The Dakota Access Pipeline protests have largely faded into memory of late. This is largely because they’re in North Dakota… and it’s January. But that doesn’t mean that all of the legal activity surrounding this mess is over by a long shot. One rather nasty incident which took place back when the weather was a bit more tolerable was the serious injury suffered by Sophia Wilansky, the 21 year old professional protester from New York. During one confrontation with law enforcement officials she reportedly “nearly had her arm blown off” behind the protesters’ barricades. (NBC News)
A 21-year-old woman is undergoing surgery and may lose her arm after she was hit with a projectile in clashes with police near the Dakota Access Pipeline construction site, according to her father.
Sophia Wilansky joined the pipeline protest three weeks ago and was bringing water to fellow activists — who call themselves water protectors — when she was hit by a concussion grenade, according to the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council.
That’s how the media was covering the story initially, anyway. The protesters claimed that law enforcement officials tossed a concussion grenade over the barricades and almost took off poor Sophia’s arm. The problem is that the cops said they hadn’t used any such device during the encounter, despite the fact that several of the protesters claimed to have seen them do it.
The questions surrounding the incident continued and now the matter has reached a grand jury. One of the other protesters, Steve Martinez, who claimed to be a witness to the “attack” by law enforcement has been summoned to testify and to bring along all photos, memory cards and any other evidence he might have to support his initial claim. Sounds like a slam dunk, right? Particularly if he has video of the grenade landing in their camp, the Sheriffs will be in trouble and the names of the peaceful protesters will be cleared.
There’s only one problem… Steve’s not talking. (LA Times)
Steve Martinez, 42, a pipeline protester from Williston, N.D., has been ordered to testify regarding the arm injury of Sophia Wilansky, 21, of New York, according to his attorney, Ralph Hurvitz. Protesters maintain she was injured by a grenade thrown by police, but authorities say she was hurt by a small propane tank that protesters rigged to explode…
Martinez had been scheduled to testify before the grand jury Wednesday, but Hurvitz said the matter was delayed to Feb. 1. Martinez made a statement outside the courthouse, saying he would refuse to cooperate and was prepared to go to jail if found in contempt of court.
“Losing my freedom is a small price to pay for keeping my dignity and standing up for what’s right,” he said.
So rather than testify to what he saw and provide any photographic evidence of the events of the day, Steve is going to risk going to jail for contempt. Huh. There are clearly times when people choose to remain silent for noble (or at least understandable) reasons, but this one is a real puzzler. Seems to me that Martinez would be more than eager to clear the good name of his injured fellow protesters. If the cops were actually throwing grenades at the protesters and he’s got evidence of it, wouldn’t he be doing backflips to have it seen in court? Or at least describe what he saw?
Where is the dignity in remaining silent and refusing this subpoena? How is leaving your injured comrade hanging out to dry somehow doing the right thing? You’re not being asked to come in and testify against her and put her in jail. You’re being given the chance to prove that your story is true and exonerate her. But you’re going to flatly refuse to show up?
Now that you mention it, there were quite a few protesters behind that barricade. And not a single one of them can come up with any pictures, video or physical evidence to support the assertion that law enforcement starting throwing grenade over the barrier. And we’re talking about a group that was filming everything that happened 24/7 in the hopes of getting it all on CNN. It’s certainly mysterious how this “gap” in the coverage took place just as one of the most violent and dramatic moments of the showdown was taking place, isn’t it?
Or could it be perhaps that it actually was a propane tank rigged to blow up when the cops arrived? That would certainly make for a much less sympathetic and attractive story, wouldn’t it? We may not find out if Steve Martinez refuses to offer up the proof. What a shame.