of plastic and wood as sleds to skid across icy sections of the highway, when an officer began firing foam or plastic bullets at her and another person.

“She was backing away as they were shooting her,” Mr. Wilansky said, adding that someone from the police lines then threw a device, which he called a grenade, that hit her in the forearm and exploded.

Lt. Tom Iverson of the North Dakota Highway Patrol offered a different version of the episode, which he said was being investigated by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Around the time of the explosion, Lieutenant Iverson said, officers fired sponge and beanbag rounds at three people who had shielded themselves behind a length of plywood near a burned vehicle on the bridge. The three were thought to be acting suspiciously and refused orders to emerge, he said.

Officers saw someone roll metal cylinders to the protesters by the burned vehicle, Lieutenant Iverson said, and then heard an explosion. Afterward, he said, several protesters ran up, pulled a woman from under the vehicle and ran off. Three propane canisters were recovered from the vicinity of the explosion early Tuesday, he said.

Lieutenant Iverson said that officers did not use concussion or flash grenades at any time. Instead, officers used tear gas, pepper spray canisters and what are known as stinger balls, round grenadelike objects that spread tiny rubber pellets to try to disperse protesters, he said.

Mr. Wilansky said that doctors in Minnesota had removed fragments from his daughter’s arm that he hoped could be used to find out what caused the injury and to hold someone responsible.

Be careful what you wish for. The truth is that Wilansky was almost surely injured by an IED that the protestors (including she?) were constructing themselves. From Bearing Arms:

There were actually several 1-pound propane canisters recovered from the site of the explosion by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). You’ll note that the more severely damaged of the two canisters, shown in two different angles in the second and third photos above, seem to have coagulated blood and tissue upon them.

If testing does confirm that the material on the propane cylinder is blood and tissue, then there is clearly enough to get a DNA match to the person who left that genetic material behind.

While the ATF was cataloging the apparent components of a faulty improvised explosive device (IED, a kind of bomb) that domestic terrorists/protestors attempted to deploy against police lines, agents with the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) went to the hospital to acquire Sophia Wilansky’s clothes, and they confiscated it into evidence.

A reasonable person would be forced to ask themselves a simple question: “Why would the FBI and ATF focus like a laser on the propane canisters and Sophia Wilansky, if there is plausible evidence that Wilansky was so grievously injured by a concussion grenade?”

The answer is glaringly obvious: both the ATF and FBI know precisely what less-lethal crowd-control munitions MCSO and NDHP have to deploy, and these federal agencies tasked with the investigation know that nothing that law enforcement agencies have could cause plausibly cause Sophia Wilansky’s injuries.

Exactly right.

Back to The Times:

Friends said they were not surprised that Ms. Wilansky would gravitate to the North Dakota protest.

She had also protested the construction by Spectra Energy of a natural gas pipeline in New York. In June, she locked herself to an excavator at a natural gas pipeline dig in Vermont. About three weeks later, she was arrested in Massachusetts after lying down in a trench dug for the West Roxbury Lateral pipeline.

“Every time I talked with her she was doing something new, going to a rally,” said Rebecca Berlin, 23, from Yorktown Heights, N.Y. “She was really plugged in, really passionate.”

The FBI is not impressed with rap sheets that look like this, no matter how “passionate” their creators.

We all pray for Sophia Wilansky and hope that the authorities can see that she has been punished enough.

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Comments Disabled To "What Happened to Sophia Wilansky ’16?"

#1 Comment By frank uible On November 28, 2016 @ 9:04 am

As most of us are most of the time this very young (say immature) woman probably has been the author of her own troubles. Such is the story of the human race.

#2 Comment By 89’er On November 28, 2016 @ 9:19 am

Before we pass judgment – on her actions of the justness of her cause – it is useful to note that Congressman John Lewis had a “rap sheet” like this.

The presence of such a rap sheet should not by itself delegitimize her actions or her cause. Those will have to stand on their own merit.

Our federal and state authorities – including the FBI – do not always act to uphold the spirit or intent of the Republic and its Constitution.

Nor are the laws of any state – including our own – always worthy of the ideals on which our nation was founded. Poll taxes and anti-miscegenation laws are two examples that come to mind.

I honor the rap sheets of Congressman Lewis and Nelson Mandela. The challenge is knowing when the state’s actions are so unjust to warrant protest and arrest (while under fire by rubber bullets, bean bags, tear gas) and having the courage to whether the storm.

#3 Comment By 89’er On November 28, 2016 @ 9:21 am

Please note: “whether” should be “weather”. Apologies.

#4 Comment By PTC On November 28, 2016 @ 10:50 am

I can say from the looks of the damage to her arm that a flash bang would not do that much destruction through a winter coat/ clothing. That does not mean that a flash bang was not thrown which in turn caused a secondary explosion. That is still possible.

and that we do not know.

It was a larger explosion than a flash grenade that did the damage- that we do know.

#5 Comment By anon-liberal On November 28, 2016 @ 11:18 am

This is a tragic story and she fully deserves our prayers, sympathy, and respect.

At the same time, whatever the truth of this matter, students should consider this story carefully. The rules of the world are different outside of Williams. Authorities will not always be “on your side”, they will not hesitate to “blame the victim”, and they will not give preferential treatment to protestors. True harm comes not from words irresponsibly spoken, but from actions irreversibly taken.

#6 Comment By frank uible On November 28, 2016 @ 2:43 pm

Also one’s actions will not be necessarily excused because they happen to be well intentioned law breaking.