There's three parts to this:
First, my thoughts on the protest as a whole.
Second, on police response.
Third, the Walinsky incident, which is the one place where my expertise is warranted.
This is one of those things where I don't have any deep insight into the overall picture. I'm not an expert in First nation affairs, a geologist, a geographer, a petrochemical engineer, or even a roughneck. I'm a gunslinger and a tactician. Those are my wheelhouse.
That said, I do have a fondness for primary sources and people who track them down. And so far, the winner to come across my feed has been a gentleman by the name of Scott Gates. I don't know him personally, but he's put together a large and cited-to-hell-and-back note detailing the background of the pipeline and the protest in general.
(link to the note is in the first comment).
After tracing about half of his primary sources and finding them legit, I've been convinced that:
One, the pipeline is the currently known best alternative out of the options available.
Two, the actual threat to the water supply of Standing Rock is far, far less than claimed.
Three, While protesters have the right to object, they definitely don't have the right to block further work.
(As a side note, I will point out that Standing Rock has grown to a point where it's impossible to tell how many are members of standing rock and allied tribes, how many are miscellaneous hippies who needed something to do and missed OWS, how many are molotov cocktail-throwing anarchists, and how many are feds waiting to testify later.)
Which leads to part 2.
I've watched a good two hours of footage from police encounters from the protest camp. And what I'm seeing is more or less what I would have done: police occupying the bridges on 1806 where it crosses the cannonball river and heads north to where the pipeline is being constructed. Now that it's winter, it's the only effective way protesters could use to interfere with the pipeline. So the police have set up roadblocks marked with barbed wire barricades, and using less-lethal munitions on anyone who gets too close to the barricades.
This means the police are spending an overwhelming amount of their time in the defense. They're not raiding the protest camp (at least not on any large scale I know of). Those who are getting hit with munitions are those getting too close for the barricades.
For those objecting to that, I will point something out.
It's called crowd control.
Not crowd accommodate nor crowd tolerate nor crowd witness. Crowd control.
And while your average crowd may be full of incredibly bright individuals, collectively, a crowd is about as dense as your average mule and relatively as stubborn. Which means SOP is to use small, simple words in loud voices to tell them what to do. If words don't work, smacking them until they go in the opposite direction of the pain usually does.
Which leads me to part three.
Two weeks ago, a protester named Sophia Wilansky was badly injured, leaving her arm mangled and possibly needing amputation. According to statements by her father and other protesters, police threw a concussion grenade which hit her in the arm and exploded.
Google it if you feel like seeing for yourself. The wound has a large section of the skin on the inside of her arm gone, maybe 3"x10", with compound fractures to the radius and ulna, with a lot of accompanying soft tissue damage.
The problem with her story?
Absolutely nothing in the U.S. police forces arsenal that I know about leaves that kind of wound.
Protesters insist it was a concussion grenade (which to my knowledge, doesn't exist. At least not by that name). Assuming for the moment they mean a flashbang, that makes no sense. Flashbangs neither produce shrapnel that can cause the loss of flesh nor have the force to break bones. Flashbangs can and do cause severe burns, but there's no burns on her. No blisters, no charred flesh, no burns, charring, or melting to her clothing.
Everything else the cops use: foam, bean bags, rubber bullets, they all don't have the force to cause her wounds. They hurt and leave heavy bruises, but not compound fractures.
Morton county police claim that someone rolled metal cylinders on the ground just before an explosion, and soon after a woman was carried off by other protesters. Propane gas cylinders were recovered by cops at the scene.
Depending on how it was made, an IED using a propane tank as it's motive force could have caused both the breaks and the torn skin.
Another possibility centers around the activity for the night: several protesters were trying to remove obstacles, including dead vehicles, from the road. A tow chain that snapped under tension is very capable of making the kind of wound seen on Wilansky.
So, there you have it. Whatever maimed her, it wasn't from a police arsenal.
And I really, really hope it was a tow chain.
Because if we've gotten to the point where some people think setting IED's at a protest is a legit tactic, it's going to get real nasty real quick.
Hug your loved ones and spare a little time to listen to your enemies, folks.