Two police officers in Buffalo, New York, who shoved a 75-year-old man to the ground during a demonstration in response to the killing of George Floyd have been suspended following the release of video of the attack, which has been viewed tens of millions of times on social media.
The man who was pushed down, identified as Martin Gugino, is a longtime peace activist from nearby Amherst, New York. Terrence Bisson, a friend of Gugino, described the activist as a “gentle person who really believes that he must stand up for what he thinks is right.”
“He would never resist physically any kind of orders,” Bisson added.
The police violence against Gugino was captured on video and shared to social media on Thursday night. As of 9 a.m. on Friday morning, the original video had been viewed close to 60 million times.
Gugino addressed Buffalo police officers in a non-threatening way during a demonstration that took place just after the city’s 8 p.m. curfew went into effect on Thursday. According to the video, it appears as though Gugino was attempting to have a conversation with officers before the physical confrontation started. Yelling ensues, with demands for Gugino to back away. Before he can react, one of the officers reaches toward him, pushing Gugino backward.
The video shows Gugino falling to the ground due to the push, hitting the back of his head on the sidewalk hard. Blood is visible on the ground underneath his wound.
Around 10 p.m. on Thursday night, the Buffalo Police Department opened an investigation into the attack, according to Mayor Byron Brown, who also viewed the video that evening.
“I was deeply disturbed by the video, as was Buffalo Police Commissioner Byron Lockwood,” Brown said in a statement. “He directed an immediate investigation into the matter, and the two officers have been suspended without pay.”
Some local officials say the suspensions aren’t good enough, however.
“Simply put, the officers must be held responsible for their actions, not just fired,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz wrote on Twitter.
Although the police department did suspend two officers involved in pushing Gugino, their initial reaction to the incident was to downplay what had actually happened. In a statement about the matter, the department wrote, “During [a] skirmish involving protestors, one person was injured when he tripped & fell,” failing to mention the officers’ roles in the fall.
Gugino suffered a concussion and lacerations as a result of his fall, but is reportedly in stable condition at the moment.