West Roxbury Pipeline Protester at Standing Rock Loses Arm, Activists Say

Gory photographs of Sophia Wilansky have circulated online.

Wilansky demonstrating in West Roxbury. Photo via Resist the Pipeline

Wilansky demonstrating in West Roxbury. Photo via Resist the Pipeline

This story has been updated.

A Spectra pipeline protester due in West Roxbury District Court this week has lost her arm after she was hit by a concussion grenade while protesting the Dakota Access pipeline, activists say.

Sophia Wilansky, 22, was one of 26 people hospitalized after a small explosion rocked a skirmish between protesters and police Sunday, activists say. Police had also reportedly shot protesters with low-pressure water cannons as temperatures reached below freezing, resulting in more than 200 people being treated for hypothermia, activists say.

Gory photographs of what is believed to be Wilansky, whose bone is clearly visible, have circulated online. She was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, where activists say she could lose her arm as a result of her injuries. A medical fund started on GoFundMe has already collected more than $140,000 as of Tuesday morning.


“It wasn’t from our law enforcement, because we didn’t deploy anything that should have caused that type of damage to her arm,” Morton County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Maxine Herr told the Los Angeles Times. “We’re not sure how her injury was sustained.”

Herr said police had not used any concussion grenades Sunday. She added that police first encountered Wilansky at a nearby casino, and suggested that her injuries were a result of protesters “rigging up their own explosives.”

Wilansky, a New York resident, is one of the so-called “Mass Grave Six,” which includes Karenna Gore, former Vice President Al Gore’s daughter. In late June, these demonstrators peacefully protested the controversial Spectra pipeline in West Roxbury by laying in the trench, halting construction.

Sunday night’s confrontation was the latest in a longstanding struggle to block the construction of the Dakota Access oil pipeline near tribal lands owned by the Standing Rock Sioux. While the D.C. Circuit Court hears a legal challenge to the project, hundreds of Native Americans, climate activists, and even Sen. Bernie Sanders have gathered in North Dakota to protest the pipeline.

A press conference will be held outside Hennepin County Medical Center at noon Tuesday, local time, while West Roxbury demonstrators and clergy planned to gather on the courthouse steps.