An entire Buffalo, New York police unit has resigned after two of its members were suspended without pay after a video of them pushing a 75-year-old man to the ground during a protest of George Floyd's death Thursday evening went viral on Twitter. The 57 officers were members of the Buffalo Police Department Emergency Response Team, and put in their resignations Friday to support the two officers who were suspended, reports WIVB. Mayor Byron Brown said the city is aware of the resignations and there are "contingency plans in place to maintain police services and ensure public safety.
The union representing the officers, the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, told the Buffalo News that it is not happy with the decision to suspend two officers. Union president John Evans told the News the suspended officers were "simply following orders" from Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia to clear the square in front of City Hall. "It doesn't specify clear the square of men, 50 and under or 15 to 40," Evans said. "They were simply doing their job. I don't know how much contact was made. He did slip in my estimation. He fell backwards."
The viral video, published by WBFO, Thursday evening, shows the police unit moving forward and not stopping, even as they approached the 75-year-old man. The man spoke with two officers, one of whom pushed him away. The man is now in serious condition at Erie County Medical Center. The video appears to show blood coming from the man's head after he hit the sidewalk.
Before the video was published, police told local outlets the man "tripped and fell." But after the video racked up millions of views in less than an hour, Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood said two officers were suspended without pay. Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz called the incident "sickening." New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the video was "just fundamentally offensive and frightening."
Evans told the News the union stands by the officers "100%." The union also plans to pay for the legal defense of the two suspended officers. The two officers have faced online harassment after their names circulated on social media, Evans said.
Protests against police brutality began in Buffalo on Saturday, following Floyd's death on May 25. Floyd was killed while in Minneapolis police custody when officer Derek Chauvin put his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes. Chauvin was fired and charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers at the scene were fired and charged in Floyd's death.