Violent clashes at Standing Rock protests being looked at by a grand jury

21-year-old Sophia Wilanksy suffered a gruesome arm injury while at the protests.
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A federal grand jury is looking into the violent clashes between law enforcement and pipeline protesters in North Dakota – including how one woman at the demonstrations ended up with the bone blown out of her arm.

That's according to the Bismarck Tribune, which wrote in detail about the grand jury here, saying they're investigating a possible violation of federal law during the protests.

Very few details are known – grand juries generally operate in private – but the paper says it does involve what happened to Sophia Wilansky.

The 21-year-old from New York was seriously injured during protests in Standing Rock in November. Her left arm was nearly blown off – photos that circulated afterward showed it split open, with bone fragments clearly visible and shredded within the gaping wound. She was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis for emergency surgery.

How it happened has been debated.

Protesters, and Wilansky's father, say she was directly hit by a concussion grenade, fired by law enforcement. The sheriff's office however said they didn't use concussion grenades, or anything else that could have caused such significant damage.

The Bismarck Tribune reports court documents filed by a U.S. attorney blame the injury on an explosion, noting propane canisters and large jars were found at the scene – possibly used as illegal explosive devices.

A protester is subpoenaed

As part of the grand jury, protester Steve Martinez was subpoenaed – essentially ordered to come in and testify about what happened the night Wilansky was injured.

The Associated Press reports they've asked for any information on Wilansky's injury Martinez might have, including photos or video, written statements, and any other info.

Martinez was at the courthouse in Bismarck Wednesday, and out front said he is refusing to testify.

"I refuse to cooperate with these proceedings on the grounds of not helping opposition towards water protectors," Martinez said outside the courthouse in Bismarck Wednesday. "I will in no way condone or cooperate with this attempt to repress the movement here at Standing Rock."

During grand jury testimony, a prosecutor is the only person to present evidence – there's no defense – so a prosecutor is able to direct the narrative in anyway they wish. (Note: grand juries don't decide guilt or innocence, they weigh whether charges should be filed in a specific case.)

Martinez went on to add this likely means he'll be incarcerated, said the loss of his own freedom is "a small price to pay" for standing up for what's right.

People who are called to subpoena for a grand jury can be held in contempt of court if they don't have a legitimate excuse to not show up.

A news release says his decision is in part because of the history of grand juries. They claim federal officials have used subpoenas to "force activists to talk and give the names of others in social movements."

He's due back in court on Feb. 1.

The Water Protector Legal Collective posts frequent information.

How's Wilansky doing?

Wilansky was back home in New York early December, posting this photo to the Sophia Wilansky Support Facebook page on Dec. 11.

A few days later she posted a photo of her arm post-surgery, along with some of her procedures. (Note: While there's no gore or blood in the photo, it's quite difficult to look at – so keep that in mind before clicking.)

"I lost both arteries in my arm and one was replaced with a vein taken from my left leg; I am about to stop taking blood thinner shots but I will have to take aspirin for the rest of my life because a blood clot in the vein-turned-artery would make me lose the arm," she wrote in part.

Her father, Wayne Wilanksy, said outside HCMC pieces of shrapnel were removed from his daughter's arm, which could be used as evidence.

He also said she's facing possibly dozens of future surgeries – and even after all that, her arm might not be functional.

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