The elderly man who suffered brain damage from an encounter with the Buffalo Police Department has denied President Donald Trump's claim that he has ties to an "Antifa" group, or that he was a paid "crisis actor." The president shared his bizarre conspiracy theories about Martin Gugino on Twitter Tuesday as protests against police violence continue around the world. Gugino's lawyer, Kelly Zarcone, gave a statement to TMZ.
Gugino made headlines last week when he was one of only about 20 peaceful protesters met with a heavily-armed response from police in Buffalo, New York. A viral video showed the 75-year-old standing and trying to speak to police before two shoved him to the ground, where he went completely still. Gugino was hospitalized with a serious head injury, and according to Zarcone, he was just recently transferred out of the Intensive Care Unit.
"Martin is out of ICU but still hospitalized and truly needs to rest. Martin has always been a PEACEFUL protester because he cares about today's society," she said. As for the president's conspiracy theories, Zarcone said that Gugino "is also a typical Western New Yorker who loves his family. No one from law enforcement has even suggested anything otherwise, so we are at a loss to understand why the President of the United States would make such dark, dangerous, and untrue accusations against him."
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that Gugino "could be an ANTIFA provocateur," apparently with no real evidence. He suggested that in the video, Gugino was "appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment." The video shows Gugino holding a protest sign, however. Trump tagged the embattled One America News Network in his post, suggesting that the idea had come from one of their broadcasts.
Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 9, 2020
Other public officials have largely refused to comment on Trump's post about Gugino, or about his fixation on Antifa — or, anti-fascists — in general. According to a report by Vox, Antifa "is not a unified organization, but rather a loose ideological label" that people tend to attribute to themselves or each other. While the president has called for Antifa to be labeled a terrorist organization, FBI investigations have reportedly found consistently that they are not responsible for the unrest Trump is blaming them for.
As for Gugino, the 75-year-old reportedly has a long history of exercising his First Amendment right to peacefully protest, having participated in nonviolent civil rights movements in previous decades. Many who claim to know Gugino personally have vouched for his kind heart on social media this week, including author Keith Giles.
"Kinda surreal when the President starts accusing your 75 yr old friend of being an agent of ANTIFA," Giles tweeted on Tuesday. "My friend Martin Gugino is an old man with cancer who is now in the hospital with brain damage after being pushed to the ground by a police officer he was trying to talk to."