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Protester pushed to ground by police is longtime peace activist from Amherst

Protester pushed to ground by police is longtime peace activist from Amherst

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Martin Gugino

Martin Gugino at an event from June 2019. (Photo courtesy of Bill Jacobson)

The protester who was pushed to the ground by Buffalo police Thursday night in front of City Hall, in a video seen by more than 58 million people, is a longtime peace activist from Amherst.

Martin Gugino, 75, was in serious but stable condition at Erie County Medical Center as of Thursday night, according to police.

"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 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. "He’s a bit frail, not because of his age. He has some health problems."

Gugino grew up in Buffalo and moved to Cleveland, where he worked in computer technology, before returning to Western New York. Here, he has been involved in a broad array of issues ranging from nuclear disarmament to climate change and Guantanamo. He has a YouTube channel with 35 subscribers in which he discusses such issues.

Watch now: DA investigating, 2 officers suspended after protester seriously injured

"He is very focused. I'm sure he will get through this. 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," Bisson said.

Recently, Gugino has been active in his support of the Kings Bay Plowshares, a group of anti-nuclear activists who were convicted of entering a nuclear submarine station in Georgia, Bisson said.

"If you hang around with these Plowshares people, your personal comfort is not the first consideration; justice is your first consideration," Bisson said.

Gugino has an active presence on Twitter, and he posted at 5:47 p.m. Thursday, about two hours before he was shoved.

“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,” he wrote above a link to a video of Rep. Alexndria Ocasio-Cortez being asked about Venezuela.

[RELATED: 57 members of Buffalo riot response team resign in response to officers' suspensions]

And at 12:32 p.m. Thursday Gugino tweeted: “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.”

Gugino is also a frequent letter-writer to The Buffalo News.

Last year he wrote a letter to the editor criticizing Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown's reaction to a protest against the detainment of migrant children at the United States/Mexico border during which protesters blocked the intersection of Delaware Avenue and Chippewa Street:

"Mayor Byron W. Brown said of the demonstration at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office July 11 – It was peaceful, but illegal, and it needed to be brought to an end. I think the mayor is mistaken. Traffic laws are not the highest laws in the land. Any action needs to be seen in context, and if the context warrants, an 'as applied' challenge can be raised against a traffic law; namely, is the law rightly applied in this context.

"For example, an ambulance that goes through a red light is not breaking the law, because that law does not apply in that case.

"The First Amendment allows people to complain to the government, without fear of arrest. ... The mayor more properly should have come down and joined the protest. I say to the mayor – raise your game."

Vicki Ross, executive director of the WNY Peace Center, condemned the actions of the police. "They're acting like an occupying army. This is the militarization of the police," she said.

Cuomo condemns police involved in shoving incident, calls for probe

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