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UPDATE: Buffalo Police Officers Who Shoved and Injured 75-Year-Old Protester Charged with Assault

UPDATE: Buffalo Police Officers Who Shoved and Injured 75-Year-Old Protester Charged with Assault

Photo by Matt Popovich on Unsplash

UPDATE: According to an ABC report, the two suspended Buffalo police officers have been charged with second-degree assault. Each pleaded not guilty in a video arraignment but will return to court on July 20th to face their charges.

On Thursday, Buffalo radio station WBFO captured a video that has spread widely on social media. In the video, a 75-year-old protester attempts to speak with a group of policemen marching in the city’s Niagara Square.

The Buffalo News identified the man as Martin Gugino, a peace activist from Amherst. A Buffalo native, he previously worked with the Western New York Peace Center. Additionally, he’d been actively supporting the Kings Bay Plowshares, a group of anti-nuclear activists.

As he approaches the officers, one yells “push him back” repeatedly. One officer shoves Gugino, while another approaches him with his baton extended. He falls to the ground head-first. Gugino is visibly bleeding from his ears afterward. In the video, there are no other protesters in the camera’s field of vision.

A Buffalo Police Department spokesperson claimed the event was incidental. “Police say a fifth person was arrested during a skirmish with other protestors,” they said in a statement. BPD charged the protesters with disorderly conduct. “During that skirmish involving protestors,” they continued, “one person was injured when he tripped and fell.”

BPD suspended two of the officers without pay. According to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, Gugino is remains hospitalized in serious condition. Before the incident, Gugino tweeted an example of legislature exempting protesters from curfews.

“Protests are exempt from curfews,” he wrote, “because Congress 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.”

Since then, 57 members of the Buffalo Police Department’s Emergency Response Team resigned Friday, according to The Buffalo News. The Emergency Response Team members have not quit the police department, but have stepped down from the tactical unit. The union representing Buffalo police officers has said that it will no longer pay for legal fees to defend police officers related to the protests occurring in the city.

“Our position is these officers were simply following orders from Deputy Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia to clear the square,” Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President John Evans, said. “It doesn’t specify clear the square of men, 50 and under or 15 to 40. They were simply doing their job. I don’t know how much contact was made. He did slip in my estimation. He fell backwards.”

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