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

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

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LOCAL NIAGARA SQUARE CURFEW GEE

Police in tactical gear clear Niagara Square of protesters as the curfew takes effect, as some of the officers provide medical attention to a man who was knocked over by police, Thursday, June 4, 2020. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

A 75-year-old protester was injured Thursday night after being pushed to the ground by police as officers clearing Niagara Square as the citywide curfew went into effect.

Following the incident, which drew swift national attention and mass condemnation after video of it was viewed millions of times, the Buffalo Police Department suspended two officers without pay and began an Internal Affairs investigation, according to a police official and a department spokesman.

The incident came several hours after a standoff between demonstrators and police in tactical gear ended peacefully in Niagara Square after dozens of protesters blocked the street in front of City Hall. Four people were seen taken into police custody during that encounter.

[Related: 57 members of Buffalo Police riot response team resign]

Shortly after 8 p.m., a demonstrator subsequently identified as Martin Gugino of Amherst was injured as police in tactical gear advanced to clear protesters in front of City Hall.

The scene unfolds in video captured by reporter Mike Desmond from radio station WBFO. As police advance, Gugino approaches the officers with what appears to be a phone in his right hand and a helmet in his left. He appears to point to the baton of one of the officers as the word "Move" can be heard amid shouts in the background. The officer Gugino pointed to then pushes Gugino with his right hand and Gugino falls backward to the ground, where his head hits the sidewalk. One officer appears to reach down to check on him, but another officer pulls him back and the first officer continues walking. Other officers walk by and do not immediately come to Gugino's aid.

[Related: Cuomo condemns police involved in shoving incident, calls for investigation]

Protesters can be heard saying "He's bleeding out of his ear" and "Get a medic." When other officers stop to check on Gugino, another officer can he heard telling people to "get back" while a voice, apparently Desmond, is heard saying "You better get an ambulance for him" and is told, "We have an EMT on scene."

Here is the video captured by WBFO:

"It sickens me," Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said of the video in a tweet late Thursday.

"This incident is wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Twitter. "Police officers must enforce – NOT ABUSE – the law," Cuomo said in a tweet.

“The video was deeply disturbing and the actions taken were wrong," Sen. Chuck Schumer said in a statement. "We need a prompt investigation and full accountability."

Gugino was in serious but stable condition at Erie County Medical Center, Mayor Byron Brown said in a written statement late Thursday night. Friday morning, Poloncarz tweeted that an ECMC official said he was "alert and oriented."

The Erie County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement Friday morning that it is investigating the incident and that Gugino "was unable to provide a statement to investigators last night."

By 11 p.m. Thursday, less than two hours after it was posted, WBFO's video had been viewed more than 11.5 million times on Twitter. By Friday morning, the video had been viewed more than 50 million times and drew reaction from around the world.

State Attorney General Letitia James tweeted that her office had been made aware of the video.

In a statement issued late Thursday, the mayor said he was "deeply disturbed" by the video. He called the event "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," Brown said.

Earlier in the night, Michael DeGeorge, a spokesman for Brown and the Buffalo Police Department, said in an initial statement emailed to reporters at 8:50 p.m. that the man “tripped and fell” during a “skirmish involving protestors.”

WBFO posted the video a short time later, in which officers could clearly be seen pushing Gugino as they advanced. 

Police confirmed about two hours later that they had suspended the officers and had begun an investigation.

The four people arrested during the afternoon standoff were charged with disorderly conduct for blocking traffic in the square, according to the police spokesman.

Throughout the day, demonstrators gathered in the square, as many had in recent days following the May 25 death of a Minneapolis man at the hands of police.

At about 4:40 p.m., a crowd of protesters stood in the middle of the street in the square in front of City Hall, blocking vehicular traffic from passing.

 

Police in tactical gear arrived within a few minutes and formed a line in front of the protesters. Police told the crowd the assembly had been deemed unlawful and that if they didn’t disperse, officers would use force to remove them.

Police in gas masks and armed with some type of dispersal agent also responded to the scene. A police helicopter circled overhead.

After a little more than a half hour, the crowd exited the street onto the sidewalk in front of City Hall.

Police stood by for about 15 minutes before leaving the immediate area.

Just before 8 p.m., there were about two dozen protesters still gathered in front of City Hall. Most dispersed when the police in tactical gear arrived.

Police took a protester into custody as they cleared the square.

Protesters have been demonstrating in Niagara Square since Saturday to protest the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Minneapolis man, who died after a violent arrest in which a police officer pressed Floyd to the pavement with his knee on Floyd’s neck.

This is how the scene played out Thursday night after the city's 8 p.m. curfew went into effect:

At about the 8:08 mark of the video is when the protester was injured.

Watch now: Five Buffalo police officers kneel with protesters

The Buffalo News: Good Morning, Buffalo

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