Judge dismisses lawsuit of injured Dakota Access pipeline protester

BISMARCK, N.D. — A federal judge in North Dakota has dismissed the excessive force lawsuit of a New York woman who was injured in an explosion during protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Traynor granted motions in orders Wednesday and Friday to dismiss the 2018 lawsuit by Sophia Wilansky, whose left forearm was injured in the blast by an “explosive ordnance” or flash bang during a clash between protesters and law enforcement officers dismiss. at a blocked highway bridge in November 2016. The lawsuit named Morton County, the sheriff and two deputies.

The judge said Wilansky’s 2023 amended complaint “clearly demonstrates that the officers used the ammunition and grenades to disperse Wilansky from the area, not to restrain her.” Furthermore, the amended complaint does not allege that the officers attempted to arrest her under the circumstances. Such an omission is in itself fatal.”

Thousands of people camped and demonstrated for months from 2016 to 2017 near the pipeline’s controversial Missouri River, which crosses the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation upstream. The tribe has long opposed the pipeline because of the potential risk that an oil spill would contaminate the water supply. A court-ordered environmental review of the pipeline crossing is underway, with draft options of removing, abandoning or rerouting the crossing, increasing the line’s safety features, or no changes. A final decision is expected later this year.

Wilansky claimed the officers “attacked her with less-lethal and explosive ammunition” and nearly cut off her hand. She sought “millions of dollars” in damages.

An attorney for Wilansky responded to an email from The Associated Press but did not immediately comment. Wilansky’s father did not return a phone message. The suspects’ lawyers did not respond to a telephone message. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier declined to comment, citing a possible appeal.

The judge also noted Wilansky’s “gruesome injuries to her forearm” and her accusations that the officers laughed at her and congratulated someone on his “shooting skills.”

“While the Court appreciates the need for officer safety, it can be easy to devalue the human life that officers are sworn to protect – in this case, the protesters. The charge of laughing and congratulating, if true, is appalling,” Traynor wrote in a footnote.

Also on Wednesday, he dismissed a similar, related lawsuit Wilansky filed against officers last year.

Other similar lawsuits related to the protests continue to play out in court.

Last month, Traynor dismissed a 2022 lawsuit filed by an Oregon photojournalist who alleged officers used excessive force and violated her constitutional rights while covering a 2017 demonstration.

The pipeline has been transporting oil since 2017.