MORTON COUNTY, N.D. (Valley News Live) – Law enforcement say they are investigating the use of homemade explosives at a Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protest. They have recovered weapons and are investigating whether or not they are related to injuries a female protester suffered.
Law enforcement say around 3:00 a.m. November 21, protester activity had de-escalated near the Backwater Bridge, but they noticed two males and a female using a barricade to hide their activity.
Officials say they gave repeated orders for the three people to come out from behind the barricade and they attempted to force them out with “less than lethal” bean bags and sponge rounds. It was then the officers noticed the protesters approach and roll multiple metallic cylinder objects.
“The subjects were given opportunities to retreat back, but it became obvious that they were tampering with the vehicle or planting a device,” said Highway Patrol Lieutenant Tom Iverson. “Their strange mannerisms led law enforcement to believe they were there for a purpose with a calculated effort to either cause harm or breach the line.”
Lt. Iverson says after the cylinders were rolled, law enforcement witnessed an explosion. Several protesters ran to the area, pulled a female from under the vehicle, and fled the scene.
Law Enforcement received information that protesters were using one-pound propane cylinders as explosives and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation with support from Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms recovered three of these propane canisters from the site of the explosion.
Investigators also collected rocks and glass jars consistent with the design of Molotov cocktails that were used as weapons against law enforcement.
Meantime, a news conference and vigil were held in Minneapolis on Tuesday. In a news release from the American Indian Movement (AIM), they say Sophia Wilansky, 21, of New York, was hit in the arm with a concussion grenade and she was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.
Wilansky underwent surgery Monday, and is currently in recovery.
"This latest escalation in excessive police force and violence against peaceful water protectors just shows what the state is willing to do to protect the interests of oil companies. A young woman almost lost her arm today so that Energy Transfer Partners can build their dangerous pipeline on Indigenous lands," said Alex Lundberg, of Minneapolis, and a friend of Wilansky.
Lt. Iverson says they are investigating whether or not the explosives mentioned above are linked to a woman who claims to have suffered injuries at a protest.
“We are aware of the information about the woman on social media who has claimed she sustained injuries to her arm due to law enforcement tactics. The injuries sustained are inconsistent with any resources utilized by law enforcement and are not a direct result of any tools or weapons used by law enforcement,” said Iverson. “This incident remains under investigation by the North Dakota BCI and ATF. Additional details will be released as the investigation progresses.”
Law enforcement also address the use of water on protesters, saying the fire department trucks were initially brought in to put out several fire set by protesters. They made the following statement about the use of water:
“Law enforcement used CS gas to control the protestors but wind conditions caused it to be ineffective. Law Enforcement commanders had to assess the violent acts of protestors and determine how to maintain the safety of officers. Those commanders made the decision to use water and warned the protestors repeatedly that water would be used and gave them opportunity to disperse. Instead of dispersing, agitators yelled at law enforcement, “Hit me! Hit me!” and many were running directly toward the water. The water was used once protesters attempted to tow away the remaining burned truck and comments being yelled by protesters included, “We are willing to die for this,” and “We get paid for this.” The protesters were also taunting officers saying, “You are outnumbered.” This led law enforcement to believe the protesters were preparing to overrun the barricade on the north side of the bridge. Because of this threat and that other law enforcement tactics were not effective, water was the chosen less-than-lethal tool to use to hold back protesters.”
Follow www.valleynewslive.com for updates to this developing situation.