Martin Gugino, a long-time peace activist, was named as the 75 year old man who was shoved to the ground after an encounter with Buffalo, New York police that was the subject of a viral video.
The video, viewed more than 58 million times, shows Buffalo police officers shove Gugino to the ground and then walk by him as he lies, bleeding from the head, on the pavement. According to the Buffalo News, Gugino is the man in the video, and he was listed in serious but stable condition the day after the incident.
On June 3, before the incident in the video, Gugino wrote on Twitter, “The cops should not have clubs. And should not be in riot gear. The National Guard should arrest the police.” A GoFundMe site has been established to help Gugino.
The cops should not have clubs.
And should not be in riot gear.
The National Guard should arrest the police.
— Martin Gugino (@martingugino) June 3, 2020
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and Buffalo’s mayor, both released statements about the incident.
“This incident is wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful,” Cuomo wrote. “I’ve spoken with Buffalo @MayorByronBrown and we agree that the officers involved should be immediately suspended pending a formal investigation. Police Officers must enforce — NOT ABUSE — the law.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Viral Video Shows Gugino Bleeding From His Head
— WBFO (@WBFO) June 5, 2020
WBFO-TV reported, “Just about an hour ago, police officers shove man in Niagara Square to the ground (WARNING: Graphic).” The station shared the above video.
Here’s another angle:
Current situation in #Buffalo as police work to enforce the 8 p.m. curfew in Niagara Square. Caution: there is some vulgar language in the video. Tune to @SPECNewsBuffalo for the latest. Video Courtesy: Photojournalist Anthony Nelson pic.twitter.com/nP4AXgQGeR
— Katie Gibas (@KatieGibasTV) June 5, 2020
The video shows officers with face shields and batons walking down the street en masse. Officers appear to shove Gugino, who is wearing a mask. He then falls down on the ground, where he lies motionless. “He’s bleeding out of his ear,” someone says, but the officers keep walking. One of the two officers has been identified because his name tag is visible in the video: Aaron Torgalski.
Gugino lies motionless on the pavement. Officers take another person in custody. “You better get an ambulance for him,” a person says. “We have an EMT on scene,” a man responds.
According to WBFO, the incident occurred shortly after Buffalo’s curfew went into effect. “City police and State Police swept through the area of Niagara Square directly in front of City Hall to clear the area where a protest was finishing,” the station reported. The station said the man was 75 years old. He was “shoved by two officers in the line.”
2. A Friend of Gugino’s Described Him as a ‘Gentle Person’ Who Stands Up for What He Thinks is Right
Gugino is from Amherst. “He’s a gentle person who really believes that he must stand up for what he thinks is right,” said his friend Terrence Bisson, who the Buffalo News wrote “has worked with Gugino on Latin American issues through the Western New York Peace Center.”
“That’s why he went to the demonstration. He would never resist physically any kind of orders,” Bisson said, according to the newspaper. “He’s a bit frail, not because of his age. He has some health problems.”
The mayor, Byron W. Brown, released a statement:
Tonight, after a physical altercation between two separate groups of protesters participating in an illegal demonstration beyond the curfew, two Buffalo police officers knocked down a 75 year old man. The victim is in stable but serious condition at ECMC. I was deeply disturbed by the video, as was Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood. He directed an immediate investigation into the matter and the two officers have been suspended without pay. After days of peaceful protests and several meetings between myself, Police leadership and members of the community, tonight’s event is disheartening. 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.
— Byron W. Brown (@MayorByronBrown) June 5, 2020
The Buffalo News reported that Gugino sometimes writes letters to the editor, including one criticizing the mayor’s response to migrant children detainment at the border.
3. Gugino Is Active on Social Media, Where He Referred to the Trump Presidency as a ‘Complete Failure’
— Martin Gugino (@martingugino) June 4, 2020
Gugino has a YouTube channel, which you can see here. Some of his posts deal with Kings Bay Plowshares, which the Buffalo News described as “a group of anti-nuclear activists who were convicted of entering a nuclear submarine station in Georgia.”
Some of his videos deal with political issues. “The 2nd Amendment doesn’t mean he can have whatever he wants, whatever bullets he wants… that’s not the point of it at all,” he says in one video.
He also is active on Twitter. His profile says he’s from Buffalo and adds, “#TooFarLeft. I matter, you matter, he she they matter. #NotHimUS.”
He shared videos and comments about other controversial police/citizen encounters. On June 3, he wrote, “Protests are 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 has retweeted negative comments about police, including one man’s tweet that read, “US police forces are the terrorist organization, not Antifa.”
Gugino wrote in one tweet, “f*ck the police.”
fuck the police https://t.co/QvPHxjkRLR
— Martin Gugino (@martingugino) June 4, 2020
Shortly before the shoving incident, Gugino wrote on Twitter, “I think it’s fair to say that the Trump presidency has been a complete failure. The Democrats could have helped more. Have to say that.”
4. Gugino Was Unable to Provide a Statement to Investigators & Was Treated for a Head Injury But Is Expected to Recover
The Erie County District Attorney wrote in a statement, “The Erie County DA’s Office continues to investigate the incident captured on video outside City Hall that resulted in the injury of protester. The victim was taken to ECMC to be treated for a head injury. He was unable to provide a statement to investigators last night.”
The Amherst Bee reported that Gugino “was reported to be alert and oriented, suffering from a concussion and lacerations but expected to recover.”
Mark Poloncarz, the Erie County Executive, wrote on Twitter, “I’ve spoken to @MayorByronBrown who confirmed it was members of the Buffalo Police Dept. involved in today’s incident with the protester who was pushed and hit his head. He indicated actions are being taken against two officers by BPD, which actions will be announced soon. I’ve seen videos of the incident in front of Buffalo’s City Hall in which an older protester appears to have been shoved by police, fell backwards and suffered a serious head injury. It sickens me. I’ve confirmed he is at ECMC in stable condition. My thoughts are with him now.”
Originally, Buffalo police said Gugino tripped and fell. Buffalo police said, “a 5th person was arrested during a skirmish with other protestors and also charged with disorderly conduct. During that skirmish involving protestors, one person was injured when he tripped & fell.”
This was the email my newsroom received from Buffalo Police just 2 hours ago.
“He tripped & fell”
Now, it’s “2 officers suspended without pay.”
If there wasn’t video, taken by journalists [the media], what would have happened? pic.twitter.com/Nko0QpxSXe
— Jeannie McBride (@jeanniemcbride_) June 5, 2020
Here’s another view:
Journalist Marlee Tuskes wrote, “From BPD Capt. Jeff Rinaldo: Internal Affairs immediately opened an investigation into the incident, ordered by Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood. State police medics rendered aid. A source tells me the man suffered from a laceration and possible concussion.” Katie Gibas, another journalist, wrote, “The gentleman has been taken away in an ambulance but appeared to be alert.”
5. Other Videos Have Gone Viral During the Unrest
There was a somewhat similar video earlier in Salt Lake City. That disturbing viral video shows a police officer in Salt Lake City, Utah, pushing an old man with a cane to the ground. You can watch the video above.
That incident was captured on live television.
A series of other intense videos also emerged from cities throughout the country as George Floyd protests and riots escalated into violence in some areas. For example, in Chicago there was an all-out street brawl between police officers and protesters, according to this video. In Atlanta, a video caught a bicycle officer shoving a bike at a woman. Protesters threw an American flag in a river outside Trump Tower in Chicago. In New York City, videos captured two NYPD squad cars running over protesters.