The 75-year-old man seen pushed to the ground by Buffalo, New York police during protests outside the City Hall Thursday evening is Martin Gugino, a longtime peace activist. Gugino is now being treated at Erie County Medical Center, where he is in serious but stable condition as of Thursday night. Two police officers seen pushing him in the viral video were suspended without pay, and the rest of their unit resigned to show support for them.
A viral video shows Gugino standing on the sidewalk in front of the City Hall just after Buffalo's curfew went into effect, with a large group of police in riot gear coming right towards him. Gugino appeared to be talking to one of the officers when he was pushed. He fell backward on the cement, and blood was seen on the sidewalk. The other officers moved right past him and did not try to help him. The video was published by WBFO and has more than 73 million views on Twitter.
At first, police told local media outlets that a protester "tripped and fell" during Thursday's demonstrations and was hospitalized. It was only after the video surfaced that Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood confirmed the two officers would be suspended without pay. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said he was "deeply disturbed" by the incident. "After days of peaceful protests and several meetings between myself, Police leadership and members of the community, tonight’s event is disheartening," Brown said in a statement Thursday night, reports WBKW. "I hope to continue to build on the progress we have achieved as we work together to address racial injustice and inequity in the City of Buffalo. My thoughts are with the victim tonight."
Gugino is a peace activist
Martin Gugino is his name. Lifelong peace activist and comrade. 75 years young, stay with us. pic.twitter.com/Q33b9ySDpc— Happy birthday Breonna, rest in power. (@CouldYouNot10) June 5, 2020
Gugino is a longtime peace activist who grew up in Buffalo before working in computer technology in Cleveland. He later returned to Western New York and launched a YouTube channel with videos about nuclear disarmament and climate change. His friend Terrence Bisson, who worked with Gugino at the Western New York Peace Center, told the Buffalo News Gugino is a "gentle person who really believes that he must stand up for what he thinks is right."
Gugino is 'frail' due to health problems, his friend said
Here’s Martin Gugino (holding the “Resist Racism” sign) in 2016 outside the DOJ in Washington, DC, where Witness Against Torture was demanding murder charges be brought against the Cleveland police officers who executed a child named Tamir Rice. Today he fights for his own life. pic.twitter.com/a4rbNTywdd— Mark Colville (@AmistadObrero) June 5, 2020
Gugino is a "bit frail," Bisson said, although not because of his age. He is suffering from undisclosed health problems, Gugino's friend said. "He is very focused. I'm sure he will get through this," Bisson added. "It’s kind of tragic. He’s the last person you would want to push down. He’s the kind of person who you would want to speak up."
Gugino's 'first consideration' is justice, according to his friend
The Buffalo victim, Martin Gugino, is a 75 year old man who has been demonstrating for housing and racial justice for years. He knew what they were capable of and he went out there. I'm not here for your mournful emails and black squares. (He's stable/serious, btw)— JPB Gerald (@JPBGerald) June 5, 2020
Gugino recently supported Kings Bay Plowshares, an anti-nuclear activist group whose members were arrested for breaking into a Georgia nuclear submarine station. Bisson told the Buffalo News his support of the group showed Gugino's "first consideration" is justice, not personal safety. Gugino "comes from a peace tradition that meant it's important to be witness to justice," Bisson told the Democrat & Chronicle.
Gugino shared his thoughts on protests on Twitter
So that is an "as applied" challenge.
It means that a curfew does not apply to this set of facts. Protestors are exempt.
You could claim that they are to be included, but you would have to +first+ demonstrate that the curfew was the least restrictive means of achieving the end.— Martin Gugino (@martingugino) June 4, 2020
Gugino also has a Twitter page. On Wednesday, he wrote that protests should be exempt from curfews "because Congress (and mayors) may make no laws that abridge the right of the people peaceably to assemble and complain to the government. The government should receive the complaint with thanks, not arrest the people or beat them." He later wrote, "You could claim that they are to be included, but you would have to +first+ demonstrate that the curfew was the least restrictive means of achieving the end."
Police officers resigned to show support for the suspended officers
On Friday, all 57 officers in the Buffalo Police Department Emergency Response Team resigned in support of the two officers who were suspended for pushing Gugino. The officers suspended were "simply following orders" from Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia to clear the square, Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President John Evans told the Buffalo News. "They were simply doing their job," Evans added. "I don't know how much contact was made. He did slip in my estimation. He fell backwards."
Protests against police brutality started on Saturday in Buffalo
Protesters have been gathering in Buffalo since Saturday, calling out police brutality and racial inequality. The protests are inspired by the death of George Floyd, a black man killed while in Minneapolis police custody. Officer Derek Chauvin put his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes, killing Floyd. Chauvin was fired and has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Gugino's friends created a GoFundMe page
#JustIn: This is a statement from a lawyer of Martin Gugino, the man who was pushed by officers following last night’s protests. “At this time, Mr. Gugino is in serious but stable condition. He is alert and oriented.” pic.twitter.com/xncc7MPfYZ— Marlee Tuskes (@MarleeTuskesTV) June 5, 2020
Gugino's friends launched a GoFundMe page to help him pay his medical expenses. Hundreds of people helped raise over $20,000 for Gugino so far. "We have started this fund to help pay for his medical bills and any legal fees that may occur for this innocent man who is [well] known for his work with local civil rights activism with PUSH Buffalo and the WNY Peace Center. Please note that we have been in direct contact with his colleagues at the WNY Peace Center and they have agreed to help us deliver the funds directly to the victim. All funds raised will go directly to the victim," the page reads.