A New York City woman severely injured while protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline in North Dakota says she deserves an opportunity to gather more evidence from the government to prove her claim in federal court that she was intentionally targeted with a concussion grenade.

Attorneys for Sophia Wilansky are fighting a government effort to have her lawsuit thrown out for lack of proof that her civil rights were violated due to excessive force by law enforcement.

Wilansky suffered a left arm injury in an explosion during a violent November 2016 clash between police and opponents of the $3.8 billion pipeline that Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners built to move North Dakota oil to Illinois. She maintains she has limited use of the arm despite five surgeries and seeks millions of dollars for alleged excessive force, assault, negligence, emotional distress and defamation.

Wilansky sued local and state law enforcement officials and Morton County in November, alleging that an unknown law officer threw a flashbang device directly at her. Government officials maintain the explosion was caused by a propane canister that protesters rigged to explode, and last month they asked a federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit , saying there is no evidence officers violated her rights through excessive force.

Wilansky’s attorneys in their response filed Monday note that the two sides have not yet exchanged evidence and also assert that the government’s claims fall flat.

“The law is unambiguous that intentionally targeting a peaceful protester with a flashbang constitutes excessive force in violation of the United States Constitution,” attorney Edward Barnidge wrote.

“Every reasonable officer knows that hitting someone with a flashbang will likely cause serious harm, or even death. Thus, it is only reasonable to infer that Officer (John) Doe intended to injure Sophia,” Barnidge said. “If Sophia’s injury had been unintended, Officer Doe’s co-workers would have gasped in horror, not cheered.”

Wilansky’s attorneys also dispute the government’s assertion that public statements officials made blaming Wilansky for her own injury were legally done in the course of their job duties. They want the case to proceed so they can gather more information from the government on the job duties of officials who released statements that they consider defamatory.

“Defendants are attempting to cloak themselves in the shroud of absolute privilege by introducing myriad new facts regarding the scope of their job duties,” Barnidge said. “These new facts are contested, and the court should refrain from considering them until plaintiff has had an opportunity to test them.”


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